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