Sunday, July 4, 2010

Of Cowboys and Caner

Mama's don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys- or, at the very least, don't let them grow up to be anything close to what the soon-to-be-former president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Ergun Caner, is starting to look like.
I have been watching events in this Caner debacle for about six months, and have stayed out of it up until now. I don't like drama much, and politics mixed with religion isn't really my thing. This week, though, changed my opinion on the situation. I'd been trying very hard to give Dr. Ergun Caner the benefit of the doubt, hoping that the claims laid against him would be unfounded. Evidence continued to pile up (I'll refer you other places for that: here, here, here, and here) and I prayed that there would be an adequate explanation, that Dr. Caner would not be the deceiver the evidence seemed to suggest.
I was glad when Liberty University launched an investigation into the claims against Dr. Caner, confident that the situation would finally be resolved. What I found, however, was that the university effectively obfuscated on what should have been their responsibility as a Christian school, to uphold strict standards of conduct according to biblical methods.
The statement the university released June 25 (link to SBC Today article here) read as follows:

"After a thorough and exhaustive review of Dr. Ergun Caner’s public statements, a committee consisting of four members of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory. However, the committee found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Caner was not a Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, but, instead, found discrepancies related to matters such as dates, names and places of residence. Dr. Caner has cooperated with the board committee and has apologized for the discrepancies and misstatements that led to this review. 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. 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."

Now, I'm no expert, but even I can see the political tap dancing that the university is doing with this statement. You will find a plethora of information in the links I provided discussing why the conclusion of the investigation is not satisfactory. I will focus on my personal opinion, which is while it's all well and good that we've discovered Caner was really a Muslim (I never had an issue with that), it is just not satisfactory that we have not heard a statement from Caner himself, nor any direct answers to the questions that have been raised.
It seems plain that "factual statements that are self-contradictory" just doesn't make sense. You cannot have two statements, both true, that contradict each other in this context. The opposing statements are on such opposite ends of the spectrum it seems impossible that it could have been a simple mistake- multiple times. You cannot be born in two separate countries, and I haven't yet met a person who repeatedly makes those same kinds of "mistakes".
Even further than that, the university found that possible deception is not a moral issue? Come on people, you are supposed to be pillars of the academic society, an example for the young minds your schools shape. Your staff should be held to- at the very least- the same standards as your students. I highly doubt that it would be acceptable for a student to make factual claims that are self-contradictory in any of their schoolwork. In fact, any reasonable educator would assume that in some place, there is deception.
Yet, here we have Liberty and others fighting to the bitter end to exonerate Caner, yet for some reason his contract as dean will not be renewed. That, friends, is a contradiction in itself. Why relieve somebody of their position (or step down) if you have nothing to hide? What example is the university setting for those who attend?
Why would we, as parents, choose to send our children to a place where moral standards are quickly becoming cloudier than the oil slick in the Gulf? We are responsible, in God's eyes, for the raising of our children. It would be highly irresponsible for any parent to send their child to a university that doesn't uphold the highest biblical standards, or even basic moral standards. Honesty is key in a Christian lifestyle, and those in positions of authority should strive to be above reproach in everything they do.
Liberty has shown, by their politically-driven response to the Caner situation, that they have abandoned those high biblical standards. I would encourage parents to take a hard look at sending their children to be taught under questionable circumstances, not just at Liberty, but at any university.
We want to stand before God at judgment with a clear conscience, knowing that we have done everything in our power to raise our children in the way they should go. With education playing a key role in how children turn out, I will choose to send my children to places that will turn them out in God's way, and that are not bent towards tickling ears and pleasing the masses.

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