The Pen

Arkansas Baptist News Speaks Truth about Ergun Caner

Tim Yarbrough, editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, posted this article at the newspaper’s website. It was soon taken down, he told me, because certain comments were in violation of their policy. Not having seen the comments, I asked several Arkansas Baptist pastors the nature of those comments and they spoke of attacks toward Yarbrough and the newspaper for asking these questions. Although I don’t agree with taking down the post entirely (restricting comments seems like the more logical solution) because so much Caner-related material is “Canerized” – in other words, it’s removed from the internet – I appreciate Yarbrough asking these questions.

Offering a quality Christian education in today’s age is difficult at best, but our two Arkansas Baptist institutions – Williams Baptist College and Ouachita Baptist University – do a great job of navigating the waters amid the diversity of the  21st century with a high degree of integrity. That’s why it is a bit disconcerting to see a college like Brewton-Parker College in Georgia, which would be the equivalent of Williams Baptist College in Arkansas, owned and operated by the state convention, jeopardize its integrity.

As a graduate of one of those Arkansas Baptist colleges he mentions – Williams Baptist College – Yarbrough’s comment strikes a cord in me. How terrible it would be if Caner was elected the president of that institution. Although Williams isn’t a perfect institution (and none is) it’s a good one – and it’s one that I care about. One must wonder what Brewton-Parker alumni think about this and what they’re going to think about this when the Caner Project documentary comes out and then the national press begins to ask questions.

In December, Brewton-Parker announced it had hired Ergun Caner as its 16th president. Caner, whose brother, Emir, is president of another Baptist college in Georgia, Truett-McConnell College, comes with an impressive resume as a Christian apologist and former dean and president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School in Lynchburg, Va.

The problem, of course, surrounds a 2010 controversy in which Caner was accused of embellishing his background as a former Muslim who converted to Christianity. It is not my place in this column to make a judgment based on those accusations, but a question must be asked if this was the best move for a college charged with educating the next generation of Christian leaders.

Caner’s resume’ comes with lots of other things (at least, his former resume’). As stated by Caner in books, interviews, and other forums for over a decade, Caner had over 60 debates with those of other faiths as an apologist. Of course, this is a claim he has ceased making, saying that he didn’t know a “debate” was by definition, moderated. It turns out he’s had no debates. This is one example of the gradually shrinking resume’ of Ergun Caner.

Nonetheless, Yarbrough’s question is correct. I wish that the author would have made a judgment – he certainly has the necessary information to make a sound judgment. But his question of whether or not this is the best move for a college charged with educating the next generation of Christian leaders has to be asked.

 However, when a leader gets caught up in a scandal amid numerous allegations – many of which are supported by video evidence plastered all over the Internet – should the leader continue to be provided a platform of leadership in charge of influential young minds who will one day lead our country?

Yes – many of which are supported by video evidence plastered all over the Internet. It’s so refreshing to see a Baptist journalist speak honest, obvious truth. Yes – Caner has lied and there’s undeniable evidence for it. And then, Yarbrough makes another great point…

It boils down to integrity, not only of the ones chosen to lead – like Caner – but of those in the leadership roles who provide him a pathway to become an authority figure.

The over all controversy here is not merely about Ergun Caner – it must be about those that have provided him a pathway to leadership. It must be about Bucky Kennedy and the Brewton-Parker Trustees. It must be about those who continue to endorse him. And it must be about those like Peter Lumpkins and CB Scott who continue to serve him instead of caring for his soul and calling him to repentance.