Evangelical Christianity (as the world sees it, anyway) is certainly not immune to disgraceful, shameful scandals. Over the last 30 years or so there have been quite a few such scandals hit the nightly news and major newspapers and magazines. We all remember Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, Mike Warnke and more recently Todd Bentley, Ted Haggard, Tony Alamo and George Rekers. While some of these cases have had more news coverage than others, they all have many things in common.
In all cases, these people professed to be Christians, and did it on a large scale through televised ministries or ministries that became well known in Christian circles via books, seminars, conferences, etc. In all of these cases the people had quite a following of dedicated, supportive people who believed 100% in their ministry. In all of these cases came at least some level of fame, financial gain, prestige and position. In all of these cases, the people involved were discovered to be deceiving not only their followers, but themselves as well. All of them were exposed in one way or another for being liars.
Another thing all of these examples share in common was their defenders. Without question, when each of the people on this short list (see a longer one here) were exposed for not being the person they claimed to be, or not living the life they preached and proclaimed they were living, they had a group of people that denied or ignored the evidence and blindly supported them in every way possible. That support came in the form of public outcry against those making allegations, it came in the form of continued financial support of their ministries, and it came in the form of continued speaking engagements and the like.
As outrageous as that sounds, I think we can all honestly understand it. Imagine for a moment if you will, what your reaction might be if your favorite pastor/teacher/author/speaker was exposed tomorrow on the nightly news, as the biggest fraud to ever come along. It would be very difficult for most of us I'm sure, as it's our natural reaction to want to defend and protect the ones we love - even when the evidence clearly marks them as guilty as charged. While understandable, it is however most certainly a very ignorant thing to do.
You may or may not be following the recent Ergun Caner/Liberty University scandal. I wont re-hash the details but you can get yourself up to speed by doing a simple google search or by going here, here, or here. All of these brothers have done a fair, honest job of documenting what has taken place. The most recent development in this Ergun Caner scandal is the public defense given by Norman Geisler.
Geisler does exactly the same thing many others might be inclined to do, and blindly (intentional or unintentional, I cannot know for certain) defends his friend Ergun Caner with his statement In Defense of Dr. Ergun Caner: A Response to His Critics. I read the defense and even within the first two paragraphs noted that the statement is full of errors, omissions, misrepresentations and quite frankly, false accusation. See, I know this because I've read the court documents that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ergun Caner did in fact, lie about his background on multiple occaisions in multiple venues. Sadly, instead of coming clean and doing the right (Christian) thing when exposed he chose the play the martyr and his misguided defenders began attacking the ones calling for truth, honesty, integrity and other such ridiculous Christian moral values. Geisler does exactly the same thing when he accuses some of Caner's "attackers" as "extremist Calvinists, who oppose Dr. Caner’s more moderate view, have piled on as well".
Let's be perfectly clear here, not all of Caner's critics are Calvinists, let alone extremist ones, and those who have called for TRUTH in this matter aren't doing so because of Caner's "more moderate view" they (we) are doing it because TRUTH MATTERS when you call yourself a Christian, are in a position of leadership and are in a position of authority over young Christian minds. To be perfectly blunt, I don't give a rip about Caner's "more moderate view" as it pertains to this situation. I care about what he's done and is doing to the name of Christ, with his continued deception and now silence in allowing his defenders to further this trainwreck by defending his lies and making excuses for them, and him.
Geisler opens his defense with this statement:
"A talented, dedicated, and high effective servant of God and convert from Islam has come under a strong attack by extreme Muslims. Why? Basically, it is because he is a converted Muslim and is an effective living, moving, talking representative of Evangelical Christianity."
There are several things wrong with this statement, so I'll just go ahead and point them out:
1. Caner came under scrutiny by ONE Muslim guy named Mohammed Khan, a college student in England who noticed some monumental inconsistancies with Caner's supposed "expertise" in Islam. I do not know of any evidence to support the claim of "Muslim extremists" but the claim does lend to a sense of fear and defense, does it not?
2. Why? Simple, Khan is a faithful Muslim and doesn't like people lying or misrepresenting his religion. Whatever other motives Khan may have or have had I cannot know, but even though I obviously disagree with Islam (and some of the ways Khan presented his case against Caner), I can certainly understand the motivation to speak up when someone is lying about your faith. Countless Christian bloggers do the exact same thing almost every single day - we give an answer and defend our faith against false allegations, misconceptions and misrepresentations. A perfectly reasonable thing to do.
My friend Dr. James White gave a far more exhaustive examination of Geisler's defense of Caner, and you can read all four parts here, here, here and here. Yes, it's long but if you want to really understand this and do your homework, you will read it all and prayerfully consider where you stand on this matter. In addition, another friend who goes by the screen name of Turretin Fan also examined Geisler's statement in a three part series here, here and here.
In closing I would like to point out another of Geisler's errors in his opening statement where he says of Ergun Caner:
"he is a converted Muslim and is an effective living, moving, talking representative of Evangelical Christianity"
Ergun Caner may be a representative of Norman Geisler's version of Christianity, but he is most certainly not an accurate representation of Biblical Christianity - or - the faith that I hold to. Clearly, there is a big difference between the two. A genuine evangelical Christian does not lie about his or her background for personal or professional gain. He does not let his lies stand and sit silently by while his friends perpetuate the lies by publicly defending them and making excuses for him. While we all have our own pet sins we struggle to overcome, when we get busted flat out on something we've done, we come clean, we tell the truth and we repent with a broken heart before God and our fellow believers. We don't make it worse by allowing defenders to slander and misrepresent those who exposed our lies. By doing this, Ergun Caner is only adding to his guilt in this matter as a great number of decent Christian people are being slandered in the most ungodly, vile way by many of Caner's defenders. His refusal to come clean in this matter just keeps the fire going.
Call me crazy, but I still hold out hope that the weight of this grievous sin will be too much for Ergun Caner to bear, and eventually he will come clean, both publicly and privately - no matter the cost. Make no mistake, the cost WILL be high, but at the end of the day what matters more than any kind of fellowship, prestige, clout or personal or professional gain of any kind, is standing before God with a clean heart, clean hands, and being able to say "I told the truth, because truth matters". I believe in the sovereign power of God to know that this can happen, even when folks say "it'll never happen".
I only hope it does, and truth prevails.