Warning to friends of Ravi Zacharias, the following is not pretty!
The following is outlined on the Wartburg watch which has highlighted some issues following an announcement from Ravi Zacharias regarding sexting a married woman.
Yesterday, while Deb and I were at a performance of The Messiah at the incredible Duke Chapel, I received a number of messages alerting me that Ravi Zacharias (well, most likely his attorneys) had responded to his critics.
This post will deal with my response to Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique as well as the responses from some atheists and a sufficiently well known and accurately credentialed Christian.
All quotes with (CT) will be quoting directly from the CT post.
Why do some Christian leaders and pastors desire to be known as *Doctor?*
What in the world is wrong with “just” having a Masters of Divinity from an accredited seminary?
Many Christian pastors and leaders ,who have most influenced my Christian walk, are those who have a Masters of Divinity degree from accredited seminaries. The Deebs have noticed that there are a large number of pastors and leaders who use honorary degrees as an excuse to place *Doctor* in front of their names. Others who do so have received degrees from unaccredited colleges for work that did not include dissertations or research, etc.
I wonder how many of them who use that title know that, behind their backs, knowledgeable people think they are being tacky. Did you know that you can get an honorary degree online for no work and a minimal donation? Google it. Here is one to get you started. Legally Receive an Honorary Doctorate When You Make a Donation.
As such, the honorary doctoral degrees awarded by our institute can be used and displayed worldwide, as long as you follow the guidelines given here. We must also ask that if you are conferred such an award, that you live up to the standards that such a title presumes, such as upholding the values of integrity, morality, and respect and compassion for others.
Real doctorates take work-long hard work over years.
To pretend that one has completed such an endeavor is a lie and unbecoming of a Christian.
TWW will continue to call out those with pretend doctorates. Let’s bring back the virtue of humility to the office of pastor as well as to Christian leaders.
Why Zacharias’ response to the degree critique is inadequate.
(CT)“In earlier years, ‘Dr.’ did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates,” stated RZIM in its own statement, also issued Sunday. “However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.”
I particularly smiled at the use of the word *evolve in this comment by CT.
Zacharias’s biography has also evolved on other sites, including publisher Penguin/Random House, which within the past week replaced a line that said he “holds three doctorate degrees” with a reference to the honorary doctorates instead.
The statement claimed that Zacharias never *knowingly misled people.”
Neither Ravi Zacharias nor Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has ever knowingly misstated or misrepresented Ravi’s credentials. When it has been brought to our attention that something was stated incorrectly with regard to Ravi’s background, we have made every effort to correct it.
John Stackhouse refutes Zacharias’ statement that *every effort as been made to correct the record.”
Here are Stackhouse’s credentials.
John Stackhouse was educated in history and religious studies at Mount Carmel Bible School in Alberta, Queen’s University in Ontario (B.A., First Class Honours), Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois (M.A., with Highest Honors), and The University of Chicago (Ph.D.).
Formerly a professor of European history at Northwestern College in Iowa, a professor of religion at the University of Manitoba, and the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College (University of British Columbia), he now serves Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development
Stackhouse had this to say in a Facebook post.
I’ve been worried for 20 years about someone finally doing exactly this: calling Ravi Zacharias to account for inflating his academic credentials.
He’s certainly not the only one who has done it, and this article is harsher than it has to be. But just as God has used RZ to bless people in positive ways, may his shortcomings also stand as instruction to the rest of us who, apparently like him and certainly like me, are tempted to make more of ourselves and our little accomplishments than we ought.
In a comments under that post, Stackhouse claims that he had approached RZIM on at least two occasions on the matter.
And you are somehow missing my testimony that I DID communicate with RZIM, and more than once, about this issue.
Major change to Zacharias’ bio at RZIM website as of 3 December 17
I don’t feel like beating a dead horse so please read our outline of the number of false comments on Zacharias’ old bio at *Mr.* Ravi Zacharias Adds Pizzazz to His Bio and the Christian Industrial Complex Imposes the Cone of Silence.
Dee found this claim particularly amusing.
He claimed to have studied *quantum physics* at Cambridge under John Polkinghorne which is not true.
On Friday, I sent an email to MarK DeMoss’s public relations firm which handles RZIM, inquiring specifically about this claim by RZ. I did not get a response.
He has addressed writers of the peace accord in South Africa and military officers at the Lenin Military Academy and the Center for Geopolitical Strategy in Moscow.
However, I looked at his bio yesterday morning and found that it had significantly changed. This was at the bottom of the resume.
As of that posting, a number of former statements appear to have been removed and the bio appears less specific. I noticed that Russia was not listed in the countries in which he has ministered. So that may be the response to my question…I did find it rather interesting that RZIM, on this past weekend was offering a course for business leaders dealing with integrity in the workplace.
Now, lets’ take a look at a few things surrounding this controversy that I believe are important.
Did Ravi Zacharias flat out admit to the allegations?
No……One thing we like to do at TWW is to show our readers how to analyze statements by churches on websites so they will know what they are getting when they attend such a church.
In this instance, one must read between the lines to get at what is really being said.
Remember, this was surely written by lawyers with the goal of protecting Zacharias from potential litigation in the future. With that in mind, read this statement made on CT.
(CT) “I have learned a difficult and painful lesson through this ordeal,” Zacharias said. “I failed to exercise wise caution and to protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I have acknowledged this to my Lord, my wife, my children, our ministry board, and my colleagues.”
Zacharias appears to be saying that he knows it looks bad but nothing happened on his part. He admits to nothing.
The “I’m from India and that is how we do it there” excuse gets roasted by The Friendly Atheist.
A post over at The Friendly Atheist is the reason why TWW believes in blunt honesty by Christians in the public arena. Zacharias has hurt his witness. You know, those verses about *the light on the hill* stuff. He should not continue to downplay the breadth of his falsehoods and the apparent lack of integrity.
From Ravi Zacharias Lied About His Credentials, and It’s All Your Fault, Zacharias gets called on the carpet for his “I’m from India and that is how we do it there” approach.
The Sexting Scandal
A story is being presented that appears to say that the victim tried to extort money from Zacharias just like she and her husband did from another pastor. Did you believe it without checking it?
Years ago, I was sitting in one of my final women’s Bible studies when a woman claimed that Phil Donahue interviewed some Proctor and Gamble business leaders who claimed they were Satan worshippers and we needed to pray about this. Some of the women agreed.
So, Dee, starting to gather up her pencils to make a quick exit, looked at her and said “Did you hear it? When and on what day? ” She assured me that it was from a *reliable* source.
I announced to her and everyone else that Christians shouldn’t lie and that they better be glad that a P&G official wasn’t sitting nearby because they were starting to sue people who were passing this story around. I then said Christian shouldn’t pass on nonsense and marched out.
Christians looooove these conspiracy theories and love to pass on information that they didn’t even check out. Folks, your Christian brothers and sisters, even celebrity Christians can lie and act stupid.
Thankfully, there are some sharp cookies at TWW who looked into this story. Have you actually read the stuff about what happened at the church long ago? All sorts of people have been commenting on it.
In fact, what happened is so interesting that TWW might look into it further because we are doing a long series on biblical counseling and this situation fits into some of that weirdness.
Here is what was claimed in the CT post.
Zacharias’s lawyers noted that the couple previously sued an Ontario pastor and his Christian Reformed church, alleging he had coerced them “into making certain ill-advised loans and investments” and seeking $1 million in damages. Their 2008 lawsuit was dropped; the pastor was temporarily suspended, but his church and denomination ultimately stood by him.
What actually happened?
Here is part of a timeline from one of my readers, Charis.
“This is one of many instances of this sort of diagnosis being shared from the pulpit. In some cases the diagnosis’ were for disorders that even trained psychologists contend are very difficult to diagnose with any accuracy.”
“John Visser a director of Essence Communications Ltd. and pastor of Maranatha, announces from the pulpit that low cash flow was making payments on their business loan to the bank impossible and unless something happened within a week or so they would face insolvency”
Which, from the first article – it was referenced that Bradley Thompson was making a $300-500,000 loan to Visser for his personal business. Who wants to place bets that Essence Comm LTD was that business. Oh, but wait…there’s more.
“It is suggested by an Essence executive that $500,000-$600,000 would be needed to pull the company out of trouble.”
But WHY is the Pastor Visser asking for money for his personal business ventures FROM THE PULPIT?! …..Odd.
And it gets weirder:
“The money collected from the members and their businesses was to be deposited to a separate numbered company using a C.I.B.C. business account. The numbered company was set up by David Visser through his lawyer. All the money collected was supposed to go through the C.I.B.C. account for the protection of the investors. Once the funds were in place, they could be transferred into Essence for paying off the debt. Brad Thompson and Bill Barrett were signing officers for the new numbered company. Only approximately $70,000, of the money collected was given to Brad and Bill to be deposited. The $70,000 that was deposited was eventually invested into Rock Media. The balance of the collected money remains unaccounted for.”
My oh my. Unaccounted for? Will wonders never cease.
How about a little cooking of the books? And,hey – where did this new business come from. And WHO’S RUNNING THE CHURCH? There is a church here, right? O, wait, silly me – they voted to run it like a business – CEO and everything a few years back. All documented on this timeline. In fact, a hordes of people left the church because of it if I’m not mistaken.
Then…everything went into bankruptcy and stuff hit the fan. Visser steps down right before Essence declares bankruptcy – after raising more money to shore up Rock Media which is also in financial trouble. Visser’s son takes over Essence. And then:
“In the fall of 2007 the CIBC asks Brad Thompson to close the Rock Media account and bank elsewhere with any accounts relating to the Vissers or their companies. Shortly after this event, Mr. Thompson received a surprise from Hasting County Sheriff’s office.
It was a writ of seizure of personal assets for non-payment of government remittance by Rock media. According to Brad he was surprised to find $85,000 in remittances was not submitted to the government for the 6 months Rock Media had been in operation.”
Folks, please do your reading. It is so easy today with Google. Also, please read the links that you send me to make sure they say what you want them to say…
Mr Zacharias and the lawsuit
I am not going to be judge and jury on this one but it is vital to carefully read what is being said and what is not being said.
- At no point did Zacharias deny that he was texting with the woman.
- He claimed he would now have to put some safeguards on his social media accounts.
- He did not deny the ending of his life
That sounds pretty clear to me. In other words, he knew things were getting out of hand. Note that he does not say when he stopped it.
(CT) alleged that his “friendly correspondence” with the wife evolved over the course of 2016 to her sending him “unwanted, offensive, sexually explicit language and photographs.”
A few people claimed that RZ sued the couple first so he was leading this lawsuit thing against them. Never forget the first communication involving a lawyer came from the victim.
(CT) In April 2017, the couple sent a letter through their attorney demanding millions of dollars in exchange for keeping the messages a secret.
After that, Zacharias filed the lawsuit. At this point, he knew that they would proceed so this response was to be expected.
(CT) Last month, Zacharias settled a lawsuit with a Canadian couple he claimed had attempted to extort him over messages he had exchanged with the wife.
The federal lawsuit—which was filed by Zacharias, not the couple—alleged that his “friendly correspondence” with the wife evolved over the course of 2016 to her sending him “unwanted, offensive, sexually explicit language and photographs.”
In April 2017, the couple sent a letter through their attorney demanding millions of dollars in exchange for keeping the messages a secret.
Zacharias’ lawyers were obviously concerned that the victim would claim he abused his clergy privilege with the woman or they would not have made the following statement.
Make no mistake about this. They were concerned or this would not have been added.
(CT) Zacharias’s lawsuit stated that “there was no confidential and/or fiduciary relationship” between him and the woman, as would exist between a pastor or counselor and a counselee. Lawyers emphasized that Zacharias is not a pastor or counselor, and that RZIM is not a church and does not provide formal counseling or therapy.
There is not, nor will there be, any statement by either party about the specifics of the settlement. Here is my take.
- Zacharias has lots of money.
- His lawyers could have brought incredible pressure to bear on this couple.
- Yet, he chose to settle it.
- I am going to assume this occurred before either party was subject to being deposed.
All of the evidence would have been required to be submitted this point and there were lots and lots of emails.
Why would Zacharias (need to) settle a frivolous lawsuit that smelled of extortion?
Zacharias claims to have attempted suicide in his past. Maybe there is something to his alleged email threatening to do so.
Here is the claims from Ravi Zacharias Tells His Life Story Including His Conversion In YFC
He grew up in India along with four siblings. Ravi did not do well in school, as he would rather play cricket. Because he often disappointed his father, he was frequently beaten. His sisters convinced him to go to a YFC rally with Sam Wolgemuth as the speaker. Ravi was the only one to walk forward to receive Christ that night. Later, however, Ravi attempted suicide. YFC’s Fred David visited him in the hospital, read Scripture to him, and Ravi left the hospital a transformed 17-year-old. Later he won a preaching contest, got more education, and has written many books on apologetics.
Now use this link to go to the posted emails which appear to say he is threatening suicide.RAVI ZACHARIAS SEX SCANDAL – SUICIDE THREAT EMAILS.
Zacharias has discussed attempting suicide in the past. I never mess with suicide threats. RZIM-if this email was truly sent from Zacharias, he needs help! Get him an expert counselor.
Zacharias is an apologist for the faith and debates atheists, but atheists have noted his false credentials.
One of my distraught readers had this to say:
Bottom line is this entire method of the way you on this website presented this information, including completely unverified information, as if it was true, and judged and sentenced someone without that information is wrong and has nothing to do in any way shape or form with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Mr. Tumbleweed said, we are not even called to pull up the tares, lest we pull up the wheat at the same time. You’ve got an entire crew of tare pullers here, and you know what you’re doing? You’re pulling up the wheat with it. Maybe you should consider that.
This is not edifying for anyone’s sake, this is not saving anyone from the pit of hell, this is a complete diversion. I’m bowing out.
God bless you guys.
Steven does not seem to understand that fighting for the truth, even when it is painful, is part of being a Christian and part of our witness to a watching world. Zacharias’ actions in this respect are not saving anyone from the pit of hell. In fact, it hurts all of us. Here is the proof.
Zacharias has debated Richard Dawkins. However, it appears that Dawkins was aware of Zacharias’ false credentials. What do you think that says for RZ’s witness? We are to be known for our love and integrity, not our clever arguments. Notice the date on this tweet-2 years ago! Yet it was ignored by a ministry that claims to take on the atheist world view.
The Friendly Atheist , Hemant Mehta, who actually is a rather friendly fellow.
The Friendly Atheist posted Ravi Zacharias Lied About His Credentials, and It’s All Your Fault. I apologize for the political reference but it is part of the narrative. He calls out Zacharias for his equivocal apology. Folks, is this being a light to the world?
Steven Baughman of Raviwatch, who is also the Friendly Banjo Atheist, is a really friendly guy!
Here is what he has to say about himself. Notice what he says about Zacharias.
My name is Steve Baughman. I am a San Francisco lawyer, musician and some-time-part-time philosophy graduate student. I am an atheist and I have been known to post videos at YouTube as the Friendly Banjo Atheist.
In my studies I have come to see that some of the best philosophers are Christians. Atheists who deny this are either ignorant or blinded by anger. When I find a brilliant and articulate defender of the faith I tend to pay attention. Around early 2015 I happened upon RZ. He was not only articulate but had the Oxford and Cambridge education and multiple doctorate degrees to deserve a fair listen.
Plus, he made an argument about the prophetic inspiration of the Book of Daniel that ruffled my world view. If RZ was right about Daniel, (and his impressive academic credentials made him all the more persuasive to me,) I would need to reconsider my atheism.
It took many hours of reading and contacting Old Testament scholars to see that RZ’s Daniel argument was fundamentally dishonest. Click here to watch my video on the issue.
I wondered why so qualified an academic would resort to bogus tactics of persuasion. I began digging and quickly found that RZ was a pretender. He had no doctorates, not even an academic M.A. He had never been a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University” nor a “Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University.” In fact, without exception, every single impressive academic claim he made about himself was either false or grossly exaggerated.
Parting thoughts: Zacharias demonstrates that he is a risk taker with his bio. He could be a risk taker in his private life as well.
This is hard for me to say because I have admired Ravi Zacharias in the past.
I am sorry but there is nothing in this statement that makes me believe Zacharias’ account. His bio has been beefed up for years. He did not change his bio even when allegedly confronted about his claims by both Christian academicians and atheists. If he truly cared about the Richard Dawkins of the world, he should have responded and done the right thing 2 years ago.
This man has taken risks on his bio which leads me to believe that he could take risks on social median and risks in his relationship with people. Nothing has been presented that makes me think otherwise and I am not happy about it because I really, really wanted to be proven wrong on this one.
How to be a light on the hill when confronted with your sin.
- Preach the Gospel. Admit that all of us are sinners, including you, and all of us need the grace of Jesus.
- Simply say “I’m sorry.” No excuses or caveats. Ask for people to pray for you
- Be humble, always…
- Stop pretending you are something that you are not. Be real. Would things have been different if RZ had never said he had a doctorate? What difference did it make? My guess is that he would still be beloved, rich and famous.
- Truth matters, even when it hurts.
- Even your most favorite Christian is capable of sinning badly. Accept it.
Let me end with this observation by The Friendly Atheist which mentions Joel Osteen in a positive light for one reason.This is why truth matters.
The strangest thing about his biographical lies, as I’ve written before, is that Zacharias never needed to make anything up! He’s a compelling speaker who shares the Christian myth very effectively. You don’t need a Ph.D. to do that. (I could say the same about Joel Osteen, who talks very openly about how he never attended seminary or went through any formal training to be a preacher.) But that wasn’t good enough for him.
He made things up on his bio for no reason at all. And plenty of people believed him. That should tell you everything you need to know about how seriously to take his commentaries on Christianity.