Liberty University obviously hopes that their statement about and demotion of Ergun Caner as dean of their seminary will put an end to questions regarding whether or not Dr. Caner fabricated significant portions of his life story.
But at the very least, Dr. Caner and the Liberty University trustees owe the Liberty community and the evangelical world an answer to one very simple question:
Was Dr. Caner raised in Turkey as a Muslim terrorist trained in jihad?
All of the evidence—see the end of this post—suggests that this cannot be the case.
And yet Dr. Caner has claimed that this is true and has not publicly repented of this fabrication.
If the answer to this question is “No,” then is there not some degree of culpability on the part of the Liberty University trustees for limiting Caner’s “discrepancies” to “matters such as dates, names and places of residence”?
Ryft, writing at The Aristophrenium, notes:
The notion that he spent his childhood in Turkey or some Muslim majority country is not just divorced from some larger truth but, rather, thoroughly contradicted by the facts. It is simply impossible for him to be raised in Turkey as a Muslim terrorist trained in jihad and then move to the U.S. as a young teenager (circa 1979) when the truth is that he was living in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, from about three years of age (circa 1969). . . . Caner did not just misspeak but spun an elaborate tale of falsehood.
In February 2010, Dr. Caner wrote: “For those times where I misspoke, said it wrong, scrambled words, or was just outright confusing, I apologize and will strive to do better.”
But Ryft writes:
. . . [N]owhere in this statement that contains his apology does he address or correct the most egregious falsehoods that many have implored him to repent of. They remain conspicuously outstanding.
. . . There is one thing he has not ever acknowledged nor has he ever repented of, the biggest thing that so many of his Christian brothers and sisters have implored of him, indeed the most salient thing that Caner has consistently described and referenced over the last decade: that is spending his childhood in Turkey as a Muslim terrorist trained in jihad and moving to the U.S. when he was a young teenager, and the contingent details of that historical falsehood. . . .
[T]he evidence shows that the information was indeed made up and that Caner was actually not who he said he was.
Here is one example of a quote from a 2001 Caner sermon, given just 5 weeks after 9/11:
May I submit to you, until I was 15 years old, I was in the Islamic Youth Jihad. And so until I came to America, until I found Jesus Christ as Lord, I was trained to do that which was done on 11 September.
All of the evidence thus far suggests this is a fabrication.
If Dr. Caner has an explanation, he should share it.
If Dr. Caner has repented privately of this sin, it should be made known publicly.
Though it pains me to say it, the facts seem to suggest that the trustees at Liberty have retained a theology professor who was a fabulist.
Here’s a quick recap of what we know. There are many more details than this, but the following highlights some of the salient facts, especially as they touch on the issue of whether or not Caner was trained as a jidhadist in Turkey. (For a fuller timeline, go here.)
Caner has said that he was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and grew up near the Turkish-Iraqi border, where he was trained in Islamic Youth Jihad until the age of 15. He came to America, he has claimed, in 1978. He was converted to Christianity in 1982.
Actually, he was was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in November 1966. In 1969 the Caners moved to Columbus, Ohio, before Ergun’s fourth birthday. In 1975 his parents separated, with his Swedish mother being awarded custody of the children, and in 1978 they were divorced. The boys lived primarily with their mother in Columbus—at least 75% of the year, spending 25% of the year with their Turkish-Muslim father in the U.S. The divorce agreement prohibited the boys from traveling outside the Continental U.S. while they were still minors.
No one doubts that he was converted to Christianity in 1982. But all of the evidence suggests he was was reared in the U.S., and no evidence exists that he was trained as jihadist in Turkey.