This is a post that looks at the ties that Ravi Zacharias had with the EFCA’s Trinity International University which trains the EFCA and many of its pastors. Will Trinity admit it was wrong to promote Zacharias over the years or will they stay silent? This question is of additional importance as it appears that the Carl F H Henry Center has begun to take down their Ravi Zacharias material. Meanwhile the Rolfing Memorial Library still has Ravi Zacharias material in circulation and has not acted on removing the material of a man who was found by Miller & Martin to have engaged in rape and sexual abuse. Will Trinity take the right steps? If the D.A. Carson approach to the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal with C.J. Mahaney is any indicator, the answer is no, Trinity will not do the right thing and will continue to ignore the basic teachings of Jesus.
“With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings.”
Ezra Taft Benson
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV
Ravi Zacharias speaking at the Carl F H Henry Center. Previously he was welcome by Trinity’s President at the time Craig Williford. Zacharias talks about how his ties to his alma mater Trinity and what it means to him.
Its hard when a person you admire and look up to is engulfed in scandal or is not the person you think they are. This hit me hard in the early 2000s with an author I admired – Stephen Ambrose. Stephen Ambrose became one of the most well known historians who brought history to the regular individual. He didn’t write history in an intellectual way for historians and academic debate. He wrote his books with the intent of bringing history alive for many people. In the 1990’s I read what became my favorite book about the Normandy landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It came out when I was in college in 1995. The book name is, “D-Day : June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II.” In college I consumed the book and fell in love with Ambrose’s writing style and telling of history. He became the historian I wanted to emulate. At the time I was attending college in Helena, Montana as a history major and when I graduated in 1997 learned of what would be a treat. Stephen Ambrose was to be my commencement speaker. Ambrose had a home in Montana and called the state home in many ways. I was thrilled and delighted and then at the last moment he had to cancel which was disappointing. The college I attended brought in at the last minute a historian from the University of Montana to address my graduating class. Ambrose became well known for his historical works. And his books kept coming out at a phenomenal rate over the years. They dealt with a diverse amount of subjects: World War II in Europe, Eisenhower, Nixon. the Lewis and Clark expedition, the 1869 transcontinental railroad, Crazy Horse and Custer, Halleck, Americans at war and so many other topics.
And then something happened that gave me pause. It occurred after I graduated. In January of 2002 Forbes Magazine began to document issues with Stephen Ambrose and plagiarism. The charges began to arise in his book on the transcontinental railroad called, “Nothing Like it in the World.” Sourcing issues, plagiarism, and the hits kept coming. The Forbes article that looked into Ambrose and plagiarism is called, “Nothing Like It In The World? Hardly.” Forbes documented issues with his other books, and soon other newspapers were as well. His works on World War II, the Lewis and Clark expedition, Crazy Horse and Custer and other titles were bogged down in accusations of academic fraud. The well known historian was engulfed in scandal. I was in grad school at Marquette in Milwaukee when it happened and heard a couple of other grad students comment on the situation with Ambrose. To call it a let down is putting it too mildly. Ambrose died in late 2002 with these issues still dogging him. Even after his death they still kept coming. The author was known for his academic work on Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and additional disturbing material came forward. In 2010 the deputy director of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas released that Ambrose lied about his interactions with Eisenhower and it appears inflated the interviews with the former World War II leader. Whereas the records from the library say he was with Ike for five hours overall. Ambrose claimed he interviewed Eisenhower for “hundreds and hundreds of hours.” It leads one to the conclusion that he cut corners or worse made up material for his book on Eisenhower. You can read about this in, “Did Historian Stephen Ambrose Lie About Interviews with Dwight D. Eisenhower?.”
The entire scandal with Ambrose was deeply crashing and disappointing for me personally. Here is this guy that I admired and loved and I felt cheated. I picked up his books or received them as gifts and now I didn’t know what to do with them? Should I trash them? Give them away? How can I read or cherish a book that could have false information? How did I know in such situations what was fact and what was fiction? I still have them and yet it troubles me still. I’ll admit that I was angry at Stephen Ambrose, and I’m still angry. But it popped up in another way. I took my Dad to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in 2017, and I knew when going that Ambrose had a major impact on the museum. In the gift shop I noticed the D-Day book for sale that I read in college two ceaces prior and suddenly I was flooded with emotions about the plagiarism and other issues with Ambrose. So I went over to the clerk in the gift shop and asked the question, which was something like this. “How do you guys deal with the all the issues of plagiarism in Ambrose’s books? Don’t you find that troubling?” She looked at me in an odd way and I knew I hit a sensitive topic. For me today this is hard to write about and on my bookshelf I still have that Ambrose book on D-Day but I don’t know what to do with it. What was one at one time my favorite history books was consumed by doubt – and it still is, and it still disappointments me deeply.
Ravi Zacharias and Trinity Plus a Scandal Recap
Ravi Zacharias obtained his Masters in Divinity from Trinity in 1976. And as his career in apologetics took off he developed close ties to Trinity which the well known evangelical university featured. Trinity trained many pastors and leaders in the Evangelical Free Church of America. In regular Trinity Evangelical Divinity School catalogs Ravi Zacharias was featured as a frequent speaker. Below you have two Trinity Evangelical Divinity School catalogs which feature Ravi Zacharias. The first one for the 2006 and 2007 academic year. Please note on page 27 where it says that Ravi Zacharias is a part of the Bernard H. Rom Preaching Lecture series.
And again in the Trinity school catalog for the 2008 and 2009 academic year Ravi Zacharias is featured again as a part of the Bernard H Rom Preaching Lecture series. See page 26 in the catalog below.
In the video leading this post you can watch Raci Zacharias talk at the Carl F H Henry Center. Craig Williford who was president of Trinity at the time introduces Ravi Zacharias and extol his work for the Christian faith. Williford did not renew his contract and is today is the President of Multnomah University which is in Portland, Oregon.
As a refresher Ravi Zacharias was caught up in academic fraud allegations of embellishing his training and his degrees. First you had his inflated credentialing and being dishonest about his degrees. Blogger Warren Throckmorton wrote about this here, here and here. Then you had the issues of Ravi’s sexual abuse through his sexting of Lori Anne Thompson. Ravi had sexted a married woman and when she decided to go public he threated to commit suicide. You can read about this here, here, and here. Then news emerged about Ravi Zacharias sexually exposing himself to women inside spas in Georgia and seeking sexual services. A law firm let that information out in December in 2020. But the real bombshell came out on February 9, 2021 with the Miller & Martin report on Ravi Zacharias. It confirmed sexual misconduct, abuse and rape by Ravi Zachairas. It also said that he had purchased two apartments in Bangkok, Thailand and leaves open the door to sex abuse in SE Asia and Thailand. That raises questions of did Ravi Zacharias travel to Thailand to take part of the sex industry there? If you want to read more about this development please read the mainstream media reports below.
- Religion News Service, “Report: Ravi Zacharias was guilty of sexual misconduct. RZIM board apologizes.”
- New York Daily News, “Evangelist Ravi Zacharias accused of rape, sexual abuse in new report.”
- CNN, “Famed Evangelist Ravi Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct, his ministry says.”
- Washington Post, “Evangelist Ravi Zacharias engaged in sexual misconduct, report says.”
- New York Times, “Ravi Zacharias, Influential Evangelist, Is Accused of Sexual Abuse in Scathing Report.”
This blog which writes about the EFCA has also written a few articles about Zacharias as well as Zacharias through the lens of the EFCA also. Here are a few articles that have been composed.
- “Considering Ravi Zacharias and his Passing. Do Evangelical Leaders Think of Death and Funerals? Or are the Pewsitters the Only Ones Guilted Regularly About Death?“
- “Guest Post by Steve Baughman: George Floyd and the Evangelist Ravi Zacharias. The Cognitive Dissonance of the Evangelical Industrial Complex When It Comes To Scandal.“
- “From John Welborn of Salem Church Recommending James MacDonald to Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church Praising Ravi Zacharias. Does Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Explain How Corruption and Scandal Are Ignored?“
- “Ravi Zacharias Allegedly Sexually Harassed and Abused Women in a Spa in Alpharetta, Georgia“
- “Are Atheists Ordained by God to be the Critics of Evangelical Christianity?“
- “Dare We Ask the Question? Was Ravi Zacharias a Sex Tourist in Bangkok? Did He Abuse Women in Thailand and Southeast Asia?“
- “Greg Strand Needs to Take the Lead in the Growing Ravi Zacharias Scandal. He Should Guide and Help the EFCA Navigate Through the Spiritual Crisis.“
- “In a Rare Example of Humility, the EFCA’s Tom Nelson of Christ Community Church Tells His Congregation That He Was Wrong About Ravi Zacharias.“
- “Why the Evangelical Community in the United States Should be in Deep Gratitude to Atheist Steve Baughman.“
- “Kyle Howard on the Disturbing Trend of Evangelicals Empathizing With Ravi Zacharias is Profoundly Troubling.“
- “The Shallow Faith of Tim Tebow. Will the Celebrity Christian Athlete Weep For the Women Ravi Zacharias Abused and Raped?“
- “Some Thoughts on How the Ravi Zacharias Scandal Can be Mitigated and Help Lori Anne Thompson and Georgia Spa Victims.”
It Appears the Carl F H Henry is Taking Down Ravi Zacharias Material While Trinity’s Rolfing Memorial Library Still Has Zacharias Material in Circulation
Before writing this section I reached out to the reference desk of the Rolfing Memorial Library,. When I did grad work that was often the first place I started. A message was also left for the Rolfing Memorial Library’s circulation manager. But let’s start with the Carl F H Henry Center and Ravi Zacharias. It appears as if the Carl F H Henry Center is starting to take down their material of Zacharias. I noticed this with the Ravi Zacharias dialog which was taken down on their website. Now if you want to see what was there previously then the internet web achieves can show you what was taken down, and you can access that through this link here. In regards to the Rolfing Memorial Library and Ravi Zacharias their material is still in circulation and being used. Take a look at the screen shot below from the card catalog off the internet. Over 390 items related to Ravi Zacharias still available at Trinity.
Trinity needs to remove those books, media and other material from circulation. This is not cancel culture instead this is removing a fraud from the circulation. Its time for Trinity to discuss how they were wrong about Ravi Zacharias. He was not the great apologist many proclaimed. Instead he was a fraud that conned many evangelicals. In the end he was no different than Jim Bakker of PTL fame. Before writing this post as I said above I contacted Trinity to discuss this with them. I was given the cold shoulder which is quite common in evangelical culture and then proceeded to write about this issue four days later.
The Problems With Trinity Didn’t Start with Zacharias. They Go Back to D.A. Carson Attacking a Rape Victim While Defending C.J. Mahaney in the Sovereign Grace Ministry Scandal
I started this post about how I admired historian Stephen Ambrose and then later realizing he was not the historian I thought him to be. I share that personal story to show that fraud and abuse happens in different ways. Will Trinity do the right thing and discuss the sexual abuse situation with Ravi Zacharias? Will the well known evangelical university which trains people for the EFCA admit that it was conned and that it was wrong to feature and promote Zacharias over the years? Will the Craig Willifords and all the other leaders of Trinity admit that they made a mistake and say they were wrong and grieve for the women raped and sexually abused by Ravi Zacharias? This blog is going to say that chances are that won’t happen. Don’t get your hopes up or expect many evangelical leaders to actually believe and follow Jesus’ example. The reason why I am going to say that Trinity will not do the right thing is because of previous precedence. In the Sovereign Grace Ministry scandal with C.J. Mahaney which dealt with a ministry covering up sexual abuse D.A. Carson used his platform at The Gospel Coalition to attack a female who was raped inside Sovereign Grace. You can read Carson’s statement in, “Why We Have Been Silent about the SGM Lawsuit.” For historical context and to explain the situation in detail please read, “From D.A. Carson to Steve Estes the Following Question Must be Asked: Is the Evangelical Free Church of America a Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims?” Despite Carson’s behavior he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. And the professor who couldn’t practice what Jesus taught about owning mistakes and righting a wrong was celebrated at Trinity, EFCA Theology Conferences lead by Greg Strand and other EFCA events. This blog wrote about Graham Cole who pre -pandemic visits different EFCA churches in the United States. Graham who is the Dean of the divinity school was made aware about the D.A. Carson situation and Cole stayed silent. You can read that in, “Graham Cole Speaks at Hershey Evangelical Free; Will the EFCA Ever Face the Issue that D.A. Carson Attacked an Alleged Sexual Assault Victim in The Gospel Coalition Statement in Defense of C.J. Mahaney?.” So my guidance is don’t expect Trinity to actually practice the Christian faith. Their approach is that they are exempt from the faith they expect others to follow. They want to have intense theological courses and instructions but when it comes to following Jesus and what he says about admitting error and going back to your bother, well it doesn’t apply to them. This is why people like me are becoming spiritually nothing and atheists. The evangelical culture is toxic and evangelicals are a pride filled group who posses no concept of humility or realize the harm that they are doing. The Craig Willifords and D.A. Carson’s true legacy is not going to be theological teaching or guiding an evangelical school. Instead their legacy will be increased secularization as people like me walk away, become in-different or become atheists. So will Trinity admit error and talk about this situation with Ravi Zacharias? Will it become a teaching moment to learn the lessons and ask where did we got wrong in evangelical culture? No…that won’t happen. The main take away is don’t expect Christians at places like Trinity to actually practice and believe what Jesus himself once taught.