More QAnon Nonsense: March 4 as Trump’s True Inauguration Day?

Just when you thought folks would be done with this, QAnon roars back with yet another wild prophecy. According to QAnon proponents, Donald Trump will replace Biden and be inaugurated as President. Why? Because of some convoluted reasoning that Ulysses S. Grant was the last legitimately elected President, and that Trump will be Grant’s true successor, on March 4, and will come in and finally clean up Washington, for the glory of God.

What is so bizarre about this whole thing is that various reports say that 1 in 4 evangelical Christiansbelieve the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy theory is completely or mostly accurate.”

1 in 4? Are that many Christians really serious about this??

If you find this unbelievable that so many well-meaning folks in evangelical churches believe this, then just sample some of these following interviews yourself. I warned about this kind of stuff in previous posts (#1 and #2 and #3), acknowledging that every conspiracy theory has at least SOME element of truth to them. But this latest QAnon concoction is off the charts.

Of course, I know how this is going to go down. Dedicated QAnon folks will double-down and say that I am blinded and “liberal” biased because I reference videos done by CNN, which is just the lying “mainstream media.” Such folks would rather believe their Facebook feed, that Facebook’s algorithm engineers have already steered towards them, down the rabbit hole….. as though Facebook’s social media steering mechanism is somehow more trustworthy than CNN.

But they will not stop there. They will either say that the fake March 4 Inauguration prediction was simply a warning before the REAL storm comes at a later, yet undisclosed date; that is, we must simply “trust the plan.” Or they will throw these folks interviewed under the bus! They will say that all of the folks interviewed in the following videos were actually planted there by Antifa, or other elements of the Radical Left, and they really are not true Trump supporters…. another example of “fake news.”

Folks, this just makes Christians look foolish. What a contrast with the early Christians who gave their lives for the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection. People need to let this go and move on. If on the one-in-a-billion chance that something DOES happen like this, then I will surely post an update with a profound acknowledgement of error on my part….. But mark my word, come Friday morning, March 5th, folks will be able to look back on this and say that this was a false prophecy.

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV)”

ADDENDUM:  If you are still convinced that I am just a hack for CNN, then I would encourage you to consider the following thoughtful analysis by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying about how the New York Times steers the thinking of many of their readers, on a broad spectrum of topics. Be careful, as you might have to think about what is being said in this video. Weinstein and Heying are center-left liberals, in full disclosure.


Welcoming Justice: Carrying on MLK’s Legacy

The year 2020 will be known for many things, notably the coronavirus pandemic. But it will also be known for “Black Lives Matter” protests, all over world, not just the United States. Why all of the protests?

For an explanation, one could point to a number of essays, books, blog posts and Twitter tweets, chronicling the history of racism, and the sad story of how the Christian church has been complicit in furthering problems related to skin color. Christians in my generation and older think of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), and his efforts to try to get the white church involved in overcoming racism.

The amount of literature on these type of topics is staggering. Many of these sources of information are insightful and helpful. A number of other sources are not. So, I was looking for a resource written by a seasoned veteran in the black struggle, who might have wisdom gained over the years, to give some necessary perspective, in our present day and age. What does it mean to carry on MLK’s legacy, in the first half of the 21st century?

When I saw Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community, co-written by John M. Perkins, I knew I had found the book I needed to read. It was the perfect book to read during Black History Month. An African American, Perkins came to Christ in the late 1950s at age 27, and then founded a Bible institute in his home state of Mississippi. Perkins was almost beaten to death by white police officers in 1970, an experience which gave him a deeper and renewed vision for his ministry calling.

Perkins framed this as the “three R’s”: relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation, all fundamentally grounded in the life of the church. His work in Bible teaching soon grew to address social issues in racially divided Mississippi, and the ministry grew as Perkins and his wife moved to California. His first book in 1976, Let Justice Roll Down, established him as a leading voice in evangelicalism, calling his fellow evangelical believers to expand ministry efforts towards racial reconciliation, instead of focusing narrowly on saving souls. At age 90 now, Perkins has the breadth of insight to give to a new generation of Christians, who struggle with how to best continue this type of reconciliation work.

Co-author Charles Marsh, lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, where America’s racial divide was on full display just a few years ago, nearly 50 years following MLK’s death. Those events in Charlottesville prompted an expanded reprint of this book. Both Perkins and Marsh offer a summary of insights, gained from years of ministry and writing on the topic of racism. Marsh, a scholar of the life of German 20th century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a white Baptist, is a generation younger than Perkins. Perkins mentored Marsh, and the debt owed to Perkins’ experience and wisdom clearly shows in Welcoming Justice. Both Marsh and Perkins are convinced that the greatest strength of the movement towards racial reconciliation is to be found in the roots of the Christian church. Whenever efforts to combat racism have failed, they have failed because they have lost the Civil Rights movement’s original vision rooted in the Christian faith.

Sadly, much of the movement to combat racism today has indeed left the church. Yet without that spiritual vision, today’s efforts to deal with racism have often exacerbated the problems instead of providing sustainable solutions. MLK’s vision of a colorblind society is being replaced with a philosophy of antiracism, which makes practically everything an issue of race. Just meditate on the thought of John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, and leading African American intellectual today, who warns that 21st century antiracism is becoming a greater threat to society, more so than the 20th century racism, that to a certain degree still plagues us.

Through a series of anecdotes covering the decades following World War 2, Welcoming Justice is a renewed call for the church to reclaim a biblical vision for racial reconciliation, one founded on the idea of a colorblind church. There is still much work to be done to expunge the sin of racism from our society (not just the church), but Perkins and Marsh give us encouragement for the task that still lies ahead. This is not a doctrinally rigorous book, but it does not intend to lay out precise and detailed theology. It does not seek to address some of the larger cultural problems associated with the secular rise of critical race theory and wokeness, that divides Christians today. But it does challenge Christians to engage in God’s program, to bring about reconciliation among persons of different skin color. A fairly short series of essays, Welcoming Justice communicates a vision for the beloved community, that seeks to carry on Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.

For more on what the Bible actually teaches about racism, please read this previous Veracity blog post. For more on Martin Luther King, Jr., look up these previous blog posts (#1 and #2) For more on the dangers of critical race theory, read about those topics here and here. If you want to know more about the story of John M. Perkins’ life, here is a biographical film made about him:


NASA Perseverance on Mars! The Most Awesome Thing You’ll See Today!

As someone who worked previously as a contractor for years at NASA, this is really incredible. Not only is this the product of years of hard work, the videos below will definitely be the coolest thing you will see today. The first video shows the challenges that NASA faced to try to land Perseverance, from a flying fireball through Mars’ atmosphere to a safe, steady position on the Martian surface. The second video is the video that Perseverance shot of itself during the landing, last Thursday. The third works best on the YouTube app on a SmartPhone, whereby you can move your phone around to get a 360 degree view of the Martian surface, from atop the rover… then the rover will spend the next several months looking for water… and looking for life. Pretty awesome!

Is there life on Mars? To borrow a line from Larry Norman, “If there’s life on other planets, then I’m sure that He must know. And He’s been there once already, and has died to save their souls.”

 

 

 


Were Ravi Zacharias’ Accusers Lying?… (Were the Apostles Lying About the Resurrection?)

About a week ago I wrote a blog post about the Ravi Zacharias scandal. Most reactions to the news about Ravi have been understandable: a mix of shock, anger, dismay, empathy for the victims, and a call to self-reflection and greater accountability. However, some reactions have been in the extreme.

On one side are those who will use the Zacharias scandal as yet another reason why Christianity can not be true, and Christians can not be trusted. There will always be people in this category, it seems.

On the other side are those who profess to be Christians, but who have come with a variety of reasons why one should be dismissive or skeptical about the findings of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)’s internal report. Here are the most common reactions I have seen:

  1. We are all sinners. Why all of this focus on what Ravi did?
  2. Why bring all of this up after Ravi has died?  The man can not defend himself.
  3. Why did these women witnesses not come forward until after he died? How trustworthy are they? Ravi was a great man of God!”

What am I going to do with my Ravi Zacharias books?  Read my answer here.

I want to briefly address each one of these responses/reactions, before I get to my parenthetical question: “Were the Apostles Lying About the Resurrection?

The first reaction has definitely truth to it. But while it recognizes a particular Scriptural truth, that all of us fall short of the glory of God, the tendency here is to forget that Ravi’s sin went far beyond your “average sin.”

We are not talking about a pornography addiction here, that vacillates between shame and repentance, that may or may not have a direct impact on others. What we are talking about is a repeated pattern of behavior, over many years, with no evidence of repentance, that subjected harm and deception upon multiple, vulnerable women. These women were taken advantage of by a stronger, more powerful man, a man claimed to be the “greatest Christian apologist of [the 21st] century,” who further abused them spiritually.  But the objection is right to protest the focus upon Ravi. Instead, we should be remembering his victims, and pray for them.

The second reaction is peculiar, as though it assumes some sort of statute of limitations. Perhaps this reaction is made, as a way of defending Ravi’s family, so there might be some understandable motive here. But as apologist David Wood argues, if he were to die tomorrow, and then someone found 20 bodies buried beneath his house, would you not want to know how those 20 bodies got there?

Ravi Zacharias is in many ways like Amnon, David’s most favored, first-born son, a man of great “integrity”, who in 2 Samuel 13 abused his sister Tamar. Amnon has been dead long ago, but God saw fit to preserve this story in our Bibles. I believe, part of the reason, for preserving the story, is to help us all to remember the Tamars of the world. Even though Ravi is dead, the Tamars in the Ravi story are still living.

The third reaction is meant to test the credibility of the female witnesses. If you have the time, you might want to view the YouTube video below, an interview conducted on the Capturing Christianity YouTube channel, with female Christian apologists Alisa Childers and Dr. Liz Jackson, who tackle this reaction in more detail.

What I want to highlight here is the nature of cognitive bias, and how it can so easily trick us into believing something that lacks evidential support. As I mentioned in my earlier reports about Ravi, I really did not want the negative stories about Ravi to be true. Ravi was not my most favorite Christian apologist…but he still seemed like a genuine, reputable guy, with the most winsome, popular appeal, having a positively great impact on many of my Christian friends. I really wanted to believe that there was some good explanation for what had happened. Sadly, the evidence points to the reality that the situation with Ravi was far, far worse than anyone could have imagined (see apologist Mike Winger’s video).

I had some serious doubts about Ravi, when the first set of allegations about him came forward THREE YEARS AGO. But after having talked with someone at RZIM, I was given assurances that RZIM was serious about the matter and that everyone in RZIM’s top leadership was being held accountable, and that everything would be OK.

But the funny thing about evidence, is that when you begin to take a serious look at the available evidence, it can have a serious impact on how much you trust your previous assumptions. It can challenge your wishful thinking. If substantial evidence is analyzed, that refutes your wishful thinking, then you have to make a choice. Either you revise your cognitive bias, and rethink your wishful thinking, and follow the evidence wherever it leads….. OR you will choose to continue believing what you want to believe, and simply ignore the evidence that contradicts your beliefs.

So, were Ravi Zacharias’ accusers lying? The problem with assuming that these women were lying is that they all gave the same type of testimony, despite being independent of one another. First, we have the Canadian supporter of Ravi’s ministry, who first challenged Ravi, in the 2017 sexting controversy, Lori Anne Thompson. She is the only named witness, but prior to RZIM’s internal investigation, there were at least three other witnesses, involved in Ravi’s spa business. RZIM’s internal investigation revealed five other witnesses to Ravi’s behavior. Then there are about 200 women, with photos solicited by Ravi Zacharias, on the phones that he had, over the past 7 years or so, which in some of those photos, the women where naked. With such independent, multiple witnesses (8 thus far, by my count), along with the evidence from the cell phones, this makes for a substantial case against Ravi (None of this even touches on the academic credentials controversy, or the report that while Ravi was a younger preacher, he pressured his brother’s girlfriend to get an abortion).

Is it possible that all of these women just happened to give very similar stories that were all fabricated? Were all of these electronic photos on Ravi’s phones fakes? Possibly. But how plausible is that? Even more so, how probable is that?

Compare all of that to the evidence we have for the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul reports some 500, unnamed witnesses to the Risen Lord. We have four, different Gospel testimonies, that all feature the Empty Tomb. The New Testament tells us numerous stories of those who saw the Risen Jesus. Interestingly, the first witnesses to the Resurrection were those who were most suspect in terms of giving an accurate testimony: they were women.

Consider this: We have more substantial evidence that demonstrates that Ravi Zacharias was a sexual predator than we have for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Think about that for a moment.

Nevertheless, there are many Christians out there, apparently, who still believe Ravi to be completely innocent, and who buy into Ravi’s own rhetoric, which calls the critics of Ravi to be “demonic,” or otherwise, “tools of Satan,” or other sayings like that.

It really makes me wonder why so many Christians call themselves Christians. If the evidence against Ravi can not be believed, why do such people believe that Jesus really rose from the dead?  What type of cognitive bias is in play here? What type of wishful thinking keeps folks from accepting evidence that runs counter to what is believed?

The same can be said for non-believers, who reject the Resurrection of Jesus. Though the evidence for the Resurrection is not as clear-cut as the case against Ravi, the evidence for the Resurrection is still very, very good. So, if you easily accept the verdict against Ravi, as a “no-brainer”, what is it that is preventing you from accepting Jesus as the Risen Lord? What type of cognitive bias is in play here? What type of wishful thinking keeps folks from accepting evidence that runs counter to what is believed?

Something to think about.

Oh, one more thing, before I close out: REMEMBER THE VICTIMS AND PRAY FOR THEM.


A New MAGA?: Make Anti-Celebrity-Christianity Great Again… Post Ravi Zacharias Evangelicalism

By now, many of you already know about the final report from RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), detailing some of the sexual abuse committed by Christian apologist/evangelist Ravi Zacharias, through day spas he owned over a decade ago in Atlanta. It is pretty devastating.

There is the sexual abuse pattern, involving multiple reports of molestation over the years, that is of grave concern. Ravi’s victims, to varying degrees, have suffered. But there is more to it than that, as none of us are “sin-free.” Let me be clear about this up-front.

The bigger story is the utterly unrepentant attitude that Ravi apparently had, as he continued to solicit and receive photos of young, female massage therapists on his SmartPhone(s), up until a few months before his May, 2020 death. But the most egregious thing is the extreme lack of accountability that Ravi had in his ministry and personal life, a failure among even his closest friends and colleagues to ask tough questions, to speak openly and honestly, and to encourage the pursuit for truth, among others who had questions. Sadly, any attempt to question Ravi’s behavior or at least divulge more information was met with talk of “spreading rumors,” accusations that those who asked such questions were “demonized,” and even one report that Ravi went into a rage and threatened to resign, if pressed any further to provide more information. Ravi even threatened at least one victim, that if she ever told anyone what had happened, that it would put “millions of souls” in danger of eternal hell-fire.

When I became aware of the first controversy, in December, 2017, involving misleading information about Ravi’s academic credentials, I was hoping that this controversy would be the end of it. I had been given the impression by staff at RZIM that the academic credentials issue was simply a matter of confusion and cultural differences, and that there was a good explanation behind the sexting incidents involving a female friend and devotee of Ravi’s, Lori Anne Thompson.

Like many of the staff at RZIM, including the person I talked with, we all hoped that everything could be satisfactorily explained. After all, I have personally invested a lot of time and energy over the years promoting Ravi Zacharias, RZIM, and Ravi’s teaching materials. I have taught two adult Bible classes, at my church, based on Ravi’s teaching material, and co-taught another class with some friends, using Ravi material. Though my specific role was minimal, I helped to work with a team at my church for at least 5 years or more, to try to get Ravi Zacharias to come speak at my church, which eventually did happen, about a decade ago.

Ravi’s appearance at our church was the single largest event, in my church’s history. Folks came from 3 to 4 hours away to hear him speak. The place was packed. It was exciting. The atmosphere was electric.

But after what I agonized over in December, 2017, and listening to all of the accolades given at his memorial service, back in May, 2020, I started having that sickening feeling in my stomach, that something still was not right. The then Vice President Mike Pence hailed Ravi as the greatest apologist of this, the 21st century. Well, what was I to make of that?

Thankfully, it took the courage of one woman, a follower of Jesus and one of the massage therapists Ravi groped over ten years earlier, to finally speak up. The only one who would listen to her was an atheist lawyer, and that finally got the ball rolling. Other women spoke up and the story broke back in September, 2020. Still, RZIM at the time decided to double-down on the message that there was a good explanation here, and everything was still OK. Other defenders of Ravi continued to double-down and profess his innocence, explaining that the accusations were all “attacks from Satan,” intent on destroying a godly man’s reputation. Meanwhile, I have had conversations with skeptics who only look at this as simply yet another reason why Christianity can not be true.

Yet, at the same time, RZIM did agree to conduct an internal investigation, and this time, they promised complete transparency. Why did it take so long? Almost THREE YEARS LATER????

Well, we finally got the story this past week….. Thanks to the courage of that one woman who finally spoke out.

Now what?

It does not roll off the tongue very well, but I propose a new “MAGA” slogan: “Make Anti-Celebrity-Christianity Great Again.”

There are several problems though, with my new slogan. First, “Anti-Celebrity-Christianity” is an almost impossible goal to achieve.  It comes with the territory. After all, the Apostle Paul, and the rest of Christ’s earliest disciples, were known as pre-modern equivalents of today’s celebrities, in their own circles.

Jesus is and will always be THE reason for why we believe. Nevertheless, we simply can not separate the Christian faith completely from those who claim to represent Jesus. There is no way that any single one Christian can have complete adequate knowledge of the faith, without having a measure of trust in other Christian leaders, who know more than we do about certain aspects of Christianity, who can live as examples for us to follow.

Take Tim Keller, for example. As co-founder of The Gospel Coalition, Keller might come as close as possible to being a spokesperson for broadly-Reformed-minded evangelicalism.  But he is nevertheless a celebrity. He recently was interviewed on a podcast where he talks about the dangers of celebrity Christianity. When hardly anybody knew who Tim Keller was he was a pastor of a rural church, in a town less than an hour away from me. But now he gets people asking for autographs for his books. It is pretty awful. I would encourage folks to listen to the full podcast, as Keller has some excellent observations to make about the current state of evangelicalism today.

I also remember when it came out that the famous liberal Protestant theologian, Paul Tillich, had been secretly involved in numerous sexual affairs, outside of his marriage, throughout much of his adult life. His adulterous infidelities were so bad and numerous, that even his wife sought relief in her own sexual affairs, just to cope with the trauma of living with a sex addict. Tillich had sought to completely recast a vision of Christianity with a multi-religious worldview, that incorporated many non-orthodox theological perspectives. Nevertheless, he has been hailed as one of the greatest Christian theologians of the 20th century.

It is very easy … and tempting… for an evangelical like me to dismiss Tillich out of hand, with some measure of secret pleasure over his downfall, in his reputation. But then I think of Ravi Zacharias, and I realize, yet again, that none of us are far away from missing out on what God truly seeks to purpose in our lives.

So, where do we go from here?

Practically speaking, what do I do with my Ravi Zacharias books? Well, I have never owned any Tillich books, but I have a few of Ravi’s…. and I have a few other books written by people who have gone through serious moral failures, even such failures that continued on for years.

It is important to remember that even if an author has a personal failing, that it does not necessarily invalidate the message that the author is seeking to communicate. We must evaluate the writings of a person based on the evidence, logic, and claims that the author is making, and not strictly on the character of that author.

I personally do not plan on tossing out my Ravi Zacharias collection anytime soon. But I do not feel compelled to recommend him either to others. The main reason for saying that is because I think there are a lot of other Christian apologetics authors who are just as good, if not superior to Ravi Zacharias, in making their arguments for the Christian faith.

A good example would be from Michael Licona, perhaps one of today’s most well-known defenders of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, who has produced a short video, putting the Ravi Zacharias scandal in perspective, when it comes to making good arguments for the Christian faith (see below).

But the bigger issue for me is this: How can we get away from an evangelical sub-culture that tends to idolize its celebrities? Here are my big takeaways:

  • Cultivate church and ministry leadership structures where there is sufficient accountability. Do NOT promote “lone ranger” Christianity.  Get into an accountability group yourself, where someone you trust (or more) can hold you accountable.
  • Develop institutions centered, not around personalities, but around good, solid Scriptural doctrine.
  • Invite questions, dialogue and conversation. Allow yourself and others to express their doubts, and work through them. Pray for one another. Love one another.

Those are probably some good places to start…. to start to “Make Anti-Celebrity-Christianity Great Again.”


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