The following is a response I started on my last post to Matt Svoboda. It ran more than a comment should. And, in the end, ran more than any post ever should (Matt's full comment upon which the exchange below is based is here).
Hence, I warn you. It is extremely long. But the continued smearing of Ergun Caner has been long. So, I suppose it fits the context.
Know I’m weary of this issue. Those who have prematurely condemned Ergun Caner, establishing his guilt without evidence beyond reasonable doubt must be answered. I have no intention of sitting back while they continue smearing a man’s life just because they can. The log below is hard-hitting. It needed to be.
I’m sure I’ll get the old standby of late: “you-sir-are-a-liar.”
I’ve been called worse.
I explain the reluctant format in the beginning.
Hence, with nothing else said, we begin…
Exchanging with you is a chore…too much of a chore for an old man like me. I enjoy the thrill of real enlightenment from two very different perspectives. On the other hand, having to stop and pedantically explain how basic literary patterns operate in standard rhetoric to someone who has no clue they “don’t get it” remains more taxing than I am able (or willing) to offer. Hence, I honestly have no interest in doing this again with you unless something changes. Expect from me, if you do decide to come back, perhaps a yes or no answer, if any.
So, I will use an approach to respond to you I do not enjoy. I get no thrill. I rarely, if ever, employ this way of exchange. I do so as a last resort. The approach is a “you/now me” type of response. While it remains cold and mechanical, it’s all I can offer which can make any sense out of our engagement.
You: “Peter, On the point about name calling- it had nothing to do with a fiddle.
Now Me: I am glad to know it.
You: “[the name-calling was] the most belligerent, literalistic nincompoop… . I cant be anymore clearer...”
Now Me: Look, Matt. I have been personally called a "pathological liar" on this very thread. Another recently put up a post with my name attached: “Liar, Law-breaker, God-hater.” Only a post ago, my personal name was attached to the moronic, idiotic, useless, self-aggrandizing, ego-stroking, unloving, thoughtless, worthless, and, among other things, small…a post, by the way, to which you, Matt, in the comment thread, attached your darling signature in giddy glee. On this thread, you felt you owed me an apology for repeatedly calling me a hypocrite. Further, on the website you serve as editor, I have been the personal topic of unpleasant conversation, some of which you even deleted. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating an undeniable fact.
Nevertheless, you have the undiluted temerity to come here and publicly suggest to me, “While you resort to name calling I will not.” And just whom did I “call” a name? Is your name intermixed? Another on this blog? Elsewhere? No. Not one. Not a single personal identity can be summoned. This is why I have no thrill exchanging with you, Matt. You often fail to make the most elementary but nonetheless glaring distinctions, distinctions in this case between two simple propositions: a) “Smith is moronic” b) “Assuming A, only a nincompoop would conclude B.” [see UPDATE below for a humorous example of what one is up against in attempting reasonable exchange from some of Ergun Caner's critics. Even after demonstrating the two propositions above are entirely different--i.e, the first form is "All A is B" and the second form is "If A, then B--our brother Matt insists on concluding I nonetheless literally "called" him a "nincompoop"]
You: “I have dealt with the questions you raised, you just didnt like my answer or refused to accept that it was in fact my answer.”
Now Me: I challenge you Matt, to show me, in this thread where you dealt with your conflicting statements I posted three times. And, you only answered the question about the “hard” evidence you feel makes Caner a liar in your very last response—indeed an addendum to your former comment. No, Matt. You danced around both questions. And, if I’m wrong, well, show me in the comment thread where you answered the questions to which you charge me with not liking your answer. This is your moment. Show me and I will offer my sincerest apologies.
You: “On the points in which guilt hasnt [sic] been established I have not condemned Caner in anyway- I have given him the benefit of the doubt.”
Now Me: Good for you. I think that’s a wise decision.
You: “On the points that guilt has been established I have asked for Ergun to answer for.”
Now Me: You are begging the question, Matt. The very contention we are in is whether guilt has been established on those points. Hence, non sequitur.
You: “I believe guilt has been established on some points”
Now Me: So do I. And so does Ergun Caner! And he admitted it. And confessed it! Publicly! The question is not whether Ergun Caner is guilty on some charges. The question is, has definitive evidence thus far been submitted which, beyond reasonable doubt, demonstrates that Ergun Caner--in your own words, Matt--“extensively lied” about his childhood? Does present evidence show beyond reasonable doubt that Caner spoke, with intentional malice and forethought, in order to deceive and cover up what he knew to be the truth, extensive falsehoods about childhood? That is the question, Matt. Period.
You: “If I am wrong then Ergun can simply clarify his testimony and I will be happy.”
Now Me: How wonderfully quaint, Matt. “If” you are wrong, Caner clarifies, and you’ll be “happy.” You won’t like what I’m going to say, but saying will be done. Those words smack more of a sniveling little brat than a gospel preacher. “If” you are wrong? You’ll be “happy.” Yeah, Matt, well that’s just peachy.
Ergun Caner’s family is going through hell right now. His ministry and vocation is on the line. His entire worth as a gospel minister is called into question. His family bleeds. And you come here and state, “If you are wrong…[you] will be happy.” Give me a West Georgia break.
You: “If I am right then he should apologize and then we can move on.”
Now Me: “If” you are right? “If” you are right? Brother, you better darn well be right if you are going to publicly condemn someone for “extensively lying” about their past! “If” you are right? “If” you are right? That’s precisely what you have consistently failed to grasp, Matt. There must be no “ifs” when we make a public charge that a useful, effective gospel minister’s life is a fake. Indeed there should be no “ifs” even where we publicly charge a God-denying atheist with being a fake. Yet such a charge has been leveled toward Caner by two well-know Calvinists. And frankly your continued insistence Caner “extensively lied” about his past is hardly an improvement, Matt.
You: “Maybe we mean two different things when we say "condemning Caner" because we are clearly speaking past each other.”
Now Me: I am employing “condemn” precisely as a dictionary would offer as a primary usage of the term—to pronounce guilt, or attribute guilt. I have no special usage, Matt. And, certainly my meaning cannot be mistaken in what I’ve written, since I’ve repeatedly alluded to premature pronouncements that Caner is guilty based on insufficient evidence.
You: “When I say I dont [sic] condemn Caner I simply mean that even on the points where I think guilt has been established I am still giving him a chance to clarify and/or respond.”
Now Me: Matt, this is sheer nonsense. When a person’s guilt is established, we’re past the stage of “clarifying.” “Clarifying” or arguing one’s innocence has already been a part of the process which led to the establishment of guilt. If a person is established as guilty, then what dope would offer “clarity” that he or she intentionally withheld during the examination process which could have avoided the establishment of guilt?
You: “I am not so full of myself to think that I have absolutely everything figured out.”
Now Me: Then why haven’t you withheld your judgment that Ergun Caner “extensively lied” about his childhood? If you don’t have it all figured out about Caner, why not reserve judgment until all reasonable doubt vanishes?
You: “It does appear that Caner has lied…”
Now Me: Flip Flop Flip Flop Flip Flop Flip Flop
You: “…but I would like to give Caner a chance to respond in case I am mistaken.”
Now Me: Oh, yes, the old “If” I am mistaken qualification which will, in the end, make you simply happy. Matt, one does not publicly indict another person, implicating him or her with “extensively lying” about his or her childhood, and then ride off into the peaceful sunset living happily ever after. “If” you are mistaken, a good man’s name is slandered, a reputation tarnished, a family hurt, a child abused, a ministry lost.
Again, your complete meltdown in understanding the necessary requirement for public accusation of moral failure. One cannot avoid the horrible damage done when prematurely pronouncing one guilty by qualifying it with, “If I am mistaken…” Even a fool in his silence is considered wise I read somewhere.
You: So yes, in my mind, it appears that Caner has lied about his testimony.
Now Me: Flip Flop Flip Flop Flip Flop Flip Flop
You: “But, I am not the final authority on the issue and I am not condemning him guilty.”
Now Me: Oh my sweet aching head: a) it appears Caner lied b) I am not condemning him guilty.” Categorical nonsense.
You: “I am asking for him to clarify his story since it does appear he has lied.”
Now Me: Matt, this is too much. You’ve stated repeatedly that it’s established Caner lied. Hence, all your “appearing” is not going to overthrow your insistence on the established evidence which you believe makes Caner guilty.
As for the “clarifying” his story, such clarity would only be appropriate for someone who holds the position I hold: discrepancies exist; clarity can help. On the other hand, for your position—a position convinced Caner lied about his childhood—clarity is absurd. Why? Clarity is the necessary process which leads one to conclude a person guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If you need clarity, by default you have prematurely judged another guilty. You cannot have it both ways. Either explain why you’ve charged Caner with lying when you needed necessary clarity on the issues to pronounce him guilty of lying or admit you’ve prematurely judged him a liar.
You: “If he clarifies his story and it lines up with official documents then I will say thank you and move on.”
Now Me: Please don’t bring this asinine “clarity” issue up again. In addition, what if other legal documents exist that have yet to be explored which affirm Caner’s testimony? You’re assuming, Matt, a thorough, exhaustive investigation has taken place and all the relevant evidence is public for both critic and accused. Where has this taken place?
“I will say thank you”? To whom, Matt? Me? Are you joking? “Thank you”? You act as if this is a theoretical debate of ideas. Caner’s family is stressed completely out, his ministry on the line, his testimony at stake, and you calmly, callously waltz over here on this blog, and imply if you are wrong and I am right, you’ll glibly say “I will say thank you and move on”? As above, these words more fit a sniveling spoiled brat than a gospel minister in a church. I advise you, my brother, to examine deeply and thoroughly what you’ve just said.
You: “If he has lied and he apologizes then I will say thank you and move on.”
Now Me: Again, Matt, your words are the words of a person disconnected with this issue. You see it as an idea, a theory, a debate, an argument to be won or lost. It is not. We’re exchanging about people’s lives, a man’s ministry, a family, a school’s reputation, a minister’s integrity.
“I will say thank you and move on”? Sweet Lord Jesus, is this the norm of young pastors today who are serving as shepherds over God’s flock? People’s lives, a person’s integrity, or a hurting family facing total devastation gets a cold, disconnected response of, “I will say thank you and move on”? My heart literally aches as I think dealing with God’s people is likened to a theoretical conflict. Maranatha. Come Lord.
You: “The problem with your argument and logic is that it is all based off assumption.”
Now Me: Of course it is. I am proceeding on the presumption that Ergun Caner is innocent until he is proven beyond a reasonable doubt guilty. I hope and pray to our Lord that is how others treat charges against me. And, I’ll bet you a year’s worth of starbucks you want the same thing, Matt.
You: “You are defending Caner about "living" in Turkey off of your own "what ifs." What if he lived there for a month? What if he visited his relatives with is dad in Turkey? etc...
Now Me: No, Matt. You are grossly mistaken. In fact I have no hard proof whatsoever Caner ever lived in Turkey. Where did I suggest I did? I offered supposition, Matt, supposition. I even tagged it so you wouldn’t miss that it was supposition. I wrote, “Suppose, for example…” at the beginning of the paragraph and “Now, I do not know if the above is completely accurate as I have supposed...” at the end. And, even in light of this, you nevertheless assert my entire argument is “all based off assumption” and “what ifs” and “not on any evidence at all.”
Even more sad, you suggest I was using the supposition as hard evidence to demonstrate Caner lived in Turkey. I say once again. I possess no hard evidence Caner lived in Turkey. I’ve never argued Caner lived in Turkey. I will entertain seriously the claim, however, if Caner said he lived in Turkey, at least until proven beyond reasonable otherwise.
Here’s the deal. Frankly, Matt, I don’t think you’re reading my comments with the least interest in actually understanding what I’m writing. I’m fully aware I write verbose comments. However, you know this. Hence, if you want to dialog with me, then either commit to wading through the comments with an intent to understand what I’m writing or stop attempting to challenge what you either do not understand or have carelessly read. Either way, you end up coming across in your challenges as a little less than plain goofy.
Now, back to supposition. This is one of those little rhetorical devices about which you would do well to learn. The purpose of supposition is very similar to illustration, a nifty little literary device which offers light. In my supposing, with you, Matt, I had one single purpose: offering a credible—albeit hypothetical—scenario which could very well explain how another conclusion could be warranted from the same premise. In short, to study at A (Oxford) for a sufficiently extended stay very well could warrant the valid deduction—truthful deduction--B, "I lived in England.” From my perspective, my premise is probable enough that really the only arguable aspect of it is, addressing what constitutes a sufficiently extended stay.
But think with me, you did not, Matt. What did you do? Did you engage the supposition? No. You glibly dismissed what I am firmly convinced is a credible supposition which offers a believable understanding of what someone could mean if they said, “I lived in so and so.” Or, if you please, an alternate understanding of the tiny snippets of data we possess. Now, perhaps we could have access to more data—very significant data--to explore, data which lends itself to pounding the supposition I make to powder.
Suppose (yes, here is another supposition)…suppose we have not only a claim that “I lived in England” but also “The time I lived in England was during the Balkan Crisis of the 1990s. I studied Literary Criticism under the tutelage of C.S. Lewis while I was there. I recall shaking hands with Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan after class one day. It was the day Billy Sunday preached the commencement service at Oxford.”
I’ve belabored this enough, Matt. My singular point is to demonstrate that when we are dealing with data, we must proceed cautiously and prudently, especially if we’re talking about publicly implicating one as guilty of lying. We may only go as far as the evidence beyond reasonable doubt allows. Unfortunately, you’ve already passed the threshold in my view and condemned Ergun Caner a deceiver based on evidence which does not establish guilt but only poses questions. You are not alone. Even more so, among others, Tom Ascol, Wade Burleson, James White, Debbie Kaufman, and Mohammed Khan have prematurely condemned Ergun Caner guilty of lying without establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
You: “You are just assuming the "what if" in order to help your "side."
Now Me: No, Matt. This is not a game of basketball where the “side” with the most points wins. I’ve already addressed your disconnected approach to this issue. Ergun is a real man, with a real life, with a real family, and a real ministry. Please stop this mindless, perhaps even sterile association of what’s happening here and debating theology or arguing ideas.
You: “The evidence I am talking about is the evidence that shows he was born in Sweden and moved to the US when he was 4. There is no evidence of him ever living in Turkey, as he said he did.”
Now Me: Matt, could you please document, for me, your absolutist assertion, “There is no evidence of him ever living in Turkey”? Of course, I already know the answer to my question. You cannot. Here is the stark reality: how do you know there is no evidence? Just because you’ve not seen evidence does not mean no evidence exists. Have you asked all the relevant people? Have you exhaustively read every official document in Turkish archives? Could it be evidence exists which has been legally held up somewhere in bureaucratic red tape? Could it be that for some extenuating personal circumstances, the only official document which can definitively show Turkish citizenship cannot at this time be released?
To categorically proclaim, as do you, Matt, that there is no evidence of Caner ever living in Turkey is so patently absurd on its face, only a drifting mind could have, without careful qualification, asserted it. It’s like someone making the bold but foolish assertion that there is no evidence of buried treasure in my back yard. Really? Did you dig deep enough? Perhaps you did not dig broad enough? Did you bring in forensic teams to microscopically test every spade full of soil to make certain there is no evidence? Then do so. Evidence is evidence even if it is only tiny evidence. Perhaps you overlooked it somewhere. Go back and try again.
Of course this is an absurd process. Why? Because it’s an absurd assertion, “there is no evidence…” Why would you make such a nonsensical claim which can only make you look like a fool either way it goes?
You: “Simple fact is that Ergun Caner even claimed to be born in Istanbul, Turkey when it HAS been proven that he was born in Stockholm, Sweden.”
Now Me: Let’s address the second assertion first. You write, “it HAS been proven that he was born in Stockholm, Sweden” (caps yours, embolden mine). Matt, why would you frame this assertion in such questionable terms as “it HAS been proven”? And, just what, in fact, needs to be proven?
Unveiling Islam, which has sold 200,000 copies and been translated in 8 languages, states Stockholm as Ergun's place of birth (//link p.17). Indeed Stockholm is in both the original release in 2002, as well as the newest release in 2009. To frame his birthplace as a fact that “HAS been proven” is entirely misleading, Matt, suggesting there is cover-up or other deviant motive about his birth. The official record has been publicly written by Caner himself since at least, 2002.
You: “So, when he said that he was born in Turkey, but wasn't, is that lying?”
Now Me: That depends on what one means by lying. If we take your view, which apparently presumes lying is the mere dispensing of incorrect information, the answer would be yes. Caner lied. But so does the Kindergartner who adds 2 +2 = 3. And, the historian who incorrectly transposes the year 1889 as 1898. And, me for confusing my conversion date with my call to ministry date in the final draft for my book: converted: 1979 called to ministry: 1977. In your view, we all lied because we dispensed blatantly incorrect information.
And, know this, Matt: buy me a Starbucks and give me your sermon records over the past several years (assuming such is available), and I will guarantee a full pound of juicy lies you’ve dispensed to your congregation, assuming lying is the simple dispensing of incorrect information.
On the other hand, if lying intrinsically includes the specific intention to deceive—as I argue lying does, in fact, include--then the answer must be, no not necessarily. Perhaps if I knew more specific information about Caner’s odd statement I may be able to discern beyond reasonable doubt that he intentionally wanted to deceive, cover over and/or ignore the obvious truth. But again, that’s assuming I can get in on the inside of the man, etc. which is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish.
Even so, since there is no compelling reason to believe Caner to be about deceiving or covering over the truth—the truth of which it would be virtually impossible to cover-over anyway since he wrote it down in his own book in 2002 and again in 2009—I am compelled to conclude that his statement, albeit both odd and even a tad embarrassing, was not an intentional lie.
Of course, it can be asked, how on earth could anybody mistake their birth? That is a reasonable question. And what’s so often overlooked, Ergun Caner felt the weight of it, and no doubt it was a core issue driving his public confession and apology he prepared sometime back. I have no explanation for it. But, then again, I’ve said some pretty odd things from the pulpit through the years that, to this day, I could not give an explanation. In the end, this proves nothing about whether Ergun Caner lied about his childhood, nor especially whether Ergun Caner was raised a Muslim.
With that, I am…
*Matt's entire comment may be found here. I honestly attempt to be patient with commenters, especially young inexperienced believers. However, due to the seriousness of the issue, and the fact that Matt has vigorously inserted himself into this issue, I felt no restrains in speaking straight-forward, and at times, blunt.
Note below the context of my first mention of “nincompoop” to which Matt refers. After giving a relatively lengthy alternate albeit hypothetical explanation of the circumstances surrounding one aspect of Caner’s childhood, I wrote:
“Actually, he [Peter] called me “nincompoop” and I quoted him calling me that… . In fact, in the thread I said that Peter could call names, but I wasnt [sic] going to partake. That is when I quoted his “nincompoop” and others…” (Matt Svoboda May 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm, emphasis mine)
“Now, I do not know if the above is completely accurate as I have supposed. What I do know is this: were the above reasonable [sic] accurate, [then] only the most belligerent, literalistic nincompoop would unalterably conclude it is undeniably established Ergun did not live in Turkey. Ergun lied” (//link, embolden added)
My assertion takes the form of what rhetoricians dub a hypothetical
proposition: If A, then B. If A is true, then B is also true. If I live in
Atlanta, then I live in Georgia. Since it is true I live in Atlanta, therefore,
it follows I must live in Georgia.
Hence, my assertion looks like this:
A: If the scenario concerning Caner I gave is reasonably accurate, then
B: only a nincompoop would conclude Caner lied.
Why, given this innocuous assertion, does Matt continue to insist I was calling him a
“nincompoop”? I’m unsure. Your guess is as good as mine.
All I know is, if language and logic have any
objectivity whatsoever, it is evident I called Matt no name at all. He is clearly mistaken.
In fact, the only
way it would follow from my precise words that Matt fit the “nincompoop” label
is if he actually believed my scenario was reasonably accurate,
something he not only categorically denied but unabashedly mocked.
Now, my assertion can certainly be made to fit Matt's claim I called him a nincompoop. However, we'd need to tease it out a bit. Note the following:
A: If the scenario concerning Caner I gave is reasonably accurate, then
B: only a nincompoop would conclude Caner lied
C: Matt accepts the scenario I gave concerning Caner as reasonably accurate, therefore,
D: Matt is a nincompoop
Hence, unless Matt actually believed the scenario I offered concerning Caner was reasonably accurate--something he emphatically denied--I'm afraid he needs to think more clearly about what he's saying.
In addition, since Svoboda is so quick to erroneously deduce the wrong conclusion from a simple proposition like the above, and consequently accusing me with "calling him names" when it is obvious he is mistaken, is it not possible or even probable Matt makes similar mistakes in drawing conclusions concerning Caner?
Again, dealing with these pedantic literary issues in exchanging with some of
Ergun Caner’s critics is incredibly taxing. It is also immensely
But, in the end, it is definitely revealing, revealing of the insufficient ways some of these guys think.