On Feb. 4, to the surprise of thousands of Liberty University students, I arose in a convocation service to announce that Dr. Ergun Caner, a converted Sunni Muslim and son of an ulema (Muslim scholar), was to be the first former Muslim to become the dean of an evangelical seminary in the United States. In fact, he will become dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary on the campus of Liberty University, the school I founded in 1971.
The announcement came on the heels of Dr. Danny Lovett, present dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, announcing that he was accepting the role of president at Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn. Dr. Lovett has been the deeply beloved dean of LBTS for 12 years.
Dr. Caner, 38, has been a very popular professor in the School of Religion of Liberty for two years, and has become known for his humorous and pointed preaching and his national profile, as well as his large classes.
He is today one of the most electrifying speakers and defenders of the faith that I have ever heard. I am proud to call him a friend and so thankful that God has sent him to Liberty to lead what I believe will be a revolution in seminary education on this campus. Dr. Caner has also become a voice for evangelical Christianity in the national media, debating Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Bahai leaders on more than 50 college and university campuses.
A Turkish immigrant who converted to Christianity in 1982, Dr. Caner immigrated with his family to America to build mosques in the Midwest. It was while he was in high school in Ohio that a young friend invited him to church and led him to Christ. He was subsequently disowned by his family.
In the years that followed, Dr. Caner surrendered to the Gospel ministry and continued his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts in biblical studies and languages in 1989 from Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky. In 1992, he received his Master of Arts in history from The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. In 1994, he received his Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and in 1995, he completed his Masters of Theology at Southeastern. In 2000, Dr. Caner received his Doctor of Theology from the University of South Africa in residence in Johannesburg.
Prior to coming to Liberty University as professor of Theology and Church History in 2003, Dr. Caner taught for two years at The Criswell College in the same field. He came to national attention in 2002, when his book “Unveiling Islam” (Kregel) became a best seller and eventual CBA Gold Medallion Award winner. Writing in tandem with his brother, Dr. Emir Fethi Caner, he has written 11 books in the field of world apologetics and history. The books have sold a combined quarter of a million copies and garnered three national book nominations.
As the students cheered at the announcement, perhaps no one was more stunned than Dr. Caner himself.
“I still see myself as that little church orphan boy, sitting in the pew in a country church outside of Columbus, Ohio,” Dr. Caner stated. “I cannot imagine how such a thing could come about.”
His vision for LBTS is specific: “We will develop the seminary into the leading evangelical institution for training Christians for a new generation. As I often say, God said go to all the world and preach the Gospel. By and large, we didn’t, so He brought the world to us. It is no longer sufficient to simply train graduate students in theory and abstract; we must challenge them to reach a world with 140 major religions, many of whom inhabit our shores. LBTS will set the standard for Global Apologetics on a world stage.”
Dr. Caner and his wife of 11 years, Jill, are the parents of two sons, Braxton (age 6) and Drake, who was born last November.
Readers interested in learning more about Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary may visit www.liberty.edu. Besides the hundreds who attend LBTS on campus, more than 1,300 distance-learning students are enrolled off-campus around the world.