Butch has quite a tale to tell, and telling it has served him well.
He has fortune. He has power. He has fame. And each of these were brought Butch’s way through the creative use of his compelling story.
The Story of Butch has all of the key ingredients that make for a hit: drama, struggle, tragedy, pain and triumph. One of the greatest triumphs, at least in the material sense, came when Butch landed a primo gig as President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary at Liberty University – founded by Jerry Falwell – in Lynchburg, Virginia. This intriguing tangle of trials and victories over many long years’ time is, in many ways, a classic American success story.
The long road to Liberty began for Butch when he was born in a far away, exotic land to a very serious Muslim family. There he grew deep in his family’s traditions, transitioning into a young man deeply committed to the religion of the prophet Muhammad. As a teenager, Butch moved with his family to America, where his devotion to Islam caused him serious grief in a culture that he believed to be filled with Christians who hated him for his openly flaunted commitment and devotion to Allah.
But Butch found at least some American Christians to be more than willing to kindly interact with him. This interaction produced the most wonderful sort of triumphal moment when Butch was, as he likes to say, “elected because I selected” to make Jesus Lord and became a Christian.
Butch then surged into his new found faith. In subsequent years, he studied, learned, and earned numerous degrees en route to establishing – or at least promoting – himself as a “front line apologist”, willing to defend his religious vision anywhere that said defense might be required. He was knowledgeable, aggressive and skilled in the defense of his faith, and was happy to use his talents for the purpose of advancing the evangelical kingdom.
He would “debate anyone, anywhere, anytime”, or so the line went.
And debate he did!
For years he engaged in debates with top tier representatives from scores of counter-Christian worldviews and religions. He told terrific tales of these epic encounters and used their dramatic details to further establish himself as battle proven warrior of the faith.
His proclamations were frequent and bold.
His ascendancy to celebrity and power within an evangelical community left starving for answers to Islam in a post-9/11 world was meteoric.
He was “the man” when it came to discussions of Islam from a Christian perspective.
He co-wrote books, gave lectures, made the circuit…yeah, Butch had clearly found his place. His niche. His market.
If you’re an evangelical in America, the odds are quite good that you know of Butch. Though not necessarily as Butch.
Somewhere between his selection of election and subsequent ascendancy to the seat of power and celebrity that he currently holds at Liberty University, “Butch” decided to revert to his birth name:
Ergun Caner has since become not just a name but a brand.
Ergun has made a name, reputation and career out of his “front line apologetics” persona.
His stirring resume has taken Ergun far. It is powerful stuff. It’s compelling, inspiring and remarkable in so many ways.
It’s also untrue.
In just as many ways as Ergun’s story is amazing, it is also fiction.
The light began to shine on Ergun in the aftermath of the cancellation of one of those heavyweight, title-bout type super-debates he had become so famous for talking about.
In this instance, the one-time debate opponent was Dr. James White, of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Unlike most of the prior events credited to Caner by Caner, the debate involving James White was more of an intra-faith encounter on many issues pertaining to the theology of the Protestant Reformation. In this event, Dr. Caner was to represent dominant view in contemporary American Christianity, which embraces a synergistic soteriology (meaning that man holds the key decision – and therefore critical and essential power – in determining his salvation). Dr. White was to represent the monergistic position on salvation as embraced during the Reformation by the likes of Luther and Calvin. This position holds that God is in complete control where man’s salvation is concerned.
In the aftermath of the debate’s cancellation, there were a variety of public comments made by both sides. In response to many of the general and specific claims of Dr. Caner, Dr. White posted a video clip online that presents some of Caner’s more interesting claims in his own words (including the contention that formal debates have become far less useful because “myopic Reformed folks” have “taken over” these events and that this has produced a result “like the Jerry Springer Show”).
The video includes numerous apparent contradictions in Caner’s general presentation, along with a rather Jerry Springer like clip of him being tased on stage as part of some sort of somehow evangelical event (and one apparently more worthy of his participation than formal debates).
The reasons for Dr. White’s response are substantive.
Dr. White has spent his life cultivating and deploying skills in the very area in which Dr. Caner has built his name, reputation, and brand. As his publicly available and verifiable bio makes plain, Dr. White has a long history of serious, scholarly debate. Dr. White has debated top tier representatives of counter-Christian systems of belief. Dr. White has made himself available to respectfully debate scores of the very best that “the other side” may have to offer. In short, Dr. White does what Dr. Caner claims to have done.
The Legend of Ergun Caner has only just begun to reap its natural consequences.
And as the next chapter of this unfortunate saga unfolds, many will be watching.
Potential Muslim converts will be watching.
Christians will be watching, many of whom came to Liberty University due in no small part to the hype of one Dr. Ergun Caner.
A secular world will be watching.
And what will they see?
Will the cult of personality or celebrity successfully insulate Ergun Caner from criticism?
Will truth be pursued vigorously by the professing Christian community in America?
Will Christians live up to their hype?
And what will Liberty University do? What are the values of that institution and how will they impact this whole unfortunate situation?
In light of the many revelations that have already come, the Ergun Caner brand that has been sold so well for so long now warrants serious re-evaluation.
Jihad Butch must be vetted.
Better late than never.
Writing copyright 2010 Scott Alan Buss – Feel free to re-post this piece, but only with the copyright included and a link to Fire Breathing Christian whenever possible. Thank you!