"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Sword and the Trowel, The Scalpel and the Suture--The Right Use of Law and Grace

Today, a lawmaker said of Goldman Sachs, It's not enough just to say, 'I'm sorry.'" Politicians and the American people want Goldman Sachs to punitively pay for the company's part in our nation's 2008 financial and real estate collapse. Also today, Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain apologized five times for being caught on microphone saying of a grandmother "She's just a bigoted old woman" after she had questioned him about his immigration policies. A television reporter said of Brown's multiple apologies "They may not be enough to save him politically." It seems the press and citizens in England  want a proverbial piece of Prime Minister Brown's flesh for his gaffe.

In both cases today, the wrongdoings were exposed far and wide. When there are attempts to coverup wrongs, then there is a need to press for their exposure. But once there is wide exposure, and the press and the people know fully the egregious gaffes, then the right thing to do is to focus on the steps needed for correction,  healing and restoration.

I have written about Ergun Caner three times and his brother Emir once. I've asked questions that I believe Southern Baptists need to ask. It is very important, in my opinion, that Southern Baptists take the lead in asking the tough questions of the Caners. Were those outside the Southern Baptist Convention to begin asking questions and go on to discover actual deception has taken place by Ergun Caner, then it could not be said that Southern Baptists sat by in silence, either duped by our dumbness or silenced by our sychophancy. In other words, judgment must begin within our Convention, or most certainly condemnation will come from outside our Convention.

National press organizations are now aware of the Caner issue and are beginning to ask questions. The exposure and corresponding awareness of the issues associated with Ergun Caner's Muslim background, differing biographies and changing academic credentials is growing. My emphasis is now shifting. I believe some very, very tough days are ahead for Liberty and the Caners. Ergun Caner released a statement a few weeks ago, what has been called by his supporters as "an apology." Here is a portion of the Ergun Caner's statement.

I have never intentionally misled anyone. I am sure I have made many mistakes in the pulpit in the past 20-plus years, and I am sure I will make some in the future. For those times where I misspoke, said it wrong, scrambled words, or was just outright confusing, I apologize and will strive to do better.

At the time, I thought to myself that if the national media were to catch wind of the documented discrepancies from Caner's own public speeches, they would raise a collective eyebrow at his "apology." Why? The secular press and people of this world don't take to kindly to people who simply say, "I'm sorry, I didn't intend it," particularly when it seems clear that the wrong actions brought financial gain to the wrongdoer. For example, when someone like Ergun Caner profits from speaking and writing, the words "intentional" and "unintentional" have very narrow and specific definitions. The world is by nature always skeptical and always unforgiving. We who have been called out of the world are called to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. We, above all others, should know when to draw the sword and when to scrape the trowel. We Christians should only cut in order to heal. The scalpel ought always lead to the suture. In short, when the law has convicted, then grace should be applied.

I personally believe it is time for grace to be applied to Ergun Caner and his brother Emir. Not everyone will agree with me, but I will give my reason for believing the way I do and close, forever, my blog to the Caner issue. The secular world, press and the enemies of the SBC are all about to hammer Ergun Caner and his brother Emir and it will not know when to let up.

Ergun and Emir are my brothers in Christ and I wish for them nothing but the best in terms of their careers, their families and their future ministries. The damage of an exaggerated testimony, embellished resume, and changing biographical facts will linger until there is true confession, humble repentance and merciful healing. Some of Ergun's friends claim he has already confessed. Other Christians believe that his statement "I have never intentionally ever misled anyone" is simply a way to avoid the consequences for publicly lying about his past. I personally don't think there is really any need to continue the debate.

Others have picked it up. Others who will not be as kind. But, in the end, they will not be able to accuse Southern Baptists of sticking our collective head in the sand as is the case when it comes to exposing our wrongdoings. In other words, thank the Lord there are Southern Baptist blogs to counterbalance the cheerleading of Baptist Press.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The Duty of Harsh Criticism: It Humbles the Proud and Sharpens the Culture

In May of this year our church will be hosting Jeff Sandefer, the President of Acton School of Business and Chairman of the Board of The National Review. Jeff will be speaking on the subject "The Difference Christ Makes in Business." Jeff's great-grandfather, Dr. Jefferson Davis Sandefer, was President of Hardin-Simmons University. Jeff has been described to me by the Business Faculty of the University of Texas as Donald Trump without the fluff. In preparing the audio/visual introduction to Jeff for our church, I came across a very interesting article in the National Review called The Duty of Harsh Criticism. The National Review has a tag line that reads "Where intellects collide." I found the article on criticism, written in 1914, a powerful encouragment to citizens of all communities to be engaged in civil, active criticism of those who are considered our intellectual leaders. The words are as prophetic for Southern Baptists today as they were for Americans and Great Britains a century ago. A sample paragraph is below.

"There is a serious duty before us, the duty of listening to our geniuses in a disrespectful manner. Criticism matters as it never did in the past, because of the present pride of great writers. They take all life as their province to-day. Formerly they sat in their studies, and thinking only of the emotional life of mankind—thinking therefore with comparative ease, of the color of life and not of its form—devised a score or so of stories before death came. Now, their pride telling them that if time would but stand still they could explain all life, they start on a breakneck journey across the world. They are tormented by the thought of time; they halt by no event, but look down upon it as they pass, cry out their impressions, and gallop on. Often it happens that because of their haste they receive a blurred impression or transmit it to their readers roughly and without precision. And just as it was the duty of the students of Kelvin the mathematician to correct his errors in arithmetic, so it is the duty of critics to rebuke these hastinesses of these writers, lest the blurred impressions weaken the surrounding mental fabric and their rough transmissions frustrate the mission of genius on earth."
Great, intellectual food for thought prepared for us a century ago by a young woman named Rebecca West (pictured above).

If, fellow preachers, you have to reread Rebecca's article in the National Review two or three times to comprehend her sagacious writing, allow me to gently prod you with the information that she was only TWENTY ONE when she wrote it. It makes me want to wince when I read what is being written by Southern Baptist pastors today.

In His Grace,


Wade

Experts in Islam? Is Emir Caner Complicit in Brother Ergun Caner's Embellishments?

On Saturday, February 20, 2010, I received a call from Southern Baptist Tim Guthrie. I was at home working on a manuscript for a new book. Tim's voice seemed to convey that he was in a state of panic. He told me that Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Seminary was in serious physical jeopardy because of a blogpost written by one of my church members, Debbie Kaufman. I was unaware of Debbie's post, but because of Tim's words, I was obviously concerned. I asked Tim how Ergun's family or life was in danger because of what Debbie had written. He essentially said that Muslims would like to harm Dr. Caner and/or his family, and that Debbie's post made Dr. Caner a target. I told Tim that I would immediately read Debbie's post, and if there was a problem, I assured him that I would ask her to remove it at once.

I went to Debbie's site and read the blogpost in question. Frankly, after reading it, I was shocked. Not at what Debbie had written, but at the phone call from Tim calling upon me to have her remove it. Debbie's post simply asked questions of Dr. Ergun Caner, questions that arose in Debbie's mind after listening to Dr. Caner's own words while he was speaking. Rather than simply answering her questions, it seemed to me that the friends of Dr. Caner were circling the wagons and attacking those who asked uncomfortable questions about discrepancies in Dr. Caner's background. My response to Tim Guthrie's request that I make Debbie remove her blogpost can be read in Comment #26. It's revealing to read what I wrote some two months ago, the very morning I first learned about issues with Ergun Caner (Edit: I should have said in the preceding sentence, ...."the very morning I first had confirmed that there were legitimate issues with Dr. Caner's Muslim background". It has accurately been pointed out in the comment section that I actually learned of Ergun's "alleged" deception two days earlier, on February 18th. Debbie's questions in her post, with actual links to videos and bios, confirmed there were legitimate issues). Later, I received additional phone calls, as did my father, who would eventually hear from Dr. Ergun Caner himself. It was obvious that some people were very upset. In the end, Debbie's blog post was not removed, nor should it have been.

For several weeks after that fateful Saturday, I wrote nothing about Dr. Caner. But after taking time to read many online resources, personally watching videos of Dr. Caner speaking, reading comments and emails from people who knew Dr. Caner prior to 2001, and then looking more closely at Dr. Caner's claim that Dr. Jerry Rankin is a heretic, I became troubled about the Caner issue on two fronts:

(1). Why was Dr. Caner misleading people about the degree of his involvement in Islam, his educational degrees, the number of his alleged "debates" with Muslims, and other things that directly relate to his ongoing ministry as "the" expert on Islam within the Southern Baptist Convention?

(2). Is there wisdom in deeming the "expert" in Islam for the Southern Baptist Convention a man with unreconciled discrepancies in his own talks, biographical data, and alleged "debates" with Muslims when there are dozens of highly qualified and competent International Mission Board missionaries who have been on the front lines of evangelism to Muslims for decades? Why do we make an icon of celebrity instead of seeing as the true heroes of the SBC our front line missionaries in Muslim countries?

The notion that there are no integrity issues that need addressed in Ergun Caner's background is ludicrous. The evidence is irrefutable. Only sychophants and ingnoramuses in the Southern Baptist Convention will deny that there is a problem. Likewise, however, Southern Baptists will be quick to forgive a man (or men) who simply say, "Look, at one time I embellished my academic credentials, the depth of my Muslim upbringing, and the number of "debates" I've held with Muslims around the world. I seek the forgiveness of those I have intentionally misled, and promise to speak the truth about my past from this point forward."

But, there is another issue that has been nagging at me since shortly after that phone call to my home last February. Ergun Caner has a couple of younger brothers. One of them, Dr. Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell, in Cleveland, Georgia is pretty high profile. Does Emir know of his brother's deception? Has Emir participated in the embellishments? Or, has Emir tried to correct his older brother?

Someone might ask, "But why is this an issue?" Well, both brothers are placing themselves as the resident experts of Islam for the Southern Baptist Convention, and both brothers have profited from speaking engagements on the subject. It would seem to me that one of the reasons the wagons are being circled so tightly by those who wish to protect the Caners is because there is so much at stake. Some pretty high profile people have pushed the Caners to the top of the academic world and the speaking circuit of the SBC. If the Caners' integrity is in question, either Ergun's or both Ergun's and Emir's, then there will be some pretty embarrassed high profile Southern Baptists.

This week I received a letter that details either explicit approval and/or illicit endorsement of Ergun's deception by his brother Emir. The letter is posted below, with sources unimbedded.

BEGINNING OF LETTER ....

Emir has been sitting quietly by, while his brother, often in his presence, has made public claims of being born in Istanbul, raised as a wahhabi and a jihadist without ever bothering to object. Emir knew that his brother was spinning a fantastic tale, yet it seems as long as he was also profiting from it, he was happy to go along for the ride.

There were times, though, when Emir ventured into the waters of overt deception himself. Consider Emir’s testimony as provided on his own website http://www.blogger.com/www.emircaner.com

"Imagine being raised with a father who was a muazzin (sic), one who went to the minaret and did the call to prayer. He is the one who melodiously called out 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, God is great! God is great! Come to prayer, come to prayer.'So, we would go to our mosque and would be taught from the Qur'an. We would have our sort of a madras (sic), our Islamic school in which we would have our teachers who would teach us the verses of the Qur'an, the surahs.And our father was not merely a leader within the mosque. He was one of the prominent leaders within the mosque. He was an architect of the mosque. In fact,there he built a mosque as being an engineer himself and an architect. This was the family where we were raised." (Source: Online. Available from Internet, www.EmirCaner.com, "Recent Videos: Dr. Caner's Journey, Part 1," accessed 23 February 2010)

Emir's story sounds heroic and compelling, but under closer scrutiny reveals halftruths, shaded truths, and calculated deceptions in his testimony.

1. Emir was not “raised with a father” at all. He was raised with a mother, a grandmother, and two brothers. According to court divorce records filed in April 1978, Emir’s parents had been “living separate and apart for more than two years.” This means, Emir’s father was out of the house from the time he was only five years old. (Source: Judge George W. Twyford, “Divorce decree, July 1974, In the Court of Common Pleas Franklin County, Ohio.” Online. Available from the Internet at http://www.witnessesuntome.com/caner/caner‐decree‐web.pdf, cited 10 April 2010).

Emir’s father, Acar, was absent from Ergun and Emir’s home, and, in fact, had already remarried by 1977 when Emir was 6 or 7 years old and was now raising a new family. (Source: “DEATHS AND FUNERALS” section of the Columbus Dispatch, p. 7G).

2. Emir's father was not “a muezzin,” at least not as Emir claimed. The Islamic Center on Broad Street where the Caners claim to have worshipped each weekend had no muezzin. The president of the Islamic Center, Rustum Ali,said, "We had no muezzin. We simply asked whoever was around to call everyone to prayer." (Source: Phone conversation with Rustum Ali, president of the Islamic Center, the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, on 23 February 2010).

3. Despite Emir’s colorful imaginings, even if his father had been a muezzin, he could not have gone “to the minaret” because the Caners’ place of worship had no minaret. It was an old converted mansion constructed in 1903. According to Islamic Center president, Rustum Ali, Columbus city ordinances would not allow the construction of a minaret because the building was a historic site.

4. The boys never attended a “madras” (sic) or Islamic school as Emir claims,because the Islamic Center at 1425 E. Broad Street, had no “madrasa,” or “Islamic school.” Again, quoting the president of the Center, “We have never had a madrasa, only Sunday Sabbath School from 11 am to 1 pm. There we would teach the children how to pray, about our faith, and so forth.” (Source: In a phone conversation with Islamic Foundation president, Rustum Ali, the president said, “Oh no, we never had a madrasa in our building. All we had was Sunday Sabbath School from 11 to 1 pm, to teach the children how to pray.” Phone conversation, 23 February 2010).

5. Emir strains to support Ergun's claim that his father, Acar, built the Islamic Center on Broad Street, but perhaps knowing that this is not true, he modifies the testimony slightly to say that, "he (Acar) built a mosque." In fact, the Islamic Center, the Islamic Foundation on Broad Street was constructed in 1903, more than half a century before Acar arrived in Ohio.

6. The statement, "This was the way our family was raised," caps off the deception. There was no muezzin, there was no minaret, their parents had already divorced and, by the time Emir was six or seven years old, his father had already remarried and started a new family. Were the story not crafted for such self‐serving purposes, one might actually feel sympathy for the Caner brothers.

Emir also appears to have fabricated stories about his witnessing escapades. In a March 2004 article in Christianity Today, Emir casually says, “I speak weekly to American Muslims who say they realize Islam isn't the way to heaven.” (Source: Emir Caner to Corrie Cutrer in “The Muslim Next Door,” Christianity Today, March 2004. Online. Available on the Internet at http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2004/marapr/6.44.html cited 23 February 2010)

Could this be an exaggeration? When asked about his converts and fruit from the Muslim world in 2005, Emir Caner admitted to the author, “I am not an evangelist. I am not a church planter. I am an academic.” This was his response to the question, “What methods are you using to share the gospel with Muslims and start new churches?”

In 2005, a year after purportedly speaking “weekly to American Muslims who say they realize Islam isn’t the way to heaven,” Emir could point to no converts whatsoever.

The truth is, Emir appears to spend virtually all of his time either in his study writing books, or surrounded by Christians, to whom he sells the books. Despite Ergun’s claim, with Emir’s silent consent, that the two of them have debated Muslims all over the world, there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.

While Emir doesn’t refute his brother’s claims, neither does he buttress them on his own extensive biographical websites (http://www.emircaner.com/). Nonethless, Emir has managed to gain a reputation among at least one of his peers, Dr. Keith Eitel of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for bold confrontational witness to Muslims. According to the SBC Today BLOG, Keith Eitel is quoted as having said, that Emir Caner is a bold and confrontational witness in the mosque:

SBC Today: ‘In witnessing to Muslims, I know that when your brother got inaugurated down at Truett McConnell, Dr. Eitel talked about your brother's unique witnessing method. He would walk into a mosque and find the iman (sic) and say, 'I am an infidel!' Is that the kind of mission emphasis that you guys do at Liberty also?"

Ergun made no disclaimers, instead affirming his brother’s alleged bold technique: “I have no problem with using anything like that." (Source: Unnamed host of SBC Today in conversation with Ergun Caner on SBC Today 3 Feb 2010. Online. Available on the Internet at http://sbctoday.com/2010/02/03/podcast‐episode‐21/  accessed 8 February 2010).
So the reserved academic has embellished his reputation as one who “walk(s) into a mosque and find(s) the imam” to declare to him, “I am an infidel!” This certainly doesn’t mesh with what he told the author in 2005 when asked about the fruit of his evangelism efforts. Nor does it jibe with the first‐hand experience of IMB missionaries in Chiang Mai, Thailand who took a course on Islam under Emir Caner in the summer of 2009.

A couple of IMB missionaries made it a point to go with Emir so that they could learn how he conducted Muslim evangelism. The following information came from one of those missionary students (Source: Email from one of Emir Caner’s students from Caner’s summer class on Islam in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2009. Subject: “RE: Emir's use of the Q” dated 9 February 2010).

1. Emir certainly did not, as the SBC Today podcast boasts, walk into the mosque, find the imam, and announce, "I am an infidel."

2. The student reported that Emir probably used the Qur’an more than the imb students did. But Emir used it to try and start an apologetic debate that he believed would destroy the Qur'an and win the contest. The IMB students used the Qur’an to try and bridge the Muslims into the gospel, similar to the Camel method. One of the IMB personnel "asked him (Emir) the question, ‘What do I do if a Muslim says he doesn’t know the Qur'an and that I should go talk to the Imam? Can I show it to him?’(Emir's)

Answer from Emir Caner: “I would walk them through the Qur'an and ask questions they can’t handle”

"He mentioned he frequently would ask the Muslims to give him a section of the Qur'an to read and he would give them a section of the Bible to read and they would agree to come back together later to discuss it."

3. Though Emir had criticized IMB missionary efforts at contextualization for being a compromise with the false religion of Islam, Emir made his own cultural accommodations to the mosque, by veiling his wife, keeping her out of the prayer room, and referencing Qur'anic verses to initiate conversations with Muslim worshippers. When asked about this, Emir said these accommodations were not bridges (which he had condemned), but rather cultural "points of contact." "Points of contact" appears to be Caner's politically correct substitute for what Camel practitioners call "bridges."

4. Emir admitted to his students that though his approach can lead into the gospel it seldom does. According to two different IMB missionaries who ventured into the mosque with Caner, Emir never got to the gospel in his attempt at apologetic debate.

5. (During his time speaking) “he [Caner] was not able to lead into a Gospel presentation or attempt to leave them a tract or Injil (New Testament) using his approach at either place."

6. Emir said that his ministry to Muslims is to accept referrals from other believers who have been sharing with Muslims that are already seekers, and then expose them to the lies from a former insider's point of view. He says his is not an evangelistic or apostolic ministry (Source: Email correspondence from “anonymous IMB missionary to the author, 9 February 2010)

Given these accounts of Emir’s awkward and ineffective witness to Muslims in Thailand, it is difficult to imagine Emir Caner ever walking into a mosque, seeking out the imam and declaring, “I am an infidel!”

Emir Caner may be a more cautious fake than his boisterous brother, but he is a fake nonetheless. Like his brother, he has used his fraudulent notoriety to elevate his own celebrity and currency within the Evangelical world, while undermining and attacking legitimate Christian witnesses to Muslims both in America and around the world.

END OF LETTER ...

One might expect that self-proclaimed experts in Islam, men like the Caner brothers, would offer criticisms of the International Mission Board and President Jerry Rankin for the Southern Baptist missionary work that has been taking place among Muslims around the world for the past several decades. But those criticisms are deeply ironic when they are attached with a claim that the IMB President is a heretic and a liar. One can hope that the majority of Southern Baptists will reject the ungodly emphasis on celebrity, star power and the errors associated with it, and remain consistent with our emphasis on both biblical and personal truth.

We'll see.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Postscript: One of Emir's friends, a fellow pastor in the SBC, has called me and spoken highly of Emir's evangelism to Muslims. He told me that two young women in his church, former Muslims, were converted to Christ through the patient evangelism of Emir Caner. I believe this pastor is telling the truth, and in fairness to Dr. Emir Caner, wanted to balance out the questions raised by the missionary in the letter with the report of this pastor.

To the pastor's credit, he too, voiced hope that the questions being raised regarding discrepancies in the Caner brothers' background will be satisfactorily answered in the near future, but felt compelled to rebut the suggestion that Emir Caner has no practical experience in leading Muslims to faith in Christ.

Selling Satan: The Tragic Story of Christian Evangelist Mike Warnke and Why It Is Worth Remembering

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Christian speaker Mike Warnke was a hot item. His albums, a blend of comedy and powerful Christian messages, propelled to #1 on the Christian charts. His books sold in the tens of thousands, and he was first on the Christian speaking tour in terms of bookings. Mike Warnke was on top of the evangelical world.

Mike Warnke presented himself an ex-Satanist. He was the expert on Satanism and the occult in the Christian world. Churches looked to him as an authority, law enforcement agencies even used him to help train officers about the occult, and the world came to know how evangelicals viewed Satanism through the writings and messages of Mike Warnke. He was a spellbinding orator. He could make people laugh, and in the next minute have them crying. His testimony was absolutely riveting. He told how he was heavily involved in Satan worship as a youth, and then eloquently identified his own personal participation in the black art. Mike enraptured audiences with his biographical story. What was particularly moving for conservative evangelicals was the manner in which Mike Warnke moved from his own story to exalting Jesus Christ by presenting the gospel message. "If Christ can save Mike Warnke from the depths of committed Satanic worship, then for heaven's sake, Jesus Christ can save you!" Powerful, right?

Well, not really. You see, Mike Warnke fabricated the depths of his involvment in Satanism. Oh, he seemed to have dabbled a little in Ouji boards. Sure, he looked and dressed a little weird in high school (who didn't in the 60's and 70''s). But by no means was Mike Warnke ever a devout Satanist. He lied about his background. He lied about his family. He lied about his experiences. He lied just about everything. Why? Well, back then Satanism was something people were scared about--and Mike saw an opportunity to present himself as an expert on the subject. So he presented himself as a former leader of a coven of youth heavily devoted to Satanism. One of Mike's high school friends, who knew the real story of Mike's youth, put it like this:
“I always wanted to write him a letter and say, Mike, when were you able to have this coven of fifteen hundred people? About the most exciting thing we used to do was play croquet.
Cornerstone Magazine put an end to Mike's lies. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty. But every evangelical ought to read the article by Cornerstone. As a wise man once said:

"A people unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers."

When Men Begin to Make Monkeys of Themselves

On November 12, 1927, Harlow's Weekly reported: "On July 17, 1926 Pastor J. Frank Norris shot and killed Dexter E. Chipps, a Fort Worth lumber dealer. Pastor Norris claimed the shooting was in self-defense as Chipps had made a "hip pocket" move. Chipps was unarmed. A jury from which there was an attempt by by the defense to exclude all Roman Catholics and "so-called liberals" and the prosecution to exclude all fundamentalists and members of the Ku Klux Klan, acquitted Pastor Norris on January 25, 1927."

Harlow's, an Oklahoma City newspaper in the 1920's, reported on the background of the Pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, because of the anti-evolution controversy occurring in Oklahoma during the 1920's. J. Frank Davis, the fighten' fundamentalist from Texas had joined forces with Mordecai Ham, Pastor of FBC Oklahoma City, to enact the first "Anti-Darwin laws" in the nation; two years prior to Tennessee's Scopes trial. Speaking before his own legislature, in preparation for assisting his fellow Southern Baptists against evolutionists, Pastor J. Frank Norris declared:
""So far as I am concerned, so help me God, I will not be a party to wink at, support, or even remain silent when any group, clique, crowd or machine undertakes to ram down the throats of Southern Baptists that hell-born, Bible destroying, deity-ot-Christ denying, German [!] rationalism known as evolution."
J. Frank Norris graduated from Baylor and Southern Seminary. He pastored Southern Baptist Churches in Dallas and Fort Worth. He is credited with moving Southwestern Theological Seminary from Waco to Fort Worth. He edited the Texas Southern Baptist paper, the Baptist Standard. He was a blue-blood Southern Baptist who considered anyone who disagreed with his interpretations of the Bible an enemy. To Pastor Norris, destroying reputations, tearing down another's ministries, or even shooting a man, was justifiable if the cause of truth was being upheld.

When the Scopes Trial ended in Tennessee, having felt the intense hatred and anger of the religious fundamentalists, Lady Darwin, daughter-in-law to Charles Darwin, was overheard while boarding an oceanliner saying, "I think men are beginning to make monkeys of themselves."

As one who believes, unlike Lady Darwin, in a literal six-day Creation, let me add my agreement to her statement. When religious fundamentalists, no matter their beliefs, act as if they must defend the truth, to the point of destroying anyone who disagrees, then we are making monkeys of ourselves. Truth needs no defense. It simply needs to be loosed. And, if the enemy of truth tries to keep it caged, the God of all truth holds the lock.

The only thing that needs constant propping up, as well as continual attacks against those who question it, is error.

Comments For This Post Are Open: A Request for Answers to Specific Questions

Mohammad Kahn, the man who has posted 17 videos pointing out various descrepancies in the testimony of Dr. Ergun Caner regarding Caner's own biographical background, educational credentials and Muslim experiences, has requested answers to several questions. He has emailed me the questions, and I felt it appropriate to open up the comment section to provide answers to his questions from Christians at large. I remind you, before you answer, that how you answer represents more than just you as a person--you are representing the One to whom you owe everything. Let's honor Him in our responses:

Mohammed asks:

1) "Why are man Christians attacking me as if I have done something wrong? I receive countless hate mails through YouTube regarding Ergun, accusing me of being jealous of his status and that I just want to bring him down because he is a “convert” – this is not true.

2) Why are some Christians saying that my website is an “Islamic Hate Site” even though it isn’t?

3) Many Christians have been telling their brethren to not rely on information provided by fakeexmuslims.com as if the information is diseased. Why?

4) Many Christians have been telling people that they should not be taking what a Muslim says as truth. This is rather astonishing, because in my mind, as long as the information is verifiable and correct, then it is truth regardless of the beliefs and practices of the person providing the information. Is this not right?

5) I have been labelled as an “angry Muslim”. I am not an angry person at all, even if you see my videos you will see some jokes and laughter within it. I am not angry at all. The only faith being affected by the likes of Ergun Caner is the spreading of the Christian faith. Muslims find him funny, just go and see the comments section on YouTube which reflects this.

Please understand when I say Christians in the context above, I am not referring to you. I am referring to those Christians who clearly do not possess the manners like that of a true Christian. My questions do not mean that I am upset or saddened in any way, in fact, it is quite the opposite, I find it funny , but my laughter does not negate the seriousness of the matter.
"

Immaturity Is the Reason People Personally Attack the Deliverer of Uncomfortable Messages

An individual who has been quite influential in exposing the descrepancies in Dr. Ergun Caner's biographical, theological and educational backgrounds has emailed me with a question that he would like for me to answer.

"Why are many Christians attacking me as if I have done something wrong?"

Great question. People will often attack the messenger because the message is uncomfortable or embarrassing. This response is both primitive and natural. When the mosquito stings, you slap it. When the food is bad, you spit it out. When someone reeks of body odor, you push them away. The child’s first response to something offending is to always push it away. At some point, though, adults are expected to think though their response to that which is offensive. Maturity entails reflecting on the future repurcussions of quickly and angrily dismissing that which is offensive. Real leaders entertain facts, no matter how uncomfortable they are, dialogue and discuss disagreements, and refuse to personally attack the messengers, no matter their message. But many never leave their intellectual childhood and continue to react to difficult messages by making the messenger the issue. Those who do this are not leaders of men. The Internet makes it quite easy to identify leadership material. Those who write hateful emails, angrily post their primitive reactions on message boards, and continually attack other people are revealing childishness and immaturity. But those who calmly address and/or respond to issues raised, who keep the dialogue civil and informative, and refuse to attack the messengers are the true leaders.
In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The Neat Privilege of Hearing from New Friends With Compelling Stories

My post yesterday generated a number of emails from people who read this blog, but heretofore have been strangers to me. One of the wonderful privileges of writing a blog is seeing the world shrink and being able to make acquaintances with people who otherwise would never be known by me. One such person, a literary agent, wrote an encouraging email to me, thanking me for my response the the self-confessed Southern Baptist "leader" who sought to denigrate my children and me yesterday. The agent told me an interesting true story:
"I was Barry "Green Beret" Sadler's literary agent on thirty books. Barry had an encounter with a person of a mean reputation. Barry was not concerned about the threats he made to Barry personally. However, one day, over the phone, he threatened Barry's three children. Barry said "he has gone to far". Approximately a week later, Barry called me and asked if I would meet him later that week at Shoneys to discuss what he was to do. That night, before we had the opportunity to meet, Barry shot and killed the person that threatened his children."
I think I know how Barry must have felt. I've always thought myself as "fair game" and have never held grudges toward people who attack me in order to discredit what I write or say. However, when a person goes after my kids, that becomes "a low blow." I find myself asking why someone is so desperate. Like Sergeant Sadler, it seems there are those who wish to silence my keyboard. Why? Well, maybe what is being written is embarrassing to some--or possibly what some fear will be written is potentially very embarrassing to some. Regardless, these types of tactics just don't work with me.

Stay tuned!

Wade

My New Book: Hardball Religion II -- A Sequel

Today I received an anonymous email from someone calling himself "Nomen Nescio." The play on words in the pseuodonym is cute (see the background for Nescio, a Latin word that means "I don't know"). When I read the content of the email I started out laughing. I'm used to personal attacks. I have been called an alcoholic, an addict, a liberal, a Christ-denier, and all other kinds of names by those who consider me an enemy. It comes with the territory. I neither resent the attacks nor feel any desire to defend myself.

But at the very end of the email, when two of my children were mentioned, I stopped laughing. Again, I am used to such ungodly tactics, but I'm not sure my children are. For this reason, after the email, which is reproduced below in its entirety, I would like to take the personal privilege of writing a few words directly to Charis and Boe--both of whom read their dad's blog. Others might enjoy what I have to say to them. For example, the Muslim who has composed videos that reveal the discrepancies in Dr. Ergun Caner's background has asked me why Christians are vehemently attacking him personally. Maybe he can receive some encouragement and comfort from my heartfelt words to my family. The anonymous email, with no salutation or closing, begins below:

________________________

This decision requires immediate attention. Your continued attacks on people in the SBC have reached a point where a certain group have decided to say to you enough is enough.We leaders in the SBC will not allow you to continue. We desire your recovery from your issues. But cease you must from continued attacks.

Here is the decision you have, if you can call it one:

1. Close your blog and stop all attacks including your father and church member. You are done! or

2. This group will release to the press and your church information we have obtained involving your careless sin and attempts to cover up such activity while attacking others.

Need proof?

Casinos! Other addictions! Why your daughter is not at Baylor! Your sons Marine issue! Enough? It is your call. At least we have the Grace and Truth to give you a "chance" for restoration.
_____________________________



Dear Charis and Boe,

"I hope by now, at your ages of 23 and 20 respectively, that you understand what real Christianity is all about. Mom and Dad have tried to show you that Christianity is a living, vital and joyful relationship with our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. It's about being real, unconditionally loving those around us, and wrestling through various problems that arise as we seek to live well in a fallen world. Christ is our Hope, the God of all grace, and the reason our lives are so truly enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the two of you have been pulled into the hardball politics of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am not quite sure the rationale for bringing you into personal attacks against me, but your grandfather believes, and I must agree, that it is simply an attempt to hurt me. Of course, it won't work. Mom and Dad are incredibly proud of the two of you, and we know precisely why the Lord altered your future plans. We know that what is implied in the email is not true, but that is not real issue at hand.

The reason I am writing to you is not to defend, but to try to help you with one of the hardest things we Christians are ever called to do. I am asking you to forgive those who attack us personally because they don't like what your dad represents. Honestly, I've reached the place where personal attacks don't affect me, but the attacks on you is a new minefield through which I must carefully navigate as well.

Dysfunctional people, those who are not right with Christ, try to bully, intimidate and threaten others in order to get their way. I hope you have learned by now that when your dad experiences such hardball tactics it only steels his resolve to do the right thing. However, I never want my heart to become hard, cold or bitter because of such personal attacks. So far, God has been good to answer my prayer. Now that you have joined me in the arena of hardball religion, I am asking you to seek the same kind of grace required to be able to see through the personal attacks and know that true Christianity is much, much different than what is often represented in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Love you both,


Dad

The Silence of Southern Baptists Shall Become the Shame of Southern Baptists

Dr. Ergun Mehmet Caner, President of Liberty Seminary in Lynchburgh, Virginia has been caught in a web of deception of his own making. Dr. Caner has publicly stated that he came to the United States at age fifteen having been trained to be a jihadist. In reality, Caner came to Ohio at age four and lived a comfortable, American life.  Dr. Caner has also publicly stated that his first language was Arabic and he was trained in a madrassa in Turkey. Several International Mission Board missionaries who speak fluent Arabic have emailed me, horrified at what they have heard Dr. Caner try to pass off as his native Arabic during his audio and video sermons at SBC churches. They confirm what others have been saying--he is speaking complete gibberish. The myth Dr. Caner has created about himself seems now to be unraveling. He never came to America "via Beirut and Cairo." He has never been trained as a fundamentalist Muslim. He has never been a jihadist. He has never debated top Muslim scholars, in Nebraska or anywhere else. It is impossible for any of us to understand why someone would fabricate or embellish his past, but there's a great deal of money to be made selling books and DVD's about Islam in post 9/11. Whose a better expert on the subject than a radical jihadist who has converted to faith in Jesus Christ, right?

My friend, Mosab Hassan Yousef, has lived the life that Ergun seems to want Christians to believe Ergun has lived. People like Yousef see right through Ergun. I cannot figure out why some Southern Baptists seem to have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that one of our leaders is capable of lying about his past. The excuse making, the covering up, the dismissals, the justifications, and most of all the silence of Southern Baptist leadership about one of our own will one day wind up turning into our collective shame. What is available in published form is enough to indict Dr. Caner's truthfulness, without ever going to motive. Dr. Caner's apology for mistakes of "unintentional misleading statements" is like a Certified Public Accountant apologizing for unintentionally ignoring GAAP accounting principles and the law of the land - he may be sorry but there are consequences when the issue goes to the heart of one's calling.

The new biography of Dr. Caner is set to go up this week. The old biography, filled with deceptive statements, remains down at Caner's  website . The new one has been directly approved by Liberty Seminary's Chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Jr. When write I Dr. Falwell has"approved" the new biography, I mean the Chancellor sat at his desk, read the new proposed biography of Caner's life, and said, "Post it." I'm not sure it has even crossed the Chancellor's mind how odd it is to have to rewrite, reread, and repost a biography of his President. Reporters from two national newspapers and producers from a national news magazine are watching with keen interest upcoming conferences where Dr. Caner is speaking. Why is the secular media interested?

Well, according to them, it's baffling how we evangelicals will allow someone who has given us falsehoods about his past to teach us "the truth" about Islam. I happen to agree. But I would also question why we would even allow him to teach us "the truth" about the gospel.

Happy 23rd Birthday to Our Daughter Charis Burleson!

Today, April 12, marks 149th anniversary of the beginning of the War Between the States. But the most distinguishing fact about today, at least for me, is that 23 years ago God gave to Rachelle and me our first child. We named her Charis (the Greek word for grace), and she has been the delight of her parents' hearts from the moment of her birth. She was born on the day Larry Mize sank an incredible chip shot to beat Greg Norman in the 1987 Masters Golf Tournament, and Dad was looking at the T.V. in the delivery room as much as he was watching the monitors connected to Mom that charted Charis' entrance into this world. Many Masters have been played since then, but that 1987 tournament will always be my favorite because at the same instant Larry Mize hoisted his trophy, I was lifting my one and only daughter into my arms for the first time--and I was the one who became the real winner that day. Charis is now in Florida, living on her own, doing quite well in every facet of her life. Mom and Dad could not be any prouder of our daughter, and knowing she sneaks a peek at her Dad's blog every now and then, we hope she looks in today and sees us wish her a wonderful, happy and grace-filled 23rd birthday! We love you, Charis. Mom and Dad

The First Court Ruling on Tom Rich vs. City of Jacksonville Portends Some Very Interesting Courtroom Drama

United States District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has delivered a thirty eight page ruling on the Florida State Attorney’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit by Tom and Yvette Rich. The Honorable Judge Morales has granted the request from the State Attorney’s office to dismiss the case against State Attorney Angela Corey under protection of the United States 11th Amendment, but allowed the case to continue against Stephen W. Seigel, the Assistant Florida State Attorney who is the one who actually signed Jacksonville Sheriff Officer Robert A. Hinson’s subpoena requests.

In her ruling, the judge commented on a United States citizen's right to anonymous speech, and that if what Mr. Rich alleges is true, an allegation that Mr. Rich may or may not be able to prove, then Mr. Rich's first amendment rights may have been violated. It is rare for a United States District Judge to issue thirty eight pages on a simple motion to dismiss. The ruling may be a strong signal to the defendants over the seriousness with which the United States legal system takes violations of a citizen's right to privacy and free speech.

The motion to dismiss did not pertain to Officer Hinson or the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, since law enforcement agencies do not fall under the immunity of the 11th Amendment. This ruling means that discovery will continue in the now infamous case, and depositions should start soon.

Why It Is Absolutely Unnecessary to Make a Person Feel Conviction of Sin

Many conservative evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, want to ensure that the world knows it is guilty and going to hell. The philosophy that drives our evangelism is "make sure all people know they are guilty sinners before we ever give to them the good news of Jesus Christ." For this reason, the starting point and greatest emphasis in evangelism for many conservative Christians  is the universality of sinfulness. Or, to put it more precisely, the conservative Christian seems more concerned that the sinner knows he's a sinner than he is that the sinner sees the glory and goodness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The idea clung to by conservative evangelicals is that "the law" must condemn before the Lawgiver can save. This leads the soul winner to bypass proclaiming the goodness of God in the risen Christ  until the sinner has been worked over really good with the law and to produce the feeling of  condemnation. Sounds legitimate, right?

Well, not so fast. One of the reasons I absolutely love the heritage given us by 18th century Baptists is because they held to a radical emphasis on simply preaching and proclaiming Christ--leaving the work of conviction and conversion to the Spirit. You can't read the old works of our forefathers without being saturated with the goodness and grace of God in Christ Jesus. We Baptists have historically been supremely Christocentric. Our ancients were not as concerned that the sinner knew and felt his sin as they were the sinner realized experientially the goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. This is how they put it in the First London Confession of Faith (1644):


Article 25 in the The 1646 London Confession of Faith

The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law, but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him. John 3:14,15, 1:12; Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 4:5, 5:8; Acts 5:30,31, 2:36, 1 Cor. 1:22,24.

The starting point for these 18th Century Baptists was the goodness of God in Christ, not the sinfulness of man. Christ fulfilled the law of God. The law and the prophets in the Old Testament all pointed to Christ. The law was never given to drive a man to be righteous in himself, but rather to drive the sinner to faith in the Lawgiver to provide a righteousness that comes from outside the sinner's own obedience. The feasts, the Sabbaths, the festivals, the sacrifices, the laws of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, and all the other important features of the Old Covenant were realized in Christ. With the establishment of the New Covenant, signed and sealed by the blood of Christ, the Old Covenant faded into oblivion because it possessed a fading glory, but the goodness and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ has an eternal glory (I Corinthians 3:7-18).

So the next time you hear a Southern Baptist yell and scream and berate the sinner with words of judgment and condemnation, please know that the he/she is neither speaking in a manner that focuses the listener on the centrality of Christ and His goodness which leads sinners to repentance, nor is he/she being true to his/her heritage as a Baptist.

If one objects, "But Christ spoke harsh words of condemnation to the Pharisees in Matthew 23!" I respond: Christ reserved His words of condemnation to the religious who deemed themselves righteous and far superior to sinners. Were we conservative Christians to be biblical in our evangelism we would do two things:

(1). We would always proclaim the finished work of Christ to sinners while showing them grace, kindness and love while they are sinners--for it is the goodness of God and the Spirit alone (not the law) that leads sinners to repentance, and
(2). We would never complain when the media, the world or cultural liberals ridicule and condemn Southern Baptists for what they perceive as our self-righteousness because self-righteousness is the very thing Christ Himself condemned the Pharisess for having.

Isn't it odd how we get things reversed? We want to yell and scream at the world for its sin, and yet we also get angry and feel the victim when the world yells and screams at us for our self-righteousness. Maybe if we simply loved sinners and proclaimed Christ all the shouting would stop.

In His Grace,

Wade

The Great Treaty: A Priceless Document Burned in Oklahoma in April 1861

It was my privilege Friday to enjoy lunch with Kerry Holton, President of the Delaware Nation, and his mother, Helen Holton. The Delawares, also known as the Lenape Indians, played a prominent role in United States history. Chief Tammany of the Delawares met with William Penn in 1682 and the agreement between them, called "The Great Treaty," showed the world that whites and Indians could live together in peace and harmony. The city built on the spot of that agreement and named in its honor was Philadelphia--"the city of brotherly love." Voltaire called it "the only treaty never sworn to and never broken." The stone relief, pictured left, portrays the agreement between the Delawares and Penn and is found in the famous frieze of history in the United States Capital. The document held in the left hand of William Penn is "The Great Treaty" itself, given to the Delawares to seal Penn's resolution "to live justly, peaceably, and friendly with you."

Americans idolized Chief Tammany for his peaceful spirit, wisdom, and willingness to co-exist with colonists, and "Tammany Societies" cropped up all over the colonies in honor of Chief Tammany. These political activists cherished justice, liberty and freedom, and would often dress up as Chief Tammany when going to their meetings. One of these Tammany Societies in Boston, on the night of their weekly meeting (December 16, 1773), decided to go to the harbor and dump out the tea from British cargo ships in protest of the aggressive British taxes without corresponding American representation in parliament. Thus, contrary to some historians, the Boston Tea Party was not an attempt by Americans to blame the Indians, but freedom loving Americans who were honoring Chief Tammany and his principles of freedom and justice through non-violent protests by simply wearing the Indian garb they always wore at the Tammany Society Meetings. Eventually, Tammany Societies, deteriorated into political machines like the one in New York (Tammany Hall) and controlled the Democratic Party and all political appointments.

My lunch guests are descendents of Tammany and the great Delaware scout Black Beaver. Black Beaver, a captain in the United States army and one of the most heroic men in American history, guided Union Troops out of Indian Territory (Oklahoma) at the beginning of the Civil War (April 27-May 20, 1861). Abraham Lincoln needed these experienced, professional troops in Indian Territory for the war back east. The United State soldiers had entered Indian Territory through Arkansas, a state now in Confederate hands, so to make their way back east they had to avoid the Confederates and travel north to Kansas through untraversed Indian Territory. This land in northern Oklahoma was controlled by the Cherokees and other tribes sympathetic to the Confederacy. The Delaware Indian scout, Black Beaver, who was 55 at the time and retired from military service, agreed to guide the soldiers, civilians and support personnel out of Indian Territory. He succeeded in getting nearly one thousand U.S. troops to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, many of whom became Generals in the Union Army during the next four years. Black Beaver was later given The Peace Medal by the President of the United States for his efforts in support of the Union. When the Confederates found out what Black Beaver had done, they burned his house and his crops. After the Civil War, Black Beaver returned to his home to find he had lost everything.

But the one thing I learned at lunch Friday that startled me is what was lost in April 1861 when Black Beaver's house (near Anadarko, Oklahoma) was burned to the ground. Helen Holton, Black Beaver's great-great- grandaughter said Black Beaver was tremendously grieved because he had been given the responsibility of caring for "The Great Treaty" that William Penn had given to Chief Tammany. Tammany had given it to an honored Delaware for safe keeping. The treaty was then passed down for generations, kept as the most treasured possession of the Delaware people. Again, the document in question is shown in the stone relief above as being held in the left hand of William Penn. It had been cherished by the Delawares for a total of  one hundred and eighty years. But when Black Beaver's house burned, "The Great Treaty" burned with it.

I can't help but wonder two things:

(1). How much would "The Great Treaty" be worth today if it were still in existence?
(2). How many other documents of historic value are lost for all time through the devilish actions of mankind?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson