Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias is back in the news over claims that he padded his biography — the one he included on the backs of several of his books — with unearned credentials.
We first wrote about this last year, but there’s now an update to the story. Here’s a quick recap of the biggest charges:
He said that he “has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University.”
He said he’s a “senior research fellow” at Oxford University.
All of these claims are false, and attorney Steve Baughman did a really nice job of getting to the bottom of all of this years ago. Last year, he posted a video explaining how Zacharias has long embellished his accomplishments.
How accurate were these allegations? Well, a quick look at the current official bio on Zacharias’ website shows that he no longer uses the title “Dr.” Instead, he just notes that he has “ten honorary doctorates.” Not the same thing at all. (To be sure, Zacharias didn’t need a Ph.D. to talk about Jesus. But that made his alleged fraud all the more notable. He lied even when he didn’t need to.)
The whole bit about being a visiting scholar at Cambridge? That’s now replaced with this incredible disclaimer:
Zacharias has been a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (then affiliated with Cambridge University, now more recently allied with Cambridge and affiliated with Durham University)
So… not at Cambridge at all. (“Affiliated” and “allied” do not mean they are part of the university.)
“Senior research fellow” at Oxford? No mention of that at all.
Sounds like Baughman nailed him many times over.
So why is all this back in the news now?
Baughman wrote an article earlier this month detailing all of the problems with Zacharias’ bio. It’s extensive, and it includes this unbelievable gem that gives you an idea of just how the famous Christian apologist misled his followers. (I’m removing the footnotes just for ease of reading.)
[Zacharias] claims that he had been the “chairman of the Department of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary,” a prestigious academic position that would have given him authority over other professors at the seminary. But Ravi’s “Department” never existed.
My private investigator, and two professors who had been at ATS in the 1980s (one was there with Ravi and the other was his immediate successor) confirmed that ATS had no “Departments” at the time. It was too small.
Ravi, it turns out, had been the chair of something called the “Center for Evangelism and Contemporary Thought.” His immediate successor, Dr. Terry Wardle, told me that this was a non-academic position. Then-ATS professor, Dr. Dennis Hollinger, now President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, described the “center” as “not a center in terms of a think tank, more of an opportunity for students to work with Ravi.” The ATS librarian told my investigator it was a “lecture series” that brought in outside evangelists to speak and an ATS student of Ravi’s said it was an “informal” undertaking.
So there was an informal “center,” but never a “Department of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought” at ATS, nor a chair of that department. Ravi simply invented the department and made himself its chair, and thereby scored for himself a prestigious academic title that he never held.
Baughman also points out that a number of Christians surrounding Zacharias, including his publishers and colleagues, refused to take any real action despite being presented with proof of Zacharias’ repeated deception.
Warren Throckmorton, who has been an incredible watchdog of Christian ministries, says this should raise red flags for Christians everywhere:
When a Christian celebrity looks into the camera and tells a falsehood, we can not trust what is said afterwards. How can we trust the history of a David Barton when he says he has an earned doctorate he knows he doesn’t have? How can we trust the word of Ravi Zacharias about apologetics when he claims academic credentials he knows he doesn’t possess?
Also worth noting? Zacharias’ ministry responded on Facebook yesterday with a cryptic message saying they would respond in due time to the “egregious claims and destructive slander of a few individuals.”
At RZIM it has come to our attention that a number of false assertions regarding the character, actions, and accomplishments of Ravi Zacharias have been circulating online in recent days. It grieves our team to see how the egregious claims and destructive slander of a few individuals have been amplified by wider networks, particularly on social media.
As Ravi Zacharias is currently traveling and many of our team members are still to return from the Thanksgiving holiday, we will respond in greater detail to the false accusations as soon as possible.
Sure they will… just after OJ Simpson finds the real killer and Donald Trump finds Barack Obama‘s Kenyan birth certificate.
What on earth could they possibly say other than “Yep, we lied until we were caught”? Hell, several commenters in that very post refer to the man, incorrectly, as “Dr. Zacharias.” All the ministry has to do is show us the actual doctorate certificates, or provide legitimate explanations for why Zacharias can’t seem to get his own biography right. He’s had years to get his story straight. This shouldn’t be difficult.
Unless the ministry realizes the man whose name appears on all the letterhead is a con artist and they’re stalling as long as possible.
It’s one thing to not respond to questions from atheists — it’s easy to write us off as persecutors to a fundamentalist Christian fan base — but they did the same thing to the Christian Post when a reporter tried to get to the bottom of all the lies.
The Christian Post reached out to RZIM for further comment and was directed to the Monday Facebook statement.
Wow. I’ll be watching their page for follow-up statements. I would encourage all of you to do the same until we get answers.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)