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Ravi Zacharias

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Ravi Zacharias, born Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias (26 March 1946–19 May 2020) was an Indian-born Christian evangelical apologist. He was the the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and an author of many books. Zacharias grew up in a Anglican home, but claims he was an atheist until age 17 when he became a Christian after a failed attempted suicide. Zacharias earned an undergraduate degree from Ontario Bible College in 1972 (now Tyndale University College and Seminary) and his M. Div. from Trinity International University. Although he frequently used the title "Dr. Zacharias", he held no academic doctoral degree.

Beliefs[edit]

Zacharias held the Christian worldview because he believed it was unique for answering the following questions sought by man: that of origin, meaning of life, morality, and destiny. Zacharias held that there must be a Creator and all morality comes from him. He used such logic as: if there is a moral law, then there is a law giver. He made claims such as "naturalists have no explanation for humanity's moral framework."

Zacharias did not accept the theory of evolution. He believed that it is incompatible with the second law of thermodynamics, and he expressed skepticism of the fossil record. As well as being a scientific ignoramus, Zacharias was often taken to breaking the 9th Commandment in order to discredit his opponents. Tragically he flew under the radar of potholer54 and was never nominated for a coveted Golden Crocoduck award. He was also guilty of being oblivious to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Whether he enjoyed pretending to be an expert on subjects outside of theology is not known. It is also not known if Zacharias deliberately realized he misrepresented new atheism, science, and human sexuality, or if he didn't learn the arduous complicated task of doing a Google search. In his seminars, Zacharias was a huge fan of using anecdotal evidence, to the point that he mysteriously forgot to use any other evidence. His incredible talent for quote mining also left the mining industry baffled as to how one can dig so deep when fueled by the desire to dig up out of context diamonds. In November 2009, Zacharias signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox to engage in civil disobedience with regard to laws which the declaration claims would force them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage or other matters that go against their religious consciences. His followers are still waiting for the moment when he will tie himself to a christian flagpole to protest gay marriage.[1]

Allegations of academic dishonesty[edit]

Visiting scholar at Cambridge University[edit]

For many years Zacharias claimed to have been "a visiting scholar at Cambridge University." In 2015 this claim was investigated and found to be false. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the University of Cambridge indicated:

We can confirm that Mr. Zacharias spent a sabbatical at Ridley Hall in Cambridge.

Attending lectures and classes at the University of Cambridge whilst on sabbatical at Ridley Hall would not confer University of Cambridge Visiting Scholar status on a student. Ridley Hall is not a constituent part of the University of Cambridge and has different criteria for granting Visiting Scholar status.[2]

It is undisputed that Zacharias spent several months on a sabbatical at Ridley Hall, a religious training school in the town of Cambridge in 1990. However, his did not make him a "visiting scholar at Cambridge University."

Zacharias' ministry immediately removed the claim from his website after the investigator indicated an intent to go public with the Cambridge statement.

"Dr. Zacharias"[edit]

Zacharias referred to himself as "Dr. Zacharias" in press materials, in his official bio and on the jacket of some of his books. However, he has never earned an academic doctorate degree and his doctorates are only honorary. His highest degree is a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity Seminary. He failed to note in his publicity materials and website bio that these are only honorary. At Zacharias website, he claimed to hold a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree, one of the highest academic degrees conferred by Catholic universities.[3] These allegations were documented in part in a press release issued by two atheists and a Christian in August 2015 and in YouTube videos releasing information acquired by Freedom of Information requests to Cambridge and Oxford.[4]

In the summer of 2015, after public criticism, Zacharias reduced the number of references to himself as "Dr. Zacharias" at his website. After continued public criticism by Christians, Muslims and atheists on YouTube and elsewhere, in late 2016 Zacharias added the word "honorary" to his official bio, but removed it several weeks later. His curriculum vitae specifies that his doctorates are honorary.[5]

Senior research fellow at Oxford University[edit]

Zacharias has claimed frequently to have been a "senior research fellow" at Oxford University. In 2013 he told a Christian journalist that he uses this credential "in the academy."[6]

Freedom of Information requests, however, revealed that the title was merely honorary and conferred by Wycliffe Hall, an "affiliated institution" of Oxford University. After being advised that his credentials were under investigation, Zacharias removed the Oxford research fellow claim from his website.[4]

Studied quantum physics at Cambridge University[edit]

In his autobiography[7]:205 and in numerous lectures, Zacharias claimed that he studied "quantum physics" at Cambridge in 1990. He refers to renowned physicist, John Polkinghorne, as "my professor in quantum physics." However, it appears that Dr. Polkinghorne retired from teaching physics at Cambridge in 1979 to become a priest.[8]

A Freedom of Information request to Cambridge revealed that Dr. Polkinghorne taught two courses at Cambridge in 1990, one on Buddhism and the other on the Science/Theology dialogue. While it is not impossible that Zacharias studied with Dr. Polkinghorne in 1990 in some informal or non-Cambridge capacity, available information raises serious doubt about Zacharias' claim that he studied quantum physics at Cambridge under Dr. Polkinghorne in 1990.[4]

Responses to allegations of academic deceit[edit]

Zacharias issued no written public statement about these allegations. His ministry has responded privately to concerned inquirers.[4]

Sexual extortion lawsuit[edit]

On July 31, 2017, Zacharias filed a lawsuit in federal court in the state of Georgia against a woman named Lori Anne Thompson and her husband, Bradley Thompson. Zacharias claimed that the Thompsons conspired to extort money from him by having Ms. Thompson insert herself into his life in a compromising way. Although there is no indication of a physical relationship between Zacharias and Thompson, he admits receiving sexual and nude photos from Thompson, and in paragraph 75 of his complaint he appears to admit inappropriate conduct with her.[9]

Response from the Christian community[edit]

These allegations of deceit raised concerns in some Christian circles, including the Christian Research Network.[10]

Nevertheless, the allegations seem to have done little to harm Zacharias in the wider Christian community, even among academics who are aware of the allegations.

Publications[edit]

  • Can Man Live Without God? (1994, 1996) ISBN 0849939437
  • Deliver Us From Evil (1996, 1998) ISBN 084993950X
  • Jesus Among Other Gods (2000, 2002) ISBN 0849943272
  • The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha (2001) ISBN 157673854X
  • Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks with Oscar Wilde (2002) ISBN 1590520149
  • Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle For Truth (2002) ISBN 1576739899
  • Is Your Church Ready?: Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life (2003) (Editor, with Norman Geisler) ISBN 0310250617
  • Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith (2003) (General Editor, with Norman Geisler) ISBN 0310247101
  • The Kingdom of the Cults (2003) (Editor) ISBN 0764228218
  • The Prince and the Prophet: Jesus Talks With Mohammed (Copyright 2004, to be released posthumously) ISBN 1590523199
  • The Lamb and the Führer: Jesus Talks with Hitler (2005) ISBN 1590523946
  • Walking From East to West: God in the Shadows (With R.S.B. Sawyer) (2006) ISBN 0310259150
  • The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives (2007) ISBN 0310269520
  • Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend (2008) ISBN 0849919681
  • The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists (2008) ISBN 0310282519
  • Is There Not a Cause (2008) (National Day of Prayer Feature Book)
  • New Birth or Rebirth: Jesus Talks with Krishna (2008) ISBN 1590527259
  • There is a Plan (2009) (excerpts from The Grand Weaver) ISBN 0310318491
  • Has Christianity Failed You? (2010) ISBN 0310269555

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Christian Apologist Spins Like Hell - Atheist Challenge Level 2, achilleshoplite, YouTube, 17 July 2013.
  2. Press Release: Has Evangelist Ravi Zacharias Misrepresented His Academic Credentials? patheos.com, 24 August 2015.
  3. Doctoral Studies in Sacred Theology, Pontifical Georgian College.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Lying for Lord or self? Hard questions for Ravi Zacharias. FriendlyBanjoAtheist, YouTube, 10 October 2016.
  5. Ravi K Zacharias curriculum vitae.
  6. Ravi Zacharias Interview Transcript. Archived from the original at apologetics315.com, 13 February 2013.
  7. Ravi Zacharias with R.S.B. Sawyer, Walking From East to West: God in the Shadows, 2006. ISBN 0310259150
  8. Rev. Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, starcourse.org.
  9. Ten indisputable facts about Ravi Zacharias. raviwatch.com.
  10. On discerning Ravi Zacharias: It's time to say what needs to be said. christianresearchnetwork.org, 8 January 2016.