At the EFCA’s Christ Community Church in the Kansas City and Kansas area Pastor Tom Nelson wrote a glowing tribute about Ravi Zacharias. Steve Baughman who wrote about the issues involving inflated academic scandals with Ravi Zacharias as well as his sexting with a married women wrote Tom Nelson a response to his blog post.
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that can be given a name.”
This is a guest post by Steve Baughman who wrote and pursued the issues with Ravi Zacharias within evangelicalism. Steve has discussed this issue on his YouTube channel and has published a book called, “Cover-up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, and God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias.” Steve has well sourced his posts with legal documents and statements by differing organizations. I am going to turn the rest of this post over to Steve.
Even in death Ravi Zacharias continues to teach us. And the latest lesson may be his most important.
Zacharias had many secrets. The academic credentials he had long and loudly claimed for himself turned out to puffed or simply non-existent. In August of 2018, in a little noticed statement to a Christian blogger, Zacharias admitted as much.
In July of 2017, Zacharias sued a young married Canadian woman in Atlanta federal court. Zacharias admitted having an online relationship with the woman and that he had initiated “more secure” communication with the woman by providing her his BlackBerry information. This more secure method enabled him to receive sexual photos from her, a matter that he admitted not reporting this to his board until April of 2017 when she threatened legal action against him for “predatory behavior.”
Per Exhibit 1 of his complaint, (a demand letter from the woman’s lawyer,) Zacharias left behind an email in which he threatened suicide if the woman confessed the matter to her husband. Zacharias refused to comment on the suicide email when asked about it by Christianity Today.
The Christian watchdog group, Ministry Watch, investigated the credential fraud and lawsuit matters and concluded in a published report that the evidence “raise[s] legitimate questions about Zacharias’ character and judgment.” They also concluded that Zacharias had likely made financial payments to keep the woman silent.
In January of 2019 Shirley Steward, a retired detective from the Ontario Provincial Police came forward and claimed in a detailed article that as a young minister with the Christian & Missionary Alliance Zacharias pressured her to have an abortion after she became pregnant by his brother. Steward told her story purely “to inform folks that Ravi is not the person he claims to be.”
There is much more, but let us pause to ask what this has to do with Zacharias teaching us something.
Dr. Tom Nelson is known to readers of this blog as an evangelical heavy hitter. Nelson is an influential pastor, author, president of a national pastor’s network, and board member at The Gospel Coalition and Trinity International University. Two weeks ago he published a glowing tribute to Zacharias, hailing him as “a wise and needed prophetic voice to the church.” Unlike the “so many shallow narcissistic Christian celebrity leaders” Ravi Zacharias, Nelson told us,“was the real deal” whose “legacy of a life well lived will continue to live on for generations.”
And so on.
Nelson, we may assume, does not see decades of documented credential fraud, nor payment to silence a sex abuse complainant, as consistent with a “life well lived.” Nor is it likely that Nelson condones pastors threatening suicide to cover up their misconduct. And yet he pretends that nothing worthy of ethical concern happened in Zacharias’s life. Sadly, Nelson is joined here by a large cast of Christian nobility that has chosen to remain silent about the awkward and ugly truths that followed Zacharias to his grave.
And it is here that Ravi Zacharias’s words ring most forcefully. As is well known to his followers, on his conversion to Christ Zacharias vowed to “leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth.” He also warned millions of fans that “compromising the truth is a serious blunder.” How will evangelical leaders apply the words and heed the warning of the great apologist?
On June 29 I asked Dr. Nelson that question. I also followed up with a voice mail. No reply.
Nelson, of course, owes me no response. But surely he owes his ministry colleagues, his flock, and his Lord a response. What responsibility, after all, do evangelical leaders have to speak truth about deceivers in their profession?
Ravi Zacharias is gone. But this is not about a dead man. At stake here is the integrity of a large and influential evangelical movement that claims to follow a living and highly demanding God.