Category Archives: Apologetics

Ravi Zacharias and Christian Integrity

Jesus Among Secular Gods, by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. One of Ravi Zacharias’ wonderful books….(just, please, do not call him “Doctor”)

I have been an enthusiast for the apologetics ministry of Ravi Zacharias for several years. So, I feel compelled to respond to recent allegations of impropriety, as reported in ChristianityToday magazine.

Ravi Zacharias, his radio program Let My People Think, and his ministry, RZIM.org, have blessed the church with excellent materials in Christian apologetics. Our church was edified when Ravi came as a guest speaker several years ago, and I personally have taught several Adult Bible Classes, using Ravi’s material. Long-time Veracity readers will observe that we link to RZIM resources multiple times. I am still encouraged by the quality of Ravi’s work and ministry, for the sake of the Gospel.

I am therefore disappointed to learn of the recent allegations, that Ravi has misrepresented his academic credentials, over the years. I knew that Ravi had a Master of Divinity degree, but that he never has pursued an academic doctoral program, of any sort. However, he has received “Honorary Doctorates”. What I did not realize, is that this has led a number of Christians to mistakenly refer to Mr. Ravi Zacharias as “Dr.” Ravi Zacharias.

RZIM has responded that it has been customary, in certain cultures, where Ravi goes, that they refer to him as “Doctor,” out of a sign of respect for elders. This is evidently so. But it is inappropriate to go by the status of “Doctor,” in all cultural contexts. This may not be a big deal for some people, but I would disagree.

Truth matters, folks.

In an American context, calling someone “Doctor” gives the mistaken impression that the individual has earned an academic degree, when it was actually only an honorary degree. The two are not equivalent. If someone practicing medicine claims to be a “Doctor,” but has not an earned degree, this would be misleading. The same standard ought to apply to Christians who pursue academic work, to further a ministry. So, it is disturbing to learn that RZIM itself did not immediately and thoroughly self-correct this issue, when it was first raised two years ago, in 2015.

There are a few other issues, brought out below, in the video by the Steve Baugham, who describes himself as the “Friendly Banjo Atheist.” You can read RZIM.org’s response to some of the allegations (noted also in the Christianity Today article), Christian blogger Warren Throckmorton’s research, and Mr. Baugham’s video and other materials, and make your own assessments. As to the allegations with respect to the Canadian couple, there is just something weird going on there, that I can not fully grasp. I find there are several lessons to be learned from this most unfortunate situation:

  • First, Christian leaders should stop the continued practice of accepting the title of “Doctor,” when it is only honorary degrees that have been conferred, and not PhDs.  This practice is misleading, and Christian leaders should act in a manner that is above reproach. Politely demurring is good, but insufficient. Public, academic records should be set straight.
  • Secondly, as the Scriptures teach (Romans 3:23), all of us have failed at different points in our lives. Ravi Zacharias is no exception. Neither am I. Neither are you.
  • Thirdly, Christians should be on the forefront of telling the truth. Waiting for critics, like the “Friendly Banjo Atheist”, to point out our faults, is not good enough. Waiting two years before fully addressing problems with claims of misrepresentation and fact-checking issues, even if it was inadvertent, is not good enough. As apologist Randal Rauser writes, “When it comes to effective apologetics, it is important to have clear, concise, and logically valid arguments with plausible premises. It’s also important to have good rhetoric, a touch of humor, savvy cultural awareness, and a dollop of self-deprecation….While that is all important, the most important aspect of any effective apologetic is credibility. Credibility depends on demonstrable integrity. And integrity depends on conduct that is absolutely above reproach.”  An apologetics ministry, no matter how good it is, that raises questions regarding personal trust, actually undermines itself.
  • Fourthly, the whole business of admirers calling Ravi “Doctor,” has been completely unnecessary. The effectiveness of Ravi’s ministry stands on the quality of his arguments, reasoning, and rhetoric, not by misleading claims of holding certain academic credentials, that he never did. Ravi has his own issues, yes. But I find it disturbing that a radio listening and book reading Christian audience lacks the basic skills of spiritual discernment, that should insist on fact-checking sources and upholding standards of accountability.

I had the privilege of meeting Ravi Zacharias, when he visited Williamsburg, and our church, those few years ago. I found him to be a most gracious, genuine, and caring man. He is on the “front-lines” for the Gospel, so it comes as no surprise that he would have critics.

Steve Baugham may have an axe to grind, but nevertheless, the grist for the mill has at least some substance. The current crisis Ravi Zacharias is experiencing is surely painful, and those who have benefited from his work should earnestly pray for him, and the rest of the RZIM ministry team. This is not an unrecoverable situation. Contrary to Baugham’s conclusion, at the end of his video, I personally believe that this is an opportunity for RZIM to make something right out of this. Let us pray that Ravi, and those who work with him, will learn these painful lessons and do the right thing.

UPDATE: December 7, 2017. RZIM’s public statement on the federal lawsuit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: December 7, 2017

Also, if you check the Wayback machine, for June 26,2016, for the Oxford Centre, an Christian study center in Oxford, England, you will see that under endorsements, it lists “Dr. Ravi Zacharias” and  “Revd Professor Alister McGrath.” This is altogether strange, as Ravi has no PhD, and Alister McGrath has several. RZIM helped to start the Oxford Centre. Why would Ravi be listed as “Dr.,” but not Alister McGrath? Thankfully, the Oxford Centre has since fixed the issue. But it leaves open the question as to why the folks at RZIM, who probably were the ones who put up the website, let this error go unnoticed and uncorrected, for so long? Ah… this is frustrating!

A BETTER UPDATE: December 8, 2017

I made contact with someone at RZIM (Vince Vitale) to discuss the academic credential issue. I report on this really good conversation, as an addendum, to a related post, published earlier this year.


Genesis: Paradise Lost, the Big Bang, … and Dogs Who Eat Homework

Some Christian friends of mine are all abuzz about Genesis: Paradise Lost, a new movie being shown in select theaters across America, November 13 and 16, 2017. Should Christians go see this film? (SEE MY DISCLAIMER at the bottom of the post, updated AFTER I first published this post).

In a promotional video for the movie, Dr. Charles Jackson, a professor of Creation Science at Liberty University, explains that the Big Bang Theory, of how the universe expanded from a single point, some 13 billion years ago, is part of a secular mythology, at odds with the Bible. As Dr. Jackson goes onto say, “there are all of these ‘dog ate my homework’ stories” that “atheist evolution theory” proposes to explain how stars were formed, in the wake of the Big Bang. Jackson argues that such explanations are “impossible” and “can not happen.”

The conclusion? Christians should reject Big Bang cosmology. Instead, they should embrace a Young Earth proposal, that the universe was created only some 6,000 years ago, based on a particular interpretation of the Bible. The film’s primary concern is to help Christians have a greater confidence in their Bibles, and to win those who have doubts, to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, which are critically important aims, that all believers can boldly affirm.  Genesis: Paradise Lost is endorsed by Answers in Genesis, the apologetics organization behind the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, located in Kentucky. Just based on this brief presentation, without any further knowledge, Dr. Jackson’s argument might sound fairly compelling.

But is what Dr. Jackson saying true?

Does Big Bang cosmology really contradict the Bible? It seems like the modern scientific consensus agrees with the Big Bang. If the Bible is out of step with the Big Bang, what does that mean?

What if, indeed, the opposite were the case? What if the Bible, written a few thousand years before scientists in the 20th century confirmed the evidence, aligns with the Big Bang? What if the Bible, accurately describes the scientifically-observed expansion of the universe? What is the likelihood of ancient, pre-modern Israelite prophets, perfectly articulating the precise nature of the universe, in a manner that exactly coincides with what modern scientists, have only recently seen in nature?

As I blogged about several months ago, Dr. Hugh Ross, of the apologetics ministry, Reasons to Believe, makes this very case.  Dr. Ross goes onto explain that the Big Bang was actually a fine-tuned expansion of the universe, and not a chaotic explosion.

But here is the kicker.

Dr. Ross makes the stunning claim that the Bible anticipates the discovery of the Big Bang by several thousands of years. Here is a quick sample of some of these Bible verses: Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15; and Zechariah 12:1. Look them up at BibleGateway.com, where ancient Israelite prophets wrote about how God “stretched out the heavens,” a description consistent with modern Big Bang cosmology.

Is this merely a coincidence? Do Christians need to come up with other “dog ate my homework” stories, to explain features like this in the Bible, or are there better explanations that exist? Think about it.

Should a Christian go see Genesis: Paradise Lost? Sure, consider the evidence that the film presents, as Dr. Jackson does raise some good questions, and the film makers have a genuine, rightly-motivated interest, in presenting the Gospel message to non-believers. Amen to that! But do yourself a favor, and also consider a different viewpoint, from another Christian perspective.

Or better yet, read and study what the Bible itself says, and then come to your own conclusion.

As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

Below is the Dr. Charles Jackson clip, from the Genesis: Paradise Lost film, being used to promote the movie, then followed by an 8-minute presentation by Jeff Zweerink, an astronomer with Reasons To Believe , explaining what the Bible has to say about the Big Bang. Zweerink is part of the scholar team, along with Hugh Ross, at Reasons to Believe. Genesis: Paradise Lost should not be confused with an earlier film this year, Is Genesis History?, by Del Tackett and Thomas Purifoy, Jr. The earlier film has pretty much the same message, but the outdoor cinematography in Is Genesis History?, is spectacular, whereas Genesis: Paradise Lost relies more on 3D computer-generated graphics.

UPDATE (November 11, 2017): Though I published the above post a few days ago, I just learned something about “Doctor” Charles Jackson. Yes, Charles Jackson does have a doctorate. This is true. However, it is not in any particular science field. Rather, he earned his doctorate in the field of education, from the University of Virginia (UVA). He is not a practicing scientist, but rather he is a grade school science educator. This type of sleight of hand is not outright deception, but it is not entirely truthful either. At least, Is Genesis History? featured credentialed PhD-level scientists, having done doctoral work in their specific scientific field. Genesis: Paradise Lost relies on experts, that lack the level of expertise, as comparatively found in Is Genesis History?.  Eric Hovind, the producer of the latest film, should be embarrassed. Let the viewer of the film beware!!

 


Humans Came From East Africa, Southeastern Europe, (or Somewhere Else)?

Hominin footprints, by the shore of an island, near Crete, discovered by a Polish researcher.

The common evolutionary story is that modern humans first arrived on the biological scene, roughly 200,000 years ago, in East Africa. However, a controversial new discovery challenges that narrative. Does this news have any impact on Christian faith?

Most of the fossil or footprint evidence for hominins; that is, creatures that are thought to be biological ancestors to modern humans, have been found in Chad, Ethiopia, and Kenya, dating back several million years. However, a new study published in August, 2017, offers evidence of human-like footprints that have been found on an island, off of the coast of Crete (Greece), that date back to 5.7 million years ago. The age and location of the discovery may cause scientists to rethink where modern humans actually came from.

New Scientist magazine suggests that this latest research implies that modern humans may have come from southeastern Europe, and not way down south, in East Africa. In my mind, it opens up the possibility that the first humans might have actually come from somewhere roughly in between, in the nearby Middle East, which fits in with some models of Old Earth Creationism, or Evolutionary Creationism, that postulate that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, lived in an area of the Middle East. Many Old Earth Creationists would nevertheless contend for a definite break in biological development between hominin creatures and modern humans, whereas Evolutionary Creationists would see biological continuity between hominins and humans.

The 5.7 million year old dating, of course, creates a problem for Young Earth Creationism, that insists that the earth is less than 6,000 to 10,000 years old. I have heard of possible explanations by Young Earth Creationists, that suggest that the dating is completely wrong, and that the footprints were made shortly after the global flood.  The footprints would have come from either (a) human beings, and not hominins at all, or (b) ape-like creatures, that became extinct after making these prints. I am not sure how this all works, considering the facts that the evidence does not seem to indicate that these footprints were made by modern humans, and that we have no evidence of such ape-like creatures going extinct within the past 10,000 years. Would a pair of these ape-like creatures been aboard the Ark?

No matter what becomes of this discovery, it in no way undermines the biblical teaching about the sinful nature of humanity. After the story was released to the public, vandals found the site, spray painted part of the area, and stole several of the footprints, destroying some of the data. Thankfully, the site was not completely destroyed, and so it will hopefully remain a place that might yield some future discoveries.

For a closer look at what the Bible might have to say about the existence of hominins (or “hominids,” as some say it), you can dig into Veracity here.


Remembering Nabeel Qureshi

Christian apologist Nabeel Qureshi died on September 16, 2017. As reported earlier on Veracity, Nabeel had been wrestling for the past year with stomach cancer. Veteran Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has a very moving eulogy for his “nephew” Nabeel in the Washington Post. Apologist Michael Licona gives us some added insight into Nabeel’s conversion to Christ on a Facebook post.

His best friend, David Wood, who led Nabeel to Christ, when both were students at Old Dominion University, has put together some interesting photos of Nabeel, on his Twitter feed.

David and Nabeel loved putting together YouTube videos, in a rather poking fun, and often sarcastic, manner, that were intended to prod and encourage Muslims to reconsider their faith and investigate the Christian faith. Ah, these guys, were a bit younger then, and it shows. The first video below is the final product of one of their sessions, but if you want a good chuckle, you should take a peak at the second video, with the blooper outtakes. Go to the 4:30 minute mark, for the handshake part, if it gets to be too much for you. What a couple of knuckleheads, but I appreciate their desire for Muslims to come to know the Truth. Be sure to view their last YouTube sessions together, filmed this past summer, with some excellent teaching. Nabeel Qureshi will be sorely missed.


Pray for Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi, a young Muslim turned Christian apologist, published his first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounter Christianity

Nabeel Qureshi is a Christian apologist, from a Muslim background. Please pray for him.  Nabeel is dying of stomach cancer, and the immediate prognosis is not good.

Nabeel grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, having parents grounded in Ahmadiyah Islam. He became a follower of Jesus, after becoming friends with David Wood, an atheist turned Christian, while both were students at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia. He wrote the best-selling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, after pursuing a medical degree and advanced theological studies in Christian apologetics. Nabeel is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Fellow Veracity blogger, John Paine, met Nabeel at an apologetics conference a few years ago, and John wrote a great series on Islam, based a lot on what John learned from Nabeel.

Nabeel’s critics from Islam believe that his stomach cancer is a sign of God’s judgment against him, for turning his back on Islam, and becoming a Christian.

Please pray that God might work a miracle, or otherwise, finish strong.

Nabeel had to have his stomach removed, several weeks ago. As the flood waters were rising outside of his home, in Houston, during Hurricane Harvey, he was rescued from his home and taken to the hospital, for further treatment. Sadly today, Nabeel released a video on YouTube, telling his supporters that he has been put on palliative care. Nabbed is married with one child. Nabeel Qureshi is 34 years old.

 


%d bloggers like this: