I am preaching through the 1st Epistle of Peter at Unity Baptist. On Sunday morning our text included the verse most often used as the basis for Christian Apologetics: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15. To emphasize the significance of apologetics I pointed out that our Sunday school curriculum will have a unit on the subject in December. I also pulled a couple of books from the shelf in my office and mentioned that the concept could probably be found in many other books even without the word apologetics in the title. One of the two books I held up as examples was The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, edited by Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner.
I have a lot of books. There was a time I imagined you could tell a lot about a person by looking at their library. It may have been true once upon a time but my goal entering adulthood was to have many shelves full of books if for no other reason than to advertise how smart and accomplished I must be. That’s right; some kids plan to make a lot of money, dunk a basketball, change the world, and I thought people would be impressed by a large library. We now live in a world with fewer and fewer people building libraries or perhaps reading books at all. I do most of my sermon prep using online resources. I have a lot of books on shelves but you can search a quote, check a date in history or find a Bible verse in seconds online. The books on shelves make it handy to loan someone a book if they have a question and you can offer some additional reading. That’s happened like once in the five years I’ve been pastoring but it did lead to a couple joining the church. So that’s a win for physical books on shelves.
Some of those books I clearly remember where and when they were purchased. Some were personal gifts and others were the result of friends needing to clear some space and cull some things from their own libraries. I have quite a few that I honestly have no idea; I mentioned the Friendship House on Sunday morning, a thrift store that did not charge anything for books. So it was no surprise that I had a couple of books on apologetics close at hand even though I didn’t know exactly where they came from. That one of them had Ergun Caner’s name on the cover was a pleasant surprise that I figured at least explained why I had that book if not nothing else. After the service my wife pointed out that was hers, or had been. A few years ago she was taking online classes from Liberty University and that was the text for her apologetics course. A few years ago, specifically the years that Caner was the Dean of the School of Theology at Liberty.
We spent several years as state missionaries in southeastern Kentucky. We also served, as often as we were available, at Manchester Baptist Church in Manchester, Kentucky. A decade or so before we arrived a young “Butch Caner” was the youth minister at Manchester. He came and preached Homecoming the first year we were there, in October of 2003. A few years later I brought a group of BCM students to hear him preach revival. After we moved back to Georgia so did Butch, I mean Ergun. I tried to take a selfie with him a student event but it’s so bad I won’t even show it here. Later as an SBC pastor in Georgia I met Ergun and Emir Caner together at our annual state convention. Ergun was the president of Brewton Parker and Emir at Truett McConnell. Those are two of the three Georgia Baptist colleges (I graduated from the other one, Shorter University).
I know that Caner has been the subject of controversy over the years. I have chosen to associate rather than distance myself from him and his ministry. He lives in Texas now so we are less likely to run into each other. But there you have it, the story behind one of the books on my shelf.