Was Ravi Zacharias a false teacher all along?

Category 4

Verdict: We can safely conclude that Ravi Zacharias was unrepentant, given his rampant sexual immorality.

Preface

The Evangelical Dark Web usually does not weigh in on whether dead figures were or were not false teachers in as great detail as we are doing with Ravi Zacharias. Readers have requested that we write a verdict on him in the past. But Ravi Zacharias is not being written about because of the number of reader requests, as an exception to this practice is being made in light of allegations made against his character and the theological questions that these raise about the credibility of his ministry.

Scope

This verdict will focus primarily on the greatest reasons on why someone would question his legitimacy, as opposed to an exhaustive analysis of his teachings or apologetic tactics. Therefore, this verdict will primarily focus on ecumenicalism, sexuality, and the moral shortcomings of Zacharias. Though he will not be assessed by the standards that Biblical elders are held to because he is an evangelist, the warnings about being “above reproach” will still be applied in this verdict because Scripture’s warning proves true.

Bio

Ravi Zacharias is a world renown intellectual apologist for Christianity. Since the early 1970’s Ravi Zacharias has been a devoted evangelist touring all around the world including dangerous areas. Seeing the need for intellectual apologetics in the church, Ravi Zacharias founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in 1984. Zacharias is a prolific writer and speaker. In numerous books, he articulates that atheism is an untenable position. Ravi Zacharias died of cancer in May 2020.

Ecumenicalism

The earliest indicator that Ravi Zacharias was possibly a false teacher was his ecumenicalism. And while extending olive branches to various branches of Christianity is not inherently bad, questions arise when one goes beyond protestant walls. Although, Ravi Zacharias was Anglican, which is not generally included under the umbrella of evangelicalism because it is a mainline denomination.[1] However, questions arise when a teacher joins hands with Catholics to promote the gospel. Evangelical Dark Web would not necessarily label someone a false teacher over their beliefs on Catholicism.[2] While the Romana Catholic Church is closer to the border on acceptable ecumenicalism, the same cannot be said of Mormonism.[3] In 2004, Ravi Zachariah spoke at the Mormon Tabernacle which was apparently his second major ecumenical effort with the LDS according to his statement in response to criticism.

It seems unnecessary for a Christian apologist specializing in arguing against atheism to lend his talent to a pagan religion that already believes in a god. It would be different if he were to engage in a debate on Joseph Smith, but that is not what he did.

This type of activity is enough to raise a red flag, although it does not prove one to be a false teacher.

Homosexuality

Ravi Zacharias has a tendency to combat homosexuality and its agenda in creative ways. This will not be faulted. However, those who RZIM empowered undermine the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. The primary example is Sam Allberry. Sam Allberry is the founder of Living Out, a ministry which popularizes the use of the term “same-sex attraction” as distinct from homosexuality. Living Out supports people to identify themselves as “gay” or “same-sex attracted” Christians, as opposed to Christians who were formerly homosexual. Tom Buck summarizes his research into Living Out as such:

Essentially, Living Out teaches that a same-sex attracted individual is fixed in his orientation and the orientation itself does not need to be mortified. While they admit that acting on the desires would be sin and even the attraction itself is a result of the fall, a church is not “biblically inclusive” if they tell a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction that they should even “seek” for God to remove that desire.[2] They go so far to say, “attempting to change someone’s sexual orientation sends a number of potentially damaging messages. . . . our sexual orientation is not a sign that we need counselling more than anyone else.”  While I agree Scripture nowhere promises that Christians will be free from all struggle with sin, it is crystal clear on how we should confront our sinful desires.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The work of killing sin for the believer does not only attack the outward expressions of that sin, but goes all the way to the root of sin, which is located in the heart. We are to put to death the evil desires themselves. Seeking for God to bring “healing” to our evil desires is at the core of biblical teaching.

Ravi Zacharias, in addition to The Gospel Coalition and the ERLC, platformed Sam Allberry while he worked to undermine the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and the power of the cross. Platforming a wolf does not alone prove that someone is a false teacher, but it is a red flag.

Ravi Zacharias allegations

After the death of Ravi Zacharias in May 2020, further allegations of sexual immorality surfaced. However, the first instance of sexual scandal occurred in late 2017, early 2018 with a Canadian woman named Lori Anne Thompson. Christian Post states this about Ravi Zachariah’s defense.

In 2017 when the allegations first surfaced, the apologist released a statement, saying he did not elicit any photos or messages and “clearly instructed her to stop contacting me in any form; I blocked her messages.” He maintained that he never engaged in “any inappropriate behavior of any kind” during his marriage to his wife, Margie.

In Zacharias’ lawsuit against the Thompsons, he claimed that Lori Anne had coaxed him into an illicit online affair and that the Canadian couple was attempting to extort money.

Ravi Zacharias is on record threatening suicide in order to prevent Thompson from confessing their involvement in a sexting affair to her husband. Attempts to paint Lori Anne Thompson as a victim when she sent nude images of herself to Ravi Zacharias are undeserved and immoral. Their relationship was adulterous by nature, and the escalating nature of sin left them with no quiet exit strategy which led to lawsuits surrounding this scandal in the first place. Both of these individuals are adulterers and the situation should be viewed accordingly.

The more recent sexual allegations against Ravi Zacharias involve grooming masseuses that worked for establishments that he owned. The dead do not get a trial; therefore, the inability of Ravi Zacharias to defend himself from accusations post-mortem is irrelevant, as it would be for any other historical figure. RZIM, who has every incentive to deny the allegations to keep the money flowing, has conceded to the accusations upon interim findings. This would indicate that the interim findings are indisputable. The interim report reads:

As you know, my firm was hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (“RZIM”) to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment raised against Ravi Zacharias. This communication is intended to provide this special committee of the RZIM Board of Directors with a very high-level interim update of our investigation so far.

As to methodology, we contracted with a well-regarded private investigations firm to assist in this matter. Over the past several weeks, our investigation team has interviewed dozens of witnesses (whose identities will remain known only to the Miller & Martin investigation team, as agreed to by the RZIM Board of Directors), including many massage therapists who treated Mr. Zacharias. Some of the therapists with whom we spoke worked at the Touch of Eden and Jivan Wellness spas mentioned in the September 29, 2020 Christianity Today article, and others provided treatments to Mr. Zacharias at different points in time. In addition to witness interviews, we have reviewed numerous documents and electronic devices used by Mr. Zacharias over the years.

As to scope, we were hired specifically to investigate the sexual harassment alleged to have occurred at the Touch of Eden and Jivan Wellness spas roughly a decade ago. However, we were given broad discretion and authority to follow leads into other sexual misconduct that might arise, and that is exactly what we have done. At this time, we are not disclosing any specific conduct we are investigating beyond the spa allegations, but the full breadth of our investigation will be addressed in our final report.

While some of the massage therapists we have tried to interview are not willing to share their experiences with us, many have spoken candidly and with great detail. Combining those interviews with our review of documents and electronic data, we have found significant, credible evidence that Mr. Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years. Some of that misconduct is consistent with and corroborative of that which is reported in the news recently, and some of the conduct we have uncovered is more serious. Our investigation is ongoing, and we continue to pursue leads.

It appears the reason they provided an interim report is because they intend to investigate broader, more criminal, claims outside of the initial scope.

There are several questions that this situation raises. The first is why Ravi Zacharias owns multiple spas in the first place. Given the fact that massage parlors are often used as fronts to operate brothels, it comes across as unwise for someone who has a whole career spent building an international ministry to make a massage parlor his long-term financial investment.[4] And trying to make prostitutes out of his employees is ultimately what he has been found to have done by this investigation. The remaining questions are about the extent of this behavior. Was he operating a brothel? Was he leveraging immigration law to gain sexual favors?[5] Were any of these acts performed under duress or were they quid pro quo arrangements?

Having reviewed the full report, the key findings are as follows:

  • Ravi Zacharias engaged in rampant adultery and sexual immorality with no significant indication of repenting of this sin
  • Ravi Zacharias International Ministries funded much of Ravi Zacharias’s sin
  • Ravi Zacharias had “binders full of woman” in both describing his contacts and images

The report does not exhaustively detail all of the adulteries of Ravi Zacharias, most notably his overseas dealings. However, the evidence is more recent and larger than anticipated. In addition to his adulterous affair with Lori Anne Thompson, he sexually assaulted massage therapists, made them give him happy endings, and had intercourse with one which is described as rape numerous times over a course of years. He exploited their religious beliefs for his own gratification. He gave them lavish gifts with RZIM funds. He had over 200 massage therapist contacts across various devices and several pictures including pornographic images from some of his overseas affairs. Put briefly, the report is damning. They reflect very recent acts committed by Ravi Zacharias and acts committed of a continued course of conduct. Not only was Ravi Zacharias rampantly immoral on a sexual front, but he used ministry funds to subsidize his immorality.

As a point of order, it should be explicitly mentioned that Ravi Zacharias was married during the time period these events took place.[6] At this point, the remaining questions are about all the acts that we still do not know about as the report was not exhaustive. A lack of repentance is evidence that one is not saved. And these events serve as evidence that Ravi Zacharias was never truly saved.

The Real Debate

The real debate here is whether Ravi Zacharias was saved. This is ultimately the determining factor as to whether he or anyone is a false teacher, but there is a complicated dynamic of sin and repentance after being redeemed that should be explored on a deeper theological issue because this is the debate that is being had about the legacy of Ravi Zacharias. Some of RZIM’s current or former staff are heartbroken and believe that they have been betrayed. Carson Weitnauer, of RZIM, wrote this in the Christian Post:

The realization that Ravi Zacharias was not the greatest apologist of his generation – but rather one of its greatest frauds – has felt like a catastrophic betrayal. In dealing with this news, I have felt a sickening combination of revulsion and grief. In the midst of intense disappointment and anger, I have managed to find comfort in Jesus’ words in Matthew 23. His challenge to the well-dressed, sophisticated, and erudite religious leaders must have seemed unbelievable, even ridiculous, to his audience. These respectable leaders were whitewashed tombs? Really? Yet Jesus detested their foul falseness.

Weitnauer accurately represents the side that believes Ravi Zacharias was a fraud the entire time. The other side of this debate He believes that someone redeemed would not have, by the grace of God, committed the egregious acts that Ravi Zacharias is revealed to have committed, that these acts are evidence that Zacharias was unregenerate.

However, a greater comprehensive view of theology is necessary before drawing conclusions. King David is certainly the most prominent example of a regenerate person committing egregious acts after regeneration yet is still considered a man after God’s own heart. However, the story of David does not end with the murder of Uriah. We see him face the consequences of his decision and return to a righteous standing with God. In 1 Kings 1, we see the servants of King David seek a beautiful virgin to be King David’s nurse and bedwarmer. Yet verse four insists that King David did not seek sexual relations with her. Therefore, the comparison of David in elderly years and Ravi Zacharias in his elderly years would be more apt. David’s faithfulness to not defile Abishag proves a stark contrast to Ravi Zachariah owning a massage parlor and evidently engaging in sexual immorality (continued course of conduct) over a decade ago.

Conclusion

It is very possible for someone in ministry to be so renowned yet completely be a false teach, by virtue of never having been saved in the first place. Deuteronomy 13 articulates that God allows false teachers to prosper in order to test the discernment of his people. There is no specified amount of time where the bait and switch may arise for said false teacher.

One final angle to explore is the intellectual angle. For more logically minded individuals it is far easier to acknowledge certain facts and doctrines but to not truly believe them then it is for emotionally minded people. A non-Christian example of this is Ben Shapiro. Despite his reputation as an orthodox Jew and his ability to intelligently articulate the value of theism and religion, Ben Shapiro does not believe in the miracles in the Old Testament and otherwise has a theologically liberal view on the Torah.[7] The ability to acknowledge and articulate theism does not equate to being a Christian.

Before our faith was called Christianity, it was called The Way. Jesus is The Way. Believing in God and doing mighty works can still land people among those Jesus says, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Because Christianity is a relationship with Christ that reconciles sinners with God, salvation is far more intimate than mere acknowledgement.

The red flags associated with RZIM are certainly enough to issue a caution[8] about Ravi Zacharias, as a teacher. However, his evidently rampant sexual immorality raises credible doubt that he was truly saved, just as it would if we were to find out that a prominent teacher was a pedophile.

Now that the full report, we can safely conclude that Ravi Zacharias was unrepentant of his rampant sexual immorality in his life nearly up until his death in 2020.

Though Ravi Zacharias is under great scrutiny, his status as a potential false teacher is a betrayal to the ministry he created and the work that he did in the realm of apologetics. Whereas the implications here would usually merit avoiding material, we recognize that arguments used by Ravi Zacharias should not be discarded. For this reason, Ravi Zacharias is a Category 4, a wolf, as opposed to a Category 5.


Updated 2/13/2021 to reflect new findings of the full report, as promised. Also, the relationship between Ravi Zacharias is more succinctly described as an adulterous affair and sinful for both parties involved, which is also described in the full report.

A call to action

Evangelical Dark Web is an online ministry that fights to maintain the orthodoxy’s and orthopraxy of Evangelical Christianity. We are specifically set up to fight three false gospels in particular: the Social Justice GospelProsperity Gospel, and Popularity Gospel. We also do in depth research to answer reader questions about false teachers. Consider subscribing to support these efforts.


[1] It is possible for one to be an “Evangelical Anglican.”

[2] This position is maintained because the Roman Catholic Church is a fallen institution as opposed to one that was erected on a false gospel.

[3] This is not intended to be an apologetic against Mormonism.

[4] This is speaking strictly in terms of appearance.

[5] In the United States, certain visa programs, often used by the hospitality industry, enable poor working conditions because immigration status is dependent on the employer.

[6] Adultery is a disqualifying event from church eldership. Ravi Zacharias is not an elder, but this does not make ministry standards moot for apologists.

[7] Naturalistic explanations of Biblical miracles and a wavering view on the authority and inspiration.

[8] A Category 1 or a Category 2

7 comments

  1. This report is sickening because it is believable. I am leery of all celebrity ministers because that status alone lends begets a self importance that is antithetical to Christ. RZ lost any attention from me when I read of his ‘credential’ issue, claiming various yet hollow academic achievement.

    He spoke at my church over a year ago. I was there but working in the lobby. A new believer whom I was mentoring hadn’t heard of RZ but sat in the service. She came to me later and said, “Why is he so popular? He never mentioned the name Jesus!”

    Press on brother. In this mire of apostasy, may God lead us through to finish this race for His honor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article brother. Thanks for keeping up this great work. You are an encouragement in this time of great apostasy – the separating of the wheat from the tares as predicted in Matthew 13. We are seeing a great time of separation of these two now. – Kyle

    Like

  3. Sad, but fair assessment. We should still pray that he repented towards the end of his life, and hope for God’s mercy. Nonetheless, maybe I’m just a staunch Calvinst, but I’ve always found any apologetics outside the presuppositional school to be pretty useless and always “seeker-sensitive”. Was never a big fan of Ravi because of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. -Ravi talked about himself quite a bit when he spoke
    -Did he teach false doctrine? Anecdotally, it was tough to nail down anything he taught.
    -RaviWatch outed, amongst other things, his false educational claims. Suddenly, ALL his archival speaking engagement recordings had these claims removed. I noticed this before I happened upon RaviWatch. I listened to Ravi extensively for two decades.

    I will remind you of Ted Haggard, to give some perspective perhaps.

    Christ bled and died to forgive our sin.
    1 Cor 15:1-7

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Every time I would hear Ravi speak I would come away with the thought of I dunno what he just said, but he lure’s you into this semi hypnotic state by his vocal inflection and phrasing. It was mostly a bunch of psycho babble with some spiritual overtones and antidotes. It’s scary that he could so easily overtake a Christian audience and win their trust and respect without advancing the gospel of Christ. No mention of scripture or even God’s plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ.

    Like

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