Ravi Zacharias has died and with his death evangelicals are singing his praises. Evangelical scandal has changed and now follows people to the grave where their dishonesty remains. Dishonest in life means being dishonest in death. When Jesus says, “Well done good and faith servant” what do you do when evangelicals embrace a man who was dishonest about his education and engaged in sexting during an emotional affair with a married woman? Evangelicals ignore scandal and this blog dealt with this issue when David Powlison of Christian Counseling and Education Foundation died. But can you imagine when the funerals are held for Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, and James MacDonald one day how much lying will take place?
“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.“
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Matthew 25:23 ESV
Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan
The problems with Ravi Zacharias
There were two times in my life where I saw Ravi Zacharias teach. One when I was living in Milwaukee and led the Crusade chapter at Marquette University. Zacharias spoke at the Italian Center. People from Crusade showed up to listen to him. So did many other Milwaukee churches such as Elmbrook, Eastbrook, Garfield Baptist and many others. I picked up his book, “Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message.” Zacharias touted his record and more and in a large ballroom everyone including this once grad student from Marquette believed him. Years later I heard Zacharias speak at McLean Bible in the Washington, D.C. area where he spoke about the problem of evil. At the time I was not as impressed with him but attended and listened. I was in the middle of a faith crisis when I did.
In the end Zacharias proved out to be a fraud. He was not the man that I and others through him to be. Over his career Zacharias did a lot of seedy things that should trouble a number of people. He embellished and lied about his academic record. His comment about Cambridge led the renowned British university to deny he was a visiting scholar. He issued an apology in response to what Warren Throckmorton wrote about . In addition there was also the fact that Zacharias engaged in sexting with a married female and had an emotional affair. He tried to silence her and threatened to commit suicide if she went public about the issue. You can read more about it and see the actual emails here. Zacharias was diagnosed with cancer and evangelicals rallied around him.
When Ravi Zacharias died on May 19, 2020 many evangelicals showered him with praise. I saw various responses in social media below is one from a person I interacted with in the Washington, D.C. area years ago. Read what he says and the praise he heaps on Ravi Zacharias.
Ravi Zacharias passed on to be with the Lord today. He had and will continue to have a significant influence on my life. I can’t think of anyone in our day that combined both intelligent reasoning and kindness like he did – in the defense of the Christian faith. Truth and Love. No one portrayed BOTH the mind and heart of Christ better. Praise the Lord for His Grace in such a life well lived!!
I’ll end with the first time I heard Ravi speak – a sermon jam! One of many times his words changed my life.
There was no concern about the academic embellishment and being dishonest about one’s education. There is no mention of the sexting or the affair that he had at all. I am confident if I raised those issues with this person they would exhibit cognitive dissonance and dismiss them all. This would not be the first time this has happened. This blog wrote a post after another well known evangelical died and it created a stir that surprised me. Let me explain.
David Powlison’s Death and a Controversial Post at The Wondering Eagle
In June of 2019 David Powlison of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF) died of pancreatic cancer. In the Neo-Calvinst world he was showered with praise. Tribute after tribute came forward from The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29, Desiring God, 9 Marks, and many other New Calvinist evangelical ministries. All of the articles just poured out the praise as to how Biblical he was and how Powlison made counseling healthier and more Christ-like. In none of the tributes did people stop and discuss and reflect on the scandals or problems his ministry was a part of and how some people’s lives were harmed as a result. For example CCEF did a lot of business with Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries for years. There was no talk about how Powlison could have spoken up or challenged Mahaney when the abuse of power, sex abuse, and criminal allegations occurred. This blog also broke and reported on another situation that Powlison’s CCEF was involved in. In Elverson, Pennsylvania a rogue Evangelical Free church lead by Steve Estes practiced church discipline and excommunication on an alleged domestic abuse and rape victim. Writing about this issue and reporting it drew in the national EFCA in Minneapolis and resulted in an investigation committee looking into what happened and then working to resolve the situation. Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson broke away from the EFCA and did not do what the national EFCA wanted them to do. In that story CCEF played a role in rejecting a domestic abuse victim and in the process set her up for church discipline. David Powlison and Steve Estes were very close and gave each other business frequently. You can read the story of Elverson in the following two posts, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” and “Hurit’s Public Excommunication While Alleged Criminal Activity by Brock Estes is Withheld from the Congregation: Appeals for Help Fall on Deaf Ears to Steve Musser of the Eastern District and National Evangelical Free Church of America.” Getting back to David Powlison I asked the questions while everyone was praising the CCEF founder if those issues should also be discussed? And in light of what John Piper said about a wasted life asked if David Powlison would count as a wasted life in that his ministry enabled questionable ministries and corrupt churches. You can read that post in, “How Should David Powlison of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation Be Remembered?”
Well that post about David Powlison created controversy and it led to a conversation that surprised me. After it was written someone who is close to the Powlison family reached out to me and asked to speak. They told me how they were reading tributes about David Powlison and found the one I wrote. They were upset, thought it was inappropriate and said that I had no business to write such a negative post about David Powlison. When I raised the issues of CCEF and Sovereign Grace or of what happened in Elverson this person said that there were two sides to every story. When I raised Elverson this person knew the story. But again they defended David Powlison and when I asked if they knew the national EFCA investigated and put forward suggestions for this rogue EFCA church this person dismissed it all. Then this person did something which stunned me in the call, as they begged and pleaded for me to take the blog post down. This individual talked about attending Powlison’s funeral and knew the family close. They did not want the Powlison’s children to read a blog post that said their father lived a wasted life because of these evangelical scandals that he contributed. This person explained that they met with one of of David Powlison’s daughters and as they sat across from her privately hoped that she did not read that scathing blog post. I told the person that I would think about it but after considering it for two weeks decided to leave it up. In this situation there was no concern for the people that were hurt by Mahaney’s SGM and Steve Estes church or even acknowledging the issues that David Powlison contributed.
What Will be Said at the Funerals of People Like Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, James MacDonald and Others Like Them?
The evangelical world is one that consists of scandal. All you have to do is scan the news and read about the implosion of some of these churches. Mars Hill in Seattle, Sovereign Grace Ministries which came out of the Washington, D.C. area and Harvest Bible Chapel which was in the Chicago area. Can you imagine what stories and lies will be told about Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney or James MacDonald when their funeral is held one day?
The David Powlison and Ravi Zacharias situation has laid the foundation for scandal and abuse to follow people even to the grave. No ownership of the mess they created and no repenting of the errors they committed. Instead their corruption will be ignored at a funeral and their lives will be celebrated and showered with praise. If it doesn’t make you vomit then I wonder if you have a conscious? People who are dishonest in life will be dishonest even in death. But can you imagine of what would be said about C.J. Mahaney? The praise from an elderly Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem and others? No mention of the sex abuse that happened under his watch. No mention of how he blackmailed his ministry partner and his his son’s alleged confessed crime against Larry Tomczak. No mention of allegedly buying a SGM pastors silence through a bribe to keep them from joining a lawsuit. You can read about both here and here.
Now can you imagine Mark Driscoll’s funeral one day down the road? All the praise and showering of accolades. No mention of Mars Hill Seattle. No mention of what happened to elders Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. No mention of “Gospel Centered” blow jobs and of how women are penis homes. Nope none of that will take place. Driscoll’s funeral one day will be the greatest shit show in history as people with a conscious will be vomiting in disgust. You can read more about Mark Driscoll and oral sex and listen to that controversial sermon in, “Reflecting on a Controversial Mark Driscoll Sermon About how a Repentant Woman Gets on Her Knees and Performs Oral Sex.” Then reflect on the former leader of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. Can you imagine James MacDonald’s funeral and what will be said about Jmac? No mention of the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. No mention of his anger and bullying issues. No mention about how he violated Harvest Bible Chapel’s 501 (c)(3) status due to personal spending. No mention of how James MacDonald allegedly discussed planting child pornography on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today because he was angry of the converge he received. You can listen to that audio tape in the following post, “Mancow Muller’s Lawyer Attempts to Get James MacDonald’s Defamation of Character Lawsuit Dismissed From Cook County Court.” But in Jmac’s funeral it will all be flowery. You will hear as to how he loved the Lord. Served Chicago and reached the lost. How he was the Lord’s servant who labored tirelessly to share the Gospel with one more lost soul. No mention of the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal at all. And again any one with a conscious will be heaving in disgust over what is said. All of this will be troubling and disturbing in the end. The corruption of the few is paving the way for the corruption of others, and many evangelicals will never hold their corrupt pastor or ministers to account. And in all of those funerals you will likely hear that the person in question ran the race hard, was poured out like an offering and will hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Do Evangelical Leaders Think of Death or is that to Guilt the People in the Pews?
Here is the problem all too often that happens in church. In many services, Bible studies, programs and more you are often told as to how you should live. One should confess their sin and repent of it. They should stay away from sexual sin and the live a pure and moral life. Death is mentioned from time to time, or supporting material is given out that reinforces the fact that one day you will die. I think of what John Piper has said about death and his sermons or articles on how a person will stand before the Lord and face judgement. Remember his critique about the couple who vacationed in Florida and said, “Look Lord my sea shell collection!” That comes from his book “Don’t Waste Your Life.” Then I think of the times I have heard pastors preach on hell and talk about how it should be taken seriously. But in these situations there seems to be a major disconnect between the pastors in leadership and the people who sit in the pews. The pastors seem to be exempt from the rules they teach, enforce or proclaim in their sermons, books and materials. The people in the church are just expected to submit and follow and live in fear. They are the ones expected to live the moral life and be virtuous and pure. Do evangelical leaders talk about death and judgement as a means to control the people in the pews and guilt them? Is that why some warn of hell? Is it just about guilting people? In light of the scandals that keep happening in evangelicalism is seems as if those teaching about hell and damnation at times think the rules don’t apply to them. These are all questions I have and the Ravi Zacharias situation brought those up again today.
For me this is another reason why someone should walk away from evangelicalism. This system I am describing is not healthy and not good. What is in place is toxic and raises a lot of questions. Here is another problem with Evangelical Christianity, to be an evangelical at times means corrupting your integrity, honesty and character. To thrive in some of these systems means you have to become dishonest, shady, sly and betray yourself. Being an evangelical is not about following God its about following a man made system. The best and healthiest thing a person inside evangelicalism can do is leave. Walk out the door and don’t look back.