In January 2016 I’d written an essay questioning whether well-known apologist Ravi Zacharias was solid and should be listened to or not. It’s called: On Discerning Ravi Zacharias: It’s time to say what needs to be said.
In discerning whether a teacher is qualified, we first look to the Bible for its benchmarks and standards to see if the teacher meets them according to their ability, gender, and age. We also look to their lifestyle and behavior, as the Bible exhorts.
What we don’t do is jump on one little error or mishap and make a global, dogmatic declaration about or against a teacher. We are patient, kind, and watchful with grace. Over time however, if the teacher’s errors or mishaps continue to accumulate, one becomes cautious in absorbing his or her material. At some point the Christian makes a final decision using their God-given level of discernment whether to follow that teacher any more or to abandon him.
That’s usually why I include in my essays several examples from a teacher I’m considering following or abandoning, and I also usually include the time frame. Because of grace, I need to see a total picture over time before deciding against someone who professes Christ.
In my January essay, I’d raised concerns about Mr Zacharias in the following spheres:
–Being unequally yoked. Partnering with Joyce Meyer in spiritual endeavors, and calling her “a great Bible teacher”), violating 2 Corinthians 6:14.
All these added up to highly doubtful solidity. I made the personal decision not to listen to Mr Zacharias any more and to refrain from recommending him to friends.
There are two obvious problems with Ravi’s compliment of Saddleback and Pastor Rick Warren. The first is that Rick Warren is an apostate pastor whose emphasis on entrepreneurial business practices, extra-biblical methods, mishandling of the Bible, pragmatism, waffling on major issues, and failure to preach the Gospel is of high concern and have done tremendous damage to the twentieth century church and have led many astray. Mr Warren’s errors have been seen over decades and discussed long enough so that any Christian with a modicum of discernment would be troubled. That Mr Zacharias partnered with Mr Warren and worse, praised him, is another strong strike against Mr Zacharias.
Second, Mr Zacharias’ comment that Saddleback is “one of the great churches…across time” is also troublesome. We can compare great churches across time. We have the Bible. The Lord Himself commended churches He declared worthy and these commendations of greatness are recorded in the book of Revelation. Let us take a look at these ‘great churches across time’ to see what made them great.
The Church at Philadelphia was a church commended by Christ and having no negative remarks associated with it. None. (Revelation 3:7-13). They were so commended by the Lord, He said He will make that church’s enemies “come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9).
The church at Smyrna, recorded in Revelation 2:8-11, was also a great church across time because it was commended by Jesus with having no negative strikes against them. He said that that particular church was temporally poor but spiritually rich. Wow.
What Mr Zacharias is saying is that from across that time to ours, Saddleback compares favorably to those beloved Philadelphian and Smyrnian churches. I disagree, strongly.
The one part of Zacharias’s statement with which I agree is his comment that Warren and Saddleback has “touched the world for life-changing impact”. In my opinion, Rick Warren has been one of top negatively influential people of the entire twentieth century that has most negatively impacted the global church with a doctrinal pollution of untold proportions. Warrens’ band of pragmatic, market-driven, seeker sensitive, felt-needs doctrines are no better than those merchants Jesus condemned of making His Father’s house a den of thieves.
I am sorry to see these statements from Mr Zacharias but in the end I’m glad. It confirms for me the biblical and personal necessity of putting him aside and strengthens my resolve to warn against him.