Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Norman Geisler Comments on the Caner Saga
05/22/2010 - James WhiteI was informed this afternoon that Dr. Norman Geisler has spoken out on the controversy concerning Ergun Caner's refusal to openly and publicly answer direct, honest questions concerning the documented contradictions in his public pronouncements and claims concerning his past. The material, posted by Peter Lumpkins, is prefaced by Lumpkins' claim that Dr. Geisler invited him to "spread it far and wide." Here is the statement:
To Whom It May Concern:
ďI am familiar with the slanderous charges that have been made against Dr. Ergun Caner generated by some Muslim groups and other extremists. I have looked into the matter, talking with Ergun and other principal parties at Liberty, and am convinced that the charges are libelous. I am also convinced that whatever ambiguous or misstatement that may have been made, Dr. Caner has done nothing heretical, immoral, or illegal. I stand with him against these vicious attacks. He has taken a strong stand on important issues that stir up controversy, but to my knowledge has done nothing unorthodox or malicious. I urge all to consider him innocent unless proven guilty. He has welcomed an inquiry from the Liberty authorities. Letís await their findings. Christians have a bad habit of shooting their wounded. Letís pray for and encourage our brother.Ē
Sincerely in Christ,
Dr. Norman L. Geisler
One is immediately struck by the incoherence of the statement. First, we are told Ergun Caner is innocent; then we are told to wait for the findings of the inquiry. We are told asking honest questions of Ergun Caner amounts to a "vicious attack," and that those who have asked these questions are "extremists" guilty of slander and libel, yet, at the same time, we are told that Christians have a bad habit of shooting their wounded. How can we make sense of such contradictory material?
My first thought upon reading the statement was, "If Dr. Geisler has talked to Ergun Caner, and can conclude that directly contradictory statements such as "I was born in Istanbul" and "I was born in Stockholm" are merely "ambiguous" statements, then it is now morally incumbent upon Dr. Geisler, who did not need to involve himself in the matter, to answer the questions that Ergun Caner has so far refused to answer." If he possesses answers to all twenty two questions I posted earlier (click here), then a moral obligation is upon him to provide these answers to the rest of the world, in light of Dr. Caner's refusal to do so. He says he is "convinced" of his conclusions. Wonderful! Now he needs to convince the rest of us.
Of course, there is reason to be worried about the depth of Dr. Geisler's knowledge of the situation. Note the inaccuracy of his first sentence. Mohammad Khan is not a "Muslim group," nor have these "slanderous charges" been generated by anyone other than Ergun Caner. When a speaker produces self-contradictory statements on matters of fact that bear directly upon his self-claimed expertise and then refuses to answer honest questions about why he is contradicting himself, then that person is the source of the problem, not those asking the questions. But we are truly left wondering who these "other extremists" might be. The use of such language as this is highly unwise, given that it only adds to the confusion; it in no way provides clarity.
Dr. Geisler uses two terms that themselves are extremist: libel and slander. Given the nature of the evidence upon which the questions have been based (video recordings, audio recordings, published works, and court documents), this kind of rhetoric is simply reprehensible. This is language meant to inflame, not explain, obfuscate, not clarify. How can questions based upon such clear evidence be identified by such terms? This only adds to the incoherence of the statement.
I am sure that if I were to take a few moments to scan through some of Norman Geisler's works I could find all sorts of statements about the need to be truthful and accurate in our statements. So one is left wondering how Dr. Caner's "I came here in 1979 from Turkey, trained in the youth jihad" can be made a mere "misstatement" in light of his own confession in 2002 that he had been in Ohio since 1969? Is there something "ambiguous" about claiming to debate Islamic scholars you have never even met, especially in light of the fact that you have not actually debated anyone in that context at all? Of course, this might reflect Ergun Caner's misleading of Norman Geisler: the leaked memo from Caner to the staff at Liberty partook of the same deception, unfortunately. But Dr. Geisler has shown himself very unwise to make a public statement without explaining the documentation that has been provided.
Of course, the phraseology "vicious attacks" is best used to describe the tactics of Ergun Caner's defenders, not those of us who have based our inquiry upon solid documentation and careful investigation. I wonder if Dr. Geisler will comment on the truly vicious attacks launched by Dr. Caner's defenders against me? This is again rhetoric meant to inflame emotions, not promote truth.
I really wonder why Dr. Caner's defenders are stating that he has done nothing "heretical." Has that ever been the question? Of course, Caner's Trinitarian face-plant in his interview with the Oneness Pentecostal pastor was very embarrassing, and surely raises questions about the accuracy and depth of Caner's knowledge of the Trinity, but that has not been the substance of the questions asked of Ergun Caner. So why proclaim him innocent of heresy when heresy isn't the point?
Likewise the "illegal" question seems to miss the point. Might students at Liberty have a basis for complaint that they came to the school on the basis of fraudulent claims about Caner's expertise in apologetics (especially those in the "Global Apologetics Program")? Possibly so, but the controversy is over integrity and honesty in the Christian ministry and apologetics. Legal issues I gladly leave to others to sort out.
But surely Geisler has badly contradicted himself by saying we should "await" the findings of the Liberty inquiry while at the same time concluding that Caner has done nothing "immoral." If Dr. Caner can not explain his many contradictory statements, will this not mean that he is, in fact, guilty of lying? Is lying still immoral in modern evangelicalism? Is it "moral" to mythologize about your past and link these claims directly to the truthfulness of the gospel? I suppose the world might not see the necessary connection, but Christians should.
I confess Dr. Geisler's confusing, contradictory contribution to the situation is not only unhelpful, but worse, I fear it might give us a picture of the defense being offered internally at Liberty. As we saw in the note from Caner from inside Liberty, the real issues are being ignored. Mere misstatements, or "ambiguity" seems to be the defense being offered. "Pay no attention to videos and audios and published works and legal documents---it's just a matter of pulpiteering." Will this be all we hear from Liberty? Let us hope and pray not. But surely, Dr. Geisler now needs to explain his statements. Can Dr. Geisler answer the questions that Dr. Caner refuses to? If so, he needs to do so, for the sake of the truth.