Tag Archives: Ravi Zacharias

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.”


A Call to Repent Internally at RZIM

Truth-telling is essential to the cause of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. For if an unbelieving world can not regard Christians as trustworthy people, why would they even bother to listen to us, when we speak about Jesus?

Events of late in the Christian world have brought me much despair. But some recent news have given me a ray of hope.

This past weekend, an apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) wrote an internal letter to RZIM’s leadership, calling upon RZIM for more transparency regarding the controversies regarding some of Ravi’s actions, while he was living and leading the RZIM ministry. The letter was leaked out from RZIM, and published at Julie Roys’ website, where Julie describes the letter’s content as “stunning.” The fact that such a letter was even “leaked” out from RZIM is stunning in and of itself. Interestingly, the letter calls for RZIM to rebrand itself, something that I made a case for several months ago, after a new series of allegations were disclosed. The author of the letter, Dr. Max Baker-Hytch, a senior tutor with RZIM’s  OCCA The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and a lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, a private hall of the University of Oxford, urges that the corporate culture at RZIM is due for an overhaul.

In response to the letter, several apologist associates, working with RZIM, have decided to sever their ties with the organization. One of those associates, John Dickson, believes the ministry of RZIM to be in “grave peril.

Serious accusations against Christian leaders should not be taken lightly. We should uphold the reputations of leaders, as best as we can, and not jump to conclusions. Furthermore, it must be acknowledged that all of us have skeletons-in-the-closet, that we need not always publicize. Everyone falls short of the glory of God, and we should extend grace towards others, as much as possible, so that relationships can be healed and integrity maintained.

But that being said, when a Christian leader or organization presents a story, that does not jive with the available evidence, then that warrants a measure of skepticism. An initial act, that might lead to disgrace is one thing. But when a concerted effort is made to cover-up such an act, the lack of trust associated with the cover-up effort is infinitely more damaging than the original transgression itself. When this type of behavior is exhibited by Christian leaders, and the organizations that support them, then this is a clear case where the celebrity cult of personality has eclipsed whatever good the ministry might be doing.

It took courage for Dr. Baker-Hytch to write such a letter, and that courage gives me some hope that integrity is still something to yearn for. Let us pray that RZIM will make good on their promise to pursue truth, take Dr. Baker-Hytch’s letter to heart, and do the right thing immediately. 

A broken trust can be hard to rebuild and repair.


Ravi Zacharias Update: Celebrity and the Psychology of Trust

We are learning more about the accusations against Ravi Zacharias, since I posted about the newer developments a few weeks ago.

Ravi’s relationships with some female employees at a spa he owned, that Christianity Today reported, has triggered Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) to hire a legal firm to investigate the claims. Ravi’s denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, also announced that they would open yet a second investigation of Ravi, since the one that they conducted several years ago. To complicate matters, the woman who was involved in a sexting controversy with Ravi several years ago, and her husband, have come forward to tell their side of the story, despite the fact that both parties had signed an NDA. The couple have done so claiming that Ravi and RZIM had already violated their side of the NDA, through a previous published Christianity Today article (which was updated this past week). The couple has hired Boz Tchividjian, a lawyer and grandson of Billy Graham, as their legal adviser.

I do not see a need to rehearse the specifics of the accusations. You can follow the links above to learn more.

What I want to do here in this post is to analyze some of the responses on social media, regarding how these accusations about Ravi have been received by Christians, and the general public. Vice President Michael Pence, at Ravi’s memorial service, called Ravi “the greatest Christian Apologist of this [the 21st] century.”  There is no doubt that Ravi Zacharias has been one of the most well-known Christian celebrities in the contemporary era.

Many, like me, are grieved about these accusations. As someone who has taught Ravi Zacharias material in adult Bible classes, and who has appreciated a few of his books, I have looked up to Ravi, just as others have done. Ravi’s ministry has benefited my life and the lives of others that I know, and students I have taught. So, I would naturally want to defend Ravi’s reputation here.

At the same time, truth must prevail above all else. Some who have stepped forward with their accusations have been hurt very deeply by all of this, and have seen their reputations tarnished (rightly or wrongly). Others have remained anonymous, due partly to the embarrassing nature of the accusations. Such voices need to be heard, and taken seriously. An independent analysis of the evidence needs to be made, and so it is troubling that a journalist like Julie Roys is skeptical that the investigation sponsored by RZIM will truly be independent. I sincerely hope Julie is wrong about this, and that the truth will come out. Regardless of what happens, we should not be fearful of the truth, recognizing even that if Ravi is shown to have been clearly in the wrong, that this only demonstrates that all of us are sinners, who stand in need of the grace of God to set us free from our sin. YouTube apologist Whaddo You Meme?? has the right perspective here.

But not everyone responds this way. The double-downing effect that some have, in defense of Ravi, is expected to a certain degree. We are called to uphold the reputation of Christian leaders. “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume” (Ecclesiastes 7:1 NLT).

Sadly however, some who have rallied to Ravi’s defense have done so in a manner that is greatly troubling, that takes the teaching of Scripture and turns it on its head, completely upside down. Here are some examples that are disturbing:

  • Some have defended Ravi by questioning why such accusations have only emerged after Ravi died, this past May, thus raising suspicion. But in cases of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, it is very rare for victims to come forward right away, out of fear of repercussion against them. Trauma from abuse can take years and years to overcome.
  • Some have defended Ravi by assaulting the character of the accusers, claiming that the accusers are “in it for the money,” for example. True, there are cases where false accusations are made, in order to cause great harm on Christian leaders, etc. Nevertheless, everyone needs to be fairly heard. The problem with the Christian celebrity syndrome is that we are typically more inclined to trust the famous and powerful celebrity and dismiss the less well known, and less powerful person.
  • Some have made some completely outlandish claims, that Christian journalists at Christianity Today have adopted a compromising, liberal attitude towards evangelical faith, and therefore, they have used that liberal distrust to attack a good man. I then wonder what such folks think when other Christian news outlets, like WORLD News Group, ChurchLeaders.com, and the Roys Report, also report the same story, and even bring out new points of data. Is every Christian journalist out there who investigates a Christian celebrity simply a tool for the “far left,” “liberal” biased media?? Really??

While I am surely grieved about the accusations against Ravi, I am probably more grieved by supposed defenders of Ravi who are willing to risk tarnishing other people as merely “pawns of Satan” in an effort to make an idol out of a Christian celebrity. Christians sometimes overuse the language of “tools of Satan” and the “demonic” to attack other people, and avoid the hard work of listening. Yes, Satan is at work to tear down what God is building. But when we attribute “Satan” wrongly to the pursuit of truth, no matter how painful it is, we only do tremendous harm. Any sort of ad hominem attack against a person is no substitute for an honest look at the evidence. Instead, we are called to worship Jesus, and not any fallen man.

Granted, most people have neither the time nor the energy to do full blown investigations themselves. When it comes right down to it, we all have to trust other people to a certain degree. Most of the time, we simply have to defer to trusting in some other authority, believing that such authority is speaking truth and willing to do the hard work of investigation, sorting fact from fiction, on behalf of others occupied with the many other aspects of life.

It interesting to observe how when trust is broken that it is almost impossible to rebuild that trust. For example, there are Christians who have already prejudged Ravi to be completely at fault, simply on the basis of believing that Ravi had long been a false teacher. Some still have not forgiven Ravi for having spoken at the Mormon Tabernacle, the first high-profile evangelical preacher to have done so since Dwight L. Moody was invited to speak there, over a century ago. Such Christian critics of Ravi contend that by preaching at the Mormon Tabernacle he was giving tacit approval of Mormonism. So, for such critics, who believe that Joseph Smith was an unrepentant adulterer, they have already concluded that it is no surprise to them that Ravi Zacharias fell into the same kind of sin.

On the other side, many critics of the Christian faith conclude now that Ravi Zacharias is just another in a long line of hypocrites: Just another reason why the Christian faith should be rejected. For many of such critics, if you dig deeper, it comes down to broken trust. Why trust what a Christian says about the Gospel when they speak lies about other matters?

But the Gospel tells us that we need not be fearful of the truth, as even with hypocrites, Jesus had them among even his “elite” group of followers: Peter promised to defend Jesus to the uttermost, but he denied Christ three times, did he not?

Hopefully, Christians will be known as truth-seekers, even when certitude on certain things remain elusive. My confidence in Christ is strengthened, but not entirely built on, the testimony of others, including Christian leaders like Ravi Zacharias. The argument for the truth of Christianity is based on an aggregation of different evidences, of which the personal life and testimony of others is but one component of a much larger mosaic of realities, that point to Jesus. If one component is shown to be unreliable, or at least somewhat shaky, it need not cause us to reject the whole.

According to this Julie Roys’ podcast, it was Ravi Zacharias’ teachings about prophecy fulfillment in the Book of Daniel that first drew skeptic Steve Baughman to consider Ravi’s arguments in defense of the faith. But Baughman was not entirely impressed with Ravi’s treatment of Daniel, which led him to look more closely at Ravi’s ministry, which eventually led to the disclosure of how RZIM did not properly represent Ravi’s academic credentials, in RZIM’s promotional materials. As it turns out, RZIM’s failure to address the academic credentials issue in a more timely manner was but the first in what has now become a series of far more damaging allegations. Why it took an “outsider,” like Steve Baughman, to force RZIM to begin to address these matters in the first place, instead of some hard looks within RZIM itself, still boggles my mind.

I am not sure if Steve Baughman will ever read this, but if he does, I hope he knows that there are still some Christians who value truth above celebrity-Christianity.

It is quite possible that we may never know the full story here, this side of eternity. Ravi Zacharias is no longer here to defend himself. To repeat, I do hope for the best outcome for Ravi’s reputation from the impending investigations. If such is not the case, for which the mounting evidence points more and more towards, then it would be good for Christian parachurch organizations, like RZIM, and the local churches that care for Christian celebrities, like Ravi Zacharias, to do some serious soul-searching. If all, or even some, of the accusations do turn out to be true, it looks like we are dealing with a man who had immense pressure placed on him to perform in a such a way, that he himself could never achieve. His way of relieving the pressure placed upon him, and his own depression and doubts, sadly impacted the lives of others in a hurtful way (listen to the WORLD News Group broadcast on October 15, 2020, starting about at the 27 minute mark to the 30 minute mark for more). Ravi’s own testimony indicated that he wrestled with suicidal thoughts on at least one occasion, as part of his conversion experience as a young man.

Was Ravi really healed from these suicidal thoughts after his conversion? Was there sufficient accountability at RZIM? What was really going on at the RZIM board? Was there sufficient accountability at Ravi Zacharias’ local church? These are difficult questions that probably deserve concentrated attention.

All in all, even if Ravi Zacharias is exonerated, I stand by my original plea from several weeks ago: For the sake of those fine apologists who have risen to take the baton from Ravi, to uphold the message of Jesus Christ for a new generation, RZIM should change the name of their organization, in order to more properly reflect the purpose and vision of the ministry, instead of clinging to a legacy of a manLet us encourage the Vince Vintale’s, the Abdu Murray’s, the Amy Orr-Ewing’s, the Sam Allberry’s, and many other fine apologists at RZIM to flourish in their ministry efforts, without having some dark cloud hanging over them, resulting from any possible reproach, driven by controversies surrounding Ravi, that might impede their work for the Gospel. Let us encourage this new generation of apologists to be set free to boldly spread the love and truth of Jesus across our world today!!


Why Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) Should Change Their Name

UPDATE:  February 15, 2021

With the report from RZIM’s law firm released last week, the situation is worse…. far worse than I could have imagined. It makes me sick to my stomach. I agree now, with Glen Scrivener below.  What we need is “root and branch” reform, not *simply* a name change.  I stand admonished.  Thank you, Glen.

ORIGINAL POST:

The recent allegations of inappropriate sexual activity, dating back several years ago, by the late apologist Ravi Zacharias, are heartbreaking. I discovered this latest news several weeks ago about the spa workers on Julie Roys’ blog, which now is news at Christianity Today magazine. I corresponded with the “whistle blower,” Steve Baugham, several years ago, and you can read some of my interactions with him on the Veracity blog.

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias, 2000. Perhaps my favorite Ravi Zacharias book.

My main interest with Ravi Zacharias from several years ago was over the inaccurate promotion of Ravi’s academic credentials by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). I was aware of a sexting controversy involving Ravi as well, but felt like I had nothing to say about it, as the exact details were unknown, due to a non-disclosure agreement that Ravi had with another party.

I personally reached out to a member of RZIM’s team that year, and received a personal phone call, for which I was grateful. My concern back then was that RZIM had delayed in resolving the academic credentials, a matter which should have been resolved within a matter of weeks, but that actually took about 2 years to get rectified. I received assurance that RZIM was doing their due diligence and doing the right thing. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in many of the persons who do great apologetic ministry work with RZIM, so I was grateful that RZIM was taking the steps to put these matters behind them.  May their efforts in building the Kingdom increase.

However, in view of the recent allegations, I believe that now would be a good time to take an additional step, and rename Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, to honor and respect the new generation of Christian apologists, many of whom were personally discipled by the late Ravi Zacharias (Frankly, I think that a name change would be a move that even Ravi would applaud!).

According to the CT article, RZIM has engaged a law firm to investigate these new allegations. I would sincerely hope that these allegations could be proven false, and Ravi’s full legacy could be restored. As a long time enthusiast of Ravi Zacharias, having taught several adult Bible classes using his teaching material, I would greatly welcome that outcome.

Nevertheless, it has bothered me for several years now that Ravi Zacharias had been wrongly put on a pedestal, by many of his supporters. Sadly, I have known of several admirers of Ravi who have doubled-down in defending certain aspects of Ravi, when they really have not done the hard work of actually listening to different points of view, and investigating different perspectives, that conflict with the narrative that Ravi portrayed in his public ministry…. and I am not just talking about the scandals, I am also talking about sincere criticisms of certain apologetic methods and arguments used by Ravi.

On the one hand, Christians should do their very best to defend the honor and reputation of their leaders. The Gospel does cause an offense, and so, we should not be surprised when the Enemy sows seeds of distrust by making false accusations against Christian leaders.

At the same time, Christians should be seekers of the truth. We should be willing to admit when we are wrong, when presented with convincing evidence. We should embrace the truth, even when it might be painful to do so.

The line between defending the reputation of Christian leaders and the pursuit of truth can be sometimes difficult to find. I wrestle with this a lot. Yet President Ronald Reagan’s adage offers some sound wisdom here, “Trust, but verify.”

Some of us can become overly skeptical and fail to trust anyone, other than themselves, which is not the best path to take, considering that we as humans have the unavoidable tendency to deceive ourselves immensely. Christian doctrine has another name for this: it is called “original sin.” Nevertheless, others of us can be so trusting that we fail to take the necessary steps to verify that what our leaders are telling us is indeed truthful and reliable. We need discernment. We need more concentrated study into God’s Word to gain wisdom.

So, what if the latest accusations against Ravi hold true? It would not mean that everything about Ravi’s ministry should be invalidated. If we were to judge everyone on this type of standard, then our Bibles would become very small indeed. Abraham pimped his wife. Moses killed a man in cold blood. David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband killed. These are patriarchs of our faith. The Bible is quite clear that all of us have skeletons in our closet, that we would prefer would just remain there.

Ravi’s career as a Christian apologist offered a display of a number of good arguments for the Christian faith, that personal failings themselves can not undo. The many gifted students of Ravi’s, who are now leading RZIM, need not be lumped together and taken down by any of Ravi’s supposed failings.

Would I continue to recommend Ravi’s books to others?… Mmmm… I am not sure about that….. No matter what, the failures of Ravi’s life should serve as illustrations for up and coming apologists to take heed, and learn some tough lessons, and engender a better sense of accountability.

Let us pray for Ravi’s family and RZIM that things will turn out for the best. Until the investigation makes a conclusion, hard though it will be, I want to do my best to prefer to honor the tradition commonly upheld in American jurisprudence, “Innocent, until proven guilty.”

However, even if Ravi is exonerated from these latest accusations, I am afraid that his legacy has been sufficiently tarnished, that it would not be good for RZIM to continue their work, with the name of Ravi Zacharias so boldly displayed on the masthead. Ministries like RZIM should be focused around a common vision statement, statement of faith, and a shared covenant held by staff/supporters, and not around a particular personality. When a ministry becomes solely attached to the name of a famous, yet ultimately flawed person (which we all are!!), it can easily sink the reputations of others who are not associated with lingering scandal.

Sadly, Protestant evangelicalism has developed a reputation of promoting a type of “celebrity pastor” culture that does more harm than good.  It harms those who follow after such “celebrity pastors.” It reinforces the skepticism and distrust of those who stand outside of the church. Furthermore, the pressures of trying to fit into the role of the “celebrity pastor” is an impossible task for that “celebrity pastor” to fill, which if the CT story is correct, goes a long way in explaining the current controversy involving Ravi Zacharias.

Therefore, changing the name of RZIM to something that more reflects the common vision of purpose of the band of apologists that Ravi once mentored, and who now lead the ministry, would be the prudent thing to do.  Let us not attach ourselves to the legacy of sin-prone human, failing persons. Instead, let us refocus on lifting up the unfailing name of Jesus. To God be the glory.


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