By Elizabeth Prata
In 2016 I wrote a discernment essay raising troubling concerns about Ravi Zacharias. I noted his slide downward, his praising of Catholic mystics, some untruths regarding his credentials, and his refusal to take a position on whether the Catholic Church is false (saying the two churches have merely ‘doctrinal differences!), creationism vs evolution, the Doctrines of Grace, or most of eschatology.
A Christian Apologists’ job is to take a stance on the doctrines of the Bible and proclaim and defend them, so the refusal to be clear on 40% of the Bible seemed a nonstarter to me. I’d also noted that I had attended a live speech event, and had listened to many of Ravi’s other speeches online. I said that he seemed to me more of a spellbinding anecdotal storyteller and secular philosopher than a Christian Apologist or evangelist. Lots of mentions of Jesus, not a lot of talk about sin, wrath, and repentance.
I wrote later that year that Ravi had spoken at false teacher Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and called Warren’s church “one of the greatest”. I’d noted that he had also appeared on false teacher Joyce Meyer’s television program, and said Joyce puts out “great Bible teaching.” His partnering with false teachers spoke volumes both about his lack of discernment and his lack of courage.
Two months ago, in December 2020, I updated the situation when the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM) itself had investigated their founder (who had recently passed away). They announced confirmation of newly revealed sins Mr Zacharias had performed. RZIM made this preliminary report public. The RZIM organization promised to be forthcoming with the conclusions of their hired investigation ended. I attached the RZIM updated facts to a discernment lesson, here.
RZIM’s hired investigators submitted their final report this past week and what they found was disheartening in the extreme.
Mr Zacharias had been living a lie; engaging in molestation, sexual sin, and even rape- on several continents and with many women. He turned out to be a perverted deviant, and not just lately for for a short period, but a long time. In fact, Ravi seemed to have chosen his type of business (spa/massage) for this reason and had seemed to have structured his business operations with the intention of perpetuating then hiding his craven sin. His sexual sins also included other sins of misuse of ministry funds to support his sex partners, and of course, lies and hypocrisy. The Miller & Martin Investigative Report was released a few days ago and can be read here (which I do not recommend because it is graphic and specific).
In December’s essay I’d said we should all be Bereans (Acts 17:11) and search for truth and confirmation, and that doing so is ‘noble’, yet, looking into the doctrine or integrity of a popular and globally known Bible teacher/apologist/evangelist is often called divisive. As if the more famous people like Billy Graham or Beth Moore or Ravi get a pass.
If enough bubbles percolate up and if a discernment person presents some evidence of doctrinal or behavioral issue at variance with the standards the Bible sets, it’s incumbent upon people to whom the gift of discernment has been given to do their diligence. It is also important to look into any or all ministries to which one may become attached (spiritually, emotionally, financially) because one sin leads to another. Always. Sin is crouching at the door, God said, waiting to have you. If either saved or unsaved person opens that door, do you think only one sin will come in and settle?
“When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26).
That’s why believers must slay every sin, every time. Unbelievers can attempt moral reforms but their sin will eventually out.
In discernment, when your discernment people are telling you something is there, something is off, and note one or two or three things they’re doing that are at odds with the Bible, people like to gloss over them. It’s easy to discount one or two or even three issues with someone’s ethics or morals. They say, “We’re all sinners, who are you to judge?” or they say “No one is perfect! Leave him/her alone!” I agree, no one is perfect and we all do sin. But if we all used their standard, we would have to dispense with a lot of the New Testament, which warns and guides us to use discernment, judge with right judgment, and be Bereans in assessing the credibility of a teaching.
Yes we all sin, but we all don’t KEEP sinning. We all don’t ENJOY sinning. We all don’t PURSUE sin. We all don’t REFUSE to repent. That is the difference. Yes there is an equalization in that we were all sinners before grace came and justified us- and that we all have sinful flesh as the wrapping for our souls. But the point is that we are to pursue holiness in reliance on the Holy Spirit. We all are supposed to heed the prick of our conscience when sin enters our mind. For those people who do not pursue holiness but wallow in sin instead, (Luke 25:17), who refuse correction (Proverbs 26:11), they are to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17), or cast from their church (Matthew 18:17), or refused entry (2 John 1:10).
You’ve heard of the adage “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” It’s explained this way -“The expression has the origins way back at least 43 B.C. The expression has been used in one way or another but it became popular in the 16th century. It is true that some smoke is bound to appear where there is fire. The idiom is used as a metaphor where the smoke is used to represent something that is suspicious and the fire is used to represent some bad deeds. So, the expression explains that if there is any suspicion about an event, there is a probability that it must have happened.“
Or “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.” It’s explained this way: “The tip of the iceberg is a small hint of a problem, the first, most noticeable portion of a much larger problem, or the most obvious sign of a complex impending situation. The figurative iceberg, in this idiom, is a problem or negative situation. The tip of this iceberg is the part that is above the figurative ocean or the part of the problem that can be easily recognized. It is a fact that the 90 percent of the mass of a naturally occurring iceberg is below the surface of the ocean, only 10 percent or the tip of the iceberg is visible above the surface of the ocean. The idiom tip of the iceberg came into use in the 1960s and is only used to refer to something negative, such as a problem that is much bigger than it first appears.“
That’s how sin works. Most people who claim to be a Christian but pursue sin, hide it. It’s not on display. They keep it secret. However, it leaks out. Some tendrils of smoke will waft out and become evident. The discernment people watching on the wall will see this smoke, and mark it. A GOOD discernment person won’t run like Henny Penny claiming the sky is falling based on one tenuous tendril of smoke, but will see if it is indeed attached to fire. Will watch to see if it grows, or is put out. If it isn’t put out or if more appears, the GOOD discernment person will raise a gracious warning signal, and alert the church (either local or global). People do their diligence from there.
Sin is a snare. It caught Ravi, if he even was a Christian, which I do not believe him to have been. The Bible says either we are a new creation or we aren’t. (2 Corinthians 5:17). No one who remains in Him sins continually; no one who sins continually has seen Him or knows Him. (1 John 3:6).
–Sin catches everyone not on their guard.
–Sin enwraps the unwary.
–Discernment is to be used to check everything and everyone, the Bereans even checked out Paul (Acts 17:11).
–Charlatans abound, and they are good at masquerading as angels of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).
Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5).
The parade of craven sinners masquerading as pastors, teachers, evangelists, and leaders within the church continues marching, but even more on the march is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is always working. He vanquished sin. He overcame death. He will repay their wages to those who trade in sin, but He will also repay those who suffered at the hands of the satanically catalyzed. He is not unaware, nor is he surprised. He is coming one day, and then sin shall be no more. What a day that will be.
“The broader church has repeatedly defended not only those who teach poor doctrine, but those whose lives reflect an inordinate love of money, are engaged in nefarious sexual misconduct, have proven that their character is not upright and moral, but filled with malice, fits of anger, and nearly every other manifestation of indulgence in the flesh. In other words: the broader evangelical world defends those who are not fit for ministry knowingly, excusing away the fact that they can’t meet the basic requirements of the pastorate. Time and again, they defend such men rather than stand with the Scripture’s assessment, which finds them utterly lacking. This should be a rather obvious statement that needs no utterance, but things should not be this way.”