"Nothing is as important as the truth."
"But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning."
Once upon a time Ravi Zacharias claimed to hold some very impressive academic credentials. Those days are gone and his academic résumé now stands in shamed tatters. But his persistent invocation of Oxford and Cambridge affiliations paid off. He has successfully crafted an image of himself as a highly-credentialed, scholarly defender of the Christian faith.
That image lives on. RZ remains in demand all over the world as a speaker on the subject of Christian apologetics, and his weekly radio show is broadcast on over 1,600 radio stations.
In May of 2015, after a brief investigation, I came to believe that RZ had lied about his credentials and I contacted him to seek an explanation. After further investigation, in June of 2015 I informed RZ of my intent to make my findings public.
RZ quickly modified or removed from his official website bio several of the false claims. Then, in October of 2016, shortly after my “Ravi on the Run” video was released, he removed most of the remaining misleading material from his bio.
Finally, after years (decades?) of deceit about his credentials, RZ had been forced to come clean, sort of.
In the following pages I share the findings of my investigations into the claims RZ has made about his academic credentials. Much of my information comes from Freedom of Information Act requests I filed with Cambridge and Oxford. My research has been hampered somewhat by the refusal of RZ’s self-named ministry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), to answer questions about even the most straightforward matters, like whether RZ formally enrolled at Cambridge in 1990 or merely audited. Initially, RZ’s people were gracious and cooperative. But on June 18, 2015, when I shared with them my tentative conclusion that RZ had lied about his Cambridge gig, they ceased all communication with me.
A case is always harder to make when the accused exercises his right to remain silent. Still, a mountain of evidence establishes that RZ has engaged in a pattern of deceit and that he has no qualms whatsoever about construing ambiguity in a light most favorable to his public image. Honorary doctorates become “doctorates,” and sitting in on a few classes at Cambridge makes him “a visiting scholar at Cambridge University.”
Clearly, RZ is a man who cares deeply what others think of him. And if a dose of falsehood enhances his image, falsehood there shall be.
Fortunately, after nearly 18 months of searing criticism, not just from me but also from several concerned Christian bloggers, RZ has cleaned up his official bio considerably. The bogus Cambridge claim is gone, the number of references to himself as "Dr. Zacharias" is down by more than half, and a few weeks ago he added the dreaded word "honorary" to his doctorates. I suspect that he has, with deep regret, also put the absurd "Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University" thing permanently to bed.
Behold the new Ravi Zacharias! With résumé fraud no longer a safe option, the erstwhile academic heavyweight is now just a politically connected circuit riding preacher with precisely zero academic credentials.
Sadly however, the bell of deceit cannot be unrung. Google "Ravi Zacharias" and "Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University" to see how widely one of his more outrageous claims has spread.
Perhaps a mea culpa will follow some day. But for now, RZ and his Public Relations Manager, Ruth Malhotra, have adopted a strategy of public silence, hoping perhaps that the scandal will fade away. Unfortunately for them, that seems unlikely to happen.
I encourage Christian media and other concerned persons to contact RZ about his résumé padding practices. He owes his followers and donors an explanation. And for the few who care about such things, there is also 1 Tim 5:20.
Caution is in order, though. Note the crafty and misleading reply RZ gave to one concerned pastor who contacted him about my allegations.
For a one-minute summary of my investigative claims, see my "Ravi on the Run" video at YouTube.
For extensive written details (including RZ’s private letter to the concerned pastor) see the notes to my video "Lying for Lord or Self? Hard Questions for Ravi Zacharias."
Thank you for caring about truth in advertising.
Steve Baughman (Friendly Banjo Atheist)
Attorney at Law
November 18, 2016