Learning From Dr. Ravi Zacharias’ Apologetics And Life Experience
The name Dr. Ravi Zacharias 1 became equivalent to the term apologetics. If you are an apologetics enthusiast like me, I don’t think you can escape noticing the man and his ministry. He was considered an apologetics evangelist to the skeptics. He has written numerous books, of which many became bestsellers not just among believers but among non-believers as well. His prowess and knowledge on the subject of philosophical apologetics in defending the Christian faith are highly exceptional. As I observed and listened to this man explain how he easily refuted the arguments of atheists, post-modernists, and relativists, including members of world religions such as Islam, I could not help but admire the way he responded. This was one of the few reasons why I accepted the role of Ravi Zacharias International Ministry apologetics coordinator for a few months before they pulled out their ministry from our country.
Whenever he was invited by a known Christian ministry here in the Philippines, I would make sure that I had the time to attend, so I could get some impartations on how he reasons and explains. I only had a close glimpse of how he speaks in front when he was invited to share in our chapel devotion during my seminary days. After his talk, I could not even come close to the guy due to the people flocking around wanting to talk to him and take a shot with him. I remember that time when I was observing his manners and gestures while listening to his wisdom. He would sometimes close his eyes for a few minutes while slowly narrating some illustrations and explaining some philosophical facts.
In 2017, when I read the news about some immoral allegations against the man himself, this was hard to believe. Many, including myself, just ignored the allegations, thinking this was just one isolated case of extortion. This was allowed to slide by many supporters of Dr. Zacharias', hoping it would be buried under the many ministry invitations and events that he had along the way. When it was announced in early 2020 by their ministry that Dr. Zacharias had a tumor in his sacrum, many prayers poured in to stand with him in faith, hoping and believing for healing to take place in the physical body of the famed apologist. However, the Lord had other plans because he joined his Creator in May 2020. Thousands of people, both believers and nonbelievers, mourned his loss. They will surely miss the man and his unique ways in dealing with different types of probing questions that attacked the foundation of the Christian faith.
Again, the name of Dr. Zacharias resurfaced and was found in many official news publications in February 2021. But it is not to honor the greatest apologist of our time but to confirm the sexual allegations that happened in the past while he was still living, at worst while doing his ministry. When the allegations were finally confirmed by his very own ministry in February 2021, there was nothing left to do but face the facts. Yes, even the “saintliest” of all saints do stumble and fall if they are not careful. This is why we do not esteem any believer too highly on a pedestal because it could affect the way we view them. The Scripture tells us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (see 1 Pet. 5:8). We are all prone to sin and temptation. We are not exempt. It so happened that Dr. Zacharias was a very prominent Christian figure in the apologetics world that many people highly respected and emulated. So, what should be our response as believers?
A number of people are asking whether it is still right to read the books of Dr. Zacharias. Or is it still safe to watch and listen to his lectures? Of course, we can still benefit greatly from his work! The spiritual gift of Dr. Zacharias to help the body of Christ will always be helpful and influential. He was a gift to the church. And we thank the Lord for giving us Dr. Ravi Zacharias to help make sense of the Christian faith and equip us to engage with a number of atheist philosophical arguments. We have learned a lot from him with regards to doing modern apologetics. But I believe we can also learn a number of things as we ponder how Dr. Zacharias’ lives his life and his personal ministry. There are three essential truths that we need to heed as we influence more people for Christ.
The Lord placed Nathan the prophet to probably serve as a person who could speak in the life of King David. However, it was already too late since he faced his sins when he was only confronted by the prophet (see 2 Sam. 12:7–10). He ignored personal accountability from a person like Nathan, the prophet, who could help him the most. I hope that we, as men, will be accountable to our wives and/or somebody who’s a spiritually mature person whom you highly respect. A person who could speak to your life and correct you if needed. Dr. Zacharias was probably not very open about his personal struggle, and the Lord was already reminding him, which he still failed to heed.
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. — Prov. 15:22
The Lord said, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). The Lord commands us to come out by not participating in the deeds of darkness (see Rev. 18:4). We can see how Joseph ran away from that house with a lustful woman like Potiphar’s wife (see Gen. 39:12–13). The apostle Paul reminds us that there should never be any hint of immorality that should be seen in us. Sadly, Dr. Zacharias failed to be intentional with his holiness at times by avoiding such places that could surely compromise his integrity. He still chose to be alone with someone other than his wife. And this led to his moral failure.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. — Eph. 5:3, NIV
Abhorrence of Evil
We are called to abhor evil or hate evil. I hope that at the first moment of sin there should be that feeling of godly grief even when we are not caught (see 2 Cor. 7:10). Surely godly grief will spare us from devastation. Only the Lord knows if our sinful acts are a struggle or not. The apostle Paul also had his own fair share of fleshly struggle, for not to have this is to be perfect (see Rom. 7:15–24). But let us make sure that we acknowledge our sins before God through confession and repentance (see 1 John 1:9). We have known many prominent Christian leaders who failed in this area when they were exposed due to financial impropriety, immoral behavior, and inappropriate conduct. We have our own spiritual battle, but let us make sure that our hearts truly hate what we are doing against the Lord and do something about it.
Furthermore, we have seen many examples of sin toleration in the Scripture, like Onan (Gen. 38:9), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3–10), the immoral believer in Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1–5), and the division in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 11:18–30). I am not here to judge Dr. Zacharias because only the Lord knows his heart. It is my hope and prayer that he abhorred enticing sins in the midst of the fleshly struggle that he has experienced. Remember, the Lord will never tolerate our habitual sins, whether small acts of lying, lust, or stealing. As David reminds his people about God’s holiness,
1 My song is about loyalty and justice, and I sing it to you, O LORD. 2 My conduct will be faultless. When will you come to me? I will live a pure life in my house 3 and will never tolerate evil. I hate the actions of those who turn away from God; I will have nothing to do with them. 4 I will not be dishonest and will have no dealings with evil. 5 I will get rid of anyone who whispers evil things about someone else; I will not tolerate anyone who is proud and arrogant. 6 I will approve of those who are faithful to God and will let them live in my palace. Those who are completely honest will be allowed to serve me. 7 No liar will live in my palace; no hypocrite will remain in my presence. — Psa. 101:1-8, GNT
O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. — Psalm 97:10
I believe the life of Dr. Ravi Zacharias will be an example to us who served in the ministry in many ways. Even the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry acknowledged this by saying,
First, we stand as a warning to others. RZIM has failed in many ways, and we know we are only beginning to identify and learn how to correct these errors going forward. Steps we have taken recently and which we are taking now are steps we should have taken years ago.2
I’m glad to know that the staff of Dr. Zacharias is not bent on concealing his inconsistencies or being compromised. Rather, they were bold to face the truth to expose the works of the evil one, so believers could become familiar with the schemes of the enemy in order to avoid them. As they humbly wrote in their letter,
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Scripture insists that we do everything for the glory of God: This means that our response to Ravi’s actions and RZIM’s failures must be rooted in a deep desire to honor God—above all—in both the process and the outcome. Once again, given the public nature of Ravi’s platform and ministry, and the ministry’s errors, we believe that the most God-honoring approach is to pursue transparency and public repentance and to acknowledge that repentance in the hopes of pursuing restitution and restoration.3
Let us pray for the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry and the many God-fearing and hardworking staff they have as they continue to serve the body of Christ. Let us also stand with them in faith while interceding that they overcome this great challenge in their ministry. The Christian world still needs RZIM to give thoughtful answers to difficult questions. We still need RZIM to help equip and train generations to respond wisely to the many skeptical young men and women in this lost and dying world.
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. – 1 Cor. 4:1-2
1 When I refer to Ravi Zacharias as a "Doctor," I only mean the honoris causa title or designation that ten different institutions have bestowed on him. Dr. Zacharias had his Masters of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his Bachelor of Theology at Ontario Bible College. Although he was not able to formally finish any doctorates or Ph.D.s, he received ten honorary doctorates on many different levels. I think this is not for the purpose of deceiving but just to honor the man due to the extensive work he had done that benefited the church and society. However, there were many people who had invited him and published his books who wrongly addressed him as “doctor” in relation to doctoral degrees. This further blurred the already muddied water, which made things complicated.
2 Why Make Public a Private Investigation? (Access Feb. 13, 2021. https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/theological-statement)
3 Why Make Public a Private Investigation? (Access Feb. 13, 2021. https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/theological-statement)
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