The Christian Industrial Complex Shields Its Own

Ravi Zacharias has never so much as enrolled in a graduate level academic program, much less completed a doctoral program. He has a Bachelor’s degree and a non-academic Master of Divinity degree, both from obscure religious institutions,[x] and has racked up numerous “honorary doctorate degrees” over the years from supportive Christian schools. That’s it.  Furthermore, Ravi has routinely failed to disclose that his doctorates are merely honorary and has resisted calls to make his official bio clearer in this regard.[xi]

 

“Ravi Zacharias is perhaps the best-known Christian apologist of our day.” 
Reasonable Theology.org
“Nothing is as important as the truth.” 
—Ravi Zacharias in The Real Face of Atheism

 

It was the summer of 2015 and, as is sometimes my practice, I was searching the Internet for smart Christian apologists who might ruffle my atheist paradigm. I found a video lecture by a Cambridge and Oxford scholar whose credentials included several doctorate degrees and a stint at Cambridge studying quantum physics. This man demonstrated convincingly that in the 6th century B.C.E. the prophet Daniel predicted with stunning precision the rise and fall of Alexander the Great two centuries later.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias is famous for his ability to pull off arguments like this. The late evangelist and lawyer Chuck Colson called him “the great apologist of our time.”[i] His weekly radio show plays on over 2,000 outlets worldwide, he has written over 25 books, many of them bestsellers. He gets millions of YouTube hits, packs auditoriums, and has a growing portfolio of self-named ministries with offices around the world. His CitizenAudit entry shows his ministry bringing in $25 million yearly.[ii]

Dr. Zacharias presents his impeccable academic credentials in a way that starkly differentiates him from ordinary circuit-riding preachers, and he makes sure we know that he’s got the resumé to go with the suit, littering his lectures, writings and publicity materials with references to famous universities with which he claims to be professionally connected. And the strategy works. Christians worldwide hail him as God’s answer to the secularist cancer that has infested the academy. Atheist scholars beware!

I vividly recall seeing Dr. Zacharias waving his arms and talking about the Seleucids and the Ptolemaics as he stood before that University of Illinois student audience. “Centuries before to be so specific in prophecy” could only be evidence of “the supernatural” in the Book of Daniel, he thundered.[iii] The argument was compelling in large part because it came from a man whose academic credentials were as good as anybody’s. Would Ravi Zacharias force me to adjust my atheist worldview?

Silly me. I should know by now that, for every 30 seconds it takes a Christian apologist to make a “fulfilled prophecy” claim, it takes a few hours of tedious research to see that it is probably bogus. That’s just the way extravagant prophetic claims work. The Hal Lindseys of the world cash their checks before anybody has the time to scrutinize their theories. In this case, the overwhelming scholarly consensus is that Daniel was written after Alexander’s time.[iv] Daniel had “predicted” something that had already happened. How predictable.

Dr. Zacharias himself had known full well that the dating of Daniel was controversial. He admits as much in his memoirs.[v] It made me wonder what else Dr. Zacharias had been dishonest about. I began to dig. I struck gold. Ravi Zacharias, it turned out, has been less than honest about a great many things. And what surfaced is far worse than the usual sex or money scandals that embarrass so many professional men of God. Not that Ravi Zacharias is squeaky clean in the boy/girl department. On July 31 of 2017 he filed a federal lawsuit against a married Canadian woman with whom he recently had an online relationship. Dr. Zacharias admits receiving nude and sexually suggestive photographs from Lori Anne Thompson and not reporting their relationship to his Governance Council until things went sour and she threatened legal action. Most explosively, in his court filing he does not deny the allegation that he threatened suicide in an email so as to persuade Ms. Thompson not to tell her husband about the relationship.

But Indiscretions of that sort can quickly be damage-controlled by a tearful confession or, at worst, a little jail time. Dr. Zacharias has a much bigger problem. For nearly four decades, he has systematically deceived his followers, his donors, his publishers, and the world about the very matter that makes him so special, his scholarly qualifications.

The Doctor with no Doctorates and the Scholar with no Scholarly Work

Since the early 1980’s, Ravi Zacharias has assertively referred to himself as “Dr. Zacharias” and represented himself as holding multiple doctoral degrees.[vi] His major publishers have been fully on board. HarperCollins lists him as “Ravi Zacharias, PhD”[vii] at the contributor’s page of the 2017 The Jesus Bible, and his author bio at Penguin/Random House says “Zacharias holds three doctorate degrees.”[viii] The Christian publisher Wipf & Stock also refers to him as “Ravi Zacharias, PhD.”[ix]

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