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Reflections on the Heartbreaking Fall of Ravi Zacharias – EN

This months article in Evangelicals Now. was not the easiest to write. The title is not mine – but it is true.

NOT THE GREATEST APOLOGIST… BUT ONE OF THE GREATEST FRAUDS’

‘Demas, having loved this world, has forsaken me’ (2 Tim. 4:10). Is there anything more depressing for a Christian, especially a Christian leader, to see his close allies, his friends, his co-workers, deserting Christ and turning to the world?

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We expect, and can almost cope with the hostility of the world – but other than my own sin, I know of nothing more discouraging and defeating than the fall of Christian leaders who I admired and was taught by.

Three years ago I became aware of allegations against one of those teachers, Ravi Zacharias. Having experienced personally, and seen the effects of gossip and allegations against a Christian teacher, I decided I could not judge. In other words because I did not have enough information – and because I trusted the organisation around Ravi – and because I hate trial by social media – I left it with the Lord. I knew nothing that was not already in the public domain – and some of those more intimately involved with RZIM reassured me. I even wrote an article explaining why we should not judge and how we should treat such allegations.

Last year I was asked to write a similar article over allegations of Ravi owning a couple of massage parlours. I have no intention of going into the details here – but I could not write the article – firstly because I would have nothing to add to the original one and secondly because there were unanswered questions which caused considerable doubt. The allegations are now at three levels – firstly that he misrepresented his credentials, secondly the new massage parlour accusations and thirdly a ‘sexting’ scandal. RZIM have dealt with the first, have appointed an outside investigation into the second, and the third was subject to a non-disclosure agreement. It was that final one which made me realise that there was something far wrong. You do not pay $250,000 to someone who allegedly is seeking to sue or bribe you if you are the innocent party.

Now some of those involved with RZIM are speaking out. Max Baker-Hytch, a tutor with the RZIM Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, wrote a five-page letter – which was leaked – expressing his disquiet at the way the whole situation was being handled. Another RZIM worker – Carson Weitnauer wrote a tragic piece on his blog.

Repeating pattern

I’m afraid the pattern is being repeated far too often. If we are Bible-believing Christians we are aware that the Bible teaches even our greatest heroes have feet of clay. But we must not excuse particular sins by a general understanding that we are all sinners. There is more to this. My view is that these cases are becoming all the more prevalent and harmful because we have not followed Biblical methodologies and principles. We have developed a network system where Biblical church discipline is ignored (largely because the church is ignored), where big donors far too often call the shots, and where celebrity culture results in ‘untouchable’ Christian celebrities. The fall of a leader within the church is a desperately sad thing. Believe me, I have seen more than enough of that to last a lifetime – enough to know that there, but for the grace of God, go I. But the fall of a celebrity leader – whose ministry is his organisation, is even harder, because by the time it becomes public it is usually way too late for any damage to be undone – and indeed the damage is intensified.

Several years ago Ravi came to speak at the launch of Solas – an organisation we set up to help communicate the gospel – (now lead by Andy Bannister the former RZIM Canadian team leader). He was good – but it was that event which convinced me we should not go down the RZIM model. It is not helpful to have an organisation centred on and named after one individual. I found the celebrity aspect more than a little disturbing.

Whilst I greatly appreciate the work of the Oxford Centre and many of the people associated with that – Michael Ramsden, Amy Orr-Ewing, John Lennox, and others – I felt that we were called to reach a different group of people. To put it bluntly, RZIM worked on the trickle-down theory – you reach the people at the top (the 5%) and it will trickle down to the rest of society. But even though I disagreed with that, it was a difference of emphasis – not a moral or strictly theological difference.

I was also surprised that Ravi (and hence RZIM) tried to steer away from the more controversial societal issues. For example it was only when the Same Sex Marriage debate was over that Ravi got involved – more to reassure his supporters in the US, than to have any influence. But again that was an issue of tactics rather than core principle. Perhaps Ravi was much more gentle than this pugnacious Scot!

But it was the reaction to the Bishop Curry wedding sermon which troubled me most. Ravi thought it was excellent and added ‘the world heard the gospel that day. Thank you Bishop Curry’. There was almost nothing of the gospel in that sermon – so why praise it in such a way? I was out.

But none of that prepared me for what has now been revealed. We wait for the results of the inquiry into the massage parlours, but the rest of the evidence seems overwhelming. I feel heart sorry for the faithful workers and speakers in RZIM.

As Carson Weitnauer lamented about his former mentor: ‘The realisation that Ravi Zacharias was not the greatest apologist of his generation, but rather one of its greatest frauds – has felt like a catastrophic betrayal.’ The saddest thing is that it is not just a failure of a system, or a betrayal of an organisation, or even of family – but it is a betrayal of Christ. That does not negate the good work that Ravi did, nor invalidate the gospel he preached – but it does make it harder for those of us who preach that gospel. It is heartbreaking. I hope and pray that RZIM will survive, or that out of the ashes something new and even better will arise. Lord, have mercy!

Is Your Church Carrying Too Much Deadwood – EN

41 comments

      1. The bigger issue here is the lack of accountability. It is not uncommon. It’s almost the norm these days. When fellow leaders are afraid to confront and ask the right questions before things implode, disaster strikes. May God keep us all from falling.

  1. I understand there being nothing more discouraging and defeating for you David than what has happened with Ravi Zacharias who you admired and was taught by. I don’t feel the same way if I’m honest. If I felt intensely every time a “celebrity” Christian’s skeletons came out of the closet I would be a basket case.

    Yes if one part of the body suffers, all of it suffers and no different to the body of Christ and any other body.

    But what can we learn from this yet another leader and their “fall from grace”. Perhaps all of us are guilty in a sense. Perhaps the leader wouldn’t have so far to fall if they weren’t put as much on a pedestal in the first place? I’ve always found the Christian celebrity thing an oxymoron. And with leaders, perhaps we can look to the example of the apostle Paul who when having a following said “one of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor 1:12,13).

    So this celebrity status I would imagine comes with its temptations that other mere mortals don’t face. And it is easy to judge when not facing similar temptations. But then the spiritual man judges all things. So there is a paradox there biblically.

    So I’m curious David as to why it is you feel so heavily defeated and discouraged and this is not something I share in intensity. Is it a personal thing you have taken from this in making things harder for you to “preach the gospel” is it because you “have met and benefited from Ravi” and that he has shared a meal in your home with you? Is it all of them, is it none of them?

    I’ll take one of these wiht preaching the gospel. I can see some instances of it being harder to preach the gospel and others making it easier. Bear with me on this. You will recall I am sure the difficult debates in the church in Scotland around the issue of same sex marriage a few years ago. For me yes the issue was important but what perhaps equally or even more important to me was how this issue was debated. Finding that personally difficult, I chatted wiht fellow dog walkers about the gospel BECAUSE there was that difficulty and me saying that this is not what the church is about in principle then sharing what the church is about wiht giving a gospel message. Their response? It was that they had never heard the gospel before and all they see of church is arguments jut like anywhere else over difference.

    So to me there is a bigger issue here than one “celebrity” Christian. It is the state of the church as a whole and how things are conducted in the church that a preventative to the gospel wiht this scandal being a symptom of a greater ill.

    The theologian Miroslav Volf has said words to the effect that too often the church merely reflects the same sicknesses of the surrounding culture. It seems that on this occasion at least, he is right. Prophetic scriptural writings, especially in the Old Testament give testimony to this not being an exclusive issue for contemporary times.

  2. Great article David. So depressing to read of the revelations. I kept hoping that it wasn’t true. Such damage done to the body of Christ, especially at a time like this, when the devil is thumping Christianity from every angle possible. The world is laughing. The person I feel deeply sorry for is his wife.

  3. Michael Ramsden of RZIM produced one of the memorable talks I have ever heard-‘Conversational Apologetics’-which can be accessed online in different forms. The UK branch of RZIM have done a lot of good work. It is sad to see this story. Evangelicals have a lot of hang ups on sex but few on money. Following a saviour-who had nowhere to lay his head-should not, generally, involve building a business empire. RZIM have provided some super educational stuff. Perhaps positive will come from this? There may be a warning, perhaps, around a much wider problem of bullying , which regrettably is still present in some churches.

  4. I too struggled over this news, and have made it a cause of prayer over the last weeks in understanding what it means. I cannot call him a fraud, because having listened to his teaching and read his books, I see how God has used him to reach thousands for the kingdom.

    I can however recognize his weakness and apparent wavering to the indictment of sin and evil. I must leave him in God’s hands to judge now, and trust that his organization will take the steps to address the results of the investigation and do what they need to to rethink how their ministry failed and take responsibility.

    I do agree when a ministry or church centers around man instead of Christ, it walks in shakey ground. This is yet another wake-up call for many in christian service.

    As for not addressing societal issues of our day, it is important to note that not everyone has the same purpose. His was apologetics, and I’m glad he stayed on track with that purpose.

    This news was yet another reminder for me that Satan is working overtime to destroy and divide the Body of Christ. While I’m extremely sad over this hidden sin, I’m sadder more for his family, his colleagues, and the effect this will have in the proclamation of the gospel to the nations. His role as a major leader in Christian circles just reminds me that I need to guard myself from Satan’s attacks, even though my circle of influence may be insignificant in the world’s eyes, it’s no less damaging to the work of the kingdom.

    May we all be quick to find grace as the planks in our eyes can sting. He who is without sin cast the first stone.

    1. are you willing and able to call out wrong when christian leaders do wrong?

      a refusal to is exactly why Ravi was enabled to do what he did.

      another question: is a refusal to call out wrong out of concern for one’s out spiritual tidiness? playing it safe?

      what about the victims? they sort of get lost and ignored when the christian masses have an overriding concern for personal holiness at the expense of calling out wrong and holding leaders accountable.

      bottom line for me, at least: the victims are more important, and worth risking a sin infraction. I’d go farther and say it’s a sin issue to side with fear of judging at the expense of suffering human beings.

      1. Scottie – my advice is when you are in a hole stop digging.

        And please read things before you comment on them. If you read this blog at all you will know that I have called out wrong when Christians leaders go wrong many times. What I try not to do is pass on gossip as fact.

        Your other ‘question’ is not a question. It’s an ignorant and arrogant accusation.

        When you say that you are prepared to risk sin for the sake of the victims – you are committing two sins. Firstly in your pride you assume that you care for the victims – but others don’t. Secondly sin is against God – it is never right to say that you are prepared to sin and then claim somehow that it is good.

      2. I am not refusing to call out wrong, but I will wait until the verdict is in to add to the noise. We do more disservice as Christians by jumping into the fray too soon on some issues, rather than leaving investigations and organizations closer to the person to do their work first.

        As for the victims, at this point, I don’t know enough about them to give an opinion. In the end, my opinion is not important, and I am going to trust the justice system and RZIM to do the right thing by them. Again, it requires patience and waiting to see what the truth of the matter is.

    2. Carol, you say, “I see how God has used him to reach thousands”. Really, Carol? When someone is found to be untrustworthy, would you still believe their message? If the executive at a company that sells you stocks and bonds turns out to be a deceiving con artist or scammer, would you still believe in their message on their product and be so easily manipulated or deceived or would you then question everything else that they tried to claim? Tragically, Ravi’s entire message has been sullied and compromised because it is human nature to judge a message on the basis of the messenger (status, reliability) and their trustworthiness. It was because thousands had seen him as trustworthy that he was so readily believed and could easily mislead others into seeing him in the manner in which he portrayed himself (public image) while concealing his truly flawed character as a Christian leader. His message was hardly ever about Christ as depicted in the gospels but more about using polemics (art of argumentation) to convince others on the existence of God. It was very light on theology and lacking substance in terms of the message of Christ in my humble opinion. Christians are called to admonish those who stray from obedience to the word of God as long as they are not hypocritically engaging in similar sins but are living righteous and repentant lives instead.

  5. “Three years ago I became aware of allegations against one of those teachers, Ravi Zacharias. Having experienced personally, and seen the effects of gossip and allegations against a Christian teacher, I decided I could not judge. In other words because I did not have enough information – and because I trusted the organisation around Ravi – and because I hate trial by social media – I left it with the Lord. I knew nothing that was not already in the public domain – and some of those more intimately involved with RZIM reassured me. ”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    David,

    When you say ‘public domain’, did you look beyond Ravi’s / RZIM’s narrative? The settlement and NDA were in the public domain 3 years ago, beyond Ravi’s statement.

    Can you honestly say you did due diligence 3 years ago in informing yourself?

    Articles such as the one you wrote in December 2017 (“Ravi Zacharias Allegations – A Christian Response – Article on Premier Christianity) helped keep christian culture complacent and passive in not holding their leaders accountable.

    You presumably have a fair amount of influence. This influence enabled RZIM to continue to perpetuate their false narrative about the Thompsons without accountability, leading to untold tens of thousands of their fellow christians to vilify them, compounding the destruction of their lives.

    I am reminded of Tim Challies statement (with regard to CJ Mahaney & multiple credible allegations of child sexual assault and cover-up in Sovereign Grace Ministries) in which he purposely chose not to do due diligence but remain ignorant because

    “to do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management”.

    https://www.challies.com/articles/thinking-biblically-about-c-j-mahaney-and-sovereign-grace-ministries/

    David, I appreciate your post/article you’ve posted here. But I feel it is a partial response that misses the part you as an influencer played.

    As you’ve reflected and continue to reflect, please consider how your choices have contributed to a culture of passive compliance, a ‘toxic loyalty culture’, preventing accountability to Ravi and RZIM, and contributing to the destruction of the lives of the Thompsons and other victims.

    1. I really don’t appreciate being accused of cover up and not holding leaders accountable. If you had bothered to read the article I wrote it was calling precisely for accountability. I played no part in the cover up by Ravi and whoever else was involved. And yes I did look beyond Ravi and RZIM’s statement but not having been part of the investigation there was nothing more I could do or say. And yes I did do ‘due diligence’ – in other words I read all of the sources that were in the public domain and everything I wrote then still applies. Would you like to tell us what was wrong about what was written? I stated that we should not judge on the basis of internet gossip and what we did not know. – that we should not gossip – and that we need biblical church discipline – not ministry boards. I stand by every word of that and wonder what you, in your apparent omniscience would have done different.

      Your post is one of the more depressing posts I have seen here. The only reason I permit it is so that people can see the level of sanctimonious abuse that some of us have to take. It also shows the danger of allowing trial by Internet and the appalling level of self-righteousness that some people can display in their treatment of others. It’s strange how not once did you contact me to say that you knew (had evidence) that Ravi was guilty and that I was contributing to a culture of passive compliance. But now you feel free to write and condemn and accuse me of contributing to the destruction of other people’s lives. Your post is a disgusting slander – which, because I believe in biblical church discipline – if you were a member of my church you would be held to account for. If you are a Christian I hope you repent of your slander, your intemperate language and your false accusations. If you are not a Christian then I hope and pray that you will come to repent, not just of this sin – but of all your sins. A day of judgement awaits – where both you and I will have to give account of every ill word spoken. Meanwhile I won’t permit you to spread your slander any further here. Feel free to rant away on your own blog…and do make sure to let all of us know which rumours are true and which leaders are going to fall in the next couple of years. Just stay away from me – I have enough to deal with – without such false and slanderous accusations..

      1. Hello, David.

        I think there is some misunderstanding.

        My comment at 8:43 am was in response to Carol Ghattas. I hit “reply” to her comment and typed my thoughts. I was struck by no mention whatsoever of the victims, and also by this statement: “May we all be quick to find grace as the planks in our eyes can sting. He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

        The statement is entirely true, and good, and right. Yet it is also true that silence about wrong doing fosters lack of accountability and enables wrong doing.

        The quote attributed to Bonhoeffer (although it may be attributed in error) comes to mind: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

        They both can’t be equally true across the board. Very few things are black and white. There will be a point where silence and neutrality greatly harm the victim. It seems to me that that would also be displeasing to God.

        I am asking an extremely honest question: why is one’s own personal holiness (in refusing to call out wrong) more important than human beings who are suffering?

        In situations like this, I think it is wise to keep the victims in one’s focus, as the priority.
        ———————————————————————————————————–

        I’ll respond to your other comment, which was in response to my comment to you.

        I’m a little taken aback by the strength of your response.

        I’ve read your article above as well as the article your wrote in December, 2017, in their entirety.

        I appreciate what you have written today. That’s not really what I’m addressing.

        There was enough information available 3 years ago for people of influence to speak directly to Ravi, to RZIM, to any who would listen that things were not forthright. The settlement itself was in the public domain of information.

        As you said yourself, “It was that final one (allegations involving the NDA) which made me realise that there was something far wrong. You do not pay $250,000 to someone who allegedly is seeking to sue or bribe you if you are the innocent party.”

        The dollar amount may not have been public 3 years ago (it may have been, I’m not sure), but the fact that there was a settlement and an NDA at all were compelling enough. The fact that Ravi clearly broke the NDA while the other party (whom he silenced with the NDA) had no choice but to remain silent was compelling enough.

        I’ve been aware of all of these things for the last 3 years, hearing from the Thompsons as they describe the devastation it brought to their lives. I’ve wondered in deep disappointment why christians who have influence have been silent all this time.

        I have read and heard directly from those outside christian culture as to their astonishment and disgust at how christians do not hold their own accountable. This is but one example among many.

        It is a simple fact that the very delayed reaction in evangelical leaders in general in standing up for what is right and plainly stating what is wrong regarding Ravi Zacharias and RZIM has enabled Ravi’s false narrative to grow like yeast. The amount of hate leveled at the Thompsons from their fellow christians has destroyed them. Christian leaders allowed that to happen.

        I am pointing out that there was enough information 3 years ago for people of influence to challenge Ravi and to challenge RZIM and to stand up for the Thompsons. It did not happen. And there were consequences for that.

        I am asking many leaders, including you, to consider how refusing to judge is not incompatible with direct confrontation; to consider how doing nothing in the face of credible allegations has amounted to enablement of perpetrators, and cruel compounding of pain for their victims; to consider the consequences of their choices. I feel this is a fair and reasonable request.

        David, I mean no ill will. I am making every effort I can to communicate honestly and directly. I am a believer, but I simply cannot participate in Evangelicalism any longer, largely because of so many instances of clergy abuses of power with impunity.

      2. You may mean no ill will but your comments were ignorant, judgemental and very damaging. You should at the very least apologise. Under no circumstances did I encourage attacks on the Thompsons – or enable them. You are commenting and condemning from a position of ignorance – not only was the figure not disclosed in the non-disclosure agreement – but we didn’t even know who had paid it. You were not aware of any of these things. And neither was I.

        And no there was not enough information- which was the point of my initial article. Once the information became available then the truth has come out. It is possible that others knew before then – but we don’t know that – and you certainly don’t. In fact you have publicly accused me of covering up and facilitating the abuse. You lied about me. No wonder my reply was strong. By the way I had no access to Ravi and no possibility of holding him to account – any more than you.

        What you have communicated is not honest (and it was hardly direct – coming a couple of years after the event). Your walking away from evangelicalism because of the atrocious behaviour of some leaders shows how weak your understanding of the Scriptures are and how proud you are. Let him who thinks he stands beware lest he fall. I don’t care too hoots if you ‘participate in evangelicalism’ (whatever that means). I do care that you follow Christ – and observe his teachings. Don’t gossip, don’t pass judgement on what you do not know and don’t entertain an accusation against an elder without witnesses. The whole point of my initial article was that proper processes should be followed and trial by media should be avoided. Ironically your posts just demonstrate the importance of that.

  6. I haven’t found any Christian teacher so utterly committed or so brilliant a teacher as Ravi Zacharias.
    I cannot imagine him In this so opposite world.
    I bought 16 of his books after his untimely death and I am in no way discouraged from working through them.
    His heart was in each one. I leave the rest to the Lord. I wept at his loss, I weep at those claims but I somehow cannot believe any of it.

    1. The evidence is overwhelming Jeanette. God in his wisdom sometimes uses very flawed sinful individuals. Martin Luther King whose adultery is well evidenced is an example from recent history.

  7. Dear David et al..,

    I feel that it is much more simple than everyone thinks- He RZ simply got caught in a trap in the same way that David did with Bathsheba.., however RZ trap became a little deeper ( When a woman throws herself at a charismatic leader, the self-control aspect of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, then the lines can become a bit blurred)

    And since normal red blooded males cannot switch off the ‘desire’ aspect, where hopefully this is always totally confined to marriage.., women on the other hand, have an on-off switch when it comes to sexual desire, and hence have much more sexual control over men, and this has been the case since ‘time immemorial’ and I challenge anyone to disagree with this, on simple human and spiritual terms..?

    Yes, the Holy Spirit of God, always gives us an escape route and a ‘way out’ however sometimes the Spirit is willing and the flesh is weak…Looking at the sawdust in my neighbours eyes, whilst I have a plank in mine…

    I have seen so so many leaders in the Christian Church and in Business, fall by the way, as a result of temptations and female interventions…Locally here in Scotland, RBS would have been a total world leader in financial services and banking, probably employing 20 x times, or more the current number of staff.., if it had not been for a woman that distracted the then CEO… enough said

  8. In addition, David and BTW Folks, forgot to ask what may have been significant (or not as the case may be ) of a few days ago, being the 21st of Jan..?

    Well, at 9.21pm, it would have been 21:21:21 on the 21st day of the year, in the 21st year, of the 21st Century… look back at Numbers in the OT…

    And if that is not enough, may I ask what is significant of 37 and 73..?

  9. Yes naming a christian organisation after the living founder is a bad idea. Billy Graham being the exception that proves the rule.

  10. Agree with what you share. But I find the quote from one of his colleagues that “Ravi Zacharias was not the greatest apologist of his generation, but rather one of its greatest frauds” a bit spurious (though I can understand his reaction). Whatever Ravi’s sins, doesn’t in any way stop him from being one of the world’s greatest apologists of his generation – it will, however, make it more difficult for believers to regard him in that light…….

  11. A few thoughts on this matter.

    A fall from grace, is just that. It’s a fall from what sets us apart, from what establish righteousness in any man or woman before God. Grace.

    Ravi, like all of us, can make only one claim before God. On account of grace we are saved, by means of faith in his work. Not ours.

    For Ravi himself, what is established by RZMI is of no merit when it comes to eternity. It also aids no one who finds themselves struggling with Sin in Romans 7, to find victory in Romans 8.
    I am sure Ravi will have realised anything he may have to boast of in the flesh, and the merits of RCMI was as much use as dung (Phil 3) They cannot aid him overcome covetousness and sin.
    Ministries, vocations and employment are no substitute for dependence on the Spirit of God empowering us to put to death the inclinations of the flesh.

    That such men find themselves gripped by sin, does not negate what God accomplishes whilst they walk in faith before him. Ravi was never a righteous man of his own standing, and had none of this come to light, that would still be the truth. That does not mean all that RZMI was a sham or pointless. Many lives have been influenced by the ministry, not his hidden sin.

    Abraham was a righteous man, not because he lived a perfect life without fault, but because his righteousness was based on faith in God, not himself.

    Isn’t it interesting how as Christians we lament when those who have been effectual , fall into sexual sin. In part because we worry about what the world thinks.
    Yet the very same world does the opposite. We live in an age that now elevates those who presently and historically have been influential on mankind, not because they were faithful husbands and wives, but because they are LBTQ+!

    All have sinned and fall short.
    There is only one name by which we can be saved.
    By grace alone through faith are we considered righteous.
    Only by the Spirit can we make the flesh subject to righteousness.

    Are some of the basics of Christianity missed as certain ministries and ministers grow?

  12. Well written David. I think the problem was also the the lack of sufficiently independent governance at RZIM.

  13. I did not communicate as well as I should have. It is my fault.

    You are right. In 2017 no one knew the details of the settlement, including who paid who what amount.

    You are right that in 2017 the information was limited compared to the present. Speculation was required to try to understand things.

    I agree that you did not encourage attacks on the Thompsons or enable them. I apologize for wording things in such a way that portrayed that you had, and which amounted to an accusation. This was my fault.

    My allusion to Tim Challies statement in his article was to point to how remaining silent revictimizes the victims and prevents accountability for the perpetrators. I apologize for any implication that either he or you participated in any cover-up. The danger to others in silencing oneself on the premise of ‘judge not’ in the face of credible allegations of abuse and cover-up was the point I hoped to make.

    In the interest of clarity, I’ll try to do better here:

    It is right to refrain from being judgemental. However, I am concerned that evangelical leaders put forth that message at the expense of scrutiny. The net effect is that evangelical people turn off their own critical thinking and common sense, even when faced with credible allegations. Combine this with celebrity culture, and Christian celebrities who have abused others, engaged in financial corruption, etc. can continue on with impunity.

    My view is that this is part and parcel of why there is so little accountability for leaders (who inherently have power) in evangelical culture. It is why victims are silenced, not believed, viewed with suspicion, while the leaders are given the benefit of the doubt even when allegations are credible.

    Your article from December 2017 in no way encouraged attacks or enabled them. I apologize for saying otherwise.

    If I could refine my intentions, let me say that in my view, the message of ‘judge not’, ‘don’t gossip’ results in people not paying attention to their conscience and common sense. They silence those things, and they silence themselves. They train themselves not to say “DANGER!”, “This is wrong”, “This is dishonest”, “This is manipulative”, “Lives are being destroyed”.

    The message of “take it to the elders of the church” is problematic. There are too many instances of elders protecting leaders from accountability, of leaders protecting each other when allegations are credible. It simply costs too much to do otherwise. There is too much power and money invested in the institution.

    The message of silence and trust the system combined with celebrity culture is what enabled Ravi to get away with what he did for a very long time. It is what enabled his false narrative regarding the Thompsons to proliferate. It is what prompted their fellow Christians to publicly vilify them. It is what destroyed them.

    My point is that when leaders promote a message that silences the little people from speaking from their conscience, with the unintended consequence of tamping down one’s conscience, they bear some responsibility for what happens in the bigger picture.

    These are my views and my perspective, with no expectation that anyone will necessarily agree with them.

    I hope we can resolve our conversation peaceably, minus the animosity. I can’t think of anything I could have written differently to this end.

    1. Thanks Scottie – that’s a completely different approach which I basically agree with. All that I wrote still applies – it is not right for us to judge on the basis of limited knowledge and proof – just as it is not right for us to keep silent if we know and have evidence of wrong doing (which is why I wrote my last article – when I had the evidence). I don’t agree about making conscience the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong – why should I be judged (or judge) by anothers conscience. Truth, courage, justice, compassion, love etc should all come into it. If a church protects its leaders from accountablity it is not a church of Jesus Christ. Biblical discipline (accountability) is as much a key part of the church as preaching and prayer! Thanks for your last post and your apology – it is deeply appreciated…

  14. Thank you, David.

    A word on conscience: as i see it, it represents “created in God’s image”. It is what has kept the human race from destroying itself. Convictions such as it is wrong to murder, harm, steal, lie, cheat, exploit, take advantage of others have been around forever and are the basis of nation’s founding documents and legal systems.

    I have many friends and family who are muslim, hindu, agnostic, and atheist. They demonstrate stronger integrity of character and are more Christ-like than the christian people I’ve known all my life and christians I observe. They consistently choose honesty, generosity, and preferring the other at their own expense. In the words of my agnostic cousin, “I’m not going to lie. That would be wrong.”

    What I describe above has been so striking to me.

    1. Conscience is vital – for our own behaviour – but not to judge others. And we need to bear in mind that our consciences can be seared as with a hot iron – and wrong. The law of God written on our hearts is how Paul describes it in Romans 2.

      I’m sorry that you have known no Christians with integrity or strength of character and that your friends and family who are muslim, Hindu, agnostic and atheist are more ‘Christ like’. Are you not exaggerating a wee bit?

  15. Not exaggerating. The christian people I have known are mostly excellent people (well, I’m a christian, too). Even so, the others I mention demonstrably outshine.

    Largely so because of their sincerity – in the case of my atheist/agnostic friends and family, they have nothing to prove to themselves, to anyone, to a higher power.

    They do it simply because it is right. There is no self-interest in preserving their own holiness or sinlessness.

    1. But you said the opposite. I’m also not sure you are in a position to judge other peoples hearts and motives. Perhaps you should leave your conscience to judge you – and not others? The idea that your atheist friends naturally do what is right and have no self interest is quite absurd – as well as being completely against the teachings of Christ – who I assume you follow?

  16. I don’t see where I’ve said the opposite. True, I can’t know anyone’s motives. And we all have mixed motives.

    But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a judge of character and sum someone up. We all do this every day. Even animals have a sense about people, who is more likely to be safe. It’s how any parent, including you, have chosen baby sitters for their kids — tapping into an intuitive sense about someone. Doesn’t mean we know everything about a person or their motives.

    We ‘judge’, or appraise, people and things all day long. As soon as data presents itself, our brains immediately begin processing it, seeking to understand it. It’s what is means to be alive and not brain-dead.

    My atheist friends/family do what is right (not 100% across the board, because no human does). Choosing not to lie, choosing not to cheat, choosing kindness and generosity — they are right things to do.

    I can’t know their motives, but I can see that is no external system they are beholden to, and I can see that there is no benefit for my friends/family to do these things (other than the fact honesty, etc. and living a moral life are their own rewards.)

    My conclusion is that they are likely doing these things simply because they are the right thing to do. And it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

    1. I’m afraid that I don’t share your ability to judge people and to pronounce whole groups of people good (atheists, agnostics, Muslims and HIndus) and whole groups bad (Christians). You set yourself up in direct contradiction of the word of God – which tells us that there is no one that does good not one. You also cannot know that they do not have some external system they are beholden to – are you seriously suggesting they have not been taught morality – have no societal input – or don’t have any philosophy? You have some very strange friends!

      1. I’ve noticed you tend to…. perhaps see things in black and white terms?

        I don’t judge anyone or any group as being good or bad. I observe good things and I observe bad things, in individuals and in groups. None are wholly good or wholly bad.

        It is true that compared to God’s holiness all goodness is as ‘filthy rags’ — no one stands a chance. But Jesus came to be the bridge, of course. As one metaphorical way to put it.

        Speaking of Jesus, it would be unreasonable and illogical to presume that Jesus did not observe kindness, honesty, and generosity when it happened, regardless of who it was, and appreciate it. He couldn’t have had friends, let alone any functional relationships at all, if he didn’t. He wouldn’t have been human if he didn’t. Human beings notice and appreciate the goodness in those things. Jesus was/is as human being as he was/is God.

        Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I believe he is just as human and just as God today as he was 2,0000 or so years ago. I believe he still sees goodness when it happens and appreciates it. How could it be otherwise?

        I suspect your theology is also framed in black and white terms. My feeling is that perhaps you miss a lot of the other shades.

      2. You don’t judge anyone or any group as being good or bad? I suggest you read your previous posts – which certainly do that.

        The idea that Jesus only had friendships with people who were good is absurd.

        My theology is that I believe what Jesus says. What is yours?

  17. David, did you not read what I said?

    I observe good things and I observe bad things, in individuals and in groups. If something is good, I recognize it as good. If something is bad I recognize it as bad.

    Where did I say that Jesus only had friendships with people who were good?

    This is what I mean about “black and white”. I mention something, and you take it to extremes.

    I mention judging in the sense of appraising an action as good or bad, and you take it to mean I judge the whole person as being good or bad.

    I mention that Jesus clearly had healthy relationships with people which wouldn’t have been possible if he was unable to recognize character, and you take it to mean I only believe Jesus had friendships with good people.

    To fill in the shades between literal black and white, i have no trouble surmising that Jesus had friendships with a variety of people who all did an assortment of both good and bad things.

    I, too, believe what Jesus says, understanding that the Gospels employ various rhetorical devices like hyperbole, metaphor, irony, etc.

    I bet there’s another word at your disposal besides ‘absurd’. It’s not the most gracious way to communicate.

    1. Of course I read what you said – that is what I was responding to. And absurd is good way to describe your comments about atheists being good, Christians bad etc. I’m sure with your omniscient knowledge of the human heart you will have been able to work out that I mean you no harm by it – I just think that some of your views (or the way you express them – which is what I have to go by because I can’t read your heart) are absurd – or worse – unbiblical…I assume you accept what the Bible says about no human being being good? And that it is from the heart that bad things come – and that all human beings are sinners with wicked hearts – including your atheist friends (and you and me)?

  18. Hello, David.

    I’m guessing you didn’t understand what I said, then? I’ll try again.

    I never said anyone was good or bad. In fact, I explicitly said no one is wholly good or wholly bad. Actions are good, and actions are bad. When someone chooses what is good, it is a credit to their character. When they choose what is bad, it is a discredit to their character.

    I explicitly said “I can’t know anyone’s motives”. I can see demonstrative actions. Concerning my atheist/agnostic friends and relative I realize that they do not subscribe to a religious system. They were raised with societal norms of “don’t cheat, tell lies”, which have informed their values; beyond that, through logical thinking I surmise that they have nothing to prove to anyone and choose right actions in the sincerity of simply because they are right.

    Regarding “what the Bible says about no human being good”, I’ve already agreed and made an attempt at explaining my thoughts (in comment on 1/26 at 5:25 pm).

    Why do you take the liberty to a dig at me, “with your omniscient knowledge”? Why resort to mocking sarcasm? I’ve made an effort to communicate politely — why can’t that be returned?

    David, I was looking forward to a meaningful, thought-provoking discussion, but we haven’t gotten very far. We’re still at the point where I’m restating and rephrasing what I’ve already said.

    It seems you miss the whole of what I’ve attempted to communicate, and get stuck on one point or another without seeing my clarifying statements that further flesh out my thinking. It’s like a literal black-&-white way of processing information that misses the bigger more complex picture.

    The concepts we’ve been discussing aren’t simple and one dimensional.

    Thank you for letting me participate in the conversation on your blog.

    If we don’t meet on earth by some unexpected turn of events, we will meet in heaven. Where we will be amongst a greater theological diversity than either of us expect, I imagine.

    (after all, if “I” and “my tribe” are the only ones who are correct, heaven will be very lonely, indeed)

    1. Yes you are right I didn’t understand – What did you mean when you wrote?

      “I have many friends and family who are muslim, hindu, agnostic, and atheist. They demonstrate stronger integrity of character and are more Christ-like than the christian people I’ve known all my life and christians I observe. They consistently choose honesty, generosity, and preferring the other at their own expense.They do it simply because it is right. There is no self-interest in preserving their own holiness or sinlessness……But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a judge of character and sum someone up. We all do this every day. Even animals have a sense about people, who is more likely to be safe. It’s how any parent, including you, have chosen baby sitters for their kids — tapping into an intuitive sense about someone……My conclusion is that they are likely doing these things simply because they are the right thing to do”

      These are statements which suggest that you do know people’s motives and you are capable of judging them.

      Yes – sorry about the ‘omniscient knowledge’ dig – but that is how you come across – when you make such sweeping generalisations and claims to be able to judge people’s motives. Besides which sarcasm is prophetic (Elijah). apostolic (Paul) and Christlike (Jesus)! As Job says “surely you are the people and wisdom will die with you”.

      By the way – I am certain that in heaven there will be less theological diversity – not more. We won’t need theological speculation – we will just simply have Christ….

  19. I would also like to say that I found the analysis and reflections of this author in this article to be very thought-provoking, illuminating, and coherent. Thank you for the commentary in this article.

  20. I do not understand why my posts are being rejected– whether it was a complement on your own commentary, or a reply to that of Carol about how Ravi had impacted a thousand people. I posted it in a reply under Carol’s post, but it said it was loading but then cannot be seen again. Are my posts being filtered out or excluded for any reason– please advise. Even my post to thank you for your commentary was not loaded or put up – please advise as to why?

    1. Your posts have not been rejected. It’s possible that you posted several at once. As I don’t live 24/7 on the Internet it may take some time before I get to approve them. Sadly because of abuse I have to approve posts beforehand. I approve most – unless they are abusive, irrelevant to the thread or someone posts too much….

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