Christian apologetics, in simple terms, is the practice of defending Christianity against objections. Probably one of the most renowned Christian apologist in our present day was Ravi Zacharias. He was also the founder of RZIM, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Since his death in May of 2020 and in light of an official investigation initiated by RZIM, and the subsequent results of that investigation, what he is actually known for today is quite different from that which he portrayed himself to be.
A few months after his death I started hearing some rumblings of impropriety about Ravi, so I did an internet search and found some information from 2017 that was definitely troubling. It was during this time that Ravi sued a woman and her husband who he claimed were trying to extort money from him. Ravi also claimed that the woman falsely accused him of sexual impropriety via texts. Looking back, I think this was a defining moment in time for him; a point in time that we begin to see a crack in the veneer of his otherwise esteemed reputation.
Fast forward to 2020, at least three other women came forward with allegations of sexual impropriety against Ravi within a few months of his death. RZIM hired a lawyer to look into the allegations, putting out a statement in December of 2020, and then publishing the full report in February of 2021. According to RZIM, the law firm confirmed that the allegations against Ravi Zacharias were indeed found to be credible. As a result of the investigation, they found several more women who were involved with him sexually. They also found improper and sexually explicit photos on his phone, and evidence that he had misused tens of thousands of ministry funds toward supporting women who he used as “massage therapists.” Over the course of several years he frequented and held ownership in massage parlors. There’s a lot more detail given in the official investigative report but suffice it to say, this information alone is enough to discredit anyone, even a world renowned Christian apologist.
It was several years ago that I first started listening to Ravi Zacharias’ on the radio. Actually it was sometime after I read his book, “The Grand Weaver,” which was published in 2007 and recommended to me by one of my friends at Delta Air Lines when I worked in the Dallas office. My favorite quote from that book was,
“Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.”
What I originally thought was a brilliant evangelical statement from a man of God, has now become (to me) a statement from a person who was merely able to manipulate words as skillfully as he was able to manipulate people.
While I prefer listening to evangelists more than apologists, after listening to Ravi a few times on the radio, I did think that some of the things that he said were somewhat profound and that he was a good story teller. He often quoted various Christian leaders, Bible verses, and Bible stories, and interjected interesting human interest stories with seemingly perfect timing. So a few years ago I downloaded the RZIM app and I would catch an occasional podcast from him from time to time. The only thing that raised a red flag to me during that time was in 2014 when he spoke with Mormons at the Mormon Tabernacle. I learned later that he’d also spoke there in 2004. I questioned why he would speak there at all. Mormonism is basically a false religion based upon the writings and beliefs of the heretic, Joseph Smith. Mormons do not worship the same Jesus as evangelical Christians do. In retrospect, the fact that he conducted himself in a manor that assumed a position of salvific equality with Mormons should have been enough for me to question both his theology and his ministry at that time, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and continued to listen to his podcasts.
When Ravi spoke, he often told of his “conversion” experience. Born in India in 1946, he attempted to commit suicide at age 17 because of the shame and anguish he felt from being a poor student. While recovering in the hospital, a youth pastor brought him a small Bible. Sometime after the pastor left he prayed inwardly saying “Jesus, if you are the One who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth” and “five days after being wheeled into the E.R.,” he “left a changed person.”
In retrospect I find it interesting that this often repeated conversion story fails to mention sorrow for sin or conviction of sin. While it’s not my place to question Ravi’s salvation experience, I do believe it is safe to say that Ravi gave into to sexual sin and it was that sin that eventually overtook his life. It distorted his judgment. It destroyed his testimony, and likely devastated the lives of numerous people.
As a Christian, I’m more than just disappointed in Ravi. As a Christian who is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it makes me sad and a little sick at my stomach. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a hard time trusting people, so for me, finding out about Ravi Zacharias’ double life only serves to exasperate those feelings.
So in my disgust of Ravi Zacharias, l deleted the RZIM app, went through my Twitter and Facebook posts and deleted any of his quotes I had posted in the past. I also discarded a book written by his protégé, Nabeel Qureshi, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.” I bought it in March of 2020 upon recommendation of a friend from high school, after I had shared my faith with a Muslim Uber driver one day. I really had never heard of Nabeel Qureshi or his book before this time but realized after I got the book that he was a close associate of Ravi Zacharias and a frequent speaker for RZIM. Interestingly I never get past the first chapter anyway.
I’ve decided on five takeaways from all of this. They’re really just reminders of things I already knew. I’ve included corresponding Bible references:
1. We’re all sinners in need of a savior.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
2. No man should be held in higher esteem than another. Being famous or world renowned for anything that you do doesn’t make you more important in the eyes of God.
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.’” Acts 10:3
3. If you call yourself a Christian yet your salvation story doesn’t include an awareness or conviction of sin, and a turning to Jesus in repentance and faith, it might be a good time to re-evaluate your salvation. The Roman’s Road is a good place to start. https://www.gotquestions.org/Romans-road-salvation.html
“Therefore,…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12
4. If your walk does not match your talk, you can be sure that one day you’ll have to deal with the consequences. Better now than later. There’re no exceptions including and especially everyone who claims to be a Christian.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5–10
5. Never think for one moment that you’re above temptation or that you’re not capable of sin. Sin comes in all shapes and sizes. Sin includes acts of commission and acts of omission.
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12,
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
To Ravi’s family and friends, may God help you get through what has probably been one of the worst periods of your lives to date. May you place your hope and trust in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone if you haven’t done so already.
To anyone who was lead to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as a result of listening to Ravi Zacharias or a RZIM affiliate, please remember and know that it is Christ and Christ alone who saves, not the person who delivers the message to you.
To the RZIM organization, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider either changing the name of your organization or closing your doors altogether. No matter how esteemed Ravi Zacharias once was in the world of Christian apologetics or how eloquent his words once were, he has ultimately done more harm than good for the cause of Christ. My point and the ultimate irony is this:
How does a genuine Christian apologist spend the bulk of his life defending Christianity against objections, while simultaneously living such an objectionable life?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9