If Only Ergun Had Theophiliacs To Read As A Young Evangelical

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The following is an excerpt from an article I posted complete with footnotes (read said article here) about Christian Apologetic efforts and Islam, characterizing the demonizing tone that some Evangelicals take against Islam.

Problematically, some Christian polemicists have abandoned addressing these fundamental claims, and they have resorted to unhelpful tactics. By way of example, Richard Cimino argues that Evangelical Christians, in particular, have pushed rhetoric about Islam to a polemically fevered pitch as a kind of nationalistic, fear mongering response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This ought to be received as a stinging criticism that is indicative of a willingness to focus on what are seen as devious practices within Islamic culture by Christians instead of making lucid arguments against their foundational claims.[14] According to Cimino, this is problematic because much of the positive, global-apologetic toward Muslims argued by polemicists like Ergun Caner centers on a characterization of Islam as dangerous, militant, and cultic.[15] However, this should all be tempered by Thomas Kidd’s research, which demonstrates plainly that such anti-Islamic polemics as Cimino describes were being leveled against Muslims by “Anglo-Americans” as early as 1697.[16]

So, while there is definitely an attempt to demonize the Islamic weltanschauung on the basis of mischaracterization, while there have been periods of interfaith dialogue initiated by Christians and spoiled by terrorists, and while there are clear examples of current Evangelical scholars focusing their apologetic efforts on ancillary issues within Islam, such behavior in no way belongs exclusively to the modern Evangelical movement. That particular characterization by Cimino is unwarranted. Nonetheless, Christian apologists should avoid being trapped by polemics preoccupied by what amount to “straw men” parading around as reductio ad absurdum arguments. There is sufficient dispute to be had with the foundational presuppositions of Islam to diminish the expediency of such distractions.

Richard Cimino, “‘No God in Common:’ American Evangelical Discourse on Islam after 9/11,” Review of Religious Research 47, no. 2 (December 2005): 162-74. Perhaps more immediately troublesome for students of Liberty Theological Seminary is the fact that Cimino singles out Ergun Caner’s Unveiling Islam as a polemic set out not only to demonize Islam, but also to “dispel the position of Geisler and Saleeb that Allah is the same God (Jehovah) that Christians and Jews worship.” See Cimino, “‘No God in Common,’” 166. Interestingly, Caner has included Geisler as a contributor in his Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. While Caner must certainly be given the berth to respectfully disagree with even those he includes in his edited works, all of the articles concerning Islam in the Popular Encyclopedia are authored by Caner. It may all prove coincidental, but such a situation only helps to strengthen Cimino’s critique.

Ibid.

Thomas S. Kidd, “‘Is It Worse to Follow Mahomet than the Devil?’ Early American Uses of Islam,” Church History 72, no. 4 (December 2003): 773.

Now, here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article (read the full article here), explaining that Liberty University has removed Ergun Caner from his position as Dean of the Seminary following an internal investigation, because he has lied about his history with and expertise on Islam.

The biography of Caner, 43, has become shrouded in doubt after apparent exaggerations were brought to light by an unusual alliance of Muslim and Christian bloggers. They have pored through his sermons, books, speeches and court documents, finding contradictions in his narrative. His expertise on Islam and his claim to having been raised as a radical Sunni Muslim in Turkey have been questioned.

Wednesday is Caner’s last day as dean; Liberty announced he was being removed because of “factual statements that are self-contradictory.” Although he will no longer be dean, Caner will continue as a professor. Critics say the school’s explanation falls short.

“They haven’t come clean and explained what exactly they investigated and found,” said James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries in Phoenix, who dug into Caner’s past. “One can only offer forgiveness if there’s repentance, and they’ve basically said nothing with their statement.”

Frankly, Caner is lucky they aren’t firing him.  How many stories about people who were fired for unscrupulous statements made on resumes are out there?  What is rule numero uno about filling out applications in this job market?  How many Evangelical universities are currently being taken to task over their questionable practices and faculty  choices?  Oh well, I guess the adage rings true once again, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

I would also like (humbly, of course) to point out that in spite of my burning desire to rake Caner over the coals, yours truly remained “above board” as my status as a Liberty student prevented me from doing so.  I made it part of my identity to dole out vigilante style justice on Caner’s brand of BS in the classroom a la the Boondock Saints during my other two degree programs.  Take a look at my CV and see which of my degrees I finished “with honors.”  :0)  So, time teaches wisdom – but,  I would still love to have a slew of posts to which I could direct your attention,  exposing Caner for all of this.  In the end, I guess I can just harumph around knowing that it is still a bigger deal to most people out there that 1) our Primate “is a chick” and 2) that God will condemn us for marrying and ordaining fags than it is that many prominent Evangelical leaders are falling off their pedestals in the most painfully ironic ways possible.

Harumph!

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7 Comments

  1. Ugh. Remind me again why I’m in this Church thing again? If only we could all just slice out a fair amount of leadership over a certain age I think a lot of our fellowships would lose a ton of cultural baggage.

    Reply

  2. Let’s not forget that you already had a burgeoning predilection to create a hermitage on a farm somewhere, Tony. :0)

    Seriously, though, I went through that feeling at CBC. There was real outrage and genuine disillusionment. Somehow, over time, God worked me through those things, and demonstrated that when His Church really acts like “His Church” it makes all of this worth it. (BTW – I know you know that already)

    Reply

  3. When it comes to false statements, half-truths and plagiarism, it seems that only the pagans know how to come clean or how to fire miscreants.

    Is it too harsh to say that Christians who do stuff like this are worse than pagans?

    Reply

  4. Arni,

    I know of a fair number of scholars that have the intellectual honesty to deal humbly with the interrelatedness of the Abrahamic religions.

    In fact, there are some interesting stories from Christian converts from Islam and Judaism that see coming to Christ as finally having knowledge of the true expression of Allah/Yahweh in the person of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is one of the axiomatic ideas in a high Christology.

    Reply

  5. Joey,

    IF I weren’t such a skeptic, and could actually believe that Liberty’s retention of Caner had more to do with a practical demonstration of Christian love/grace and less to do with the fact that the man is a loud mouthed, publicity generator that has tripled the enrollment at the seminary – I would disagree with you.

    Now, that “loud mouthed” comment is a little more personal than I typically get on the internets (especially since legitimate theologians have been lurking around the blog lately – don’t want to seem impudent or nothin’ (-;), but watch any video and you will see that it is a self-proclaimed identity in which the man revels.

    Reply

  6. How do you feel progress in relationship and understanding could happen between Christians and Muslims here in the States? Is it “compromising” to find common political ground and cooperate?

    Also, lately I’ve been contemplating how often we Christians act as if we’re still “under the law” in that we’ve replaced certain OT cultic practices and taboos with other (sometimes less than fully NTish) taboos. Could part of our future be increasingly pushing the contrast between Muslim law and Christian Spirit?

    Reply

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