Ravi Zacharias Has Some ‘Splainin’ To Do

During my Thanksgiving break, I saw a post from Amy Smith (Watchkeep) regarding Ravi Zacharias. She labeled him a “con-man”, linking to this article, which–among other things–highlights a sex scandal as well as what appears to be his false representation of his academic background.

Warren Throckmorton–who has done a good job exposing such fraudulence at Patheos–also weighed in on Zacharias’ claims of having a terminal degree (i.e. a PhD or equivalent doctoral degree).

Here are my thoughts on the matter:

(1) While I did not follow Zacharias, I occasionally read some of his work. And, to his credit, his writing appeared generally solid, and he is–irrespective of his pedigree–what I would call a good public apologist for the Christian cause. As a public speaker, he is telegenic and appealing, and he tends to be, at face-value, very persuasive.

I use the term public apologist to delineate between folks like Zecharias and Vox Day (author of The Irrational Atheist,  tour de force against Dennett/Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris), who appeal to the masses outside of academia, and the academic apologists, like Norman Geisler and John Lennox, who provide strong academic, peer-reviewable materials on the subject. The latter are credentialed whereas the former may or may not be academic specialists.

What bothers me here is not the quality of Zacharias’ work; on its face, that is actually, from what I have seen, very good. He does not seem to promote false doctrine and in fact appeals to skeptics in ways that few others have.

And that is what makes his academic misrepresentation so galling: he has discredited himself by claiming a pedigree that was not even essential.

As Vox Day has shown, you don’t need to be a credentialed apologist to score a knockdown against the High Church Atheists; in The Irrational Atheist, he steamrolled Dawkins & Co. by simply testing the veracity of their claims.

Some might ask whether Zacharias’ honorary doctoral degrees–which allow him to use the term Dr.–let him off the hook.

Of course they don’t. To use an honorary doctorate to promote yourself as an expert in a field is black-letter fraud.

Earning a doctoral degree is an arduous pursuit: you have to qualify just to get into a program; you have years of both research and rigorous study; you have a comprehensive exam; you have to defend your thesis in front of a cadre of academics who will hit you with questions you never thought possible; you have to publish your dissertation.

The process usually takes at least four years. Many candidates end up “ABD” (All But Dissertation), as they hit snags that cause them to fail to complete the degree.

To call yourself “Dr.”, while not having an earned doctorate degree, is dishonest.

(2) The sex scandal is a very big deal, and there is no pretty way to spin that. Among the narrative is his threat to kill himself if he is outed. The scandal, and his handling of it, reflect a profound spiritual deficiency, not to mention a severe lack of stability in his life.

I say this not to beat on people who have mood swings (bipolar disorder) or even who struggle with depression, but when you are threatening suicide in order to manipulate others to do your bidding, then the last thing you need to be doing is public Gospel ministry.

(3) Given (1) and (2), no reputable publishing house should be putting his books into print. No serious Christian should be going to his conferences; no reputable church should be promoting his materials or his events.

There are two kinds of false teachers.

(a) There are false teachers who promote heresy. These types may deny the Fundamentals–such as the Deity of Christ, the authority of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the perfect life of Jesus, the Substitutionary Atonement, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead, and His eventual Second Coming. Or they may deny the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. Or they may deny the Trinity. Or they may promote New Age or Gnosticism. Or Prosperity Theology. Or Feminist Theology. This type of false teacher teaches things that aren’t compatible with Scripture.

(b) There are false teachers who live immoral lives. They may have sex scandals for which they must be held accountable. They may be fraudulent in their personal or business dealings. They may be malicious or spiteful or abusive. They may be given to greed or other vices (recreational drugs, excessive alcohol).

I don’t like to throw the “false teacher” label around haphazardly. There are many ministers with whom I have substantial differences, but whom I would not tag as “false teachers”.

But Zacharias, from the available public information, has a serious problem. He appears to have misrepresented his academic accomplishments. In the world of academia, that’s a very big flippin’ deal; I’ve seen professors–who had not completed their PhDs even though they listed it on their vitae–get fired on the spot for what Zacharias has done.

And his sex scandal, let’s just say he owes the Body of Christ–which has enriched his wallet over the years–a candid answer for his conduct.

Even worse: Big Christianity owes the Body an answer as to why they keep promoting his work and his events, in spite of his academic and moral record.

11 thoughts on “Ravi Zacharias Has Some ‘Splainin’ To Do

  1. Was not aware of this. Very disappointing and disconcerting.

    He should not be a public apologist anymore. This is unacceptable.

    He’s done some very good work though,

    • I agree. While I have no beef with his published work, he has issues that preclude his continued representation as an apologist.

  2. My only beef with him so far is his unwillingness to address the age of the earth. For someone who claims to to minister to collegiates, this is inexcusable. Crap in one direction or the other, or get off the pot.

    • Gotta wonder what his motivation for that is. Personally, I think the Scriptures are perfectly compatible with an older earth, as there is plenty of latitude in Genesis 1. I also accept that (a) scientific data shows that the earth is old, and (b) the scientific evidence also shows that the earth is nowhere close to old enough for Darwin’s fetishists to be even close to the ballpark.

    • what are the best resources for ‘old earth’ and ‘new earth?’

      and … please excuse my lack of intellect and naivete … but … why does it matter so much?

      • You did not have Christian doctors to marry because those who look at things like Old and Young earth (the kinds of people who do, you know, science) get run out of the fellowship. If you are Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, or CS Lewis you get a pass for being “old earth”. Not so much if you are small fry. I recommend Hugh Ross as a starting point for an evangelical “old earth” perspective.

  3. and he did:

    http://rzim.org/global-blog/ravi-zacharias-statement-on-my-federal-lawsuit/

    Ravi Zacharias: Statement on My Federal Lawsuit

    Posted by Ravi Zacharias, on December 3, 2017
    Topic: Blog

    In October 2014, I spoke at a conference in Canada. At the conclusion of my talk, I met a couple who expressed an interest in our ministry. The wife asked if I would reach out to her husband because he had questions about the Christian faith. As requested, I followed up by sending an email and a book to him, and invited him to consider attending one of our educational programs at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).

    Some months later, I traveled with my wife and one of our daughters to another part of Canada for a speaking engagement. The couple attended this event and invited my wife and me to dinner at a local restaurant afterwards. That was the second and last time I was ever in the same room with either of them.

    Subsequently, she began to contact me via the email address I had used to contact her husband after first meeting them. My responses were usually brief. Then, last year, she shockingly sent me extremely inappropriate pictures of herself unsolicited. I clearly instructed her to stop contacting me in any form; I blocked her messages, and I resolved to terminate all contact with her.

    In late 2016, she sent an email informing me she planned to tell her husband about the inappropriate pictures she had sent and to claim that I had solicited them. In April 2017, together they sent me, through an attorney, a letter demanding money. I immediately notified members of my board, and as they advised, I personally engaged legal counsel.

    In response to the demand for money, my attorneys filed a publicly available lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The other side requested mediation rather than going to trial. We agreed to mediation and we reached an agreement in November 2017 to resolve the matter and dismiss my lawsuit. All communication with both of them has concluded, and the legal matters have been resolved. However, at this time, unfortunately I am legally prevented from answering or even discussing the questions and claims being made by some, other than to say that each side paid for their own legal expenses and no ministry funds were used.

    I have learned a difficult and painful lesson through this ordeal. As a husband, father, grandfather, and leader of a Christian ministry I should not have engaged in ongoing communication with a woman other than my wife. I failed to exercise wise caution and to protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I have acknowledged this to my Lord, my wife, my children, our ministry board, and my colleagues.

    Let me state categorically that I never met this woman alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to another woman—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility. In all my correspondence with thousands of people in 45 years of ministry, I have never been confronted with a situation such as this, and God and my family and close friends know how grieved I have been.

    In my 45 years of marriage to Margie, I have never engaged in any inappropriate behavior of any kind. I love my wife with all my heart and have been absolutely faithful to her these more than 16,000 days of marriage, and have exercised extreme caution in my daily life and travels, as everyone who knows me is aware. I have long made it my practice not to be alone with a woman other than Margie and our daughters—not in a car, a restaurant, or anywhere else. Upon reflection, I now realize that the physical safeguards I have long practiced to protect my integrity should have extended to include digital communications safeguards. I believe—and indeed would counsel others—that the standards of personal conduct are necessarily higher for Christian leaders.

    The Lord rescued me at the age of seventeen, and I promised to leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth. He entrusted me with this calling, it is His; any opportunities I have been given are from Him. My life is not my own, it belongs to God. As long as He gives me life and breath I will serve out this calling He has given me. I am committed to finishing well, using whatever years He grants me to share His love and forgiveness, truth and grace, with people everywhere who are looking for meaning and purpose and hope. I bear no ill will toward anybody. God is the God of healing, and He promises a new day. May that be true by His grace.

    • Julie Anne Smith posted some of the personal e-mails over at her Spiritual Sounding Board blog, but she removed them at the victim’s request. I’ll post a link to her explanation, but there’s one statement she made worth highlighting here.

      Because the case is a Federal lawsuit and available to the public, people will only be allowed to read Ravi Zacharias’ side. The victim’s side remains silent – which is exactly what all perpetrators want: silence.

      FYI, Spiritual Sounding Board is a blog in the same general genre as TWW.

      https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2017/12/02/removed-two-posts/

    • My problem with this is that RZ entered a “mediated settlement” with the victim. The suit was dismissed “with prejudice”, and RZ is the one who voluntarily moved to have it dismissed.

      If his claim is indeed valid, then “settlement” is either (a) an admission of guilt or (b) receipt of some very, very bad legal advice.

      The only thing that the lawsuit–and settlement–accomplishes: it guarantees that facts will remain under wraps.

      Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of this crap.

      If she indeed is guilty of what RZ alleged in the lawsuit, then she needs the full weight of accountability, no-holds-barred. Otherwise, he ought to be on the hook for his wrongdoings if indeed he has any in this.

      Moreover, RZ’s attempt to defuse the issue of his use of honorary degrees for his title–by suggesting that this is a cultural thing from India–strikes me as disingenuous.

      Quite frankly, he doesn’t even NEED a doctoral degree. But by using that title the way he does, it’s dishonest.

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