Friday, February 19, 2021

The Sad and Strange Saga of Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias was the foremost apologist of the Christian faith. His insights were profound. He answered the questions of skeptics with reasoned, convincing  responses and arguments. I believe I had the privilege of interviewing him while I was doing the Issues etc. radio program back in the 80's. Ravi Zacharias died in May of 2020. Both Vice-president Spence and Tim Tebow spoke at his funeral, defining him as the foremost champion of the Christian faith.

Since his death, numerous accusation of sexual abuse and perversion have surfaced. The Board of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries initially rejected the claims of atheist blogger Steve Baughman and articles that appeared in both World and Christianity Today magazines. After hiring a lawyer to investigate the claims, they concluded them to be accurate and affirmed that Zacharias had sexually abused numerous women. As a result, Zacharias has been labelled a pervert, a wolf in sheep's clothing and a liar. Harper-Collins has removed his books, and Lee Strobel has erased any reference to Zacharias in his forth-coming book.

I have never seen a situation where a Christian leader is so honored at his memorial service and so vilified shortly thereafter. It is strange. What is being accomplished? What is the purpose? I can certainly understand these revelations if Zacharias was still alive. He would be added to the list of fallen Christian leaders such as Ted Haggard, Bill Gothard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Bill Hybels and rightfully so. But none of these revelations and consequences have any impact upon Zacharias himself since, of course, he's dead. The only ones suffering as a result are his wife and children.

While some have attempted to defend Zacharias, it is foolish to do so. His own ministry board has confirmed the facts and made their findings public. As many have accurately stated, the emphasis should be upon the women who were victimized, but this is problematic. They cannot face their abuser. Satisfaction for victims is achieved when the "big man of God" abuser is knocked off his pedestal, experiencing public disgrace and humiliation. Such satisfaction cannot be granted the victims of Zacharias' sexual abuse since, of course, he's dead.  They may be given financial remuneration for the pain they have experienced and be offered counseling. They may spit on his grave, but that accomplishes nothing.

Why didn't these victims come forward before Zacharias died? Some claimed they were afraid to do so. One victim did come forward and received a financial settlement and signed a non-disclosure agreement which she is now attempting to get out from under. The claims of atheist author and blogger Steve Baughman were virtually ignored and for obvious reasons. His objectivity was questionable. In addition, Baughman made a big deal over the fact that Zacharias' Doctor's Degree was honorary and not academic. Such honorary degrees are given for life achievements. Dr. Billy Graham graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in anthropology. His Doctor's Degree is honorary. Would anyone suggest he doesn't deserve it? So it is with Ravi Zacharias.  

Isn't the death of Ravi Zacharias sufficient satisfaction since, of course, the wages of sin is death? While many fine eulogies may have been offered at his memorial service, there is one thing that could have been said for certain about Ravi Zacharias, he was a sinner, therefore he's dead.  What more is there to say? 

Because Ravi Zacharias was an abuser of women does that mean the apologetic principles, methods and techniques that he espoused are invalid? Many have learned how to do effective apologetics in defense of the Christian faith from Ravi Zacharias. Should they renounce what they have learned? Obviously, not! His many books contain some valuable insights. Would it not have been better if Harper-Collins had announced that all proceeds from the sale of books by Ravi Zacharias would go to the victims of sexual abuse or to organizations who offer support rather than removing those books and losing the valuable insights contained therein?

One of the victims of Zacharias' sexual abuse stated that "he warned her not ever to speak out against him or she would be responsible for the 'millions of souls' whose salvation would be lost if his reputation was damaged."* Did Zacharias actually believe that people came to faith in Jesus Christ because of him? This is the height of arrogance. The efficacy of the preaching, teaching and defending of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with the person doing the speaking. God has promised that where the Gospel is proclaimed the Holy Spirit is at work creating faith in the hearts of those who joyfully and willingly hear the Good News of the forgiveness of sins and new life in Jesus Christ regardless of the moral character of the preacher or teacher. In the Old Testament, God opened the mouth of a jackass, and He continues to do so today.  

*See Report of Independent Investigation into Sexual Misconduct of Ravi Zacharias, page 5. (https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/rzimmedia.rzim.org/assets/downloads/Report-of-Investigation.pdf)


2 comments:

Roy Price said...

Thanks Pastor(Don)!! Very well said!! I think I remember an interview with him on issues. I had listened to him on many occasions and took a lot from them. Good stuff here!! The Best to you!!

Bonnie said...

An interesting perspective. I wonder if in our 21st Century cancel culture mentality to teach others "a lesson," if we are on the verge of totally forgetting forgiveness. Oh, don't get me wrong, I absolutely embrace consequences; but I'm thinking the Apostle Paul would never have made it in 2021 ... or, maybe he, too, was "canceled" by his people, his family, the Jewish people. Romans 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:14-16? Thank you, Pastor Matzat.