Ravi Zacharias was one of my early introductions to Christian apologetics. He was formative in how I approached some ideas, and his way of turning a phrase still sticks in my mind. Ravi Zacharias was also a fraud and a repeat sexual abuser. Christians need to deal with this. Apologists like me need to with this. We need to do it in a way that does not excuse but rather acknowledges this and works to ensure systems are in place to prevent it from happening in the future.
Early on, I was a bit off put by some of his examples. I cannot recall the exact book–it may have been Jesus Among Other Gods–but he used a story of a man propositioning a woman who sat next to him on a flight for a large sum of money. Eventually he admits he doesn’t have a lot of money, and the woman, horrified, asks what kind of woman he thinks she is. He cynically responds that she already established that by accepting his larger offer. It’s an off color story, but one that targeted women in a way that made me pretty uncomfortable. I wish I’d paid more attention then. I continued to buy and read his books until I started to move on to more intensive apologetics training and hone in on topics that moved beyond what he wrote about.
It came out some years ago that Ravi Zacharias inflated his credentials. There’s not really any way around this. He claimed to be a professor at Oxford. He claimed to be a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. These and several other claims which were false and admitted in writing to be false by him at various points demonstrated a clear and substantial case that he had inflated his credentials on purpose to lend himself credibility. This was enough for me at the time to immediately stop citing and recommending his works. I didn’t do enough. I should have done more to warn others about the problems then, because even this was a severe problem for someone at the front lines of apologetics–defending the truth while deceiving.
More recently, severe allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse were leveled against Ravi Zacharias. And, in the last few weeks, the independent firm hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to investigate these claims confirmed that they are, in fact, credible. It was more than once, a pattern of planned and sustained abuse across multiple victims. It’s horrifying and unimaginable the damage that Zacharias did. It must be condemned in the strongest of terms, and it must lead to broad change across apologetics organizations and individuals.
There are some things Christians can and even must do to in order to prevent things like this happening again. Unfortunately, too few Christians and especially apologists are stepping up to do so. I remember being told time and again when I was taking graduate level courses on apologetics that “the Gospel is offensive enough.” The point was that, as Paul wrote, the Cross seems like foolishness to those who don’t believe. It’s enough for apologists to contend for the faith. To put up additional barriers, like backing unconditionally those celebrity Christians accused of wrongdoing, is to make the Gospel offensive. By our works we will be known, and too many Christians and even–perhaps at times especially–apologists have sullied the name of Christ with covering wrongdoing and siding with the oppressor, the abuser, and the wealthy over the oppressed, those harmed, and the needy.
The first thing Christian apologetics organizations must do is have outside accountability. I do not know all the details of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, but from those who have spoken out, it sounds as though there was very little accountability within the organization. Christians must do things openly and with all willingness to show accountability, paper trails, and willingness to change when needed.
A second thing that can be done is to stop lionizing individual apologists. Too many Christian apologists make their name into a selling point. I have long observed and tried to focus efforts into encouraging apologists to work to be experts in a few select areas and rely upon each other when other issues come up. This helps avoid the pressure to “know everything,” to inflate credentials, and perhaps most importantly, to make apologists into celebrities. When we decide that a single name–like Ravi Zacharias–is worth hitching our wagons to, it becomes much more difficult psychologically to acknowledge any possibility of that name being wrong. I’ve seen it with other apologists as well. Too often, we apologists are willing to defend the person and even the errors of that person because of their name, whether it’s Christological errors, inflating credentials, or even, horrifyingly, abuse. I use my name on my blog, and I have to confess it was in part because of my own aspirations to be one of those names. I hope that my efforts in the past few years to reconstruct my faith have shown that is not my goal going forward.
Third, we need to listen to those outside our circles. I am in a lot of apologetics groups, and I often see the same topic over and over again with the same people and web sites cited. When someone comes along with an outside voice, our tendency is to circle the wagons and shout them down rather than listen to and acknowledge their concerns. This applies to arguments related to the existence of God, but it also applies to broader theological topics, ethics, and, unfortunately, to covering up mistakes made. The latter easily turns into being willing to be apologists for abusers. We cannot let that happen. It must never happen.
Finally, we need to act swiftly and decisively in the face of credible accusations. It’s easy to appeal to court language like “innocent until proven guilty,” but that is not how the body of Christ ought to work. We need to work to protect victims as quickly as possible and speak up for those who are silenced. This is a fine line, and one that I myself am still figuring out, but we are far, far too often on the wrong side of this line. We, again, circle the wagons rather than listening to critique of someone we have lionized. We need to stop. I stated above that I stopped citing Ravi after I came upon evidence he had inflated his credentials. This evidence was put forward by an atheist, and simply because of that too many Christians dismissed it and my own concerns. A better approach would be to investigate and act upon that evidence. Going alongside this, with Zacharias specifically, we ought to immediately stop citing his works, using his examples, sharing any videos of him, or recommending him in any way whatsoever. To do so damages our witness going forward.
I hope this post will be taken to heart and start some discussion. We need to change. As Christians, and as apologists, we need to change.
What’s Wrong with Apologetics? – I ask questions and offer answers regarding what I believe is wrong with apologetics generally.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Hello, dear readers! I have another round of posts that I hope you will enjoy perusing. The topics this week include apologetics, an objection to the pro-life position, patriarchy and biblical sex, and some tiny organisms that pose some big problems. Let me know what you think, and be sure to tell the authors you enjoyed their posts as well!
Apologetics Started in the Bible– Some Christians object to the use or import of Christian apologetics. However, apologetics got its start in and from the Bible. Here’s a post showing how.
Biblical Sex: Patriarchy’s Great Enemy– This post highlights the fact that in the Bible, male-female sexual relations really go against the paradigm of complementarian theology.
Book Review: “The Grand Weaver”– Ravi Zacharias is an excellent Christian apologist. Here’s an in-depth look at one of his books from Luke Nix. I recommend reading this one because it will give you some insights into Zacharias’ approach to apologetics. The book itself is also excellent.
Diatoms: Tiny Organisms Highlight Big Inconsistencies in Young Earth Flood Geology Models– Diatoms are tiny organisms that put up some big difficulties for young earth creationist models. Check out this post to read about some of these difficulties.
Response to objection that pro-lifers are “nowhere to be found once our children are born”– It is commonly objected that the pro-life position only cares about children in the womb. Once they’re born–who cares? I think that it is important for the pro-life position to be holistic and look at the totality of life rather than simply looking at unborn life as worth protecting. Here is a post that directly confronts this common objection.
Merry Christmas, everyone! It’s only 5 days away and I have to say I’m extremely excited myself. My in-laws will be visiting and it’s going to be a ton of fun. Then, in January, my wife and I are making a trip to visit my parents. But of course, at the center of it all, there is reflection upon the meaning of Christmas and its application to our lives. And, equally unsurprising, I’m most interested in those writings which explore the evidence. Check out my finds below. And again, Merry Christmas!
Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem?– Here, Tim McGrew takes on the suggestion that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. He analyzes it from a number of angles, including the notion that the birth in Bethlehem was invented or that there was disagreement among the Gospel writers. This post comes highly recommended. For more on the evidence of the birth narrative of Christ, check out my post Jesus’ Birth: How undesigned coincidences give evidence for the truth of the Gospel accounts.
Was the Virgin Birth Incorrectly Prophesied?– A brief, interesting post opposing the notion that the virgin birth was not a prophecy about Christ. For a post on the importance and meaning of the virgin birth, check out a guest post on this site: Rev. Kent Wartick on “The Virgin Birth.”
A More Accurate Picture of the Original Christmas Morning– What would the Christmas morning really have looked like? Check out this post for a brief, interesting summary of what the surroundings of Jesus would most likely have been at his birth.
A Moment in Eternity– Ravi Zacharias is a phenomenal speaker and writer. Here, he reflects upon the meaning and celebration of Christmas from his time in Dubai and other Middle Eastern areas.
The Gift of Christmas Was Predicted With the Gift of Prophecy– J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity, has put together a nice brief summary of a number of prophecies which were fulfilled by Jesus’ birth and life. Check out this interesting post related to prophecy.
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas– Are Christians allowed to participate in an allegedly pagan holiday? Check out this brief post for some answers.