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

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Reason I Can No Longer Recommend Liberty University to Students or Seminarians

I've made a commitment to not write another post about the biographical, educational and professional fabrications of Liberty Seminary's President, a promise which I will keep, but after reading Christianity Today's article and the response of Liberty's Vice-President Elmer Towns, I feel compelled to write this post about the growing lack of institutional integrity at Liberty Seminary and Liberty University. I and a number of other evangelicals have lost confidence in Liberty's ability to be a beacon for Christian higher education. Three things have happened since the publication of Christianity Today's article that details the embellishments of the Seminary's President and have caused many to question the institutional integrity of Liberty.

(1). First, Liberty has posted an official response to the videos of their President speaking and saying that (a). he grew up in Turkey, when he actually grew up in Ohio, (b). that he was raised in a devout Muslim home, when evidence exists that he was raised in a nominal Muslim home, (c). that he had been involved and "trained" in Islamic jihad, when he was actually a typical midwestern youth, and (d). that he has debated dozens of Muslims about the Islamic faith, when there is no video or audio evidence that such debates took place, and there are even outright denials from the Muslims he allegedly debated that they have even met the President. Dr. Towns, in response to these discrepancies, said this:

"It's not an ethical issue, it's not a moral issue," Towns told Christianity Today on April 27. "We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage. The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court."
Theological leverage? I'm sorry, Dr. Towns, but I don't understand. What in the world does "theological leverage" have to do with the questions raised by the words of your President? If you have said, "We give faculty a certain amount of embellishment leverage when they speak," it might make sense to me. That would mean that you see exaggeration (i.e. "lying") about one's past as an acceptable tool for sharing the gospel. I may not agree, but at least I would understand. But leverage in theology? If you, Liberty's official spokesperson, don't understand the difference between theology, ethics and morality, then I can't recommend Liberty to any student who desires a sterling Christian education.

(2). Liberty University, through attorneys, has gone after the man who organized and posted the videos that reveal the spoken discrepancies of Liberty's Seminary's President on Youtube. Read about the forced shutdown of the website and videos here. Ironically, Liberty will discover that the more you fight to cover and hide, the worse it gets. The videos in question will only continue to be uploaded--over and over again.

(3). In the book Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs, the President of Liberty Seminary says this:

We've all heard of these tales wherein a Christian, motivated to share the gospel with a certain people group or culture, negates his or her witness by somehow offending the culture, heritages of practices of that group. Although the person is well-intentioned, he or she ruins the opportunity by some oversight or misstatement and must begin again by apologizing and rebuilding trust"

Bingo. That statement might very well be the truest statement in the book. It is important for Liberty University to begin to rebuild the trust within the evangelical community by apologizing and correcting the errors--not covering them up. Pastor Tom Chantry provides a stunning analysis of this debacle in his well written article entilted Stephen Ambrose, Ergun Caner, the Credibility of the Gospel. The gospel itself is at stake, writes Chantry.

Dr. Falwell, Dr. Towns, the board of Liberty and the President of Liberty Seminary could begin this process of restoring gospel integrity at Libery by issuing a short statement like the following:

"Liberty Seminary and Dr. Ergun Caner both express deep regret for the various discrepancies in the biographical, educational and professional background of our President. Dr. Caner acknowledges that in years past he has embellished and even fabricated events to make his background in Islam more colorful, falsely believing it would make his gospel presentations more powerful. The seminary is assisting their President in clearing up the record by acknowledging these ethical and moral lapses in judgment, correcting the record with an accurate biographical and professional resume, and assuring the evangelical Christian community that this type of behavior when speaking publicly will not be tolerated by any employee of the Liberty University or Seminary. We have officially reprimanded our President, and he has received in brokenness and repentance our discipline, and we are moving forward in rebuilding trust within the evangelical community by restoring our institutional integrity. We are thankful for the grace of forgiveness which is found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

It's that simple. May it be so. When that happens, my faith in Liberty will be restored.

36 comments:

Ramesh said...

My reading of all this is the higher up you go in man made institutions, the harder it is to simply confess and repent of one's sins, seek forgiveness and restoration.

It gives new meaning to Jesus's words:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Man of the West said...

Dr. Falwell, Dr. Towns, the board of Liberty and the President of Liberty Seminary could begin this process of restoring gospel integrity at Liberty by issuing a short statement like the following...

Yeah. That'll happen.

Sheila said...

To those who would say that this is a Liberty issue, not a Southern Baptist Issue, I would say this: Are you aware that the North American Mission Board has a “National Missionary” at Liberty University? On the NAMB website, a list of Nehemiah professors can be found here:

http://www.namb.net/site/c.9qKILUOzEpH/b.237549/k.8D95/Church_Planting_Group.htm.

You will see a professor listed for our 5 American seminaries, our Canadian seminary, and one simply listed as Professor/Associate Director. There is no seminary listed for Dr. David Wheeler. Further investigation reveals that he is currently a professor at Liberty.

http://www.liberty.edu/academics/religion/seminary/ministrytraining/index.cfm?PID=15626

I am not sure how the much NAMB funds a national missionary. Maybe someone reading this could enlighten me.

In any case, even without the Caner scandal, it is curious as to why there is a NAMB missionary at a school that is not part of the SBC. Why not Mid America, or Baylor?

Philip Miller said...

As a graduate of Liberty, and someone who ihas been generally very excited and supportive of what is happening there in recent years, I've nevertheless been watching what is happening with the Caner revelation with a growing sense of dread. I feel like we're selling out on our principles for a mess of pottage; to protect and keep our resident celebrity. I can't help but compare it to what we're seeing nationally with those that defend massive govenment bailouts because, as they claim, there are some institutions that are just "to big to fail". I can't help but think that that is basically what's happening here. But it is a still a losing proposition no matter how you look at it. Either you keep your celebrity and sell out on your principles and integrity, or you hold the man accountable and, at this late point, still lose your credebility. "What a tangled web we weave....when first we practice to deceive" I really sense that the worst is still to come.

Anonymous said...

I just have one question. As much as I respect the life and ministry of Dr. Towns, I wonder if he and his friends at LU/S would to this day recognize all of the baptisms he performed as a young Presbyterian Minister? I didn't think so. I loved your book Dr. Towns, but you really must stop dividing up the church with your piece of chalk. Dunk'em, Dip'em, Soak'em, Sprinkle'em...heck, dip their tongue in the water to drink from the waters of life. But stop all the fuss over whose way is better.

I am reminded of your streetlight chapter in your book "Stories About My First Church" In it you say, "How could a pastor be against something all his people support? Your answer? "The pastor was wrong." So I ask you Bro. Elmer, of whom I have learned so much through your writings: How can a Christian University Veep be for something so many are against? "The answer to that question is simple." "The [Veep] is wrong." "[You] have acquired wrong theology, wrong information and wrong attitudes." Remember--the streetlights "were right." So is integrity. Please do not let the sins of another man tarnish your life and career.

The Lord bless you and keep you is my prayer,

Kevin

PS: I would urge you Dr. Towns and Chancellor Falwell to heed the 4 principles at the end of Towns Chapter 9 of the afore mentioned book. Such brilliant insight for the present situation...written all the way back in 1996.

mirele said...

I would advise people (based on my own experience) not to reupload Mo Khan's videos in their current form to YouTube. If you do, the video will never be posted and it will be a terms of use/copyright violation against you. YT is using a fingerprinting system to track these videos so they never see the light of day. After three strikes, you will, like Mo Khan, have your account suspended.

There are other videos still on YT that have not yet been yanked and still prove the case.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
Your ‘model apology’ would be a start in the right direction for Liberty.

Ergun Caner’s statement: “I have never intentionally misled anyone” is right up there with Richard Nixon’s “I’m not a crook.”

You’d think educated people would know that a ‘cover-up’ is worse than the original sin.

I guess with some people, ego has veto power over brains.

Christiane said...

Eighty-seven students of Ergun Caner supposedly 'rated their professor' between 2004 and 2009.

The interesting thing is that there is SUCH as range of opinion. You can't find a 'center' in the comments. They are all over the place. It's as though the students are describing different people, rather than just one professor.

I don't recommend reading these comments UNLESS you want to be reassured that many young people are quite able to think for themselves and are not nearly as gullible as some 'in authority' would assume them to be.
I needed that reassurance and so have examined the comments.
Caveat: the comments do not make for pleasant reading and are extremely subjective on the part of the students. They provide some insight, yes, but are far from objective evaluations:

http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=264548&page=17

Erp said...

One comment on the rating board:

"Funny when he comes to class and complains that he doesn't get enough hot votes from this site."

Paul Burleson said...

Phillip Miller,

I read what you said as a Liberty Alumnus with great interest. It would seem to me you have a "dog in this fight" second to few.

Your words here... "I can't help but compare it to what we're seeing nationally with those that defend massive govenment bailouts because, as they claim, there are some institutions that are just "to big to fail". I can't help but think that that is basically what's happening here."..may be as 'spot on' as any I've read.

What you've shown reveals something about our thinking as Christians I'm afraid. We are, all to often, found taking on the cultural measurements of success [bigger is better, too big to fail, what will people think?] rather than a willingness to die to self [reputation, image, agendas, personal wishes] and allow God to show Himself powerful to do a work out of our brokenness.

My prayer is that first I might learn from the failures of Liberty recorded of late and be sure I'm willing to live by different measurements and then, second, I pray they will reconsider how they face this issue and respond biblically.

Thank you for your words and Wade, thanks for the post.

Christiane said...

PAUL wrote these words:
" . . . and allow God to show Himself powerful to do a work out of our brokenness."

Amen.


from Psalm 137 . ..
'How shall we sing the Lord's Song
in a strange land ?'

Steve said...

This Caner/Liberty tragedy presents an amazing "elephant in the room" to walk around. It reminds me of the national leader who assumed all his followers would simply ignore his inveterate use and abuse of women, or another who has (correctly, it seems) assumed all his followers will obediently ignore the gulf between his words and actions.

Those who educate their kids at home ouldn't find a better example of the "elephant" idiom than what Dr. Caner presents us with.

thegrandverbalizer19 said...

With the name of God, Peace be unto you.

I have a blog that is from my perspective as a Muslim. It deals with apologetic and polemic between Muslims and Christians.

I have an article that deals with Egrun Caner. I downloaded the videos from Youtube prior to thier removal (knowing that this is what would happen). I have also saved them to a c.d just in case my computer is attacked.

God-willing I will have the videos up in a few days. The blog link is here:

http://thegrandverbalizer19.blogspot.com/2010/02/ex-muslim-ergun-caner-exposed-by.html

I will say my level of respect for Christians as well as Christianity has gone way up.

I am more open to listen to Christians who want to talk to me about Christ Jesus than I ever was before.

May the God of Abraham guide and bless us all.

wadeburleson.org said...

I will say my level of respect for Christians as well as Christianity has gone way up.

I think you will find, grandverbalizer, that most Christians have a respect for truth and integrity, and are not interested in "covering up" the moral or ethical indescretions of our own.

Ironically, it is because we believe that our sins are forgiven by the work of Christ on our behalf that we can be honest about our sins. It is the one who is in constant fear of being rejected by God that constantly pretends to others He has no sin or strives hard to point out how much better he is than others.

Blessings from above to you and your family.

Wade

Unknown said...

I never really believe the comments of other students. cause I know in general the only students that comment are the ones who hate him or the ones who love him.


It would be great for a KNOWN devout muslim (preferably one that has some knowledge of accents) to evaluate the evidence that depends on some guy in england.

Christiane said...

Hi MICHAEL,

You wrote: "I never really believe the comments of other students. cause I know in general the only students that comment are the ones who hate him or the ones who love him."

I have to agree. I would generally throw out any super-high evals and extremely low evals, and take a look at those that centered.
But these comments didn't 'center'. There wasn't a consensus of opinion at all. Couldn't find it.

Yes. I have to agree with you.

Tim Rogers said...

Michael,

"It would be great for a KNOWN devout muslim (preferably one that has some knowledge of accents) to evaluate the evidence that depends on some guy in england."

There was one in the CT story but his points did not make it into the article. It seems, the author of the article like the owner of this blog, did not want to be confused with the facts.

Tim

Alan Paul said...

Some wouldn't recognize facts if they saw them in black and white and in video form. How do I know this? I see it on this comment string.

Tom Parker said...

Tim Rogers:

We all should have known you would show up here and basically say nothing of value.

The truth is going to come out on this issue and you will be proven to be on the wrong side.

Tim, you appear to be willing to defend Dr. Caner regardless of the evidence.

wadeburleson.org said...

Tim Rogers,

What do you think of the proposed statement I offered? Is it gracious? Is it restorative? Is it biblical?

Wade

Tim Rogers said...

Wade,

I believe the die in your hair has seeped into your brain. You come after Dr. Caner using Dr.(sic) James White's information that he got from a Muslim who's sole purpose is to bring down former Muslims.

Dr. Caner publicly apologized for any mis-statements and even expressed his apologies for using a name of someone that it wasn't. To what extent did that get him? No where. Tim Guthrie contacts you as one pastor to another and what do you do with him? You privately express your desire to make certain no family was placed in jeopardy and then you publicly recant everything you said to Tim Guthrie privately. I point out inconsistencies in your last post and even in your comments and what do you do? You remove all comments in order to avoid your inconsistencies being presented publicly. You then say that you are done speaking about Dr.(can you say earned?) Ergun Caner because you desire to show him grace, knowing full well the CT article was about to become public. The article is not the way you desire it so how do you respond? You run an OP against Liberty University and in your opening statement speak ill of Dr.(can you say earned)Caner.

Thus, your statement is neither fair nor unbiased. You are trying to bait someone into agreeing with that statement in order to add to your mythological superstar status. No, you'll not get this dumb redneck to fall into that trap.

Tim

Tom Parker said...

Tim Rogers:

You said:"No, you'll not get this dumb redneck to fall into that trap."

I for one appreciate your honesty as your comments of late show your dumbness.

Please don't let the facts stimulate your brain.

I'll say it again you are WRONG on this major issue.

Tim Rogers said...

Tom Parker,

As I told you over on BaptistLife forum. I just finished walking my dog. His refuse and your comments are in the same geographical location.

Tim

wadeburleson.org said...

Tim,

I would ask you to read the last few comments that you have written, or possibly ask your wife to read them, and then answer one question for me: Do your words reflect the spirit of Christ in what you write?

If you (or your wife) come to the conclusion that they do not, then I would ask you to reconsider the tone, content and spirit of your words, and only comment when you have something profitable to write.

Lydia said...

"There was one in the CT story but his points did not make it into the article. It seems, the author of the article like the owner of this blog, did not want to be confused with the facts"

This is simply a red herring meant to distract from the facts.

You can forget everything Khan has posted and still there is plenty in print and Audio by Caner himself to prove he lied when compared to official documents.

When one lies over and over for 9 years about his own background, that is NOT misspeaking.

Tom Parker said...

Tim Rogers;

You said to me:"Tom Parker,

As I told you over on BaptistLife forum. I just finished walking my dog. His refuse and your comments are in the same geographical location.

Tim"

The really funny part about your comment is that it does not make me angry in the least.

It is just another one of your "dumb" comments of late that I will just chalk up to the grace of not allowing such to push my angry button.

Kendall said...

Tim Rogers,

Caner said on many occasions that he came to America in 1978 but the truth is that he came 1969 or 1970. What do say about this?

Ramesh said...

ABP News > Liberty U. backs seminary president amid charges of misrepresentation.

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with Tim Rogers on some issues, he does have a point about about the Caner Post Resurgence (CPR). Quite frankly, I think Wade should repent for ever desiring to STOP covering this story. Thankfully however he quickly saw the error of his ways and returned to what it is that he does best. Additionally, and while TR might have meant it as a low blow, the hair dye scandal was really quite funny. I am sure he was speaking of Wade's lovely new pic. I call it the hair dye transvestite (HD-TV) pose. Kinda makes one wonder if he is wearing Rachelle's shoes?

Either way, the "dye soaking in" line was really over the top. hehe (get it? over the top?)

:) Happily landing this plane right down the center with plenty of turbulence for all,

K

wadeburleson.org said...

Now, Kevin, that is funny.

Rachelle, for your information, did not accuse me of wearing her shoes.

She accused me of needing to use the restroom and not being able to hold it.

By the way, my son took the picture last week at Slippery Falls, Pennington Creek, Oklahoma-- a pretty historic place.

Goofy pose, I agree, but what the heck! :)

wadeburleson.org said...

And FOR EVERYONE'S INFORMATION--

I don't use hair dye.

I will admit to using Grecian formula on my sideburns, though.

I look like Captain Kangaroo if I don't.

Anonymous said...

*wipes the sweat off my brow*


Wasn't sure how you'd take it. :)


Impeccable integrity good Vicar!

We all remember your Captain Kangaroo days. :)

Ron said...

Wade,
Unfortunately there is a long history of dishonesty and lies connected to Liberty University. Most come from the legacy of its founder, Jerry Falwell. His history of slandering the SBC with claims of liberalism is only the tip of the ice berg.

In 1980 he was invited to the White House along with other evangelical leaders and after the meeting reported a conversation between himself and Jimmy Carter on homosexuality. The problem was the conversation never took place. He made it up so he could have a good sound bite. When he was first challenged on it, he said it did take place. Then a recording of the meeting was produced that proved Jerry was lying. Only then did Jerry admit he made the whole thing up. He showed no repentance but seemed to think that it was his right to lie if it would help his case. (Newsweek, Sep. 15, 1980;page 36)

There are other examples such as the distribution of the “Clinton Chronicles” that Jerry knew was full of falsehoods. Also the matter of his close political and financial relationship with Sun Myung Moon, the man who claimed Jesus Christ was a failure and Moon was the true messiah.

I find it interesting that a Mormon, Glen Beck, has been invited to speak along with Paige Patterson at Liberty’s graduation this year. It goes to show that politics trumps theology every time at Liberty.
Ron West

Lydia said...

"I look like Captain Kangaroo if I don't."

Fond memories. I got to meet him when I was a kid.

(The hair dye comment was definitly below the belt. I will get out my Alinsky and see what rule that falls under...oh yeah.... ridicule.)

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
More than religious people can fake their careers.

Former Harvard student faked prestigious academic career
By Jamie Guzzardo, CNN
May 18, 2010 Adam Wheeler, 23, charged with larceny, pretending to hold a degree. Wheeler won two Harvard prizes with plagiarized work. He is accused of stealing more than $45,000 in grants, financial aid.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/18/massachusetts.harvard.student/index.html?eref=igoogle_cnn

starrstruck said...

I listened to Ergun Caner’s message given at Prestonwood Baptist Church in 2001 as replayed on Focus on the Family.

Ergun Caner stated the following:

I was born in Sweden.
I was raised in Turkey.
I was trained in Islamic Jihad to do what the terrorist did on 9/11.
I was like a preacher’s kid.
I was taught to believe that Americans hated me.
I came to America in 1978.
I arrived in Brooklyn.
I spoke broken English.
I went to a revival at the invitation of a friend.
I was saved in 1982.
I preached my first seven minute sermon and my younger brothers got saved.
I led my mom to Christ in 1991 over the phone.
My brother led my grandmother to Christ in 1995.
He defined rakats as prayers.
He defined injeel as angels.
I rolled out my rug and prayed in the bathroom at school.
I wore a turban on my head.
I had an accent and spoke broken English.
I was not made fun of by Christians because of what I wore.

What is the truth? Who knows, but the following contradictions exist. Ergun Caner has stated on The John Ankerberg Show that he was born in Istanbul, Turkey. In other places he states that he had nothing to do with his brothers coming to Christ. Court records indicate that Ergun immigrated to America in 1969 and was raised in Ohio. His high school yearbook shows that he was very active in school, including drama. There are no pictures of Ergun wearing a turban on his head. Since he was raised in Ohio from age three on, he speaks fluent English. Rakats means verses, not prayers. Injeel means Gospel, not angels. His dad was not like a pastor in Islam. He wasn’t trained in Islamic Jihad in Turkey or Europe. He didn’t meet Americans for the first time in 1978 and discover that they didn’t hate him. He was not disowned by his family, only his non-custodial father.

From just one sermon, given at Prestonwood Baptist Church in 2001 and replayed on Focus on the Family in 2010, flows numerous falsehoods. Did he just misspeak all of the following? Is that even possible? Or was he intentionally misrepresenting his testimony to make it more appealing to the audience?