THE Q & A SESSIONS: JULY 2009

THE Q & A SESSIONS:  JULY 2009

Every month we try to address some of the most ubiquitous questions we receive.

QUESTION:  WERE YOU REALLY A MUSLIM? I SAW SOME GUY ON YOUTUBE WHO SWEARS YOU WERE NEVER ONE.

ANSWER:

Ah yes, one of my “fans.” We do have a number of them. I have heard about some of them, and usually I laugh these things off. With a name like mine, you would think someone would recognize I am Turkish! And, since Emir and I write under our real names (emircaner.com), we have had every possible malicious attack thrown at us. So, this is no bother. Plus, we have addressed this in virtually every book we have written. Enjoy!

  1. My name is Ergun Caner. I was born and raised a Sunni Muslim.
  2. Our father, Acar Mehmet Caner had three sons: Ergun (me), Erdem, and Emir.
  3. We were raised Muslim. We were trained Muslim. Our father was very devout, and when we moved to America, our father helped BUILD the Mosque in Columbus, Ohio. We were there from day one, when the Islamic Foundation was meeting on the campus of Ohio State University, to the building of the Islamic Foundation on Broad Street.
  4. I doubt if there was anyone who served in more capacities, or more faithfully, than our father. He did the call to prayer, he taught classes, he did everything.
  5. Until our conversions, all three boys were devout and faithful Muslims. We read our Qur’an, we fasted during Ramadan, we ate by halal, we prayed five times a day, etc.

Emir and I often laugh about these attacks, because of all the things people could say about us, this is the most ludicrous. As far as we can tell, those who question our conversion do so for the following reasons:

  1. Because they have never met a Murtad (one who has rejected Islam). Apostasy (irtid?d) is the highest sin in Islam, according to surah 2: 217. In many countries around the world, a murtad is put to death. Most converts in those countries are put to death and buried within twenty-four hours. Our father disowned us, but we were living in America. We are free.
  2. Because we are Turks, and Turks are Anatolian, not Arab or Persian. In history, these three major groups from our region of the world have not gotten along. We were raised speaking Turkish. Many of our critics hit us on our accents, and our pronunciation. Nothing I can do about that. However, remember, only 20% of the Muslim world speaks Arabic. The largest Muslim populace is from Indonesia, also not Arabic. Also interesting is the issue that pronunciation is an issue at all, given how they pronounce English! No other religion in the world makes such a specious argument except Muslims. To demean its own followers as “fake” merely for speaking the language of their holy book with a different pronunciation is reckless. A quick search of the internet will prove many leading Muslim scholars vary in pronunciation themselves! This is due, of course, to their upbringing, education and ethnic background, not their devotion.
  3. Because we speak of ALL Islamic movements the same. Islam (like Christianity) is not monolithic (meaning the movement does not have just one voice). There are many Islamic sects, who practice differently from one another. For example, the Shiite Muslims have celebrations that the Sunni do not. There are many different forms of Islam, many using different calendars, leaders, etc. For example: Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Druze, Wahabi, Sufi, Nation of Islam, and countless others. We treat them all equally– their claims and their movements.

Thus, they get upset when we speak of a tradition that they personally do not follow. I guess their first response is to say that we were never Muslims.

QUESTION: WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR FATHER?

ANSWER:

I did not see our father for seventeen years after my conversion. In 1999, I got word that my father was dying, and the three brothers decided that we would try and see him. We all flew in, and after some time, I got to see him. He died three days later. He died a devout Muslim.

QUESTION:  WHY DO SO MANY FORMER MUSLIMS WRITE UNDER FALSE NAMES? WHY DON’T YOU?

ANSWER:

Most former Muslims live in fear for their lives because of threats (see the first question above). Thus, those who would ever dare speak or write publicly usually take pseudonyms. Emir and I chose not to use fake names. We are proud of who we are as former Muslims and now Christians. Every book we have written has been under our real names.

QUESTION:  WHAT DEGREES DO YOU HAVE, AND FROM WHERE?

ANSWER:

Another favorite question! Since my life is education, I love getting these, especially from young people who are wondering whether they should continue on in their education. PLEASE DO! I went to college basically out of curiosity. Since I was not raised in church, I wanted to study the Bible. So, I went to a college to do so. Every degree I have gotten since, I earned out of sheer curiosity. Do it. You will never regret it. So, here you go- the long form:

BACHELOR OF ARTS IN BIBLICAL STUDIES
From: Cumberland College
Location: Williamsburg, Kentucky
Major: Biblical Studies
Minor:  Biblical Languages
Year: 1989
Honor’s Thesis: On the Archaeology of Jericho
NOTES: While here, I really got my start in ministry. I preached in area churches on weekends, served in the BSU, and then got my first fulltime ministry job, as youth pastor at Manchester Baptist Church in Manchester, Kentucky.

MASTER OF ARTS
From: The Criswell College
Location: Dallas, Texas
Major: History and Theology
Year: 1992
Oral Defense: Double Superior
NOTES: Focused my studies on the Patristic Period (AD 30-604) and fell in love with theology here. Lived in a tiny apartment with my brother and two other guys, off of Jim Miller Road in Dallas.

MASTER OF DIVINITY
From: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Location: Wake Forest, North Carolina
Year: 1994
NOTES: After moving to North Carolina in August 1992, I ended up in my first pastorate! I pastored the Wood Baptist Church in Wood, North Carolina, in Franklin County, where I met my wife Jill. Loved it here, and it was only about a 45 minute drive to seminary.

MASTER OF THEOLOGY
From:  Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Location: Wake Forest, North Carolina
Year: 1995
Thesis: An Examination of the First Crusade (1095-1099)
NOTES: Under our major professor, Dr.L. Russ Bush, my best friend (Dave) and I entered this post-Master of Divinity degree program, because it involved doing a thesis. This is where I learned how to research for major projects. It was also here I felt called to begin to write.

DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY
From: University of South Africa
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
Year: 2001
Thesis: Bellum Justum vs. Bellum Sacrum. I examined the apolgetics of the “Holy War” and “Just War positions in Church History, and the ethical considerations.
NOTES: I get asked often about UNISA (the abbreviation for University of South Africa), because it is a British-system University. The Th.D. at UNISA is the equivalent to the Ph.D., according to the World Education Service (WES). The requirements are the same. Many people attend this school by distance, but I chose to travel there for a series of intensives. Frankly, I loved my experience at UNISA. It was inexpensive, and my promoter (like a mentor) was a great man. I lived in a region called Brooklyn, and truly loved their culture. The university is massive, and the library is amazing. The Pauw Building houses all the Theology faculty, for both the Ph.D. and the Th.D. programs. The British system of post-graduate work is focused on the dissertation, and is called a “thesis.”  Quite a few professors in the United States have been graduated from UNISA, and around the world.

HONORARY DEGREES

In the world of evangelical ministry, honorary degrees abound. The founder of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, received a number of them. In fact most public speakers get them. I have two- a Doctor of Ministry from one school, and a Doctor of Sacred Theology I received last year.

In the evangelical academic world, you will have to ask yourself two questions, as it pertains to teaching and preaching:

  1. What do I want to do? and
  2. In what field?

The DOCTOR OF MINISTRY (DMIN) is usually a 30-36 hour degree, with a project that you must present and defend. This project is usually very practical in nature, and is designed to offer solutions in ministry to a specific need or question.

The DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY OR THEOLOGY (PHD or THD) is a two-three year program, or more, with a dissertation that must be written, approved and defended. This is a research driven degree.

If you get the DMIN degree, and you want to teach in a college, university or seminary, you can only teach in the PASTORAL field, because it is the terminal degree in that area.

If you get the PHD or THD, you can teach in the area of your major field. Since my area was Historical Theology and Apologetics, that is my field. I never wanted to teach in the “Pastoral” field, so my DMIN degrees do not count academically. They DO matter, however, to the schools that offer them, and to their alumni and friends! Sometimes when someone introduces me before I speak at a church, they mention them, and other times they do not. I am not embarrassed by them, in fact I consider it an honor that I received them!

ONE FINAL NOTE: Regardless of your field of study, or what you eventually want to do, remember that if you want to teach anywhere, the institution from which you graduated must be accredited. Accreditation is a controversial subject, because there are many agencies, but not all are academically recognized. All of the institutions I attended were accredited, and UNISA is internationally recognized, much like the Free University of Amsterdam, University of South Wales, etc. LIBERTY UNIVERSITY is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). There are regional equivalents in the US. Another accrediting agency is called TRACS.