One Pastor’s Plea In Response to the Ravi Zacharias News

“Jesus didn’t come to make bad men good, he came to make dead men live.” I’ve quoted that at every Easter service and funeral I’ve done for as long as I can remember. When Ravi Zacharias said it, I know he didn’t mean it literally. Jesus did come so that by faith his righteousness is counted as mine. I know Ravi said it that way for effect. Jesus is not religion. And both his claims about our resurrection and his own bodily resurrection are unparalleled in human history.

Now, while I still believe that statement, I feel nauseous thinking about it. Ravi Zacharias’s own ministry has unearthed his horrific private sins since his death. In 2017 when more mild accusations were made against him, I didn’t want to believe it. Now, there is no reasonable doubt to me. Ravi was a sick man.

Yet I am not writing today to try to convince you of how disturbed I am. I am surely not nearly enough. I’m not telling you how to feel about it. I do, however, want to make a pastoral plea to our Christian readers today about a very simple, practical, and biblical way to respond.

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he included “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”. In the Beatitudes, he said that “Blessed are those than hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” There is no doubt in my mind that if I am going to keep from going down the same road Ravi went down, I’m going to have to beg God to help me. This is countercultural and counterintuitive, as the Bible typically is. We want to try harder. To be stronger. To turn over a new leaf. We resolve at New Years’.

But that is not the way of Christianity. A person who is hungry and thirsty is in a posture of dependent humility. You get to that point because you do not have. If you have, you never let yourself get hungry or thirsty. I’m convinced that Jesus is saying you need to cry out to God for righteousness like a person desperate for bread and water. The fact “They will be filled” is proof. He is not telling us to fill ourselves. This verse is right after “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the meek”. Only those who recognize that they cannot make themselves righteous will be righteous in God’s kingdom.

The verses about temptation and evil in the Lord’s prayer are the same. They are commands. But not “Come here!” to a child commands. They are “Help me!” type commands from a person drowning in the water. Much like Psalm 119:33-40.

It feels strange to say this because I draw a paycheck teaching people that the Bible is literal time-and-space history. But sometimes Samson and Solomon feel too far away to be real. Ravi Zacharias does not. I don’t know if he ever was a Christian but I do know that I am not above his actions being my actions. Jesus’s words and Ravi’s life teach me that if I ever get to the point where I think I’m above a certain sin, I’ve just taken the first step to commit that sin. It is only when I am weak in Christianity that I can be strong.

Years ago, a married guy I know succumbed to sexual immorality while his wife was away one weekend. He eventually confessed this and it created gigantic issues in their marriage. Yet with time, his Christian wife forgave him and they worked through it. One day he and his wife were getting ready to part again; and, in the car, before she got out they prayed together that he would be faithful while she was away. This was not her telling him, “Be strong. Try harder. Do better.” No, it a prayer of meekness, filled with tears from both sides that God would keep him from temptation and would deliver him. That God would fill him with righteousness.

Today, even though I am not in the same boat as Ravi, I know I could be. So that is the prayer I want to pray today with my wife. It’s the prayer I want to pray for the rest of my life. And that is the plea I make with my fellow Christians today.

Editor’s Note: Due to the recent investigation and subsequent revelations by the RZIM ministry, confirming the many moral failings by Ravi Zacharias, we have decided to retract the tribute we published in May of 2020.

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married five years and have a 2-year old son, Liam Erasmus. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

12 thoughts on “One Pastor’s Plea In Response to the Ravi Zacharias News

  • February 12, 2021 at 12:48 pm
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    Good thoughts. David also stumbled yet was a Man after Gods own heart. His stories of bravery and psalms are taught in Sunday Schools and pulpits across the world. Despite his shortcomings we admire him. Why is this issue with Ravi any different? Why retract the tribute? He was a good man. He had a secret sin that he struggled with and apparently acted on…like David…like you and I. We must cry to God for help but to discredit his ministry and tribute, sounds more like political correctness or worse…pharaseeism. My opinion .

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    • February 12, 2021 at 12:55 pm
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      I didn’t actually contribute to our tribute (I don’t know why I didn’t as I admired him greatly) but even if I had I would have favored pulling it. David we know confessed and repented after being confronted. He went to the temple to worship afterwards. What Ravi did, apparently, was in secret and in mass and over a long period of time. And if there was confession and repentance, I would be confused why it hasn’t come to light, considering the report is from his own people.

      The things I have said about Ravi in tribute more unofficial capacities simply are not true now. I have called him a faithful servant of Christ. That seems to be false now.

      i have wondered aloud already even, what do we do with his material. That question is harder to me. But if I quote him I wont’ be using his name. At least that is where I am so far.

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    • February 12, 2021 at 1:49 pm
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      Jeff, I ask this with utmost respect and sincerity, have you read the most recent findings from the independent investigation? It’s linked in the article, fwiw. There is no evidence that he ever repented. This doesn’t seem similar to David’s situation at all.

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      • February 12, 2021 at 8:52 pm
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        I think you’re right, Phill, about the differences between Ravi’s situation and David’s. But those differences seem to hinge on God’s merciful exposure of David’s sin through His prophet. David also went to great lengths–murder!–to cover himself, until Nathan called him out. It’s sad to me that there was no Nathan (as far as I know) to speak to this sordid mess.

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  • February 12, 2021 at 1:34 pm
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    My heart aches as does yours, Gowdy, and the heart of millions. Thank you for warning and reminding us. God help us all.

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  • February 14, 2021 at 5:39 pm
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    I cringed when I read your line “I don’t know if he ever was a Christian…”. Why do you doubt his faith? Because he sinned? Consistently? Don’t we all? Yes, we are deeply disappointed when men of faith that we admire who are on the front lines defending the faith and leading the charge crash and burn (Hybels). And we should be. We should grieve over their sin, for what is does to their witness and the harm it does to the kingdom. But who among us has the right to doubt their salvation or the sincerity of their faith? Is it possible we are harder on Ravi and Hybels because their struggles were sexual? I will forever be amazed that David could be described as “A man after God’s own heart” considering all of the struggles and failures in his walk with God (and there are more than just Uriah and Bathsheba). Yet, I think that line is in there to give us all hope. God’s grace and mercy are so much deeper than we can fully comprehend. And we need to leave space for the idea that despite his failures, Ravi just might have been “a man after God’s own heart” as well.

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    • February 14, 2021 at 10:04 pm
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      I’m not saying I know he wasn’t ever a Christian. I’m saying I don’t know. No one does. I’m not saying any more or less. The man isn’t King David (see above) so that isn’t in my line of thinking. From my understanding of the Bible, the great likelihood is that he either apostatized from the faith or he never was a Christian. I suppose there is a tiny chance he repented before his death. But the other two options are likely. I’m saying I do not know which one it was. You seem more confident. That’s great. I am not.

      One thing I am sure of, is that for the last X amount of years, he was not a “Man after God’s own heart”. David repented when confronted by Nathan. Ravi and his people silenced and shunned those who confronted and asked questions.

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  • February 16, 2021 at 10:59 am
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    I think Zacharias is comparable to Saul, not David.

    When Saul is confronted by Samuel, he claims that he obeyed. Saul says that he did what the Lord asked. I can almost hear Zacharias in this voice when reading I Samuel 15: “But I obeyed. I shared the gospel and defended the faith, and I was really good at it.”

    God did not need Ravi Zacharias. God wanted him to obey, just like He wants all of us to obey.

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    • February 16, 2021 at 1:02 pm
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      That’s a great point. Saul is so different than David, similar to Judas and Peter. Thank you for that. I may be wrong but seeing as how I used Solomon and Samson in the article, but I think Saul is even better an example than they are.

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  • February 18, 2021 at 10:00 am
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    I had not known the details of this issue until reading this article and reading the linked CT article, both in full. As someone whose brother and brother-in-law are both professionally involved in apologetics, and having a huge interest in this wonderful space, I am saddened by the thought so many people will interact with these facts as more of a reason to not seriously look into the evidence of a Creator, of His historical revelation of Scripture, and the evidence of His Son and His Church.

    Sin hurts innocent people. We all experience the slaps and stabs of sinners around us and we slap and stab everyone with whom we come into contact, and thousands more who we never meet or of whom we never know.

    I am praying that Kiley Hawkins is constantly reminded of his sin, and always remembers confession and repentance is the easiest way out.

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    • February 18, 2021 at 11:15 am
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      Wonderful words.

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  • March 28, 2021 at 6:38 am
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    I joined the RZIM Connect forum a few years ago and I found what happened very difficult.

    Having only read a very little of what REO has to say, some words of Aslan, in ‘The Invitation’, come to mind.

    “Susan, that is not your story. I am telling you your story, not theirs. No one is told any story but their own.”

    David said to our loving Father, “… against you only have I sinned.”

    A while ago now, we had a retired minister come and minister for a few weeks. He went through the beatitudes. I found, especially the first one, so very powerful, blessed are the poor in spirit.

    Stephen Warwick went on to describe ‘poor in spirit’. Ever since it has become one of my joys to have a sense of my absolute and utter desperateness for the intimate relationship with our loving Father that our precious Jesus has made possible and is always working in us through His dear Holy Spirit, that as we behold His glory we are changed from one degree of glory to another.

    2Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

    But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

    Jeremiah 9:24-25 (KJV)

    24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.

    Let us then, think on those things which are,

    True and Honest
    Just and Pure
    Lovely
    Of Good Report
    Any Virtue
    Any Praise

    And so glory in the LORD!

    Reply

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