Tag Archives: Ravi Zacharias

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.


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.


Pluralism In Your Face

Editorial comment:

I’m not a political person. Faith means much more to me than politics. I do have strong opinions about the need to keep politics out of practicing and sharing our faith because equating the importance of God and politics is disrespectful to God. And it’s unwise. There is scriptural guidance in the form of an argument from silence—Jesus did not politicize His teachings. At the risk of appearing to taint this ethic, please dismiss the political and constitutional implications of the following material and focus on the core questions.

 

In potentially uncomfortable situations, most of us have some fear of rejection or confrontation that compels us to be silent about our faith. Thinking about it ahead of time can help overcome those fears.

Imagine that you are on the hot seat. Attention is focused on you, and your beliefs are called into question. How would you respond? (If you’ve never been in this position it might be good to ask yourself, seriously, “Why not?”)

Earlier this month, Russell Vought, an evangelical Christian, was testifying during a confirmation hearing, and Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Vought’s beliefs. The following two-minute YouTube clip captures the contentiousness of the incident.

For context, please read what The Atlantic has to report. Pay careful attention to the scriptural citations. If you aren’t aware of the context, you could be inclined more to an opinionated, rather than informed, reaction.

Back to the question. Forgetting about the political and constitutional issues and personalities involved, how would you respond?

Just in case this topic comes up at your water cooler or cocktail party, here are some thoughts to help you prepare an answer.

  1. The teaching of Jesus does not foment hatred, bigotry, or intolerance. Jesus said, directly, the greatest two commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. When questioned about whom He meant by ‘neighbor,’ Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were held to be low-class people in the first century. By including them in the parable, Jesus made a clear point that His followers are to love others broadly and inclusively.
  2. As Christians, we believe the Bible contains the inspired word of God and is the final authority for faith and practice. We rely on what it says and do not have the liberty or right to make up our own brand of Christianity, or to cherry pick proof texts. There are many reasons, objectively and personally, for accepting the Bible as the inspired, holy word of God.
  3. Christians do not have the right to condemn people—we are commanded to love people—but God does have that right. If you really want to understand why, study the Bible. We, the created, are in rebellion against the Creator, and a holy and just God has a plan for the salvation of those who accept His complete sacrifice on our behalf. He has the right to condemn those who reject Him, as Scripture clearly teaches (again, read The Atlantic article).
  4. John 3:16, the most familiar passage of scripture in the New Testament, states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” From this passage, we can see that God is loving and did not discriminate to whom salvation is offered. He offers salvation to the world.
  5. Jesus said directly that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to God the Father except by Him.
  6. The apostle Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament, taught that we are saved by our faith in Jesus, not by our works. While we all know people of every faith and creed who are indeed wonderfully good, salvation is by faith in Jesus alone. Again, we’re not free to make this up—it is directly stated in the Bible. Just because people are ‘good’ does not entitle them to salvation.
  7. Western culture is inebriated with pluralism. We resist anything that might impinge upon personal freedoms—such as a morally-based worldview. Pluralism by its nature appeals to a wide swath of voters and is therefore quite pragmatic in politics. But on logical and spiritual levels, pluralism comes up short.
  8. In logic, there is the law of non-contradiction, which holds that two opposite truth claims cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. “There is either milk in the refrigerator now, or there isn’t,” as Norman Geisler says.
  9. The world’s major religions ALL have opposing truth claims. The nature of truth claims is that they are exclusive.
  10. Christianity teaches that Jesus was crucified and resurrected from the dead. Islam teaches that Jesus was not crucified and therefore did not rise from the dead. Keep it real. Both claims can be false, but both cannot be true. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.” Christianity depends on the objective truth of the Resurrection.
  11. Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses. Buddhists say there is no deity. Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God. Christians believe that God is loving and personal. As Ravi Zacharias says, “The world’s major religions are not fundamentally similar and superficially different, they are fundamentally different and superficially similar.” Most advocates of pluralism don’t take the time to investigate the differences.

Pluralism may be good for getting votes, but it’s an empty and illogical worldview. Although I disagree with those who wish to cast Christianity into a cultural stew with the world’s other religions, my Christian faith compels me to love those who disagree. I wish we could at least all agree on that.


For Those Living in a “Post-Truth” Society: A New Book Co-Authored by Ravi Zacharias

Jesus Among Secular Gods, by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale.

Jesus Among Secular Gods, by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Addresses issues that were missed in Zacharias’ earlier work, and geared towards today’s college student.

(December 8, 2017): PLEASE READ THE VARIOUS UPDATES ON the ENTIRE POST BELOW. Thank you….

When I first read Ravi Zacharias’ book, Jesus Among Other Gods, published in 2000, others and I were encouraged by what we considered to be a very readable exploration into why Jesus Christ is so fundamentally different, in a society that is constantly exposed to conflicting and competing truth-claims. So impressive was the book, that our church made a united effort to bring Ravi Zacharias to our church, and the campus of the College of William and Mary, for a weekend of messages, followed by dynamic public question and answer sessions.

Though I still highly recommend Jesus Among Other Gods, I personally felt that the book lacked something important. Zacharias was great at showing the contradictions between various religious worldviews, but he did not adequately address the question of how one is to live in a world, where such conflicting truth-claims exist in the first place. It is one thing to consider the particular truth-claims of different religions. But why even chose any particular worldview at all? Why not just accept them all?

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias, 2000.

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias, 2000.

For example, so many Christians enter into a relationship with someone who is a professing Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu, with the idea that the other person is “Evil Incarnate.” However, these Christians are often confused when they soon realize that their new Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu friend, is often really a nice person. Are then all religions somehow “true?” An informed response is needed to this question.

Oxford Dictionaries named the term “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year. So, it is absolutely crucial that Christians begin to more clearly think through the relationship between “truth” and the Gospel, and start having better conversations with our neighbors about these issues.

That is why I am really excited by a new book co-authored by Ravi Zacharias, and fellow associate apologist, Vince Vitale, Jesus Among Secular Gods. With chapter titles such as “Atheism,” “Scientism,” “Pluralism,” “Humanism,” “Relativism,” “Hedonism,” and “Love the Truth,” Jesus Among Secular Gods has great potential to be a great discussion starter among our neighbors.

Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale travel the world, speaking before audiences, sharing their faith and answering objections to the Gospel of Christ, through Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  Zacharias is featured on a weekly syndicated radio program, Let My People Think. Below is a 12-minute discussion about the new book. I have not read the book yet, but if you have, please share your review in the comments section below!

UPDATE: December 7, 2017. I am sorry to say that I did not adequately review the video below, before posting. For if I did, I would have caught the fact that Vince Vitale introduces his fellow co-auther as “Dr. Ravi Zacharias.” This is most unfortunate, as I knew that Ravi Zacharias, though clearly a gifted speaker and writer, and a most intelligent, Christ-loving man, has never earned the doctoral equivalent of a PhD, in any field. Ravi has received Honorary Doctorates, but this does not qualify anyone to be called a “Doctor,” especially when one’s ministry field is to students and professors in higher education. I would hope that this was simply an oversight, an honest mistake, on both Dr. Vince Vitale’s (who truly is a “Doctor”) and Mr. Ravi Zacharias’ part. I still have not read the book, but given what I have read before from Ravi, I still think it would be most helpful. Nevertheless, I regret the error on my part. For more information, please read this more recent blog article about this issue.

UPDATE: December 8, 2017. For those who have been following this, as someone who values the work of RZIM, I have had trouble sleeping, and I thought it best to try to reach out to someone at RZIM (this is the biblical way to do it). So, I contacted Vince Vitale directly and expressed my concerns, as this whole episode has been terribly frustrating to me. Thankfully and graciously, Dr. Vince Vitale took the time out of his day, and called me from Oxford (how many times does that happen?). We had a great conversation and I was thoroughly impressed by his integrity.

Vince deeply loves Ravi, and greatly respects him, so it was only natural to address him, in a manner, that would befit showing such respect, to a fine Christian leader.  However, Vince also told me that RZIM recognizes that using “Doctor” in this way is contentious in some circles, especially in academia, and that they desire to aim for complete clarity. From our conversation, it appears that he, and RZIM as a whole, are taking steps, in good-faith, to hear the concerns of me and others and to make sure that the way they speak about credentials is both accurate and unambiguous.

Admittedly, people outside of academia might not care one bit about stuff like this, but when you are trying to minister to faculty and students, like we have in our local community, in a college town, it is important for ministers of the Gospel, to stand above reproach. So, I am very, very glad Vince Vitale personally is taking the right steps forward, and that he has been so generous with me. That is a mark of great character. Thank you, Vince!!!


Keeping It Real

Personal Discipleship Week 2

Click on the images inside this file to link to the online resources. (You may need to adjust your browser settings to allow the links to work, or open it in iBooks, or save it to your desktop and open it with Acrobat Reader.)

(Note: For those interested in the calculations for the precise dating of the first Easter, here is the link to the paper Dr. Ken Petzinger shared with our Personal Discipleship class.)

Truth is not relative. Truth is not—as Ogden Nash so eloquently wrote—that “people believe what they believe they believe.” Truth is not dogma. It is not—as Ravi Zacharias argues—logically inconsistent, empirically inadequate, or experientially irrelevant. Truth is incredibly important. Truth is the reason Jesus Christ was born and came into the world.

“In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
John 18:37c (NIV84)

Okay, okay…Why spend time studying ‘truth’? People who harp on ‘truth’ make me nervous (and sometimes nauseous). Sometimes dangerous ideologies are launched on malformed or manipulative notions of truth. Got it. But objective truth is the proper basis for personal discipleship. Without objective truth, the door is open to wield the Bible as a weapon, perverting the very purpose of Divine revelation. Without objective truth one can hold up the Bible and say with a clear conscience, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” (New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace calls this attitude “bumper sticker theology.”) Among many other problems, that approach has a glaring flaw—an inherent internal focus. In other words, “that settles it (for me).”

Those who ascribe to a “that settles it (for me)” approach to the Bible tend to miss the beauty that comes from understanding how well it can withstand objective, historical, logical, philosophical, and (yes) scientific scrutiny. It takes a great deal of effort to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), but the juice is worth the squeeze.

We don’t tell people what to think on Veracity, but we’re not afraid to share opinions. Rather than sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring challenges to the Bible and the Christian faith, why not take a hard look at these challenges and study the appropriate responses? Could it be that the reason some Christians are unwilling to address atheistic or skeptical objections is that, deep down, they fear the answers might be inadequate? Why upset the applecart when it is settled (for me)? Could it be laziness or complacency?

With objective truth as the basis for personal discipleship, our studies can become rich and full of awesome discoveries. Without it we’re apt to flounder, or even end up spiritually bankrupt. Okay, enough of my testimony.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful and true, yet oftentimes one will ask, “How can it be true that there is only one way?” Odd, isn’t it, that we don’t ask the same questions of the laws of nature or of any assertion that lays claim to truth. We are discomfited by the fact that truth, by definition, is exclusive. That is what truth claims are at their core. To make an assertion is to deny its opposite. Rather than complain that there is only one way, shouldn’t we be delighted that there is one way?”
Ravi Zacharias, Think Again – Deep Questions, 28 August 2014

In addition to J. Warner Wallace’s excellent video on The Case For Truth, there are two essays I would recommend for anyone interested in personal discipleship. The first is a brief blog post by Ravi Zacharias entitled “Deep Questions.” The second is a paper delivered by J.P. Moreland at the Evangelical Theological Society, November 18, 2004. Click on the images below to read these essays.

Ravi-Zacharias: Truth

J. P. Moreland: Truth


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