RaviWatch

Investigating the false claims of evangelist Ravi Zacharias

MY AGENDA IN A NUTSHELL

I believe Ravi Zacharias uses his bogus and exaggerated academic credentials to spread a harmful message.

I believe that Ravi Zacharias's bogus and exaggerated claims about Cambridge, Oxford, his multiple "doctorates," his "quantum physics" studies, etc. tend to make his message more believable to many people.

I believe that Ravi Zacharias is a disturbing example of how easy it is to fool educated people.

I believe that the Ravi Zacharias matter is a disturbing indication of a Code of Silence amongst evangelical Christian elites and academics.

I believe (or at least hope) that exposing Ravi Zacharias will lead to greater critical awareness on the part of many people.

I consider Ravi Zacharias's claims to expertise in philosophy (or in any academic field) insulting to those academics who dedicate their professional lives to becoming real experts in highly demanding fields (and who usually do so under glory-free conditions.)

I consider Ravi Zacharias's applause-line approach to complex philosophical and theological issues dishonest and inimical to critical thinking.

I prefer a world in which dishonest people are exposed over one in which they get away with it.

I believe that many of my fellow atheists are not so different from those who uncritically follow Ravi Zacharias, (although I know of no prominent atheists who lie about their credentials as Mr. Zacharias does.)

WHY IS THE RAVI ZACHARIAS SCANDAL INTERESTING?

This is not just another dishonest preacher "Dog Bites Man" story. RZ is different, for two reasons. First, he shows us how gullible educated audiences can be. Second, the failure of RZ's Christian colleagues to publicly rebuke him for blatant deceit reveals a Code of Silence to be in effect amongst Christian apologists. They ignore both common decency and the command of 1 Timothy 5:20 in favor of protecting a major religious rainmaker. This is a story that should interest people of any religious persuasion.

"But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning."

1 Tim 5:20

WHO AM I AND WHY DO I PICK ON RAVI ZACHARIAS?

My name is Steve Baughman. I am a San Francisco lawyer, musician and some-time-part-time philosophy graduate student. I am an atheist and I have been known to post videos at YouTube as the Friendly Banjo Atheist.

In my studies I have come to see that some of the best philosophers are Christians. Atheists who deny this are either ignorant or blinded by anger. When I find a brilliant and articulate defender of the faith I tend to pay attention. Around early 2015 I happened upon RZ. He was not only articulate but had the Oxford and Cambridge education and multiple doctorate degrees to deserve a fair listen.

Plus, he made an argument about the prophetic inspiration of the Book of Daniel that ruffled my world view. If RZ was right about Daniel, (and his impressive academic credentials made him all the more persuasive to me,) I would need to reconsider my atheism.

It took many hours of reading and contacting Old Testament scholars to see that RZ's Daniel argument was fundamentally dishonest. Click here to watch my video on the issue.

I wondered why so qualified an academic would resort to bogus tactics of persuasion. I began digging and quickly found that RZ was a pretender. He had no doctorates, not even an academic M.A. He had never been a "visiting scholar at Cambridge University" nor a "Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University." In fact, without exception, every single impressive academic claim he made about himself was either false or grossly exaggerated.

I was astonished that he could get away with this while speaking to educated audiences worldwide. And I was especially troubled that not a single one of the real scholars with whom RZ partnered in evangelism ever bothered publicly to call him on his dishonesty (John Lennox. Paul Copan. Jeremy Begbie, Alister McGrath, Norman Geisler, and many others.)

We all know about the Code of Silence amongst cops and cardinals. But evangelists? Don't their holy documents require them to reprove erring elders for the benefit of the community? Or at very least to not enter the preaching business with bold deceivers?

There were only two responses open to me. I could shrug my shoulders and move on, ("Sigh,... evangelists will be evangelists.") Or I could document and publicize RZ's deceit. I chose the latter, not in the naive hope that my work would lead to RZ's demise. Rather I hoped that exposing RZ would raise critical awareness on the part of pew-warmers in churches and universities, at least in my own country. "Be on guard; there really are charming preachers who will deceive you!" It was also my hope that the RZ scandal would prompt the professional Christian press to begin a thorough discussion of credential-padding by evangelists. This is a serious and widespread problem.

I am happy to report that the word about RZ is getting out. But it is with no help from RZ's aforementioned colleagues, nor from leaders in the God Business or the Christian press. Perhaps that will change soon. If it doesn't, and if I am wrong about God's existence, atheists and other reprobates might not be the only ones in serious trouble on Judgment Day.

Steve Baughman
San Francisco
November 2016