RIDGECREST, N.C. (LCR)—Having a half-eaten taco thrown at his head is all in a day of ministry for Ergun Caner.
“I just came from getting hit with empty water bottles. I spend almost all my time by choice in hostile crowds,” said Caner, president of Liberty Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.
“I’ve actually been protested by gay Muslims—now there’s a fun group,” cracked Caner.
His most recent book, When Worldviews Collide, an eight-week study published by LifeWay Church Resources, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, enlisted his provocative approach.
“All Worldviews was, was me as a big goofball walking into synagogues, mosques, Hindu study centers; walking into Buddhist study centers with a microphone and asking them who Jesus is. It was confrontational,” he said.
Caner has a penchant for rapid fire one-liners as a self-described “equal opportunity offender” which belies the deadly serious message and expertise in church history, theology and apologetics for which he is widely known.
The Worldviews study seeks to equip Christians to “confront your culture with truth and compassion” by understanding the basic belief systems of four major world religions, as well as leading cultural philosophies.
“I thought Worldviews was going to bomb,” he said, but instead it was greeted with overwhelming interest.
THE TWIN TOWER DIFFERENCE
Caner said prior to the Sept. 11 attacks he would speak to churches about being disowned by his Turkish Muslim family who was living in America when he became a Christian as a teenager in 1982. He said the pre-9/11 response would generally be akin to a pat on the head when he would recount how he and his two brothers, who became Christians a year after he did, had to hide in church members’ basements to avoid persecution.
“Then four planes fly,” Caner paused. “And we wake up.”
The 9/11 attacks represent a quantum shift in the culture and opened up the world of apologetics on a global scale, he said.
“Al Mohler, president of Southern [Baptist Theological] Seminary has said that literally, theology was on those airplanes because from then on to this day we have discussed issues of belief on the front page of the newspapers. Now everybody discusses their beliefs,” Caner said.
Christians, he said, need to understand the conversation and articulate their message in a way that doesn’t isolate the faith by using church language that only church people understand, or get co-opted by the trendy translations of today’s culture.
“One of the sneaky things about global apologetics is they use our vocabulary but not our dictionary,” Caner warned. “You do not have to be a dummy to be a Christian. You can prove Christianity.”
POSTMODERN TO TRANSMODERN
He said the postmodern era, where the study of cults included Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons, has given way to a “transmodern” era, marked by a cult of celebrity, where everyone can claim some vague spirituality and a right to be right.
“Paris Hilton wears a kabbalah bracelet, and 100,000 girls buy them. Paris Hilton can’t spell kabbalah,” Caner snapped.
Caner’s book not only examines where world religions came from, but also outlines ways to reach the people. He said while Islam may seem unfamiliar, it can best be described as medieval Mormonism.
“Anything Joseph Smith (the founder of Mormonism) did, Mohammed had already done,” including believing a “corrected” version of the Bible, calling Jesus a prophet, turning salvation into a works based religion, and turning women into sexual slaves.
“Did Joseph Smith know Islam? No, but it was the same demon inspiring,” Caner said.
A CHANGE IN DEMOGRAPHICS
Caner said people from what he termed “olive skinned” countries are moving to America four times faster than any other people group, except Latinos, with the intent of making converts, and they are succeeding better than Christians.
“If your town has within its periphery a large medical facility that includes education, then I promise you both Hindu and Buddhists are in your town. If your town has a large state school or community college, I promise you, the Muslims are in your community,” he said. “Now they see America as a mission field. We either adapt or die.”
The Bible, he said, has two types of apologists, those who defend Christianity and polemicists, who attack error, as the Apostle Paul did.
“We need both,” he said. “And what we have to do is ignite both groups.”
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