When we observe the length to which some men will go to preserve their little empires and protect their little kingdoms, we can see how deeply deception can enwrap the heart of a man. This is playing out in a small little Baptist school in the backwoods of Georgia, where Ergun Caner has taken up residence as President of Brewton-Parker College. Clearly an act of desperation on the part of the trustees as the small school attempts to recover from a financial scandal, the appointment of Caner is not based upon his massive scholarly output (when your books contain references to Hadith 9:157, well, that makes Jack Chick look like a scholar) but upon his ability to “fill the seats” and entertain young people. At that, Caner has few peers. Well, at least for a while. Once you’ve heard his five or six sermons, his canned set of jokes and stories, it gets really old, but for a while, anyway, Caner might bring enough energy to the situation to place a bandage on the faltering school. But the long term damage that will be done on any meaningful level of integrity and Christian truth is inestimable.
So when Caner put his own picture into the dictionary next to the term “cronyism” by appointing none other than Peter Lumpkins “Vice President of Communications” for BPC, I quickly changed the title to its more proper form, VPofCon, since one thing Lumpkins can do is con people. And now he gets paid to do it, too! So much for objectivity! Not like Lumpkins ever had any, but there is no pretense now. Many of us are wondering when Timothy Rogers will be appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs or some such other equally ridiculous position.
In any case, Lumpkins, who, to my knowledge, has zero training in history, zero experience in teaching history, and zero published works relevant to historical topics, has recently decided he is an historian. Now, remember, years ago Lumpkins posted a blog article where he 1) admitted he knew nothing about textual criticism, but 2) in spite of his admitted ignorance declared Bart Ehrman the victor in our debate. So Lumpkins has no shame in pontificating about topics about which he knows nothing at all. And he does it with a straight face. At least, he does so behind a keyboard. He won’t do so in the presence of responsible and capable opposition, however. That much is clear.
A few days ago Peter Lumpkins demonstrated just how deceptive he can be by taking a quotation from my book on the Qur’an, using it to defend Ergun Caner, and thereby accusing me of hypocrisy. Of course, as normal, Lumpkins has demonstrated not merely the ignorance he admitted in regard to textual critical issues—the time of claiming ignorance for Lumpkins is far past. This is a wilful, purposeful mindset of twisting and misrepresentation. It is a settled pattern for the man from Georgia. Instead, this time, you have a man who is combing a book that itself demonstrates a significantly more accurate, careful, and in-depth understanding of the Qur’an than anything his mentor/leader/President has ever produced looking for something, anything, he can use as a club to beat back those who would dare to call for integrity and truthfulness in the scandal that is Ergun Caner’s “ministry.” And what does he find? A discussion of the common arguments related to the Synoptic gospels and the appropriate means of harmonizing differing accounts written by different authors at different times for different audiences. So what does Lumpkins do? It is so outrageous it should forever discredit the man from any kind of meaningful voice in matters of truth, but here it is anyway: he parallels the dozens of documented lies by Ergun Caner—lies regarding where he was born, when he moved here, what languages he could speak, who he has debated, etc.—with the issues raised by comparing the Synoptic authors! He quotes my book, p. 221, and then writes,
Sure we do, James. Except when it comes to Ergun Caner. When he telescopes, compresses, and summarizes his life story, he’s lying through his teeth and deceiving anyone. The hypocrisy James White displays remains staggering.
Of course, on any logical or historical basis, the comparison is absurd and laughable, and sadly, Lumpkins probably knows this too (which is why he would never, ever defend the thesis against a serious opponent). Caner’s lies were not produced by multiple authors, they come from his own mouth. The only way to create a parallel would be to accuse Mark of contradicting Mark, not of dealing with Matthew’s telescoping of Mark’s fuller account of the same incident.
Let’s consider the VPofCon’s argument. Let’s look at where Caner was born. Which of the common methods of narration noted explains him telling church audiences for years that he was born in Istanbul, calling himself a sand monkey, and pretending to have learned English in Turkey watching the Dukes of Hazzard, while at the same time telling others he was born in Stockholm, and telling a Turkish newspaper he came here in 1969 (while at the same time telling others he came here in 1978/79)? Of course, none of them. That is not telescoping, that is not compressing, that is not summarizing, that is lying. There is a difference. See, the narration methods I noted have to do with individual facts, events, etc. as recorded by multiple authors. Caner’s defenders keep failing to recognize that each of his claims was part of a larger narrative, and it is that entire narrative that has to be examined. When we look at the Synoptic Gospels, that narrative is found to be consistent and to be derivable, through each of the authors, from a reliable historical core. Such is not the case with Caner’s lies. The factual core regarding Caner has been fully established. Caner’s embellishments, additions and a-historical claims are in no way, shape, or form, parallel to the Synoptic issue. Lumpkins’ attempt is audacious, but it fails, miserably.
What this illustrates is truly saddening. Lumpkins, Rogers, Penn, and the few others who have been willing to throw themselves and their reputations upon the funeral pyre of Ergun Caner’s fantasies have never shown the slightest concern for serious, front-line Christian apologetics. They care not that Caner is a byword for “Christian dishonesty” amongst Muslims who know of his deceit. And here, Lumpkins is willing to take a paragraph intended to aid in the defense of the Christian faith and the integrity of the biblical narrative and twist it completely out of its context in defense of the indefensible. Any truth loving believer should be shocked at the depth to which these men will go to promulgate a lie and defend an unrepentant deceiver. It likewise says volumes about Lumpkins’ own spiritual state that he can read my book, see the care with which the topic is addressed, see the fullness of the research and the accuracy of the citations, and yet, ignore all of that so as to look for a means of defending a man whose works lack all of the same attributes! What kind of twistedness is shown in such behavior!
We can look with amazement and sadness upon this kind of behavior, but I must point out that the problem is larger than these few people. It is the silence of the general body of leadership (especially the elders of the churches where Caner has been a member of the past few years), and of particular leaders (Norman Geisler, Richard Land, and all the others who knowingly and willfully close their eyes and give Caner a platform and cover, such as John Ankerberg and all the churches that bring Caner in to speak), who bear responsibility for this mess. The amount of cronyism and politics that infects the modern American church is truly discouraging.