The announcement Liberty University released last Friday concerning the final report of the investigatory committee into the alleged charges against its seminary dean, Dr. Ergun Caner, predictably solicited different responses from different sectors.
And, these responses pulled from within me an initial chorus of multi-colored reactions.
I feel the pain some express. I feel the passion some express. But I realized no one was feeling what Dr. Caner was feeling. For that reason alone I’ve waited to post on the announcement. To him and his family I offer my sincere sorrow and prayers.
Let’s cut directly to the jugular: what did the LU statement mean?
We all know what it said. But what does it mean?
Obviously, the statement is not without ambiguity. Were it precise, perspicuous, and altogether lucid we’d surely not have quite the polarities in interpretation we find it seems to me. Unless, of course, there is a bit of literary fudging at work.
For example, the LU statement found after a “thorough and exhaustive” investigatory review that Dr. Caner made “factual statements that are self-contradictory.” The “discrepancies” they cited included “dates, names and places of residence.” More significantly, the investigation bore “no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager…” (emphasis added), which by all accounts was the original charge leveled against Dr. Caner first by a British Muslim, then by two Calvinists—one a Southern Baptist and the other a Hyper-Calvinist “Reformed Baptist” (//link).
Hence, on the one hand there is definitive vindication (similar to what others have dubbed exoneration); that is, Ergun Caner did not make up his life testimony. He is who he said he is. If this is so, then those who’ve likened him to Mike Warnke or other charlatans who created a fictitious background should drink their own tonic and offer public apologies. Will there be any sorrow expressed by Caner’s most aggressive critics? Those critics who’ve made practically his entire life into little more than a post-911 sham to illegitimately bilk unwary believers of their hard-earned money? He or she who possesses anything but doubt please step forward.
Nonetheless, the committee found “discrepancies” within the larger picture of Dr. Caner’s public life--“dates, names and places of residence.” No details were offered. From my perspective, that’s good and bad. I for one do not need to know all the details. That’s the good part.
Something similar to the “Judges syndrome”: every man [thinks] that which was right in his own eyes” (J 21:25). Some oddly think the statement proves Caner lied (//link)—at least lied about some things even though LU offered no details whatsoever. However, we cannot deduce what is not there: discrepancies do not morally reduce to either dishonesty or deception.
Others think the lack of consequential gore is outrageously moot (//link).
Whatever the case, the discrepancies were potent enough to solicit a sincere apology from Dr. Caner, an apology LU fully accepted; an apology the Christian community should accept…indeed are required to accept.
What remains unclear from the statement is the reason Dr. Caner is not going to serve as seminary dean. The statement only offers a factual assertion; it does not give a reason Dr. Caner is vacating the position:
“Dr. Caner’s current contractual term as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary expires on June, 30, 2010. Dr. Caner will no longer serve as Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.”
While indeed the discrepancies could have been potent enough for LU to require Dr. Caner “step down” as dean, one cannot be certain such is the case. Perhaps the media-stress placed upon him these last few months taxed both Dr. Caner and his family so severely that he sensed he must do so regardless of the outcome of the investigation. We do not know. The statement does not say.
One thing we do know is, whatever discrepancies led to his earnest apology, the potency of them did not hinder LU from desiring Dr. Caner to remain on the faculty:
“The university has offered, and Dr. Caner has accepted, an employment contract for the 2010-2011 academic year. Dr. Caner will remain on the faculty of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary as a professor.”
Hence, those who definitively conclude Dr. Caner was demoted, fired, or asked to voluntarily "step aside," etc. are reading more into the statement than the statement itself reveals. They may, in fact, be correct. But if they are correct it is based on either a) a guess, or b) other information not revealed in the LU statement itself.
Enough about the statement.
So what did I learn (sometimes re-learn) from my involvement in blogging exchange?
- No matter how honest one may be with one’s words, some people will call you dishonest and a liar. They will ridicule, mock, and dismiss.
- I learned the value of moderating comments on my site. Since 2006, I’ve had open commenting. Once I began to critique James White, the Barbarian hordes thundered toward my site with a vengeance. My mistake. While I may leave some posts open in the future, no longer will my site remain besieged. Moderation rules!
- Great leaders make verbal errors, misspeak, convolute facts, and have memory lapse. No scholar, preacher, apologist, or pastor can stand publicly week-in and week-out without slips of the tongue, confusion of facts, wrong dates, wrong places, wrong timelines, etc. etc. It will never be done by anyone. Period. Some are more gross than others. Nonetheless, the best we can do is propose to be better, to be more careful, to be humble.
- Standing on principle remains a non-negotiable aspect of my life in Jesus Christ. I absolutely refuse to cater to the herd mentality. Throughout this exchange, I continued to sing one single song—innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. And, as I said earlier, on the one hand, Dr. Caner was fully vindicated concerning his life testimony. On the other hand, and far less significant, Dr. Caner was found guilty of verbal discrepancies--discrepancies for which he sincerely offered his deepest regret. The investigatory committee spoke, and I am publicly obligated to accept their findings.
- Dr. Caner remains a scholar, a teacher, a much-to-be-used-yet-vessel for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Dr. Caner must be encouraged to not allow this “step-back” to be his enemy. Rather it should be viewed as a means through which the Lord can make him better than he was before. May we pray to such an end with him.
- Last, and perhaps most surprising, I find myself empathetic with Mark Driscoll’s defenders. The truth is, I was relentless in pounding away with a sledge hammer toward Driscoll’s alleged repentance concerning “cussin,’” a repentance about which his defenders insisted he’d exercised but which I saw no real evidence (//link; at least they were unable at the time to offer it). Similarly, I found myself pointing to Dr. Caner’s repentance and apology and critics either could not or would not acknowledge it. This does not make me a fan of Mark Driscoll, of course. Nor should be read into this analogy more than is here. All I’m simply saying is, I understand some of Driscoll’s fans’ frustrations in a more sympathetic light.
There are other things I’ve learned, but no need to overcook the beans.
With that, I am…