Thoughts on Ravi Zacharias and Credibility

I have been a defender of Ravi Zacharias in his recent troubles. I encourage you to check out my posts What We Can Learn From the Ravi Zacharias Credential Controversy and Ravi Zacharias, Credentials and Perspective.

I actually think the controversy about being called “Doctor” when only having an honorary doctorate is rather innocent. But other issues that have come up are more serious.

Ravi has long claimed to have studied at Cambridge and to have been a professor at Oxford. But this is not completely true. Watch the video below.

Please note that this video was compiled by an atheist but the video speaks for itself. I have heard and read Ravi make these claims. The truth is that Ravi audited courses at a college in Cambridge and had an honorary position at Oxford and was never on their payroll.

Is this just an atheist making false accusations? Ravi Zacharias has responded to these charges not with denial but with an “apology” and a clarification. You can read it here. Ravi has also updated his CV to reflect the more accurate version of his background. He has acknowledged that his previous CV was not accurate.

This is bad. Really bad. Don’t get me wrong. I like Ravi and I think he has done great things for the kingdom of God. I have enjoyed his books and lectures. But he made a big mistake by exaggerating his credentials.

Why should we care about this? The church has recently reacted strongly (rightly so) about about the sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels. Some might say that the things that Ravi has done are not near as serious as Hybels. But isn’t one of the foremost Christian apologist being dishonest about the facts a serious issue? Isn’t truth a core issue?

I’m not condemning Ravi for what he has done. I have no idea of his exact motivations for exaggerating. I suspect it began with innocent motives. But I also believe that evangelicals need to keep our own accountable. What Ravi has done will have serious ramifications.

I don’t think that Ravi Zacharias’s ministry is over. But I hope that he will offer a more sincere apology than he has so far. He needs to admit the seriousness of what has taken place. God has used him and will continue to use him. But damage has been done.

I encourage you to also read this interview on Randal Rauser’s blog. Don’t take Steve Baughman’s word for it but check out the facts yourself.

Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.


Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week.


Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts I have come across. Go and check them out.


Share

Ravi Zacharias, Credentials and Perspective

I have already blogged about the controversy over Ravi Zacharias and the exaggeration of his credentials.

To be honest, I think that RZIM was simply sloppy and careless about this and they should have known better. But there is something that we should consider, something I haven’t heard people talking about.

What kind of an apologist is Ravi Zacharias?

What I mean by that, is what other apologists would we compare him to? Would we compare Ravi Zacharias to apologists such as William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga or to apologists such as Tim Keller and Josh McDowell? I would suggest the latter.

I don’t think that anyone who has heard Ravi Zacharias speak or read his books would ever mistake him for one of the top Christian philosophers or scholars in the world.

This is not a criticism of Ravi at all. Ravi has had a huge impact on the world, both in intelligently proclaiming the gospel and organizing other apologists into an effective ministry. Thousands and thousands of people have been touched by his ministry and no controversy can take that away. I consider him to be the Billy Graham of apologetics and that is a high complement.

But the ministry that Ravi has had has not depended on advanced graduate degrees. He doesn’t need to have a PhD to do what he does. Ravi Zacharias is an apologetic-preacher and evangelist and he is sufficiently trained for that ministry.

I bring this up to argue that while RZIM may have gotten careless, Ravi has never presented himself as more than he is. It is unlikely that the use of “doctor” was meant as deliberate deception because he has never taken the role of someone who needed to be a doctor.

This is not meant to excuse any mistakes but we should really look at this controversy within its proper context.




Share

What We Can Learn From the Ravi Zacharias Credential Controversy

Ravi ZachariasFirst, I want to say I have the utmost respect for Ravi Zacharias. He has done much good for both Christian apologetics and the kingdom of God in general.

Unfortunately, Ravi has recently been involved in some controversy. I will not comment here on the couple who attempted to extort him, as I believe that he responded appropriately to that event.

But I do believe that something can be said about the questions concerning his credentials. The controversy stems from his use of the title “Dr.” even though he holds honorary doctorates and not earned doctorates. There have also been questions about his exact activity studying at Cambridge University.

I don’t believe that Ravi ever set out to deceive anyone. To be fair, Ravi would not be the first honorary doctor to use the title. How many times have we heard people address Dr. Billy Graham? The confusion about Cambridge is more concerning.

How much of this should be placed on Ravi in terms of responsibility? Ravi is part of a larger organization and I’m sure he doesn’t write all his copy. Plus many of the references to his credentials have been by publishers and others outside of RZIM. Each of these groups are responsible for marketing Ravi and promoting him as an authority. Having said that, we are all ultimately responsible for being accurately represented and avoiding all error.

From everything I have read, Ravi and the rest of RZIM are doing everything to make sure that information is accurate from now on. I’m satisfied that they are taking the right steps and have explained past mistakes.

But what can we learn from this?

There is always a temptation to self-promote. We are encouraged to build our platform. These things are not necessarily bad. I include my CV here on my website, so that my readers can know a bit about me.

What we need to remember is that especially in the area of apologetics, people are looking for any excuse to discredit us. Something similar happened with James White and criticisms about his use of “Dr.” with earned doctorates from the non-accredited Columbia Evangelical Seminary. I have no problem with White’s education or with CES and his research reflects his studies. But people used this against him and attempted to dismiss his work based on the lack of accreditation of CES.

Is this fair? No it isn’t. Like White, the quality of Ravi Zacharias’s work doesn’t depend on whether his doctorates were earned or honorary. They should be judged on their own merits.

The lesson for us is to anticipate people’s criticism and when it comes to self-promotion, we should err on the side of humility. I’m a firm believer in higher education. There is a reason why I have three masters and am just finishing a doctorate. But I do not intend to promote myself based on the letters after my name. I want to be judged by what I actually write and teach.

The temptation to pad or slightly exaggerate our credentials will always be there. Without any motivation to explicitly deceive, we want to be heard and want our voices to rise above the noise. With such temptation, we should fight extra hard to anticipate the consequences.

I’m thankful for the work of Ravi Zacharias and I hope that we can all learn this one more lesson from him.




Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts I came across this week.


Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that are worth checking out.


Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.


Share

Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.


Share

Learn How To Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century

In this video, Ravi Zacharias shares on what apologetics needs to look like in the twenty-first century.


Share

Understanding the Trinity

Orthodox Christianity includes an understand of God as a Trinity. There is one God, who is three persons. This is one of the most difficult doctrines for people to understand. Here are a number videos that seek to help explain the Trinity.


Share

Beyond Opinion

Beyond OpinionRavi Zacharias (ed.), Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007. xx + 360 pp. Pbk.

Ravi Zacharias is one of the most well known apologists of today.  Even if one does not agree with his apologetic method, it is difficult to not respect his impact both in his own ministry and that of the organization he has founded.  Perhaps Ravi Zacharias’ most enduring legacy will not be what he has done himself but the network that he developed of both experienced and younger apologists.  Beyond Opinion reflects that legacy, containing essays by a number of those Ravi Zacharias has been working with.  The book has three sections: 1) Giving an Answer, 2) Internalizing the Questions and Answers, and 3) Living Out the Answers.

The first section begins with a chapter on postmodern challenges to the Bible by Amy Orr-Ewing, who sees much hope for the power of the Bible to speak into today’s culture.  Alister McGrath presents the challenges from atheism, drawing on both research and his own experience as a former atheist.  There are some promising opportunities as well as serious challenges from youth culture, as Alison Thomas explains in her chapter.  One of the great concerns for many is the impact of Islam, and Sam Solomon presents those in his informative essay.  L.T. Jeyachandran deals with the challenges of eastern religions, seeing great hope for those followers to find their aspirations fulfilled in Christ.  Challenges from science are summarized by John Lennox, who deals with the presuppositions of all scientists, secular and Christian.  Michael Rumsden looks at the common misconceptions about Christianity and how Christians can respond through conversational apologetics.  Joe Boot uses Augustine’s apologetic method to address the broader cultural and philosophical challenges.  Ravi Zacharias addresses the concerns of many when he looks at the existential challenges of evil and suffering.  The first section is concluded with a look at cross-cultural challenges by I’Ching Thomas.

The second section begins with L.T. Jeyachandran presenting the Trinity as a paradigm for spiritual transformation.  Stuart McAllister deals with a surpising subject as he looks at the role of doubt and persecution in spiritual transformation.  Danielle DuRant works through the idolatry, denial and self-deception that people encounter on their journey with God.  The third section contains one chapter: Ravi Zacharias presenting the church’s role in apologetics and the development of the mind.

Like any edited volume, each chapter varies in quality by author.  Some chapters are quite simple and some readers acquainted with apologetics will find little new.  Others reflect a greater scholarship.  There is also variety in the approaches.  For example, Sam Solomon takes a very strong stand against Islam, while L.T. Jeyachandran seems much more open in embracing those from eastern religions.

If one is looking for in-depth treatments of specific areas of apologetics, they will not find it in this volume.  What one will find is a snapshot of the state of apologetics at the beginning of the twenty-first century.  The chapters focus on the current trends, with both challenges and opportunities. The final chapter by Ravi Zacharias is particularly helpful.  Zacharias takes the reader on a tour of his journey as an apologist, sharing the things that worked and did not work.  It is an important moment as Zacharias passes the baton, not just to another famous apologist, but to the church in general.  The book is valuable, if only for this chapter.

Beyond Opinion is a great book for introducing people to apologetics and the various issues related to it.  However, this book is also valuable to specialists who, getting caught up in their own specific area, need to be reminded of the bigger picture.  This book is a helpful resource for the church as it takes up its role in defending the faith in a skeptical world.

Stephen J. Bedard

Share

What Podcasts Do I Listen To?

Earphones

Image by pixaby

I drive a lot. We do everything outside of the city we live in. We don’t even go to church in the same city. Because of all that time in the car, it is nice to listen to podcasts.

I thought I would share the podcasts that I listen to. There are other great podcasts available, even ones that I have subscribed to. But I have had to limit them to make the number manageable. They are not in any particular order.

Reasonable Faith – The apologetics podcast of William Lane Craig.

Just Thinking – Mostly apologetics-related sermons by Ravi Zacharias.

Right Reason – A podcast by philosopher Glenn Andrew Peoples.

History of Philosophy (without any gaps) – A very interesting history of philosophy, not from any religious perspective.

Philosophy Bites – Interviews with some of the top philosophers. Often from an atheist perspective.

I don’t listen to it any more because it has been completed, but one of my favourite podcasts was the History of Rome.

I can’t help but mention my own podcast, Hope’s Reason: A Podcast of Discipleship. I think it is good, so go and check it out.

 

Share

Unapologetically Apologetic: A Conversation With Andy Bannister

I first met Andy Bannister when he was doing some lectures at Tyndale University College. I was impressed with how he communicated but even more so with his content. I have been able to hear him a number of times since and I always learn something. As a Canadian apologist myself, I am thankful for what Andy is doing in Canada through RZIM Canada. Andy is the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an and The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist.

Could you share a bit of your background and how you came to faith?

I grew up in a Christian home in England and first made a public commitment to Christ aged about 13 at a youth camp. I then kind of bumbled along in my Christian faith until I was 18, when I took a gap year and went to work for a church in the far north of England for ten months. That experience was transformative as it forced me to learn to trust in God in so many varied and different ways, as we were thrown in at the deep end on everything from youth ministry to street evangelism. I think every young Christian should be encouraged to step beyond their comfort zone: it’s faith-making.

The next major piece of my spiritual journey came in the mid-1990s. The church I was attending had the bright idea of sending teams of young adults to Europe for a series of summer missions and I ended up co-leading the team to Spain to do beach evangelism—which really is as much fun as it sounds. One of the mission teams was going to Turkey and so as part of the training week, a session on Islam was organised.

Now I’d never heard anything about Islam, but the speaker that morning was one of the most dynamic, the most engaging I’ve ever heard—his name was Jay Smith, now a close friend. Jay led a ministry at a place in London called Speakers’ Corner—famous as being the “world centre of free speech.” Every Sunday afternoon, anybody can go along to Speakers’ Corner and stand on a ladder or a soapbox and speak about anything—religion, politics, sport, you name it. On sunny afternoons, Speakers’ Corner attracts thousands of visitors—it’s a huge tourist attraction.

Well, Jay was using Speakers’ Corner as a platform to preach to Muslims (who were using it themselves to preach Islam). After his seminar we got chatting and Jay said to me: “Hey, Andy, why don’t you come along to Speakers’ Corner next week and see what we do?” Well, it sounded fun, so the next week I took the train into central London, arrived at Speakers’ Corner and discovered that Jay’s understanding of the words “come and see what we do” meant “stand on a stepladder next to me and preach to 300 Muslims.”

To say that those 300 Muslims took me to pieces that afternoon is to flirt casually with understatement. They ate me alive, firing questions at me like a machine gun, questions I’d never thought about, let alone had answers to. They attacked everything I held dear and I got down from the stepladder with my head reeling. I went home, my head still spinning and laid awake most the night wrestling with what had happened even wondering if I ought to become a Muslim—after all, they had all the answers and all the questions, I had nothing. I tossed and turned and tossed some more and about 3am in the morning, my long-suffering wife finally poked me in the ribs and muttered “Why are you tossing and turning and keeping us both awake?” I shared my sad little story and her sage advice was: “Why don’t you try reading a book. Ideally in the morning.” Wise words. And so the next morning I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought my first book on apologetics—I believe it was Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I read and read and read, devouring books, and went back to Speakers’ Corner the next week, with answers to every question. And the Muslims had new questions—and they humiliated me all over again. And so we repeated the exercise, each week, for the next few months. But God used Speakers’ Corner to do something: to give me a love of apologetics, evangelism, sharing my faith, answering questions, and a love of Muslims, too, by the way.

But God did something else through the process: he showed me that I had an academic streak. Nobody in my family had ever been to university and I’d never thought about before. One thing led to another and I eventually took a degree in theology and then, in a very curious turn of events, a PhD in Qur’anic Studies. During my time doing the PhD, I came across Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, started doing bits and pieces with them in Europe, and then got posted to Canada.

What do you see as some of the differences between the Church in the UK and Canada?

The secularism in the UK is older and more advanced and so the Church has been wrestling through how to respond for longer than the Church in Canada. I think that has led to the UK church being more organised and more energised: apologetics is taken more seriously, mission and evangelism more seriously.

That’s not to say the Canadian church is asleep in those areas: but I still think a lot of churches haven’t even begun responding to the new cultural situation. One of the effects of that in the UK has been that nominal Christianity has been largely burnt off, meaning that if somebody tells you they attend church, that’s a pretty clear sign they’re actually a Christian. Canada is more similar to the USA, in that church going still has a cultural component.

A further related aspect would be church unity: it breaks my heart how disunited the Church can be here in Canada. I could tell you story after story of churches or organisations refusing to work together, for fear the other party will “steal their sheep”. We went through that stage in the UK, but I think the British churches are now moving beyond it to a recognition that if we don’t work together or stand together, we fall together. I guess I could sum up the differences by saying I fear much of the Canadian Church is asleep, whereas European evangelicals are now rubbing their eyes and waking up.

One last difference I would note: the whole “religion and politics” piece plays out differently here in Canada (and as a relative newcomer, I’m still learning some of the differences). As a European, I see Canada culturally sitting halfway between Europe and the USA: “More American than most Canadians realise, and more European than most Americans realise.” That shapes a number of issues, one of which being that in the British church, there’s a bit less tendency to play the culture wars game. (We tried it, and we lost). I think we always need to ensure that our non-Christian friends and the culture generally know what the Church is for, not just what we’re against.

What is your role with RZIM?

I’m the Canadian Director and Lead Apologist. My role is growing and developing the ministry here (we’ve grown about four-fold in my five years here) and taking on speaking, writing and broadcast engagements. As a ministry, our primary focus is evangelism, not apologetics (we see apologetics purely as a means to an end) so I’m always working hard to ensure we’re in front of as many non-Christian audiences as possible: whether that’s open forums, or university talks, or media interviews, or TV shows (like our recent Burning Questions documentary). It’s a fast-paced, challenging job, but it’s where God called me and I love it.

Why is apologetics important?

Every Christian has an apologetic, the only question is whether it’s a good one. “Apologetics” simply means “giving a reason” and if we can’t give a reason for our Christian faith, we’re in trouble. Biblical faith is faith that has reasons. If somebody asks you, “Why are you a Christian?” you need to be able to say why. In a culture in which there are a thousand and more different options, from atheism to other religions, we need to be able explain why Jesus.

I believe it was Blaise Pascal who said that you can’t argue somebody to faith (a common misconception about apologetics), evidence and arguments help create a climate in which faith is possible. Too many Churches have neglected to help their members think through how both to listen and to answer the questions of our culture, our friends, neighbours, colleagues and classmates.

Apologetics is also important to address the many questions that Christians themselves often have. I see this so often in university students, especially those who are former Christians. You explore why they left their faith and it was often because of nagging questions that were never addressed. So apologetics is vital for evangelism and for discipleship.

How can the Canadian Church integrate apologetics into local church ministry?

First, by partnering with organisations like RZIM and others who can help bring evangelism-undergirded-by-apologetics to their communities. Not everybody is called to be a specialist in everything. RZIM is a resourcing organisation—we exist to resource and equip others.

Second, I think pastors should think about integrating apologetics into their sermons. (Tim Keller is a great example of how to do this well). If you’re preaching on a passage where, for instance, Jesus does a miracle, why not use that as an opportunity to talk about how we can believe in miracles in an age that tells us that miracles are impossible. Weave apologetics into the Sunday sermon.

And then, third, I think churches should be weaving apologetics into their children’s, youth and Sunday school programmes as part of the DNA. Apologetics should not be an optional add on: it should be integral, for any Christian who claims to take faith in Christ seriously. Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul and mind”. We often preach/teach the first two. Let’s ensure we don’t neglect the third.

Thank you Andy.

 

Share

Who Are the Five Most Influential Apologists Today?

I need to make myself clear here. There are others that have been more influential in previous generations. There are others who may have more degrees or who get invited to more apologetics conferences. But taking everything into consideration, I believe these are the five most influential apologists that are active today. I would love to see your list.

1. William Lane Craig – Craig is one of the most well known apologists active today. He is especially known for his debates. He is particularly gifted in philosophy, specifically the philosophy of science.

2. Ravi Zacharias – I consider Zacharias to be the Billy Graham of apologists. He has a gift of building bridges, even having the opportunity to speak at the Mormon Tabernacle. Zacharias is the best example of a solid apologetic preacher.

3. Stephen Meyer – Meyer is one of the premier proponents of Intelligent Design. He has been fighting an uphill battle as many consider ID to be a sly way of getting six day creationism into the schools. Meyer is able to meet evolutionary scientists on their own level.

4. Greg Koukl – Koukl is best known for his radio show and podcast Stand to Reason. Koukl is gifted at translating what the philosophers are saying so that the average person can understand. Koukl is also very active at applying apologetics to current social issues.

5. Craig Evans – Evans is a respected New Testament scholar who is often called on by the media to explain the latest Jesus fad. While active in scholarship, Evans is also willing to tackle the popular theories that are floating around.

 

Share

Podcasts I Listen To

I am a fairly busy guy and do not have the opportunities to read that I would like to.  I try to make up for that by listening to podcasts (not that podcasts could ever replace a good book).  I thought I would share links to some of the podcasts I listen.  Not all are apologetics, nor are all by Christians.  I appreciate the opportunity to have a wide variety of learning experiences.  These are not in order of importance or value but simply the order they appear in iTunes.

The Critical Thinker by Kevin deLaplante

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps by Peter Adamson

History of Rome by Mike Duncan

Just Thinking by Ravi Zacharias

NT Pod by Mark Goodacre

Philosophy Bites by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton

Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig

Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean by Philip Harland

Stand to Reason by Greg Koukl

Tolkien Professor by Corey Olsen

Voice of Truth by Norman Geisler

 

Share

Ravi Zacharias in Conversation

Ravi ZachariasLast night I went with Amanda and Andrew Scholl to see Ravi Zacharias speak at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto.  I have read a couple of his books and have listened to his podcasts, but this is the first time I have heard Ravi speak in person.  He spoke about who Jesus is in the context of mass market spirituality.  It was a great message.  Ravi is a talented communicator who is passionate about helping thinkers believe and helping believers to think.  I have really come to appreciate the ministry of Ravi Zacharias and the legacy he has built into with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Share