The Mike Warnke of this Generation?
I did however begin to take an interest in the then growing contemporary Christian celebrity scene with music by Petra and Amy Grant, and the ever increasing popular "Jesus Junk" paraphernalia like "This Bloods for You" tee shirts. One specific celebrity I was drawn to was Mike Warnke. Warnke was the first official Christian comedian/speaker I ever heard. His testimony was earth shaking. He told the story about his rough up bringing at a truck stop, his early years as a fundamentalist Baptist kid who hated Catholics, his going into the Vietnam War, his involvement with drug abuse and free love, and eventually his introduction to witchcraft and eventually Satanism.
Warnke claimed he became a Satanic high priest who led all sorts of horrific rituals of sacrifice and sexual deviancy. He even told how he could command spirits to do levitations and other such supernatural acts. Eventually, he was saved by Jesus Christ from this wretched lifestyle and became an evangelist warning people, especially youth, against the evils of Satanism. He gained something of a reputation as an "expert" on Satanism, even writing a book on the subject incorporating his testimony called The Satan Seller. He even began to make the interview circuit on the TV news shows when commentary was need to explain the Satanic origins of Halloween.
I liked him because he told a good story. I must have handed out dozens of bootleg copies of his "testimony" tape, Mike Warnke Alive, not so much because I wanted to evangelize as I thought the man's story was wild and interesting. But wild is what really described Warnke's story.
In the early 90s, some reporters for Cornerstone Magazine, did a full investigation of Warnke's background and uncovered how all of it was an outright lie. A complete fabrication. He was never a satanic high priest. The original articles are still online detailing his background. Even more disturbing was his sexual immorality and the multiple divorces and marriages, 4 all together if I am remembering correctly. The guy's life was an utter sham. Slowly, his "ministry" and comedy album making days began to come unraveled.
I share all of that about Warnke because I see another similar situation happening with another Christian celebrity in our current day: Dr. Ergun Caner. Ergun Caner has written a handful of books on the subject of Islam. His testimony is that he was raised a Muslim in a family committed to Islam. As a teen, he was saved and eventually led his entire family to Christ. His background as a Muslim provides him a platform of sorts to speak as an "expert" on the religion, so he has a position of credibility. He is a well loved speaker at SBC youth conferences and other gatherings. He is also the president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Meaning he has a significant position in one of the major Baptist schools in the United States affiliated with the SBC. That's pretty big.
Ergun Caner boasts of doing a number of "debates" with Muslim opponents. One would think that if you are former practicing Muslim who is now a leading apologist of sorts in the SBC, debates with practicing Muslims would be expected. The problem, however, is that no one can find any proof of his public debates. The Muslim apologists Dr. Caner claims to have debated testify that they have never met the man, let alone debated him. That is a rather serious charge if it is true.
All of this is coming to light recently with a series of blog posts between James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and supporters of Dr. Caner addressing the issue of Dr. Caner's integrity as to his ministry. Dr. Caner has had harsh words in the past against the Reformed faith James White holds to. I'll admit I stand with Dr. White on the issue of Calvinism; but laying that aside for the moment, I am much more concerned with the continual exposure of Dr. Caner's dishonesty regarding his apologetics resume if we could call it that. What is to be gained by standing before an audience of teenagers to tell them you have several debates with leading apologists from all the various world's religions when in fact you don't? Even more troubling is how it has been brought to light that Dr. Caner claims to have debated specific Muslim individuals who clearly deny they have never even met him. James White goes into more detail here: A Response to Dr. Ergun Caner.
Look: I don't care if Dr. Caner hates Calvinists and has a disdain for James White and his supporters. I do, however, Care [with a capital "C"] about the integrity Dr. Caner brings to our faith when he represents it before both a believing and unbelieving world. Muslims don't care what he thinks about Calvinists. They do care that he tells the truth about the things he says about Islam and their apologists.
Moreover, and specifically to the point, Dr. Caner is the president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
Did you read that carefully? The PRESIDENT.
He represents the theological seminary for one of the major Baptist colleges in the world. Being the [let me note that again] PRESIDENT of a theological seminary means he sets the academic tone for the entire school in the studies of theology [that means the "study of God"]. Did you get that? When people hear Dr. Caner speak, they are hearing the PRESIDENT of a theological seminary speak to them! He reflects what is being taught at that seminary at that major Baptist school. Is there not one colleague, professor, fellow academic - a pastor! - who either teaches at that same college or is an alumni who is the least bit troubled by these revelations of Dr. Caner's public persona? Additionally, Dr. Caner is a Christian. He not only reflects the integrity of the entire Liberty university, but he reflects Jesus Christ. Does that matter to any of his supporters!?
When the Warnke scandal was made public, I had a friend who I knew in high school, to whom I gave a copy of Warnke's testimony tape, call me out of the blue. He was not a Christian and I hadn't really spoken at length with him for a few years because our lives took us into different directions after graduation. His call was sad, because he saw in Warnke a man who overcame great odds (as Warnke had told them on his "testimony") by the help of Christ. I tried to explain to my friend that the Bible is clear that many false prophets will deceive many and that Warnke doesn't represent biblical Christianity. To my friend, he didn't seem to care. This man had failed in his Christian faith and my friend didn't see any hope in further pursuing anything church related he had known as a kid.
My hope is that Dr. Caner will come to his senses and realize he cannot continue in a public ministry based upon dishonest academic credentials. At this point I could never recommend his published works as being reputable. In the long run, this dishonest boasting will only lead to the ruination of souls. I pray that Dr. Caner will repent and change how he describes his background for the sake of Christ and His Church.