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The Christian Industrial Complex Shields Its Own

“Ravi Zacharias is perhaps the best-known Christian apologist of our day.”
                                                       —Reasonable Theology.org
“Nothing is as important as the truth.”
                                                       —Ravi Zacharias in The Real Face of Atheism

It was the summer of 2015 and, as is sometimes my practice, I was searching the Internet for smart Christian apologists who might ruffle my atheist paradigm. I found a video lecture by a Cambridge and Oxford scholar whose credentials included several doctorate degrees and a stint at Cambridge studying quantum physics. This man demonstrated convincingly that in the 6th century B.C.E. the prophet Daniel predicted with stunning precision the rise and fall of Alexander the Great two centuries later.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias is famous for his ability to pull off arguments like this. The late evangelist and lawyer Chuck Colson called him “the great apologist of our time.”[i] His weekly radio show plays on over 2,000 outlets worldwide, he has written over 25 books, many of them bestsellers. He gets millions of YouTube hits, packs auditoriums, and has a growing portfolio of self-named ministries with offices around the world. His CitizenAudit entry shows his ministry bringing in $25 million yearly.[ii]

Dr. Zacharias presents his impeccable academic credentials in a way that starkly differentiates him from ordinary circuit-riding preachers, and he makes sure we know that he’s got the resumé to go with the suit, littering his lectures, writings and publicity materials with references to famous universities with which he claims to be professionally connected. And the strategy works. Christians worldwide hail him as God’s answer to the secularist cancer that has infested the academy. Atheist scholars beware!

I vividly recall seeing Dr. Zacharias waving his arms and talking about the Seleucids and the Ptolemaics as he stood before that University of Illinois student audience. “Centuries before to be so specific in prophecy” could only be evidence of “the supernatural” in the Book of Daniel, he thundered.[iii] The argument was compelling in large part because it came from a man whose academic credentials were as good as anybody’s. Would Ravi Zacharias force me to adjust my atheist worldview?

Silly me. I should know by now that, for every 30 seconds it takes a Christian apologist to make a “fulfilled prophecy” claim, it takes a few hours of tedious research to see that it is probably bogus. That’s just the way extravagant prophetic claims work. The Hal Lindseys of the world cash their checks before anybody has the time to scrutinize their theories. In this case, the overwhelming scholarly consensus is that Daniel was written after Alexander’s time.[iv] Daniel had “predicted” something that had already happened. How predictable.

Dr. Zacharias himself had known full well that the dating of Daniel was controversial. He admits as much in his memoirs.[v] It made me wonder what else Dr. Zacharias had been dishonest about. I began to dig. I struck gold. Ravi Zacharias, it turned out, has been less than honest about a great many things. And what surfaced is far worse than the usual sex or money scandals that embarrass so many professional men of God. Not that Ravi Zacharias is squeaky clean in the boy/girl department. On July 31 of 2017 he filed a federal lawsuit against a married Canadian woman with whom he recently had an online relationship. Dr. Zacharias admits receiving nude and sexually suggestive photographs from Lori Anne Thompson and not reporting their relationship to his Governance Council until things went sour and she threatened legal action. Most explosively, in his court filing he does not deny the allegation that he threatened suicide in an email so as to persuade Ms. Thompson not to tell her husband about the relationship.

But Indiscretions of that sort can quickly be damage-controlled by a tearful confession or, at worst, a little jail time. Dr. Zacharias has a much bigger problem. For nearly four decades, he has systematically deceived his followers, his donors, his publishers, and the world about the very matter that makes him so special, his scholarly qualifications.

The Doctor with no Doctorates and the Scholar with no Scholarly Work

Since the early 1980’s, Ravi Zacharias has assertively referred to himself as “Dr. Zacharias” and represented himself as holding multiple doctoral degrees.[vi] His major publishers have been fully on board. HarperCollins lists him as “Ravi Zacharias, PhD”[vii] at the contributor’s page of the 2017 The Jesus Bible, and his author bio at Penguin/Random House says “Zacharias holds three doctorate degrees.”[viii] The Christian publisher Wipf & Stock also refers to him as “Ravi Zacharias, PhD.”[ix]

But Ravi Zacharias has never so much as enrolled in a graduate level academic program, much less completed a doctoral program. He has a Bachelor’s degree and a non-academic Master of Divinity degree, both from obscure religious institutions,[x] and has racked up numerous “honorary doctorate degrees” over the years from supportive Christian schools. That’s it.  Furthermore, Ravi has routinely failed to disclose that his doctorates are merely honorary and has resisted calls to make his official bio clearer in this regard.[xi]

Ravi’s publisher bios also describe him as a “recognized authority” in philosophy.[xii] However, I have found no peer-reviewed scholarly publications by Ravi Zacharias nor evidence that he has ever presented a paper at a scholarly conference. Ravi, it seems, is a complete academic non-entity masquerading as a polished scholar.

The Cambridge University Gig that Wasn’t

Of course there is more to smarts than degrees and scholarly papers. What about the fact that he had been a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University”? Ravi makes the claim frequently.[xiii] It is perhaps his most impressive claim, and his most brazenly false one.

In 1990 Ravi did a 2-3 month sabbatical at a church ordination academy named Ridley Hall.[xiv] Ridley is in the town of Cambridge, England, and has affiliations with the University of Cambridge, as, say, Babcock College has with Harvard. But it has never been a part of the University. While at Ridley, Ravi attended lectures and classes at the University. He converted this into the impressive claim that he had been invited to be a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University.”

I filed several Freedom of Information requests with Cambridge and learned that attending classes at the University while on sabbatical at Ridley Hall would not make one a Cambridge “visiting scholar.”[xv] Ravi Zacharias, it turns out, had never been a visiting scholar at their university. In the summer of 2015, I sought comment from his ministry about this troubling finding. They ignored me, but quickly removed the bogus claim from his website bio.

Ravi’s Cambridge shenanigans did not stop there. He claims to have studied “quantum physics” at the university and he refers to the Cambridge physicist John Polkinghorne as “my professor in quantum physics.”[xvi] But it turns out that Dr. Polkinghorne had left the science faculty at Cambridge 11 years earlier to become a priest. Polkinghorne returned to the university as a member of the divinity faculty and in 1990, the year of Ravi’s sabbatical at Ridley, Polkinghorne taught a course on the Science/Theology Dialogue and a course on Buddhism.[xvii]

So it appears that Ravi audited[xviii] a class on the theology/science dialogue with Dr. Polkinghorne and made this into the far more impressive claim that the renowned physicist was his “professor in quantum physics” at Cambridge.

Ravi’s Christian publishers have taken the Cambridge ruse a step further. Despite the fact that Ravi’s sabbatical was a mere 2-3 months long and at a place that was not even part of the University of Cambridge, they routinely refer to their author as “Cambridge educated.”[xix]

The Oxford Gig that Wasn’t

Moving on to that other prestigious British university, Ravi says in his memoirs “I am an official lecturer at Oxford now, teaching there once a year.”[xx] The University of Oxford, however, told me it has no record of Ravi having ever been on their payroll. They did, however, confirm that in the past he has rented space from them.[xxi]

Elsewhere, Ravi claims to have been a “senior research fellow at Oxford University,” where he lectures three times a year.[xxii] However, I learned that this was merely an honorary position, and not even at the university itself but at an “affiliated institution” of the university, a religious training school named Wycliffe Hall.[xxiii] This did not stop Ravi from telling a Christian journalist that the “senior research fellow” position (which we now know was merely honorary) is “a credential with which I work in the academy” and at “academic forums,”[xxiv] a clear, if unwitting, admission of deceit by Ravi Zacharias.

As well, Wycliffe Hall informed me that “Ravi Zacharias has spoken at Wycliffe, but has never held any formal teaching position.”[xxv] So both Wycliffe and the university confirm that Ravi has held no formal teaching position with them. Ravi’s “official lecturer at Oxford” claim appears to be bogus. Ravi removed all references to Oxford in his official bio shortly after I informed him that I was investigating his credentials.[xxvi]

Chair of a non-existent Department

There was only one remaining item in Ravi’s now tattered academic pedigree. He claims that he had been the “chairman of the Department of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary,”[xxvii] a prestigious academic position that would have given him authority over other professors at the seminary. But Ravi’s “Department” never existed.

My private investigator, and two professors who had been at ATS in the 1980s (one was there with Ravi and the other was his immediate successor) confirmed that ATS had no “Departments” at the time. It was too small.

Ravi, it turns out, had been the chair of something called the “Center for Evangelism and Contemporary Thought.” His immediate successor, Dr. Terry Wardle, told me that this was a non-academic position.[xxviii] Then-ATS professor, Dr. Dennis Hollinger, now President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, described the “center” as “not a center in terms of a think tank, more of an opportunity for students to work with Ravi.”[xxix] The ATS librarian told my investigator it was a “lecture series” that brought in outside evangelists to speak[xxx] and an ATS student of Ravi’s said it was an “informal” undertaking.[xxxi]

So there was an informal “center,” but never a “Department of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought” at ATS, nor a chair of that department. Ravi simply invented the department and made himself its chair, and thereby scored for himself a prestigious academic title that he never held.[xxxii]

Addiction to Adulation

Why would a smart man like Ravi Zacharias be so bold with his deceptions? The answer comes straight from his memoirs, Walking from East to West. Ravi seems addicted to adulation and the phony credentials get him his fix.

As a teenager in India, Ravi attempted suicide. He tells us it was not because he was depressed or impulsive, but because success eluded him. “Everyone around me had success, but no matter how deeply I searched my life for a shred of it, all I saw was failure.”[xxxiii] His abusive and violent father, he tells us, “looked me in the eye and said I would never make anything of myself.”[xxxiv] He told the New Indian Express “My brother and sister were too bright. One day, I thought I should die and drank poison.”[xxxv] Fortunately God ensured that he took the “right poison”[xxxvi] and his life was saved.

But it was not the Lord who saved Ravi. It was the stage. He soon discovered the “sheer exhilaration”[xxxvii] of speaking to adoring audiences. He entered a “preaching contest” and tells us that after he preached “my buddies gathered around, wide eyed.”[xxxviii] When he won his “buddies went crazy” and someone said “The Lord had a purpose in this man.”[xxxix]

Ravi then joined a preaching team and the response to his sermons was “overwhelming.”[xl] Ravi had discovered the thrill of stardom. “Each time I finished students and faculty stood to their feet and applauded.”[xli] Preaching, he tells us, turned him “from being a nothing, a nobody, to being listened to by so many in different walks of life.”[xlii] Thus, we may conjecture, Ravi Zacharias needed adulation more than religion. It just so happens that it was religion, not cricket, and certainly not academics, that delivered the goods.

At age 70, Ravi Zacharias maintains an active international speaking schedule. He also continues to expand his empire of self-named ministries. This year he opened the Zacharias Institute in Alpharetta, Georgia, which he immodestly says will be “the leading apologetics center in the world.”[xliii]  His first enterprise, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, was founded over three decades ago. He tells us in his memoirs that he had proposed a different name and was told “No, Ravi, so much has happened with people in ministry having gone astray. If you give this ministry your name, it will stand up behind your integrity, or fall with the lack of it.”[xliv] Fortunately for Ravi, these words seem to have no more prophetic power than those spoken by Daniel in the second century B.C.E.

The Christian Industrial Complex Code of Silence

How have Ravi’s colleagues in the religion business reacted to the revelations of a clear pattern and practice of deception? The “great apologist” who so loudly and for so long trumpeted his Oxford and Cambridge credentials now stands bereft of any academic qualifications outside of a Bachelor’s in theology from a little-known school and an associate professorship in evangelism during the early 1980s at a place called Alliance Theological Seminary.

Do Ravi’s Christian colleagues care enough about his integrity that his Ministry may “fall” from his lack of it? Not likely. It seems to be business as usual at the Christian Industrial Complex.[xlv] Ravi remains a “licensed evangelist” with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.[xlvi] He retains his “doctorates” on his publisher website author bios, along with his “Cambridge” education. He was also the 2017 commencement speaker at Patrick Henry College (“God’s Harvard”) despite the fact that most of the faculty and student organizations were aware of the allegations circulating against him.[xlvii]

Then there is the Code of Silence. Alliance Theological Seminary not only had no comment about Ravi but refused even to say whether there had ever been a “Department of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought” at the school. General Counsel for the seminary instructed me not to further contact seminary employees. The President of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which operates ATS, also had no comment about the allegations against Ravi.[xlviii] I then learned that a certain Richard Pease has been President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and a trustee at Alliance Theological Seminary, and on the Board of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, associations that likely reinforce the credential deceptions.[xlix]

One of the publishers of 2017 The Jesus Bible assured me that Ravi’s “PhD” was due to a “copy error on our end” but stopped communicating with me after I asked for specifics as to how such an error transpired.[l] Assistant General Counsel for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Dan Foutz, assured me that he would “dig into” the extensive materials I sent him about Ravi. Apparently he did, for two weeks later he informed me that his client had “no further comment.”[li]

For its part, RZIM and its Public Relations Manager have ignored over a dozen requests for comment from me over the past two years, as well as several requests to interview Mr. Zacharias at a time and place of his choosing. Perhaps most revealing of all, not a single one of the itinerant evangelists I contacted at RZIM and at his (deceptively named) “Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics”[lii] has replied to my request for comment, much less done their duty under 1 Tim 5:20 to publicly renounce their sinning leader.[liii] Cash cows are indeed sacred cows, even over at God, Inc.

Meanwhile in the trenches of YouTube and the blogosphere, Ravi’s loyal followers assure us that whatever his credentials may be Ravi Zacharias is an intellectual powerhouse and a devoted man of God.


Addendum:


Footnotes:

[i] http://bit.ly/2vhtbTt accessed June 24, 2017.

[ii] http://bit.ly/2sV6X8R accessed June 25, 2017.

[iii] Lecture delivered at the University of Illinois, point at 5:00 minute mark http://bit.ly/1Pyvbds accessed June 24, 2017.

[iv] John Collins, a professor of Old Testament at Yale, told me by email that “all mainline scholars agree that Daniel was written between 167 and 164 B.C.E.”, two centuries after Alexander’s death. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the late dating has been “has been widely accepted by contemporary scholars.” http://bit.ly/2tRff2Y accessed June 27, 2017. The Jewish Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Britannica online concur.

[v] Walking From East to West at p. 176.

[vi] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0tbgF7U1iw at 0:45, accessed June 24, 2017.   Ravi defenders sometimes argue that the fact that he discloses so many “doctorates” makes clear that they must be honorary.  But holding multiple academic doctorates is not uncommon. Ravi himself mentions a professor of his at seminary, John Warwick Montgomery, who held three academic doctorates.  Walking from East to West, at p. 174.  As for holding multiple honorary doctorates, many famous scientists such as Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and others have dozens of honorary doctorates. Incidentally, Ravi’s secretary answers the phone with “Dr. Zacharias’s office.”

[vii] The Jesus Bible at the Contributor’s Page, published in 2017 by HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

[viii] http://bit.ly/2tQQzYj accessed June 19, 2017.

[ix] Legislating Morality by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, Wipf & Stock publishers, at p. 1. Ravi is not a Wipf & Stock author, but the book includes a comment from him at the blurb page.

[x] His Bachelors is from Ontario Bible College in Toronto, Canada, and his MDiv is from Trinity International Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.  Trinity confirmed with me via email that its MDiv “has always been accredited as a professional degree.”  The Divinity School is part of Trinity International University, which according to U.S. News and World Report has an undergraduate acceptance rate of 96%. https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/trinity-international-1772

[xi] In the summer of 2015 I complained to Ravi’s ministry about these deceptive “Dr. Zacharias” practices and his failure to use include the word “honorary” at his website bio. They quickly reduced, by more than half, the number of references to him as “Dr. Zacharias”, but refused to add the word “honorary”.  A year and a half and several critical YouTube videos later they added “honorary” to the bio in November of 2016, but then removed it in March, 2017. In May 2017 they once again disclosed that Ravi’s doctorates are merely honorary. In June of 2017 they removed all references to him as “Dr. Zacharias” from his website bio. http://bit.ly/2tNpqqW accessed June 27, 2017.  The same puzzling behavior went on at Ravi’s “Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics” in Britain, where the word “honorary” was added to his bio after I brought the matter to their attention.  Shortly thereafter it was removed, and then it was re-added after I re-complained. Ravi’s reluctance to do the obviously right thing here tells us a good deal about his character and concern for his public image.

[xii] New Birth or Rebirth, back cover author bio, published by Multnomah Books. See also the Penguin author bio at http://bit.ly/2tQQzYj accessed June 19, 2017.

[xiii] Walking From East to West at p. 205. Google the phrases “Ravi Zacharias” and “visiting scholar at Cambridge University” and one can see how widely the claim has spread.

[xiv] Personal communication with Ravi’s supervisor at Ridley Hall, Dr. Jeremy Begbie, who told me he believes Ravi was there for “about one term (ie. 2/3 months.)”

[xv] Personal communication with Cambridge Office of External Affairs and Communications.

[xvi] See, for instance, Ravi’s memoirs, Walking From East to West at p. 205 and a speech he made to a United Nations prayer breakfast, at http://bit.ly/2sVmd5E accessed June 19, 2017.

[xvii] Personal communication with Cambridge.

[xviii] Ravi’s ministry and his Ridley Hall supervisor, Dr. Jeremy Begbie, have refused to say whether Ravi actually enrolled in courses with Polkinghorne or merely audited. Dr. Begbie was willing to tell me that he had “arranged for Mr. Zacharias to attend lectures and classes at the University” but did not answer a follow-up question about auditing.  (Personal communication.)

[xix] See for instance his author bio at Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins.) http://bit.ly/2sV5BuC and the back cover of his book, Cries of the Heart, http://amzn.to/2vhM8Fi both accessed June 25, 2017.

[xx] Walking From East to West at p. 229.

[xxi] Personal communication with Oxford and with Oxford’s Queen’s College. See also my video Lying for Lord or Self at http://bit.ly/2ujyILT at 5:30.

[xxii] See, for instance, his television interview with Kirk Cameron at http://bit.ly/2tNgjWY at 5:15. By Googling “Ravi Zacharias” and “Senior Research Fellow at Oxford” one can see how widely the claim has been used to promote Ravi’s speaking events.

[xxiii] Personal communication with Oxford and Wycliffe Hall. The description of Wycliffe as an “affiliated institution” is found in the university’s Student Handbook, http://bit.ly/2ujiPVA accessed June 19, 2017.

[xxiv] Apologetics315 Interview at http://bit.ly/2sUCzLS accessed June 18, 2017. Given Ravi’s lack of academic credentials it is very unlikely that he has ever spoken at an “academic forum.” He does, however, claim to have lectured at many famous universities. It is very likely, again given his lack of academic credentials, that the invitations to speak at such universities come mainly from Christian student groups, not from the universities themselves, nor from their faculties. But Ravi fails to disclose this, as we see here in one of his more desperate bits of braggadocio: “I have spoken on almost every major campus—Berkeley, Princeton, Cornell, you name it. If we haven’t been to a major school it is more often than not because we haven’t had the time to accommodate the request.” Walking From East to West, at p. 209.

[xxv] Personal communication with Wycliffe Hall. See also my video Lying for Lord or Self at 6:15.

[xxvi] Perhaps Ravi has held an unpaid teaching position at the university. Given his lack of credentials that seems most unlikely. It is also unclear how such a position would be consistent with his “official lecturer” claim.

[xxvii] Walking From East to West at p. 188 where he says he was “chairing” the department. See also http://bit.ly/2sUZKpo accessed June 18, 2017 in which he calls himself the “chairman” of the department.

[xxviii] Personal communication with Dr. Terry Wardle.

[xxix] Personal communication with Dr. Dennis Hollinger.

[xxx] Personal communication from John Cutter Investigations, New York.

[xxxi] Personal communication with Pastor Kerry Bowman, an influential minister in Southern California who studied under Ravi at ATS. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pastor Bowman is currently working on a Doctorate of Divinity, but I noticed that his LinkedIn page said that he had completed it. He quickly corrected the entry and assured me that it was a mistake. I believe him. But I then noticed that he falsely describes his Master of Divinity degree from ATS as a “Master’s Degree, Evangelism and Contemporary Thought.” Here we have another example of a prominent Christian evangelist who feels free to alter his academic credentials in ways that make them significantly different from (and better than) what was actually earned.

[xxxii] Alliance Theological Seminary is a religious school in New York where nobody seems to notice that the Dean is off by half a century and about seven emperors at the school’s homepage with his claim that “Constantine declared Christianity as the state religion in 325 A.D.” http://bit.ly/2sUSNVl accessed June 18, 2017. ATS is also a place where the Human Resources Director disclosed to me some revealing information from Ravi’s personnel file. In a phone call that I later confirmed in writing, Karen Davie told me that there is “a story” around Ravi’s desire to have the words “contemporary thought” in his academic title. She said that it was “important” to Ravi that those words appear in his title but that the school president had not allowed such. Curiously, although Ravi began teaching in 1980 at ATS with the contractual title “Chair and Associate Professor of Evangelism” he was listed as holding the title “Associate Professor of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought” in the school catalogue. Ms. Davie told me that this description did not properly reflect the president’s wishes. Unfortunately, the seminary is not talking any more, and neither is Ravi or the Church. So I will leave it to more well-connected journalists to find the “story” that lies in Mr. Zacharias’s ATS personnel file. At this point, however, we do know that Ravi adopted for himself an academic title that he never held in a department that never existed.

[xxxiii] Walking From East to West at p. 99.

[xxxiv] Walking From East to West at p. 179.

[xxxv] http://bit.ly/2sVi5Cy published June 13, 2011, accessed June 19, 2017.

[xxxvi] Walking From East to West at p. 180.

[xxxvii] Ibid. at p. 193.

[xxxviii] Ibid. at p. 129.

[xxxix] Ibid. at pp. 129-130.

[xl] Ibid. at p. 133.

[xli] Ibid. at p. 208.

[xlii] Ibid. at p. 133.

[xliii] Ravi has apparently removed this boastful description from his website since I criticized him for making it in my video, Lying For Lord or Self. But his boast is preserved in the video at 14:24. http://bit.ly/2ujyILT

[xliv] Walking From East to West, at p. 199.

[xlv] The term “Christian Industrial Complex” goes back at least to Warren Smith in 2006.  http://bit.ly/2tNbcGo accessed June 24, 2017.

[xlvi] Personal communication with C&MA General Counsel’s office.

[xlvii] Several months before Ravi’s commencement speech I sent several dozen emails to faculty and student groups at Patrick Henry College informing them of the results of my investigation and offering to provide further information about Ravi Zacharias. I received not a single reply.

[xlviii] Personal communication with C&MA General Counsel, Gary Friesen.

[xlix] See Mr. Pease’s professional bio at http://bit.ly/2ujPIBs accessed June 27, 2017.  Mr. Pease did not respond to my phone message asking to speak to him about Ravi in connection with this article.

[l] Personal Communication with Passion Publishing Managing Director, Kevin Marks.

[li] Personal communication.

[lii] The OCCA is an “autonomous study center” whose courses are not accredited by the University of Oxford. Despite its title, it is not part of the University. https://www.theocca.org/occa accessed July 17, 2017.

[liii] 1 Timothy 5:20. “Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others.”


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Steve Baughman is an attorney and some-time philosophy graduate student living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He posts skeptical musical thoughts about religion at his YouTube channel, Friendly Banjo Atheist.

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306 thoughts on “The Christian Industrial Complex Shields Its Own

  1. Steve,

    So, as an atheist, why do you care about this guy?

    Is it that you just hate shitty and deceptive “scholarship”?
    Is it that as an atheist you feel a need, especially noted individuals, to bring them down?
    Something in between?

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              • “the truth is a person whom we worship and with whom we should have a relationship. It’s not just an abstract concept. It’s God.

                Beautifully stated. But in view of the severity of the consequences of not having that relationship, I should think the Truth should matter as much or more for the atheist.

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                • The man or woman who claims that God cannot be known, based upon a lack of evidence- really has no evidence that anything can be known for certain, so as to call it “the truth”. He has no sufficient evidence to suggest that there is any real meaning to life at all that he should care about the truth.

                  God is the beginning of all such things.

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                  • James. I am just the messenger. I am providing what I think are facts that prove deception. If you want tale my findings and make a metaphysical out of them, that is fine. It would probably be a good one. But keep in mind, as far as you can are concerned, it’s not what I think about Ravi it’s what you think about Ravi that counts.

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                    • “I am providing what I think are facts that prove deception.”

                      Fair enough. But who provides facts that prove deception on the part of people who claim that countless numbers of DNA replication errors resulted in you having a liver, or tooth enamel? People who believe things like that teach in almost any university you care to name. When will you scrutinize them?

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                      • You’re alleging “deception” which would mean that people are teaching things they know (or should know) are wrong. I don’t have enough information to evaluate this claim.

                        What specifically are you claiming is wrong, why do you think that, and what do you want to teach instead?

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                        • “What specifically are you claiming is wrong, why do you think that, and what do you want to teach instead?”

                          My biggest objection is, and should be, about lack of evidence. I have never seen, nor do I ever expect to see, a comprehensive appraisal that explains how random DNA copy errors resulted in functional, biological features. What I have seen, is laughable, religious crap like this:

                          http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html

                          You might notice that Isaak doesn’t mention mutations in his 15 easy steps. It is not hard to figure out why.

                          As to what I think should be taught? Facts supported by empirical evidence, no speculation.

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                          • I have never seen, nor do I ever expect to see, a comprehensive appraisal that explains how random DNA copy errors resulted in functional, biological features.

                            This is not my field, but as I understand it, mostly it’s not “random DNA copy errors” at all, it’s selected.

                            For a “human” time example look into dog breeding and how we occasionally use selective breeding to make a new dog. For example there’s a Russian who wasn’t happy with any of the bomb sniffing dogs and created his own. Basically 30 generations turns a dog race into another dog race.

                            Dogs are great because we have so many examples of us messing with them via selected breeding, i.e. evolution. Take a group, only let the ones with the upper 10% in {X} reproduce, and after a few generations all of them have {X} in spades.

                            Another human time example is a different Russian who has basically domesticated the Fox by just selecting the “best” at every generation. He started with only letting the ones that weren’t afraid of him breed, then when all of them weren’t he only bred the friendliest. He’s been doing this for decades and what he has now is extremely different than what he started with, he thinks they’d make good pets.

                            For a non-human-time example look into the evolution of the eye. The human eye is amazingly complex, but it has known evolutionary “stages”. At each the animal can be under lots of evolutionary pressure to take the next step and/or get better at where it’s at. Eye sight is normally very useful in terms of survival so there’s lots of evolutionary pressure there.

                            Apparently the eye is really easy to evolve (it’s happened independently lots of times) but not all animals benefit from the next stage so there are species around who are “stuck” at many stages between nothing and us. I.e. we have examples of most (all?) the intermediate stages around so it’s like a how-to guide.

                            Now flight on the other hand is apparently really hard to get. Although the end product is shockingly useful some of the earlier stages aren’t. If I remember flight has only been evolved 4(?) times over the history of the planet.

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                            • As a math-loving guy, I thought you might appreciate this paper that takes Darwin seriously as math and then attempts to extend the formulae to incorporate more current information, and then compare/contrast with the real world. Warning, it goes straight to PDF:
                              http://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783034801218-c1.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1155049-p174103679

                              A few bits of the math are frankly over my head, it’s been too many years since I studied mathematical biology, but most of it makes sense even to me, so you’ll probably get more out of it than that :D.

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                            • “This is not my field, but as I understand it, mostly it’s not “random DNA copy errors” at all, it’s selected.”

                              Sorry, but you don’t understand it. In the theory, replication errors cause the actual alterations in a genome.

                              “Mutations are essential to evolution; they are the raw material of genetic variation. Without mutation, evolution could not occur.”
                              https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/mutations_01

                              Natural selection is a removal process, and occurs in populations. It is not a force or a fairy. It is just what happens when specimens are not suited to their environment. There is no way in hell that random accidents and natural selection could possibly produce the new genes and control mechanisms to build a novel biological feature from scratch. That’s why they don’t mention mutations, and just say that things evolve.

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                              • ” There is no way in hell that random accidents and natural selection could possibly produce the new genes and control mechanisms to build a novel biological feature from scratch. ”

                                Except that in a controlled lab environment, this has actually happened with aerobic citrate use in E. coli. It’s a novel biological feature. It got “built” through random accidents and natural selection, at least as natural as human experimentation on nature can possibly be.

                                Feel free to change the topic, I won’t be playing the Gish Gallop game, but I thought the facts might be of use to someone reading this, even if they aren’t to you.

                                And for the interest of that someone (or just any someone’s who are curious), this is a pretty good lit review of the topic:
                                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721102/

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                                • No need to even engage the Gish Gallop, or whatever other games one might play, because the scientific method already has the answer to Phil’s objection. If he is so learned of the topic that he feels competent to punch holes in the theory, then he should be more than competent to develop and offer up a competing theory, and to support that theory with evidence and conclusions and accurate predictions regarding what should occur if X happens. He may then write up his work and present it to other learned people in the field, & if his work is sound & convincing, he can change our understanding.

                                  It’s happened before (plate tectonics is a favorite example of mine), it will be done again.

                                  But as Dark said above, it is not, and never has been, nor will it be, enough to tear down the dominant theory; you must also offer up a better theory of your own & have it withstand examination.

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                                  • Well in general I agree with you, but I also think that from Phil’s perspective (and that of many who share his beliefs), evolution is not the dominant theory, their religious perspective is. Something can be socially dominant overall, can be the consensus of scientists overall by an overwhelming margin, but psychological dominance is still an individual thing, in-group dominance is still an in-group thing, and both are fairly independent from what the best fit to the facts is… most people have never really had the facts of macroevolution laid out for them.

                                    I am not really interested in where Phil goes – he already treated me quite shabbily on the previous thread about evolution after I had to warn him to be more civil there, and he’s made it clear what he thinks of me and my kind already elsewhere in these threads….

                                    But it’s entirely possible that there are people reading who, like Jaybird was once, are more than capable of making a paradigm shift if they have a clear, lucid argument in front of them that is more than worthy of replacing the dominant theory in their own heads.

                                    I linked that essay for them, as I said.

                                    (It’s also a pretty darn fine state-of-the-art essay on macroevolution, IMO, so I liked having an excuse to link it for its own sake… :D.)

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                                    • “he already treated me quite shabbily on the previous thread about evolution after I had to warn him to be more civil there, and he’s made it clear what he thinks of me and my kind already elsewhere in these threads”

                                      Maribou, I don’t recall ever treating you shabbily. I do recall your referring me and my quaint objections to Baylor University where university educated Christians have found harmony and reconciliation. I’m sorry, but I think they are wrong. You can tell me if you don’t like me explaining why I think their (and your) science, or their Christianity, is wrong. I don’t need to be banned, or spoken of as a third party. You can just tell me, and I will just not post on your site.

                                      That said, I appreciate the venue you provide.

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                                  • “he should be more than competent to develop and offer up a competing theory…you must also offer up a better theory”

                                    Nope. That is first-class galloping. Evolutionary theory should stand or collapse on its own merit without reference to anything else.

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                                    • Evolutionary theory should stand or collapse on its own merit without reference to anything else.

                                      And it does. At least, it does better than any other competing theories brought forth to date. It has strong explanatory appeal among those who have studied it, gaps not withstanding; it has evidence, both direct and induced, to support it; and it has strong predictive capabilities, in that researchers who understand it and work within the framework of the theory regularly make predictions based upon the theory and have those predictions come true.

                                      It’s not perfect, or anywhere near complete, but then, science never demands perfection or completeness, only evidence, a logical flow, predictive ability, and explicit tests which could prove the theory (or hypothesis within the theory) to be false. A great deal of science, across all disciplines, is based upon scientific guesswork. There is not always direct evidence that a given hypothesis is true, which is why it is merely a hypothesis. If it is a theory, that means there is a substantial amount of direct evidence to support the theory. But theories, especially theories as expansive as evolution, are built upon other theories and hypothesis. Those hypothesis tend to get swapped out quite regularly as new evidence or logical leaps are developed and presented.

                                      Statements such as “There is no way in hell that random accidents and natural selection could possibly produce the new genes and control mechanisms to build a novel biological feature from scratch” is your opinion, not a test to prove the hypothesis false. If you want to prove the theory false, you either have to prove that random mutation[1] can not produce useful genetic traits, or you have to demonstrate an alternative mechanism by which those useful genetic traits developed.

                                      Otherwise, your statement is, at best, merely an opening through which an alternative hypothesis can be presented. Alone, that opinion in no way damages the edifice the theory is built upon.

                                      This is the thing you continue to fail to grasp Phil, that you are somehow knocking loose a keystone. You aren’t. At best, you are saying, “I don’t like the looks of that keystone, this building is unsafe.”, and deciding that your opinion is sufficient to cause the building to be condemned.

                                      Assuming for the sake of argument that you are right, that random mutation is a poor explanation, do you honestly think that the researchers in the field aren’t at least somewhat aware of the weakness and are looking for alternative, or better, explanations? Random mutation might just represent a filler explanation, something to plug a gap in the edifice because something needs to be there. Much like Einstein’s Cosmological Constant was before Hubble blew that out of the water. But the CC was wrong (and Einstein knew it was a bad explanation, and publicly said so), and now we have Dark Matter, which a lot of astrophysicists and astronomers don’t actually like as an explanation, because no one can get direct evidence of the stuff.

                                      Of course, until Hubble, the CC was taught in schools as the prevailing theory, and even today, Dark Matter is taught as the prevailing theory, because we have no better explanation, so as weak as it is, it’s what we have to work with, and it fills the gap. And I can not stress this enough, that THIS IS NORMAL SCIENTIFIC PROGRESSION!

                                      If you don’t like evolution because it’s not perfect, then offer up an alternative explanation. It’s as simple as that. However, if your alternative explanation is some variation of Intelligent Design, understand that ID fails a key requirement of science, in that it can not be falsified. You can not prove that an intelligent designer[2] doesn’t exist (you can’t prove a negative), so the idea can’t be falsified.

                                      [1] random mutation is not actually the only mechanism by which genetic change occurs. There are a number of mechanisms at play (not just transcription errors), including external mechanisms, such as bacteria and viruses introducing new DNA strands into a living organism. I mean, gene therapy is a thing. IIRC, we learned how to do it by studying viruses.

                                      [2] And if there was an intelligent designer, they are not what is probably your concept of God[3], because an all powerful deity honestly should have done a better job with knees. I mean, knees suck. Horrible design, a C- at best. Too prone to damage and wear with extremely limited regenerative abilities.

                                      [3] *RANT* Speaking of this, I know quite a few biologists who are devout Christians who are perfectly fine with evolutionary theory. They generally accept that God works in mysterious ways and that the genesis of humanity as presented in scripture was written by Bronze Age man with a very limited understanding of anything, and a flair for the dramatic. I do not understand this need for some people to have a God who works miracles in grandiose ways. What hubris, to project onto God that need for spectacle. Maybe God really likes being subtle? Use the power of evolution to get the human ball rolling. Step in every few thousand generations and given a little nudge here, a little environmental pressure there. Make sure that some particularly fertile tribe of proto-humans get infected with a virus with a particularly useful bit of DNA, etc. Is that so bad?

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                                  • And of course there are small numbers of naturally evolved novel traits that have been observed, as well as numerous examples of natural selection working over pretty short timescales. The objection you’re left with is that small changes can’t possibly add up to big changes, without any hypothetical mechanism to explain why, let alone any experimental support for the existence of such a mechanism.

                                    Add to that the fact that many common transcription errors seem to be supportive with the development of novel traits, and that people tend to really underestimate how likely it is that a protein is gonna be able to fold up and do something instead of just being a random coil, and the objection boils down to an objection that applies to every theory ever: it doesn’t explain everything and we don’t know everything about it.

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                                • “Except that in a controlled lab environment, this has actually happened with aerobic citrate use in E. coli. It’s a novel biological feature. It got “built” through random accidents and natural selection.”

                                  E coli could already utilize citrate. It was just reacquiring a transporter protein (after 31,000 generations) which E coli supposedly lost at some point when it diverged from salmonella 102 million supposed years ago. Do you think that’s how toothed whales developed sonar?

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                                  • If I wanted to argue with someone who was constantly misrepresenting facts, I wouldn’t have linked to Graham Bell’s paper. As Oscar says, go argue with those guys, if you have a case. (Graham Bell in particular is endlessly patient in his willingness to have these debates.)

                                    If not, you’re stuck with people like me who will throw out an interesting link or two, and then say that yes, I think that mutations over the course of hundreds of millions of years and millions of generations are how we got toothed whales with sonar. Just like mutations over the course of hundreds of millions of years and millions of generations are how we got E. coli and salmonella.

                                    Not because I have faith in evolution but because so far it fits the facts the best. Some day someone will probably develop a better theoretical framework that is better *enough* to get a new name, and then we’ll go with that something instead.

                                    Truth isn’t a static object to scientists, it’s a range. Things are more true or less true, not True or False, even when true and false are convenient labels for things at one end or the other of that relative scale. One can locate God as the absolute Truth in which other more-true / less-true things rest, or be completely sure that God doesn’t exist, or perceive God in nearly any other way, and regardless, the mechanisms of evolution work the same way, and will be superseded by something more accurate in the same way. It’s a theory that estimates mechanisms, not a competing metaphysics. Evolutionary science, as a discipline, is really not *interested* in metaphysics. Or morality or eschatology or anything else along those lines.

                                    It’s only if you are a scriptural literalist, particularly of the type that is literal about some things and less literal about others, that a conflict exists. And even then, I’ve met other scriptural literalists who found a way to make room for most of evolutionary theory by adapting their definitions of common scientific words – something I don’t understand but find quite graceful to observe, once I set my personal frustrations aside. Most people just don’t have that struggle you’ve set for yourself, and most of us are quite happy in our belief systems, whether they are religious, or atheistic.

                                    I’m glad your passionate religious beliefs lead you into a passionate exploration of science, Phil, and I wish you well in it. I do hope that eventually you find a way of reconciling the two that is more able to embrace all God’s children as equals, rather than out-grouping many of us for reasons that are more a matter of historical contingency than scriptural consistency, but more for you than for us. I’m not too worried about you or us, in the long run, because I share the common Christian belief that God can turn all manner of human mistakes to His good purpose. I also share the common Christian belief that God would, all things being equal, be pleased if we get there sooner rather than later. Because God weeps when we weep, and loves us more than we love ourselves or each other. And I share the common human belief – regardless of creed – that suffering should be alleviated, rather than increased.

                                    The gifts of evolutionary theory include a very long list of ways we’ve been able to alleviate suffering. And I am grateful for them, even when I recognize that some pretty terrible people have picked up the same toolbox and used it to increase suffering.

                                    I’m not going to give up my tools, or ask any scientist or doctor friends whom I know are even more focused on healing the world to give up theirs, because it doesn’t suit your worldview.

                                    Why would you think that’s even desirable? What harm has evolutionary theory done to you? And does that harm outweigh the benefits you’ve gained from it? You personally, I mean. You don’t have to answer, but I’d find it a lot more compelling than the narrative you’ve been trying to put across thus far.

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                                    • ”I think that mutations over the course of hundreds of millions of years and millions of generations are how we got toothed whales with sonar.”

                                      There isn’t that much time available. From Pakicetus to this guy* is only 25 million. Assuming that a year is a generation, and using Lenski’s 31,000 figure, you have time for about 800 mutations. That is obviously not enough for one to become the other.

                                      ===

                                      ”The gifts of evolutionary theory include a very long list of ways we’ve been able to alleviate suffering.”

                                      I don’t think research depends on believing in evolutionary theory or any other religious notion. But I guess from your point of view, we should be grateful for the mutations that built brains big enough to study the diseases that mutations cause.

                                      * https://phys.org/news/2014-03-fossil-species-early-echolocation-toothed.html

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                                        • ”“There is no way in hell that random accidents and natural selection could possibly produce the new genes and control mechanisms to build a novel biological feature from scratch” is your opinion, not a test to prove the hypothesis false.”

                                          Fair enough. So tell me about the experiments and testing that led people to conclude that random mutations ever produced a functional gene, or things like replication enzymes.

                                          ==

                                          ”Lenski’s figure isn’t applicable to an open environment. It only holds in his experiment.”

                                          Okay. That explains why E coli never acquired the transporter in the open environment. So scratch the 31,000 figure, and divide 25 million by a much larger and more realistic number.

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                                          • I am new here so forgive me if I’m out of line. But it seems to me that this OP and thread have been hijacked. If that is OK here, fine.

                                            I was enjoying the discussion of the “Christian industrial complex” and Ravi Zacharias.

                                            BTW, is suicide threat to Lori Anne went public yesterday. See the Spiritual Sounding Board.

                                            I had see the emails but was bound by confidentiality. Explosive stuff.

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                                            • Our culture is generally to allow the subject of a discussion to drift to other subjects as the disputants wish. Neither the drift, nor the “we’ve gotten off track” response to it, are objectionable.

                                              Name-calling, bigotry, trollery, spam, and threats are the sorts of things that we do consider objectionable. If you think someone has violated our civility-in-commenting policy, please flag the offending comment by clicking on the “report” button that appears at the lower right hand of each comment’s frame.

                                              Also, be aware that comments shut down automatically after a thread has been posted for a period of time, which I believe is 14 days. That’s principally an anti-spam measure. If there is still steam going for whatever the discussion has turned into, let an editor know and one of us will generally create a new post on a similar subject, so that the conversation can continue.

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                                            • No, you’re not out of line – off-topic is ok sometimes, more than ok other times, but not if it leaves the posts’ author feeling like it’s been hijacked.

                                              My apologies for participating. (and others), please stick to the topic at hand on this post, from now on.

                                              Here’s a link, folks, to what Steve is referring to:

                                              https://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2017/11/30/ravi-zacharias-must-explain-lawsuit-narratives-and-emails/

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                                              • I would normally be happy to just fade off into the sunset having done my job. But the timing seems unfortunate given that Mr. Zacharias is now pretty much confirmed as having threatened suicide in order to cover up his online affair.

                                                Clearly not as consequential an issue as human origins :-) but I did not want that to get lost.

                                                Thanks for being understanding. I must say, this is the most civilized place I have hung out on the Internet. And I tend to hang out at religious discussion places. Toxic!

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                                          • So tell me about the experiments and testing that led people to conclude that random mutations ever produced a functional gene, or things like replication enzymes.

                                            I never said there were experiments (there might be, I don’t know). I said it was possible it was a filler hypothesis, a mechanism that follows from logic (we know mutations happen) but without any current experiments to support it. Although suggests that there are experiments.

                                            Either way, not my field, go do your own research. I’m perfectly fine accepting the state of the art as it is. offered a link to someone who knows a lot more than I, go bug him for answers to specific questions.

                                            Okay. That explains why E coli never acquired the transporter in the open environment. So scratch the 31,000 figure, and divide 25 million by a much larger and more realistic number.

                                            How do you figure that works? An open environment presents more opportunity for DNA to change, not less. 31000 gets a whole lot smaller when a large number of organisms are changing and able to swap out bits of DNA.

                                            Or are you suggesting that the number is bigger because E. coli never evolved the transporter in nature? If that is your objection, then once again you demonstrate that you aren’t understanding natural selection. If E. Coli has no need of the transporter in nature, why would it select for it? Isn’t that the point of the Lenski experiment, to see how long it would take E. coli, once presented with an environmental pressure to do so, to develop and express the Cit+ phenotype all by itself? Now, put it back in nature, around other organism with the Cit+ phenotype, and see how long it takes to develop and express (the logical next step in the experiment, obviously).

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                                  • It was just reacquiring a transporter protein (after 31,000 generations) which E coli supposedly lost at some point when it diverged from salmonella 102 million supposed years ago.

                                    Wait, what does “reacquiring” in mean in this context and how is it distinct from a mutation producing different and useful functionality?

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                  • He has no sufficient evidence to suggest that there is any real meaning to life at all that he should care about the truth.

                    Maybe not, but that doesn’t actually provide evidence that God exists. At best, it says it would be really nice if God did exist, but lots of things that would be really nice just aren’t so.

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      • Ok, I’ll take the bullet that my comment might have been phrased better-I tend to be “pointed’ at times. And yeah, I read it, although I ignored all the citations.

        I’m assuming you mean “I was searching the Internet for smart Christian apologists who might ruffle my atheist paradigm” when you’re talking about your agenda, but all that says to me is “I was looking to get riled up”. So, if you intentionally went online to troll yourself, my question still stands. Why? For kicks? To challenge your preconceived notions? To refine your arguments for being an atheist? Something else?

        And you might be interested in knowing that, when I even bother to think about God and religion at all, I’d identify as an atheist.

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      • Steve, Appreciate your investigative article about Ravi’ s credentials. You are right about 1 Timothy 5:20, He should be held accountable and should be rebuke publicly as the Scriptures teach. It doesn’t matter who you are (Atheist or Christian), double standards reduces us all to our sinful nature. We are all straw men/women. No matter how much we may think of ourselves; self agantizement and taken credit for something we didn’t do is inherently evil and is part of human nature. Not saying that everyone does this, but some are prone to esteem themselves while others do not. “Let God be true, but every man a liar, “(Romans 3:4) . Now I know many of you are going to pounce on my usage of “God” or quoting Scripture. Nevertheless, it is my source of my faith in this life. So I will make this point, that although Ravi’s credentials are not there and certainly gives one the right to call into question his character and interignity and might even bring blasphemy to the Name of Christ. Yet, just as you said Steve “don’t shoot the messenger”; well I’m saying to you, if the message is true, do not ignore it. What I mean by this, is the fact that whether we call him Dr. Ravi or Mr. Ravi or Rev. Ravi, something in one of his messages: be it apologetic or teachings caught the attention of an Atheist? Before you even started to call into question, his credentials, your interest in him was to know the truth about prophecy, history and theology. It seems to me all who call themselves atheist, are alwaying seeking the Truth, whether God really exist or not. So some atheist spend their lives trying to dis-prove the existence of God or to discredit God’s Word, and if that doesn’t work then you go after fallen sinful men. I give no excuse for my brother Ravi’ s FAKE credentials, but if he speaks the true about God’s Word, then you best not turn a blind eye or a dead ear and pray that God will lift the scales from your eyes so you can see, and open your ears to hear His message of Good News because the bad news is all who no not believe on His Son Jesus Christ will died in their sins and tresspasses because they cannot save themselves. The Good News is Jesus paid the price for our sins and tresspasses with His death on the cross, and proved there was life after death with his resurrection which over 500 witnesses saw Jesus after the cross. He is the propitiation for our sins, so we are save “By Grace through faith and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is way too easy for most people with intellectual prowlness. They always want it to fit into their presupposition, but God didn’t design salvation according to our intellect, because His ways are higher than mans’. For instance, mercy of God cannot be understood apart from condemnation and judgment of God. I pray for you not to suppress the truth about God in your unrighteousness, because the truth of the matter we are all “sinner”. We are not perfect Atheist or Christian
        . The only difference between us is God’s Grace and Mercy. Of which it found me, and I pray God’s mercy and grace will find you dear man.

        Calin:
        I am a Christian, and I think this article is useful if made on good intention. It is about the Truth which should matter. no matter you are an atheist or even more. a Christian.

        p

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      • To be sure. But it’s particularly satisfying when you can do so for someone who antagonizes your own tribe.

        Christian apologists seem to go out of their way to criticize and pick fights with atheists. Zacharias is a prominent specimen of this breed. Our author’s quote…

        Silly me. I should know by now that, for every 30 seconds it takes a Christian apologist to make a “fulfilled prophecy” claim, it takes a few hours of tedious research to see that it is probably bogus. That’s just the way extravagant prophetic claims work.

        …really resonated with me, especially after having spent a substantial amount of time helping my colleagues in my local secular group prepare for a debate with an apologetic minister that was purportedly about evolution. The result was this three-hour exchange, with lots of places I was not happy with the format. I’ve thought about going back and editing the video to point out all the places the pastor makes factual and logical errors. But it would be so much work!

        Brandolini’s Law (“The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it,”) is in full effect in part because in this sort of presentation the bullshit is so densely packed. You may recall another of our regular authors describing a religious entity training him to use the “Gish Gallop” technique to cover up for what, at a normal conversational pace and tone, would be an obvious weak part of the presentation.

        Pointing out that a practitioner of this, um, “art” is actually a liar with respect to his credentials is a shortcut to demonstrating that the person is not representing the truth.

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          • I’ve got some theories but they’re just my opinions and they relate principally to people who have fundamentally pugnacious, contrarian personalities seeking out apologetic and counter-apologetic roles and then prosecuting those roles with greater zeal than is particularly necessary. BSDI.

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          • Speaking anecdotally: Because the non-evangelicals are quietly going to Church and minding their own business, whereas the Evangelicals are generally telling you’re going to hell, trying to get prayer into public classrooms, and talking about how America is a Christian nation and you better kneel down before God, buddy.

            A little sarcastic but — I keep close tabs on my local school board, because we came within one vote (about 20 years ago, for a period of about 5 years) of getting to be one of those fun Creationism court cases wherein the school district ends up having to pay millions.

            Every single board member was Christian. The ones pushing it were all evangelical. Fervently, absolutely, constantly bringing it up so.

            One of them didn’t have kids at all. Another had kids, but in private school. But they were on the School Board, and their goal was to bring Jesus into the godless public school system. It took years to get rid of them, and they ran the — hands down — nastiest, ugliest, more slanderous campaigns I have ever seen. Accusing other school board members of wanting to teach 8 year olds to masturbate, to wanting to allow wearing crosses on campus, to trying to teach Satanism in social studies.

            Even a nasty rumor campaign about pedophilia. No lie was too big for Jesus.

            (This in a school district that still has prayers before Football games, no matter what SCOTUS says, that had — and still does have — very active Christian clubs, etc).

            Anyways, so that’s my two-cents on “Why evangelicals”. The non-evangelicals are mostly minding their own business. They’re happy to talk to you about Jesus, if you ask. You’re welcome in their Church, and they’re happy to be a good neighbor. But they’re rarely of the mind to wander into your local government or school and start Bible-based legislating.

            So tl:dr: Evangelicals, as their name aptly described, are out looking for souls to convert. Therefore, they’re going to be seeking out atheists. And atheists are going to, by and large, end up talking about religion to them more often than they might, say, a non-evangelical Lutheran.

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            • Speaking personally, YES to Morat20. If evangelicals were just spiritual seekers I could spend more time on other stuff. But I feel they are messing the world up. One way to stop them (or maybe to just slow them down) is to unmask their leaders as phonies.

              That said, I cannot deny that I feel more of a charge against them because it was a part of my upbringing.

              That said, if the Muslim crazies start taking over the US Congress like the evangelical Christians have, I will focus my energies on them even though I had no Muslim upbringing.

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                • …I can only imagine those efforts will be tripled for their God.

                  I expect the process to take multiple centuries. Religion is that ingrained, and backed by instincts, and has multiple power structures with their fingers on the scale.

                  The losses they’re seeing is just people who “don’t have the instinct” coming out of the closet.

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              • Steve,

                I am reasonably sure someone has brought this up to you. In the bigger picture it doesn’t really matter about Zacharias or anyone else. God is still there and judgment awaits for us all. I have seen many people find flaws in their favorite pastor or teacher and claim God is not real because so and so was a charlatan. Therefore, it will be still up to you to find Faith in Christ during this life because there is no do over in eternity. This coming from a guy who wrote, “Hard Questions for the Bible Answer Man” a self professed Christian/apologist who stumbled into something that made him plenty of money but has all the sincerity of Professor Hill of “Music Man” fame.

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                • Jay, first of all, I’m impressed with the work you did on the “Bible Answer Man.” I have a long considered Hank to a Ravi-style pretender who has dedicated his life to dumbing down complex philosophical issues that he has neither the brains nor the training to comprehend.

                  But I am curious why Christians are so quick to raise spiritual issues when their leaders are attacked by outsiders. How did my presentation of raw facts so quickly become a question about my spiritual well-being? Is not investigative reporting about a corrupt evangelist not worthy in and of itself? What is the reason for bringing Jesus into it?

                  In all 12 of the reviews posted of your book at Amazon not a single person did that to you. “Jay, whatever your feelings about Hank, do not let this take your eye off the Lord etc.etc.”.

                  Just curious.

                  Kudos to you for caring enough about integrity in ministry to write that book about Hank the Prank (now an Orthodox convert!). And I hope that if you check out my other work on Ravi you will do so not with your eye on the Lord but with your eye on Ravi.

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              • the issue with Evangelicals is not they are messing the world up, Jesud did too pretty much, the bothering stuff if when Evangelicals are lying. As far as I know yr Constitution has some sound principles written by Christians maybe even more radical than the ones today. (redacted – maribou – Calin, welcome and I hope you find other parts of the site interesting as well. However, we don’t make those kinds of generalizations here; it detracts from the overall civility and welcoming nature of the site.)

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      • “It is related to integrity.. simple as that.”

        Noble and easy enough. It is consistency in the application of this standard that is difficult. And sometimes, the integrity of the message exceeds the integrity of the messenger.

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      • Damon isn’t making a last-ditch response, rather, he is doing exactly what Steve is doing. Questioning the narrative. He simply askes why Steve is doing this. Which is an essential component of all responses to scientific inquiry.

        Why is that essential, you might ask?

        That need is what sharpens the inquiry, forces it to be better, to refine answers, to leave no stone unturned. And that is science.

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        • My motives would be important if I were offering evidence that is not easy enough to confirm. In such a case one could rightly be concerned that my agenda and lack of integrity undermined the quality of the evidence I have presented.

          But that is not the case here. Anyone is free to email Cambridge, Oxford, Alliance and search the Internet for Ravi’s actual claims and credentials. Ravi himself can be reached at pr@rzim.org. Everyone of the people I cite is reachable.

          So I consider the immediate focus on my motives to be a diversionary move, one that is unfortunately extremely common amongst Mr. Zacharias is Christian defenders.

          Be that as it may, for those who maintain an interest in my agenda, see http://www.RaviWatch.com at “My Agenda.”

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          • Be that all as it may be, none of it removes the fact that Damon has the same reasons to question the basic premise your works – why do this – as you do to question Ravi. I am saying this, not as someone who is critical of you or what you are doing here, but rather someone who is quite interested in the concept of rational discourse and what drives it.

            As far as “con men” go, being that I have a known one in my family history and have some interest in this, you seem to have found someone who is misrepresenting himself and his education. And to that I say good.

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            • The answer to the question “why do this?” may be as simple as “because it’s the truth”. Why isn’t that sufficient? The cynicism of our times is internalizing the belief that statements, evidence and arguments should not evaluated on the merits but rather in terms of the psychological state and political motives of the people making them. Doing so results in a big ole spinning circle which never touches the ground.

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                • I don’t see how the presumption of nefarious motive furthers rational inquiry. Seems to me that presumption undermines the possibility of rational inquiry since it eliminates the role truth (and accuracy, etc) plays in rational discourse. Eg., it’s true that some people engage in motivated reasoning, but that fact has no bearing on the soundness of their arguments or the truth of their claims. It’s the explanation for *why* they hold false beliefs and unsound arguments.

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                    • That really depends.

                      I’ve found that neither of those people is especially good at picking apart arguments, which is why it’s important to have plenty of good relationships with people who disagree with me about lots of things, but like me anyway.

                      (People who agree generally – not always – aren’t good at picking apart arguments because they think they’re effective or they wouldn’t agree; people who dislike generally – not always – aren’t good at picking apart arguments because they think they’re so stupid because you’re so stupid so they don’t even bother with analysis.)

                      Also, I would note here that we’ve diverged fairly far from the original thing, which was Damon asking a very pointed/blunt question (that wasn’t very civil, frankly), Steve riposting skillfully, and Damon accepting his response and going on to expand on his thoughts.

                      It’s an interesting conversation, and pretty relevant to Barton Breen’s interjection, which you rightfully objected to – so I’m not saying to stop it – just be aware that “dislike” is either not applicable to the original comments, or just a guess about how either of those people was feeling.

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                    • You want some one to pick apart your argument. Who will do that the most, someone who agrees you or someone who dislikes you?

                      I think you’re missing my point, Aaron. Motive has no bearing on the truth/falsity of an argument, so an argument can’t be picked apart on those grounds.

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                      • I’d add that motive isn’t relevant to determining the truth or falsity of claims and argument only if truth/falsity are determined by properties external to the believer. If truth is reduced to subjectively held belief then motive may matter since there is no *other* metric by which to discount a person’s views. This is one of the bad effects of postmodernism, in my view.

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                          • That’s called “politics”.

                            But you’re a vector-theory guy, so maybe you’re OK with collapsing those distinctions?

                            (Seems to me reducing truth to utility is recognized as a problem even for people who normalize it by describing what they view as political reality.)

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                            • I wrote an entire post about this!

                              “maybe you’re OK with collapsing those distinctions?”

                              It’s not that I’m “OK” with it as much as I have noticed that the distinctions tend to collapse once you get out into the field.

                              If we agree that it is possible to make things worse by noticing them (that is to say, noticing things “normalizes” them), then we have now opened the floor to arguing about figuring out what we ought not normalize.

                              I’m not exactly certain that, of all the things that it’d be bad to normalize, this one is at the top of the list.

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                              • JB,

                                I’d say it a bit differently: not pushing back against that trend constitutes acceptance of it, and at that point, at least for the speaker, politics and policy are *completely* divorced from any objective conception of truth. I’m not sure that makes sense to your mind, but it’s the constant theme I’ve pushed on for years here when your (and DD’s, etc) criticisms of folks’ arguments run up the analytical flag pole rather than back down to the ground.

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              • The answer to the question “why do this?” may be as simple as “because it’s the truth”. Why isn’t that sufficient?

                I would say that it depends on the truth being revealed. For instance, a few days ago, Will posted a link to a Newsweek article talking about confederate monuments going up on private land. Nothing in that article was, AFAIK, a lie, but what was the value of revealing that truth?

                Let me propose a hypothetical. If the OP was instead talking about a minister who was undeniably doing good works in the world, preaching to his congregation, taking care of the poor, etc., but the author focused solely upon the fact that back when the minister was 20, he was convicted of killing someone, and that conviction is not something the minister is terribly open about (doesn’t deny it, but doesn’t talk about it). It’s a revealed truth, and the truth itself has some kind of value, but I would have to wonder what exactly the value of that truth is?

                Now, personally, I find that exposing the flimsy foundation of claimed credentials is always a truth worth revealing, because of how much trust is placed in people based upon their credentials. This is doubly so when the credentials aid in the foundation of authority. And a theological authority claiming secular credentials strikes me as someone attempting to claim greater authority outside the theological, which I will always have a problem with.

                But that doesn’t mean one can’t question the motives of a person revealing truth if one finds that truth to be of little value.

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              • The answer to the question “why do this?” may be as simple as “because it’s the truth”. Why isn’t that sufficient?

                Depends on how serious we’re supposed to take religion.

                If religion is seriously trying to overturn the laws of Physics by claiming they’re optional and/or situational, and supernatural assistance is a real thing, then “facts” and “credentials” are a big deal. We could run experiments, evaluate evidence, and so forth.

                If religion is cultural/entertainment, then “credentials” (and facts) are meaningless. Having a charismatic guy stand up and blow smoke is a good thing if his act is good. Eddie Murphy had a standup routine about karate. Pointing out that he’s doesn’t know anything is crass, everyone already knows.

                The weird thing about religion is there’s a disconnect between how seriously it’s followers claim it should be taken and how seriously they actually want it to be taken.

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                • The weird thing about religion is there’s a disconnect between how seriously it’s followers claim it should be taken and how seriously they actually want it to be taken.

                  That’s exceptionally broad as generalizations go, and not particularly accurate. Try to rein it in if you continue discussing the topic.

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                  • Dark Matter: …there’s a disconnect between how seriously it’s followers claim it should be taken and how seriously they actually want it…
                    That’s exceptionally broad as generalizations go, and not particularly accurate.

                    I get that I’m exceptionally binary in my thinking and that causes communication issues, but this is what I see.

                    Every church service I’ve been in talks about miracles as if they’re real, and should be taken seriously. Ditto Prayer, typically someone will be in the hospital for something (or facing some other life crisis) and we’re all supposed to pray for them. This is presented as something that helps, i.e. has real world consequences.

                    Prayer and Miracles are supposed to be taken seriously as though they’re real things… unless we want to measure them, test them, depend on them, run experiments on them, etc, then there’s a total reversal and it’s “it can’t be measured” or something similar.

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                    • “Prayer and Miracles are supposed to be taken seriously as though they’re real things… unless we want to measure them, test them, depend on them, run experiments on them, etc”

                      But you have to then apply the same scrutiny to things that are taken as scientific discovery. How would you do that to origin-of-life theories, how the moon formed, where earth’s water came from or T rex soft tissue supposedly 68 million years old? How would DNA replication errors and natural selection result in stomachs, protected by mucous produced by glands, from acid produced by other glands? Lots of things go unmeasured and untested. They are merely believed.

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                      • But you have to then apply the same scrutiny to things that are taken as scientific discovery. …Lots of things go unmeasured and untested.

                        Scientific things which can’t be tested tend to be re-written on a regular basis and are (rightfully) held up for suspicion. For example “Dark Matter” (the stuff) is an indication the Theory of Gravity is Wrong (it makes predictions which are not correct), is badly showing it’s age and is in serious need of a re-write.

                        However most supernatural claims can be evaluated and measured. The healthcare system has lots of experience at evaluating the efficacy of treatments. Similarly feeding the masses, healing the sick, walking on water, coming back from the dead, even more general things like good health and basic probability (i.e. good fortune) can be evaluated.

                        In the Algorithmic programming world (i.e. computerized stock trading) a 1% advantage is a license to print money.

                        If a church could use Prayer (or whatever form of supernatural aid) that worked 1% of the time (curing dying children with cancer for example), that’s a Billion dollar skill. Foretelling telling the future is one of the really useful ones that’s probably worth Trillions.

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                          • Then they aren’t actually scientific things.

                            Some of those things will make it into mainstream Science. Example: Gravity Waves weren’t testable until they were, 10 years ago they could have been on your list.

                            Lots of other ideas on the bleeding edge of science will be taken out behind the shed and shot.

                            But I don’t see where you’re going with this.

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                            • “Some of those things will make it into mainstream Science. Example: Gravity Waves weren’t testable…”

                              Lots of those things have already made it into mainstream science without being tested at all. Mainstream science teaches, with no hesitation or doubt, that everything living descended from one single common ancestor. For this to be true, countless zillions of miraculous, fortuitous errors had to occur. It is an idea that passes without so much as a whimper, as if it was fact. It is not a tested proposal. At all.

                              ===

                              Lots of other ideas on the bleeding edge of science will be taken out behind the shed and shot.”

                              But the claimants behind the lecterns will not be shot. Their credentials will not be questioned, nor their character impugned.

                              ===

                              “But I don’t see where you’re going with this.”

                              Well, you said that “most supernatural claims can be evaluated and measured.”

                              I would propose that prophecy, to include those in Daniel, can fall into that measurable category. Anything extraordinarily predictive deserves a fair evaluation. Ravi Zacharias and his credentials are not the issue. The prophecies he talks about are the issue.

                              As an example, Psalm 69 was written a thousand years before the crucifixion of Christ. It says that “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

                              Both of these things, separate events, are recorded in the Gospel accounts. This is either an authentic forecast of the future, or those accounts are despicable, conspiratorial literary frauds. How would you apply science to determine the truth?

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                              • I mostly meant that every church service you’ve attended and the set of all religions are not the same. Many Buddhists, for example, are quite interested in testing and measuring things. (I could go on and on – there are examples also of religions that are perfectly fine with not being taken overly seriously.) Thank you for being more specific, it makes your point more interesting as well as more civil.

                                Your closing dichotomy is completely unnecessary and leaves out a wide range of (quite beautiful) aesthetic and history-aware options that on the face of it are more plausible than either of your two options. The whole “X *must* be A or B” thing is a pretty transparent rhetorical trick and while you may win over some lurkers, it’s unlikely to work on anyone here. (That isn’t a moderator comment, just an observation.)

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                                • “Your closing dichotomy is completely unnecessary and leaves out a wide range of (quite beautiful) aesthetic and history-aware options that on the face of it are more plausible than either of your two options.”

                                  I left those out because I’m just not aware of any options that really stand out. In my experience, NT fulfillments of OT prophecies are either accepted as true, or rejected as deliberately deceitful and false. But I’m open to alternative views.

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                              • Mainstream science teaches, with no hesitation or doubt, that everything living descended from one single common ancestor.

                                It’s what the state of the art suggests from multiple (better supported) disciplines. It’s also deep into “bleeding edge” and could be tossed out tomorrow. I expect “how life began” ideas in science to be put in blender and redone (for starters there’s more than one idea and they conflict).

                                But the claimants behind the lecterns will not be shot. Their credentials will not be questioned, nor their character impugned.

                                For being wrong about what happened more than a Billion years ago? No they won’t, and this entire branch of science falls into the “doesn’t have real world effects” category that we can afford to not take very seriously.

                                But a better comparison is what we’d do with a Doctor who claims he can cure cancer when in reality he can’t, and he has no intention of even attempting to have a real world impact.

                                Both of these things, separate events, are recorded in the Gospel accounts. This is either an authentic forecast of the future, or those accounts are despicable, conspiratorial literary frauds.

                                Ignoring that record keeping was terrible by modern standards and the source heavily biased;

                                The way prophecy works is:
                                Step 1: The Profit makes a large number of random, vague, statements/predictions.
                                Step 2a: Some of his statements will match something (the human brain is a pattern matching device)…
                                Step 2b: …especially if we have the entire world and many centuries to pattern match.
                                Step 3: Throw out the statements that don’t work & ignore just how vague the statements that do work actually were.

                                So we have a statement which doesn’t have a name, year, location, context, and (especially) doesn’t come with a “accuracy” ratio, and this counts as an “authentic forecast” when applied to the entire world forever? Christ was the first person over a period of a thousand years to be forced to drink vinegar? BTW drinking vinegar is viewed as medicinal in certain parts of the world, my wife occasionally makes me drink it.

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                                • ”It’s what the state of the art suggests from multiple (better supported) disciplines….I expect “how life began” ideas in science to be put in blender and redone (for starters there’s more than one idea and they conflict).”

                                  You seem to be all over the court. That said, if I thought that scientific discipline and method were truly the issue, I might agree with the last part. However, the various ideas about OOL, in my mind, serve to illustrate the difference between investigative science and materialism/naturalism. The commitment of the latter is to a set of rules. The consensus will tolerate absurdities until less absurd ideas are introduced. You might find the questions and answers Talk section of the Wikipedia entry for Abiogenesis interesting.

                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Abiogenesis

                                  ==

                                  ”…record keeping was terrible by modern standards and the source heavily biased””

                                  There are reasons to reject this idea. Scribes were held in high regard for good reasons, one of them being copy fidelity.

                                  ==

                                  ”The way prophecy works is:
                                  Step 1: The Profit makes a large number of random, vague, statements/predictions.
                                  Step 1: The Profit makes a large number of random, vague, statements/predictions.
                                  Step 2a: Some of his statements will match something (the human brain is a pattern matching device)…
                                  Step 2b: …especially if we have the entire world and many centuries to pattern match.
                                  Step 3: Throw out the statements that don’t work & ignore just how vague the statements that do work actually were.”

                                  So we have a statement which doesn’t have a name, year, location, context…

                                  That is simply not an accurate characterization of prophets or Biblical prophecy. But inasmuch as it is an extensive and detailed subject. I won’t swamp you with examples that show why I think your perception, though common, is wrong.

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                                  • You seem to be all over the court.

                                    Eh? You’re talking about the weakest aspects of science and I’m fine saying they’re “unfinished”. Like Gravity they’re only on the top of the heap (and thus taught in schools) because they’re the strongest we currently have available.

                                    However tearing down one idea isn’t the same as building up another.

                                    The commitment is to a set of rules.

                                    A working lightbulb trumps any rule. For example the EM Drive clearly breaks known theories, but either it works or it doesn’t. If it works then we’ll change the theories.

                                    I won’t swamp you with examples that show why I think your perception, though common, is wrong.

                                    You clearly want this to be taken seriously, as in “God supplied supernatural aid”. Afaict, the purpose of showcasing this history is to underline how God treats his people, meaning it’s an advertisement of what can be mine if I just believe.

                                    In every religious service I’ve been in, I hear of claims of working lightbulbs. I’m good with taking everything seriously… but that means I actually take it seriously and not just pretend to do so for an hour during church.

                                    So how Serious do you want this taken in the here and now? To what degree is supernatural aid on tap? When is prayer useful and to what degree?

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                                    • “You’re talking about the weakest aspects of science and I’m fine saying they’re “unfinished”.”

                                      Actually, I’m talking about things that shouldn’t be called science at all. Science is about discovery, empirical evidence, repeatable experiments, etc. It is not tales of endless top-shelf miracles.
                                      ==
                                      “You clearly want this to be taken seriously, as in “God supplied supernatural aid”.”

                                      If you are talking about prophecy, I can only attempt to explain why I take it seriously.

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                                      • …things that shouldn’t be called science at all. Science is about discovery, empirical evidence, repeatable experiments, etc. It is not tales of endless top-shelf miracles.

                                        Abiogenesis is a mess, but so are Quantum and “The Theory of Everything”. Although we know far from everything about these fields, we also know far more than nothing.

                                        People should be working on these. I’m hoping a better understanding of Quantum and/or “Everything” and/or Gravity leads to a star drive. Understanding Abiogenesis will take a while because we’ll need to visit other star systems to see what experiments Nature has run.

                                        In the meantime although the subfields are a mess, the fields-as-a-whole show their worth. The same theory which claims “radiocarbon dating” is a thing also created nuclear power plants to keep the lights on.

                                        If you are talking about prophecy, I can only attempt to explain why I take it seriously.

                                        Taking prophecy “seriously” would mean “using it to predict the future”, and not merely claiming others have used it in the past. That’s my whole “serious, but not serious” issue.

                                        A magician can put tomorrow’s newspaper in an envelope and pull it out in a week, that’s worth a laugh. Actually trading on tomorrow’s stock information would shake the world and be worth Trillions.

                                        God doesn’t change. The laws of Physics don’t change. If we can’t get light bulbs to work today, then that says a lot about what happened years ago.

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                                        • Dark Matter: Abiogenesis is a mess, but so are Quantum and “The Theory of Everything”. Although we know far from everything about these fields, we also know far more than nothing.

                                          There’s a notorious (and hilarious) Chick Tract about how evolution is a lie, and then goes on to say that gluons don’t bind nucleons to one another, Jesus does. Now, once you get past the comical misunderstanding of the science involved[2], you kind of have to admire the dude’s consistency.

                                          [2] Gluons bind quarks together into individual nucleons (i.e., protons and neutrons), and indeed we don’t understand this very well. On the other hand, pions bind nucleons together into atomic nuclei, and that’s much less mysterious.

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                                          • At some point The Theory of Gravity will be replaced. What replaces it will also be The Theory of Gravity. That’s because Gravity-the-theory is the best explanation for Gravity-the-fact.

                                            This (mostly) holds true for the others. Abiogenesis-the-theory is a mess (scientists disagree whether it even happened on Earth). I can envision scenarios(*) where abiogenesis-the-fact requires us to burn the theory and replace it with a different concept. However short of that abiogenesis-the-theory will only be replaced by abiogenesis-the-theory.

                                            (*)Did life get it’s start on Earth via some natural process(es)? The default answer at the moment is “yes”, if only because “natural process(es)” has always been the answer and we don’t have evidence of something else. Life in the vacuum of space would upend all that nicely, as would finding aliens “seeding” planets, or any other “external” force that actually has impact.

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  2. Well researched piece. As a secular Jewish person, I find the whole Evangelical industry fascinating and bemusing. By all accounts, Christianity has largely won the day in the world. There are at least one billion people in the world who identify as Christians. The major countries of the developed world are largely Christian to varying degrees.

    Yet, they still feel the need for apologetics like they are the victims of the pagan Roman Empire. There is a persecution complex in Evangelical Christianity and it is one of the best defense mechanisms I have ever seen put in place. Nothing can destroy it and any attack or criticism just “proves” their belief that they are persecuted.

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    • I agree, and the sense of belligerent victimhood is one of the most self-crippling aspects of Christinaity.

      I actually believe that the Christian world is undergoing a profound metamorphosis currently, similar in scale to the Reformation.

      The shrinkage of churches is unprecedented in our culture, and I believe it is because churches are unable to mount a persuasive explanation for their own existence.

      I see it in young people who are not hostile to the theology of religion, or have any specific grudge against any church; they just don’t see any need for it in their life.

      They aren’t impious or nihilistic; They actually have very sharp and powerful beliefs. They just form moral norms, and explanations for life wholly independent of religion.

      I don’t know where this is leading. But I also know that I don’t really have much standing to tell them they are doing it wrong.

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      • The shrinkage of churches is unprecedented in our culture, and I believe it is because…

        Wait, it’s going down? I thought it was stable and/or shifting around a bit but that was all.

        churches are unable to mount a persuasive explanation for their own existence.

        They’re social clubs that have reason to think they’re superior than everyone not in the club.

        And to be fair, every culture has religion and the religious. Ergo it’s probably the manifestation of some instinct, and had survival advantage at some point. “Unity of the tribe” against other tribes or something.

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        • It’s been going on about two decades. First you had a lengthy decline in the moderate and liberal Churches, and a lot of folks consolidating in the growing evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

          There was, for lack of a better term, a lot of bragging from the growing Churchs about that. You know, clearly those flagging (and theologically incorrect non-evangelical and non-fundamentalist churches were doing something wrong if Christians were turning away.

          Then, over the last decade or so, it’s started happening to the fundamentalists and evangelicals.

          My two-cents is there’s been a steady decline across Christian faith in general, but the first ten years or so saw both that steady decline, but also a large number of folks moving from more mainstream Christian churches to the more evangelical and fundamentalist ones. They weren’t so much growing, as basically sifting through established Churches for more members.

          That particular source of butts for pews has pretty much petered out. Everyone willing to jump ship has, and I suspect we’re going to see — in the next ten years or so – -a sort of cannibalism among the evangelical and fundamentalist sects, as they struggle for members against a declining church participation rate.

          (And as a theological aside: Moderate and liberal Protestants, in general, don’t really need churches. There’s a communal aspect of worship that can’t be replaced, but their doctrine stresses a personal communion with God that makes it a lot easier for them to feel like good Christians who don’t really go to church that often. My mother, for instance, is a devout Lutheran. She sort of stopped going for about ten years, except for Christmas and Easter, and that was more to go to church with her mom than to go for herself.

          The evangelicals and fundamentalists Protestants seem to be a lot more keen, mostly via social pressure, to regularly attend.

          And the Catholics are, of course, an entirely different bucket of fish.)

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  3. It is worth noting that what you name as the “Christian Industrial Complex” is actually a White American Evangelical Protestant phenomenon. WAEPs would like you to think that they constitute American Christianity, but are actually only roughly one third. I am a white American Protestant, but not Evangelical. I look on at WAEP as an appalled outsider. I had never heard of this guy. I also was unsurprised. I figured a couple of paragraphs where the piece was leading.

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  4. A lot of this cheating was probably common before the Internet. Maybe not at the level of Revi Zacharias but lying about your qualifications and past experiences isn’t unknown. There was a story about a woman who lied about being lawyer and managed to work her way up to partner before being found out. Unluckily for her, the legal profession is more jealous of its rights and does not like unauthorized practice of law.

    Anyway, so there were probably Evangelical preachers in the past the recognized having a secular pedigree can provide status and a bit of respect in the Evangelical circuit and even among non-Evangelicals. Non-Evangelicals don’t take a degree from Liberty, Bob Jones, or the Moody Bible Institute seriously but they do respect Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge. So preachers would create fake qualifications like a lot of other people. They didn’t do it at Ravi Zacharias scale and they weren’t doing it in the age of the Internet, where things can get c checked easier and muck exposed to the world.

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  5. Religion isn’t a search for Truth, it’s a search for Meaning.

    This is the age of Science, so Truth has a long history of doing really good things… and the religious often feel the need to proclaim their Meaning to also be Truth.

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  6. “I should know by now that, for every 30 seconds it takes a Christian apologist to make a “fulfilled prophecy” claim, it takes a few hours of tedious research to see that it is probably bogus.”

    In regards to the Book of Daniel, you might find yourself struggling if you extend your tedious research into the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the idea of authorship in the 2nd century BC is essentially disproven.

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    • Hi Phil. The fact that a top old testament scholar at Yale told me that everybody except fundamentalists accepts the late dating (and that the major encyclopedias say that the late dating is now a widely held view) makes me VERY leery of your claim that this view has been “disproven” and that anyone who does some tedious work with the Dead Sea Scrolls will see this.

      The dating of Daniel is a highly technical issue involving loan words from ancient languages, papyrolpgy, etc, and I am deeply suspicious of your qualifications to speak with such confidence about it.

      If you are really a top expert on Daniel and you have a PhD and know the ancient languages and can issue a point by point-by-point rebuttal of John Collins at Yale, (and others), I will admit to standing corrected.

      Otherwise, forgive me please, I will view your comment as yet another example of how easy it is to throw out a bold but bogus claim.

      Secondly, I don’t need to have a pony in that race. We all agree that the dating of Daniel is controversial. The fact that Ravi Zacharias pretending otherwise is yet another example of his dishonesty.

      That is all I need to show for purposes of my article.

      Thanks.

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      • Hi Steve,

        Sorry, I missed your response. Yes, the dating of Daniel is definitely controversial, going back to Porphyry. May I ask you a few questions about this book?

        -The late date claim would imply that it was a deliberately deceitful composition, rather than personal account (the phrase “I Daniel” occurs several times in the book). Whoever the writer(s) was, what do you think their motive would have been?

        -Are you aware of any ancient writers who declared that this book was fraudulent? I should think that someone would have objected to it, if indeed it was. But it seems rather, to have been copied and distributed as if it were authentic.

        -Daniel 12:11 notes that “the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up”. Most scholars seem to think that this happened when Antiochus profaned the Temple in 167 BC. Why would you suppose that Jesus spoke of this (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14) as a future event?

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        • Hi Phil. I don’t mean to be coy, but I would simply refer you to my footnote 4.

          Your question really is about how we may use expert opinions when we are discussing fields where we have very limited knowledge. If this were a discussion on the Laffer Curve (about which I know nothing) and a Harvard University economics professor tells me “No serious economists accept the Laffer Curve anymore,” and then I check various online encyclopedias and they all confirm that the Laffer Curve is a minority view now, I would feel comfortably entitled to maintain my view that the Laffer Curve is no longer the majority view.

          Same for the dating of Daniel. I could take a few hours to research the issues and answer your questions, and you would come back with more issues, and then I would spend a few more hours on it, and at the end of the day you would probably know much more about it than I. And what was the show? That you are right? No. It would show that you know much more about it than I.

          Forgive me if this sounds dismissive. I do not intend it that way. There are areas where I have some expertise and will stand head to head with other experts and change my mind if their views are superior.

          But on the dating of Daniel, I defer to the vast majority of professional old testament scholars. Extent do you want to ask what Jesus meant by the abomination of desolation you will have to take that up with them. I haven’t a clue, and I don’t need a clue for my present purposes.

          As for how this relates to Ravi Zacharias, my point was simply that he based an argument on an extremely controversial position without disclosing that to his non-specialist audience. In fact, he assertively pretended that it was not controversial.

          Ravi Zacharias was dishonest with that audience. Regardless of the dating of Daniel, will you give me that?

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          • Steve,

            I have no quarrel with criticism of RZ if it is legitimate.

            As to experts and expertise, some prevailing views appear to me to be just fads, and I think the modern trend towards late-dating ancient scripture is just that. Vast majorities of PhD’s are not immune to a herd mentality.

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          • Mr. Baughman,

            I do have a question for you which is more related to your understanding of the presentation of “evidence”. I do use quotes not to be flippant, but to draw emphasis to the real concern behind my question.

            Here is my question: Do you believe it is possible to pursue the truth of any subject without presupposition?

            Doug

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              • There is a tendency in some circles to work backwards from the conclusion they wish to draw (e.g. highly accurate prophecies mean either that the prophecies were prophetic or that the book was written after the event) and then state this means that it must have been the way they wish to infer. They do however remain contentious views. Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell PhD spend 13 pages running through in chapter 25 the Historicity of Daniel, before concluding that whilst possible solutions can made to the major objections made by critical scholars “In some cases, the best possible solutions are not concrete proofs that guarantee the validity of conservative, evangelical thought. However, understanding that the claims of critical scholarship are not as concrete or as uniform as critical scholars present them should do much to encourage Christians that the purported problems are neither insurmountable nor unanswerable. We can present a case that there is indeed evidence that Daniel is rooted firmly with the historical milieu during which it presents itself as having been written.” (McDowell, J. & McDowell S. et al, p585, 2017, Evidence that demands a Verdict)

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                • On the other claims, it may well be that there has been some over-egging of the pudding, perhaps in some instances a case of not correcting other’s mistakes (such as an honorary Doctorate being reported as an earned Doctorate), perhaps it was deliberate misrepresentation or downright lies. However, your presentation of Ridley Hall and Wycliffe Hall as not being part of Cambridge and Oxford Universities is also misleading – both are recognised colleges of the respective universities and both awarded Cambridge and Oxford degrees; Wycliffe is “A Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford” https://www.wycliffehall.org.uk/ which still confers some Oxford degrees and is listed on Oxford’s website – https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/colleges/college-listing/wycliffe-hall?wssl=1, whilst Ridley describes “Our long and multi-levelled relationship with the University has enriched Ridley throughout its existence… those students who are studying courses accredited by Cambridge University (currently a minority of the student body) receive classes taught by both Affiliated and University Lecturers.” (http://www.ridley.cam.ac.uk/about/ethos/partnerships/the-university-of-cambridge) – indeed my own father’s 3rd degree (post his PhD) was through Ridley and Selwyn Colleges at Cambridge. It is worth noting that this situation has changed slightly in the last few years as the Church of England now validates all it’s ministerial training through the University of Durham, and hence both Ridley and Wycliffe now have the bulk of their students affiliated with Durham University, not Oxford or Cambridge. This is a relatively recent change however and a result of a consolidation of ministerial training courses decided upon by the General Synod of the Church of England (of which I was a member for 10 years).

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                  • Hi Tim, thanks for the comments.

                    You are in error when you say that Ridley Hall is a “recognized college” of Cambridge. It simply is not. I have that directly from Cambridge, I cite an email from their External Affairs office saying so, and also saying that what Ravi did at Ridley did not make him a Cambridge visiting scholar.

                    As for Oxford, the Student Handbook has for decades described Wycliffe Hall as an “affiliated institution” of the University. Yes, Wycliffe students matriculate to the University but it is NOT one of the colleges that comprises Oxford.

                    More importantly re Oxford, both the University and Wycliffe told me in writing that Ravi has never held a formal position with them. (The University has no record at all of Ravi.)

                    So, Ravi’s claim to being “an official lecturer at Oxford” is just false.

                    I study at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. We are about 15 yards from U.C. Berkeley, have cross-registration privileged, library privileges, and loads of profs and students going back and forth.

                    For me to say, based on this, that I am a “visiting scholar at U.C. Berkeley” would be false. But that is what Ravi did, until he got caught.

                    I think your fundamental error is conflating affiliation and identity. It is not the case that whatever one does at Ridley Hall one can claim to have done at the University of Cambridge. Same for Wycliffe and Oxford.

                    By the way, this is not in my article, but Ravi’s publishers with his full knowledge, often refer to him as “Cambridge educated,” even though he spent a mere 2-3 months in the town of Cambridge at a place that was not even a part of the University. That strikes me as beyond the pale, part and parcel of Ravi’s systematic strategy of deception.

                    So nothing in your post softens my view that Ravi has systematically misrepresented his Oxford and Cambridge credentials.

                    Thanks much.

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                    • I don’t think we’re massively disagreeing that what he claimed doesn’t appear to be truthful or that he held the positions in question. Had he been employed by Wycliffe or even asked by them to provide lectures for example it would have been a much fairer claim to be a visiting lecturer – the information you have received is clearly not the Christian colleges trying to shield him however but instead quite correctly providing the answer that the claims as stated are false. However, the link I provided to Wycliffe shows on their website that they are “A permanent private hall of Oxford University”, and I feel you’re trying to denigrate both Ridley and Wycliffe in pursuit of your point, and therefore not representing them fairly. Whilst my father’s degree was from Cambridge University, he was primarily at Selwyn College, completing ministerial training at Ridley Hall, so I will allow that I may have misunderstood the status of Ridley Hall; at any rate we do not disagree that 2-3 months auditing classes at a college in Cambridge (whether or not it is affiliated to Cambridge University) is stretching the statement “Cambridge Educated” beyond breaking point .

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                      • Tim. We should be able to put this to rest. Wycliffe is indeed a “private permanent hall” of the University. It is also an “affiliated institution” of the University (per decades of Oxford Student Handbook descriptions.). We are not disagreeing on that. You are flatly wrong, however, and with all due respect, when you say it is a college of the University. It is not.

                        Ridley is even more modest. If you check my Videos you will see the email from Cambridge telling me that “Ridley hall is not a constituent part of the University of Cambridge.” (Your father did not get his Cambridge degree by enrolling at Ridley. He would’ve matriculated to the university independently.)

                        You may google “the case against Ravi Zacharias” and see the new video at about 55 seconds.

                        Bottom line, Ravi piggybacked and honorary position at Wycliffe into a “official lecturer” position at the University itself. You will surely agree with me that that was dishonest.

                        It was also dishonest from him to piggyback from a sabbatical at Ridley to a “visiting scholar at Cambridge.”

                        Neither claim remains at his website bio.

                        Thanks for holding my feet to the fire. I’m glad we agree that there was misrepresentation by Mr. Zacharias. I have no interest in denigrating either Ridley or Wycliffe. I am just saying they are neither Cambridge or Oxford.

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                        • Ok – whilst we are more or less in agreement on this point now, I still think the original article misrepresents Wycliffe and should include the information about being a Private Permanent Hall of Oxford University. However the crux of the matter is that the claims appear to be massively exaggerated from a kernel of truth – there is a mistaken misrepresentation at best and a downright deceit at worst.

                          It’s a little like my claiming to hold a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), which at a point in the past decade I have done; the reality is that whilst I completed CCNA 1, 2 and 3, I never took the 4th module nor completed the commercial exam which would have conferred the status (which would in any event have had to have been renewed after 3 years). There was a kernel of truth that became a misrepresentation if I stuck the letters after my name; this may initially be done through ignorance but if persisted with would constitute deceit.

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                • Tim, I am curious why you chose to cite two popularizers who have no cache in scholarly circles for your Daniel argument. Josh McDowell is not considered a scholar at all, and his son, Sean, at least has a PhD, but it is in “apologetics and worldview studies,” an interdisciplinary degree that gives him no authority to speak on technical issues that Daniel’s dating raises.

                  But perhaps I should shut up; they do, after all, more than confirm my point that the dating of Daniel is controversial and that the traditional view is under attack.

                  But again, the main point of the Daniel issue in the Ravi Zacharias context is that he pretended it was a settled matter when it was not. That was an unethical thing to do in front of a non-specialist audience

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                  • The dating is indeed not a settled matter, and probably won’t be until we discover a further document such as those from the Qumran caves that dispelled the assertions confidently made by many scholars of late dates for other books. Further, if the early date is correct, Ravi’s conclusions are also correct irrespective of the consensus of scholars. You clearly feel he should have presented that there were questions about the date of the book and perhaps had he gone into greater depth in defending that date (which is only necessary if you present the conflicting scholar’s opinions) then you may not have felt the need to investigate his other claims (which we agree appear to have been misrepresented and overstated, to the point where they bear little connection with the reality). John Collins’ statement however is as misleading as you claim Ravi is in not mentioning the questions about the date. You reference

                    [iv] John Collins, a professor of Old Testament at Yale, told me by email that “all mainline scholars agree that Daniel was written between 167 and 164 B.C.E.”, two centuries after Alexander’s death.

                    (Emphasis mine)

                    If John truly believes that then he has to dismiss both the late Joyce G Baldwin (BA, BD, former Dean of Women, Trinity College, Bristol, subsequently Principal of Trinity College Bristol) and the late Ronald S Wallace (PhD, Edinburgh, former Professor of Biblical Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary, USA) as being mainline scholars, as well as Professor Tremper Longman, whose PhD is itself from Yale.

                    Baldwin wrote the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary on Daniel (1978, edited by Professor D. J. Wiseman, OBE, MA, DLit, FBA, FSA) and – after arguing for 29 pages of the introduction (or possibly 34 depending on whether you include the start or the introduction) – states

                    “Though, to judge by its popularity, the second-century date seems assured, unresolved problems remain. Manuscript evidence alone is disturbing because it leaves too little time between a mid-second-century autograph and the acceptance of the book as canonical. An increasing number of scholars are arguing in favour of a Babylonian source of much of the book, to which they think that Maccabean material was added. When all the relevant factors are taken into account, including the arguments for the unity of the book, a late sixth- or early fifth-century date of writing for the whole best suits the evidence.”

                    (ibid, p.46, 1978)

                    Dr Wallace wrote The Message of Daniel (1984, originally published as The Lord is King, edited by Alec Motyer, 1979, 6th impression 2009, IVP) and states:

                    “When the unity of the book is recognized [sic], then, the first chapters, which are themselves so vivid and profound in their thought, and so dynamic in their message, tend to dominate the exposition of the remainder of the book and thus to alter the entire approach to the later chapters. Throughout the whole book it becomes obvious that the work is written as a message… primarily for those… in a Babylonian-type situation… The book, therefore, may be assumed to have been there, current in some way, perhaps unappreciated even by those for whom it had been originally written – ‘sealed’ [Cf. 12:9], so to speak – yet a genuine word of God from the tradition of Israel’s days in Babylon for all time to come for the people of God… There is no difficulty in holding that as it was issued afresh to apply itself to the circumstances of the day, it passed through a fresh version.”

                    (ibid, pp. 21-22, 1979)

                    Or for example Dr Tremper Longman III BA, MDiv, MPhil (Yale), PhD (Yale) who is currently the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California who states:

                    “The conundrum is that faithful interpreters find themselves on two sides of the debate. On the one hand there are those who believe it is necessary to stick to a sixth-century composition. Others feel that the text drives them to a second-century date… [which] attempts to deceive its audience into thinking it is prophesying future events when in reality it is casting the past into a future tense… In other words, in prophecy given after the fact (vaticinium ex eventu) the idea was to convince the audience that the prophet was a true prophet to whom God had revealed the future. After showing that by predicting events that had already passed, then there was an attempt at a real prophecy. This is more than a literary device, and one must question whether such a textual strategy would find a place in God’s Word… In view of the evidence and in spite of the difficulties, I interpret the book from the conclusion that the prophecies come from the sixth century B.C. I find the problems amenable to hypothetical solutions and the theological issues of a late date difficult to surmount.”

                    (pp. 22-23, Daniel, NIV Application Commentary, 1999, Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Available (to an extent) at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Application-Commentary-Biblical-Contemporary/dp/0310206081/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511746119&sr=1-1&keywords=tremper+longman+daniel)

                    This is not a comprehensive list, but a scratching of the surface of modern commentaries – for example Revd Dr Dale Ralph David, the author of the replacement Bible Speaks Today edition on Daniel (2013, IVP)

                    “takes the position that Daniel was written by whom it claims to be written, during the period of time it claims to have been written; but he doesn’t spill gallons of ink on laying out all the pros and cons. After the brief, concentrated analysis in the introduction, most of the reasoning arises in short, thoughtful, and sometime humorous, footnotes throughout the work. Even if the reader disagrees, he will gain a new appreciation for the reasonableness of accepting Daniel as an original work written by a real, historical person (Daniel himself) during the actual time it maintains it was written (During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Darius).”

                    (Review from Amazon.com, found at https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Message_of_Daniel.html?id=psTMAwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y)

                    The date may not be settled, but the above are all mainline published scholars who argue for and accept a date in the late 6th to early 5th century BC; thus whatever Ravi’s other faults, the message that first disturbed you must be at least considered in that light.

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                    • “This is not a comprehensive list, but a scratching of the surface of modern commentaries…

                      There are ancient commentaries as well, like the story Josephus recorded:

                      “The only historical event connecting Alexander the Great with the Jews is his visit to Jerusalem, which is recorded by Josephus in a somewhat fantastic manner. According to “Ant.” xi. 8, §§ 4-6, Alexander went to Jerusalem after having taken Gaza. Jaddua, the high priest, had a warning from God received in a dream, in which he saw himself vested in a purple robe, with his miter—that had the golden plate on which the name of God was engraved—on his head. Accordingly he went to meet Alexander at Sapha (“View” [of the Temple]). Followed by the priests, all clothed in fine linen, and by a multitude of citizens, Jaddua awaited the coming of the king. When Alexander saw the high priest, he reverenced God (Lev. R. xiii., end), and saluted Jaddua; while the Jews with one voice greeted Alexander. When Parmenio, the general, gave expression to the army’s surprise at Alexander’s extraordinary act—that one who ought to be adored by all as king should adore the high priest of the Jews—Alexander replied: “I did not adore him, but the God who hath honored him with this high-priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea, promising that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians.” Alexander then gave the high priest his right hand, and went into the Temple and “offered sacrifice to God according to the high priest’s direction,” treating the whole priesthood magnificently. “And when the Book of Daniel was shown him [see Dan. vii. 6, viii. 5-8, 20-22, xi. 3-4], wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that he was the person intended, and rejoiced thereat.
                      http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1120-alexander-the-great

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  7. At the end of the day, it’s like having a doctorate in astrology. You can come up with some seriously *AWESOME* ways that astrology maps to things that happen in the real world. (I had a bad week a few years back and freakin’ *THREE* people told me that it was because Mercury was in retrograde.)

    That said, if astrology doesn’t map to reality, it’s likely to have quite a number of overlaps and weird coincidences… in the same way that prophecies will predict people like Alexander.

    I’m not sure that the people who believe in astrology will be particularly persuaded by others pointing out that “Doctor Astrology’s PhD is honorary”, though. It’s the wrong tool for the job.

    More power to you, though. Just keep your eye open for Doctorates in Astrology, wherever they might show up. (There are a lot of them out there…)

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    • This unfair, imo, and not the problem with Zacharias and people like him (and people intellectually adjacent to him in their practice of intellectual pursuits)

      The major world religions (and the minor ones for that matter) are multi-millenia processes to attempt to answer questions of morality and ethics, as well as the biggest questions of Truth and Purpose.

      These are serious questions, worth of serious study – and worth studying seriously. Flim flam artists are a problem, but the problem is in and of them – the field of study is not itself flim flam.

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      • It’s certainly true that the map is not the territory, but anybody who is selling you “how to read maps!” based on anything but where they are is engaging in flim flam.

        (Or, I suppose, anybody who is selling you “how to read maps!” based on anything but where they are is engaging in flim flam… but the map is not the territory.)

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      • The major world religions (and the minor ones for that matter) are multi-millenia processes to attempt to answer questions of morality and ethics, as well as the biggest questions of Truth and Purpose.

        Yes and No. Religion is VERY old, think “invention of fire”.

        Before Science, Religion supplied Truth.
        Before Government, Religion supplied Structure.
        Before Armies, Religion supplied Safety.
        Before Codified Law, Religion supplied Order.
        Before Mass Education, Religion supplied Literacy and Knowledge.

        Religious institutions ran society, they were the organization and structure. Morality and ethics were sidelines, just like we’d like the gov to be ethical but it’s almost an afterthought. If we need to pick between ethics and winning a war then we commit war crimes.

        Modern Religion greatly suffers because it’s original function(s) largely been absorbed by other groups. Religion is to Government (etc) what Alchemy is to Chemistry. Much of the search-for-meaning by religion is actually the search for religion to have meaning.

        Zacharias is proclaiming religion is relevant and important. He probably gets a pass on the details.

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        • Science doesn’t provide Truth, it provides Facts.

          A great deal of Safety, Structure, and Order comes before Government. Government is the *last* line of defense for these things, not their foundation.

          (I am pleased that Mass (Secular) Education has largely replaced Religious Education in the modern world)

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          • Science doesn’t provide Truth, it provides Facts.

            “State of technology” on what to do about Disease used to literally be “pray about it because God is clearly punishing you.”

            Science has made massive inroads into what used to be the domain of Religion.

            A great deal of Safety, Structure, and Order comes before Government. Government is the *last* line of defense for these things, not their foundation.

            I think you’re trying to disagree with me but I don’t understand where you’re going with this. When I look around the world at places where the gov doesn’t supply Structure/Order etc, it’s Religion that picks up the slack.

            You were talking about thousands of years of history. Go back in history far enough and Religion wasn’t about navel gazing and some abstract search for “Truth”, it was about Political Power at every level. The Pope controlled armies and had vast influence on countries. The village Priest was BMOC.

            If you go back before the Pope then you’ve got Jesus’ complaints about the Priests and the Priestly class, which basically came down to abuse of political/economic power being normal and expected for the breed.

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  8. There are some things being said in this thread about “what evangelicals do” and “who evangelicals are and why they’re so bad.” May I just ask everyone to acknowledge that there’s variety among evangelicals? They’re not all what they’re all being accused of in this thread (by some commenters, not all). Even the “bad” ones do some good sometimes and have feelings, too.

    I’m not saying commenters here are in the wrong, really. But they are talking about a large group of people. And while this group of people as a group or a voting bloc probably do exercise outsized and even harmful power in our polity, not all of them are part of that voting bloc and not all of them are really the beneficiaries of the “Christian Industrial Complex” Steve mentions. They’re not a “disfranchised minority” as many of them like to claim they are. But in some parts of our society and popular culture (and sometimes, this blog) they are a bit more marginalized than their (sometimes overhyped, in my opinion) political power might suggest.

    I’m not saying any of this to denigrate Steve Baughman’s post. From what I can see, he has thoroughly debunked and exposed someone who deserves to be debunked and exposed. I’ll probably always be the resident person at this site who chooses to get defensive when evangelicals are criticized, even when the criticisms adopt the more measured terms I claim to prefer. But even I believe that this Ravi guy (who I hadn’t heard of till now) seems like a liar and a charlatan and has it coming.

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    • Gabriel. You are not alone in cringing at knee-jerk criticisms of evangelical Christians. I quite admire some evangelocal philosophers, like Plantinga and Willliam Lane Craig as well as my Catholic professors.

      Even so, I believe that the Ravi Zacharias case shows us how deeply rotten the Protestant religious establishment is. Not just the Roy Moores and the Jimmy Swaggarts. It is the nice folks over at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, and the scholars who run the seminaries, and the once well-meaning students who organize student Youth For Christ all over the US and Canada.

      Ravi Zacharias shows us that these folks don’t take their own religious principles seriously. When a group’s insiders behave that way and turn a blind eye to the sins of the hands that feed them it not only lowers the probability of that group’s doctrines being true, but more importantly it shows us that the rest of us have no business letting them be our leaders.

      We owe Ravi Zacharias a debt of gratitude for this teaching moment. Or so it seems to me.

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  9. Steve,

    I am someone who has appreciated RZ’s ministry, but your work makes me question him.

    Have you listened at all to Nabeel Qureshi’s teachings or read his books? He was a young partner with RZ who died in September from cancer. His academic credentials are, I believe, without question. I think you find his work compelling.

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    • Marie, I appreciate your open mindedness about Ravi. Feel free to contact him at rakzach@gmail.com and his PR manager at pr@rzim.org. But they won’t reply. They really have no response to the allegations.

      I am curious why you say that Nabeel’s credentials are “without question.” Nabeel has several MA degrees, two from good schools. He was a popular author but no expert in any field.

      I think this is part of the problem. It takes an expert to know that someone else is not. So the Ravi’s of the world have an easy time fooling people. (And although Nabeel was not a blatant fraud like Ravi, he traveled the world pretending to have the answers to questions that he was not qualified to understand.)

      I see this with banjo players all the time. Those of us who have dedicated huge chunks of our lives to learning the finesse it takes to master the banjo get less applause than the folks who walk into the bar and strum the shit out of it. Audiences are not able to distinguish between the experts and the pretenders.

      Ravi is a pretender. To the extent that Nabeel had no expertise to in ancient languages, Koranic textual studies, metaphysics of modality, etc, I think of him a pretender also, though I stopped criticizing him a few months ago when he got his bad diagnosis. I was sorry to see him die such a death.

      Thanks for your comments. I hope you will try to reach Ravi.

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      • As soon as I posted my comment I wished I could have changed my statement. :) I obviously can’t back up that statement and I will defer to your research.

        I don’t know that I am qualified to examine Nabeel’s qualifications to talk about the subjects you mentioned. Your banjo comment is very apt.

        What I do believe is that Nabeel met Jesus when he searched for Allah—and I believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins—as Nabeel came to believe.

        I found Nabeel’s comments/writing on faith very compelling and interesting—totally apart from Ravi. I agree that Nabeel’s illness and death was very sad and appreciate your position on commenting on your critiques about him.

        I will think about contacting RZIM. It is incredibly disappointing to me, as a believer in Christ, to read what you have written about him. None of us are perfect but your work seems to portray intentional deceit and that has no place
        in the life of someone who calls them self a follower of Christ.

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        • Hi Marie. The holy documents of your religion foretell people like Ravi. Rom 16:18. So you may find that encouraging.

          As for Nabeel seeking Allah and finding Christ, many of us seek Christ and find secular humanism.

          There is really nothing magical about where seekers end up. It says a lot about the seeker and nothing about “Truth” with a capital T.

          Be well. Thanks for the exchange. I am especially happy that you liked my banjo metaphor. I post as a Frendly Banjo Atheist at youtube. If Ravi gets back to you I would be interested in hearing what he says. Steve@lawbw.com. (He has ignored multiple interviews from me.)

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  10. Hello.

    I’m a practicing Catholic with degrees in philosophy & theology. I just wanted to say that this is an excellent article. It underscores the problem with apologetics of any stripe really. I know in the Catholic world there is a huge chasm between the apologists and those who engage in serious academic research. I suppose this is true of anyone that stops the pursuit of discovery and develops a defensive posture.

    Once again, thanks for the article!

    Regards,

    Daniel

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  11. Evangelicals may not like the source of the expose, but it’s the issues we should be concerned about. In Doug Cowan’s book on the countercult he points out the same major problem with false and inflated credentials.

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  12. Very thorough research. However, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is hardly obscure. The MDiv is the standard pastoral qualification. Keep in mind that the MD is considered a First Professional Degree. That does not discount any of your other findings (which are alarming), but I’d suggest you change the wording on that.

    That said, be aware of the genetic fallacy and the ad hominem appeal.

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    • Hi Mark. The VAST majority of the intelligent people reading this thread will have never heard of Trinity, to say nothing of the general public.

      What assumptions are you making about me when you warn of the genetic and ad hominem fallacies? Care to examine these?

      SB

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  13. A few disorganized thoughts: As a Christian who has been involved myself in the oft-maligned business of investigative reporting on Christian personalities, I can only thank the author for what appears to me a thorough examination of a man who himself says thorough examinations are good things. Pseudo-scholarship is no joke. Neither is the profiteering via such falsehood. Christian philosopher Arthur Holmes once wrote a book entitled, “All Truth Is God’s Truth.” We cannot, must not, reject truths that cause us pain. Pain itself, as physician Paul Brand and Phil Yancy explain in “Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants,” saves us from things far worse than pain. Physically, when pain forces us to the doctor, we may well be rescued from severe illness or even death. Mentally and spiritually, when pain forces us to confront precious ideas we had not previously examined closely, we may find ourselves rescued from falsehoods and false securities. On a deeper level, since much of our self-constructed narrative is rooted in a desire to escape pain and make ourselves into the hero in our own story, we Christians may have yet to discover that Christ’s words “Take up your cross and follow me” are a call out of a selfish, egoistic, xenopobic faith into a love-based faith rooted in Christ’s life and not merely a single salvific prayer. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus invites. Bonhoeffer, WWII martyr, says “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” To the degree this article helps us cast aside the comforting lie that Atheism (and any other ism) is defeated simply by argumentation and logic, it helps us seek a deeper foundation for faith. For myself, among Atheists I know, I see a more sane political and social framing of human community and (though of course problematic for me) a real sense of numinous “wonder” in the creation itself. Why is so much Christian response to Atheism so focused on tearing down rather than finding some agreement and mutuality of understanding?
    I do believe Christianity is winsome to the intellect… but ultimately it is a matter of human will, not mere intellectual selection, as if one is buying a favorite flavor of candy or (for that matter) poetry. Above all, loving God is, like romantic love, something that has intellectual components but is certainly beyond, or different, from abstraction the way music is different from reading notes on a page…. but I digress. What I really want to say is “Thank you” this thanksgiving day to Steve Baughman; you have done Christians a service, no matter how they whine at you over your Atheism or your “bias.” I think, rather, for the most part you reigned in your own disgust and made sure to balance Zacharias over against Dr. John Pulkinghorne, another scholar with whom you also likely disagree but recognized as serious and legitimate.

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  14. I appreciate that the comments on all sides seem to stay at various levels of thoughtful and civil. What makes the readers and commenters on this page more appropriate in their online interactions than many others? :-)

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    • Oh, jeez. Now *THAT* is a good question.

      If I had to guess, I’d say that this goes back to the site’s origin in the demise of Culture11.com (which was a website from a million years ago that was an attempt to be a Slate.com (but a Slate.com from a million years ago) only with a bias toward vaguely conservative sentiments rather than a bias toward vaguely liberal ones. More than that, a “conservative” slant that wasn’t rooted in theology at all (or much, anyway) but more based in skepticism than in anything else (though there was a period where we were the “gay conservative libertarian” site for a while).)

      I know that I, myself, argue as if I weren’t trying to change your mind but as if I were trying to make my own arguments better. And making my own arguments better involves engaging with the arguments of other people as if those other arguments were being made seriously rather than as if they were arguments being made by “The Enemy”.

      I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in that here. (I mean, though I, personally, don’t agree with many (or any) of my interlocutors on this site on most topics, I take all of them seriously. And I’m pretty sure that almost all (if not all) of my interlocutors on this site share the same sentiment.)

      Also, a while back, we took personality tests and we figured out that most of us were either INTJs or INTPs. That helps too.

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  15. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the legwork on this. One minor point I’d like to clarify: a Master’s of Divinity, depending on the institution offering it, is often a more rigorous, credit-hour-heavy graduate degree than a standard M.A. or M.S. The key difference is the inclusion of several “pastoral ministry” type requirements, like a practicum in other fields.

    For instance: I attended Fuller Theological Seminary’s Phoenix satellite. I was pursuing a 90 credit MA. At the time, their MDiv required 144 credits; all of what I was taking, plus additional language courses in Greek and Hebrew, AND the pastoral studies/practicum type classes. Fuller has since reduced their MDiv to 120 credits, largely by cutting out some language and pastoral courses. This template is similar to many other schools.

    Also, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is perhaps obscure outside of Christian academic circles, but it’s very well known within them, and is regionally accredited as a graduate institution (this is the highest level of accreditation available to higher education institutions). In the 80’s and 90’s especially, Trinity was a Big Deal kind of academic institution.

    I mention all of this simply to sharpen the accuracy of some of your statements pertaining to the type of degrees Ravi DOES hold, and where his highest degree comes from. I’m in no way defending him on this. In fact, it hits me really hard. I grew up in the C&MA, attended a C&MA college, considered attending ATS and pursuing ordination in the C&MA (I ultimately did neither) and as my reading wore on here, I was praying that I wouldn’t recognize any other names in your piece. You hit pretty close to people I know. I’m probably one degree of separation from several of the folks you mentioned here. I know for a fact that I’m one degree from Ravi himself. To say the least, I’m shell-shocked and disappointed. Though I differ with him on several of his articulations of the faith, I have always appreciated him AS a legitimate and well-spoken apologist. I’ve often thought that Christians need more people like him. And then: this. There’s no excuse for this kind of deception.

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  16. I read your article. It seems to have excellent research. Over the years I’ve enjoyed listening to Ravi, to me these revelations are sad but not surprising. Everyone has secrets.
    I think you misunderstand Christianity at its core. My faith isnt shaken by your attack or exposure of a so called Christian leader. My faith is in Christ alone. I left religion a long time ago.
    I think what pisses off atheists (here in the west)more than anything is that they are culturally Christian and can’t do anything about it. Yes Steve, you’re brilliant, an acknowledged atheist, with every right to be one, but you’re still culturally Christian, and you should thank God for that.

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    • Thanks for contributing to the conversation and welcome to the site (or if you’ve been lurking, welcome to the conversation :) ). For future reference, though, we try to stay civil in our comments section, which requires (among other things) not projecting feelings onto those we’re interacting with.

      It’s the “I think what pisses atheists off” part that’s a problem, and then subsequently telling him he should thank God for his cultural Christianity. Steve might not even have a problem with those parts of your comments, but I have pretty strong expectations for how people talk to each other. And the big moderator stick if I need it…

      Other than those 2 things you’re 100 percent within bounds and I appreciate your contribution.

      But please consider what I’m saying for next time. I’m the most involved moderator on the site, and I read just about every comment – if you cross the boundaries of civility again I’ll be grouchier/more likely to redact or take other action.

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      • Sorry. I am not following your reasoning.

        If I say “based on my research in the court files Ms. X was convicted of shoplifting in Philadelphia in 1922” if that is an important matter, what difference does it make what my motives are in reporting it?

        Go check the court files and you can easily prove me to be a liar if I making that up.

        So, no. I do not believe that the concern for my motives has much in common with my concern in exposing the systematic deceptions of a highly influential public figure.

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        • FWIW, I don’t believe they do either. I also have no objection to anything you’ve said.

          I was merely saying *to Philip* that my objection to Philip’s comments had nothing to do with what you might or might not think of them, and that should he continue along those lines he’d be finding himself subject to moderator intervention.

          Ie, my explanation that he shouldn’t comment along those lines was author-opinion-independent.

          Sorry if it was unclear and seemed to be aimed at you in some way.

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  17. I attended seminary with Ravi in the 1970s at what the author refers to as an “obscure religious institution.” In fact, when we studied there it was the largest seminary in greater Chicago and does grant certified academic degrees. That quibble to the contrary, I was saddened to read of Ravi’s deceptions. Even in those early days he was billed as the “Billy Graham of India”, which I always thought was silly given that he lived in Toronto. But he was a powerful preacher as a young person. Why someone as talented as he is felt he needed to so inflate his credentials is beyond my comprehension. He had plenty enough abilityto accomplish great things without all that nonsense and dishonesty. Pride goes before a fall, I guess. Too bad.

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  18. One reason that Zacharias may have gotten away with fibbing about his CV for so long is that his lies served the purposes of the people he was lying to every bit as much as it served his own self-interest. “Look, here’s a member of our tribe whose every bit as smart as the elitists and intellectuals who look down on us, and who is endorsed as such even by their own elitist, intellectual institutions!”

    The key to a good con is finding marks who want to be fooled, after all.

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    • Please be a little more respectful, considering that there are folks who believed his lies *actively commenting in these threads*. Speculating on their beliefs in this way isn’t particularly civil…

      Particularly considering that it’s the *complex* – the elite within the group – that was so eager to support and reinforce him – not random people being taken in. Harper One, Thomas Nelson – these are the folks who should have known better and did better, not his “marks”.

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  19. As a follower of Christ I appreciate the facts you have gathered here. I am absolutely disgusted that you are getting any push-back on stating the truth. You didn’t make up the facts…you just revealed them. I pray Ravi and all the other pretenders get publicly exposed and their little kingdoms get unraveled. Having been in the process of unmasking 2 church men who are not at all as they present themselves, I appreciate your research and careful looking at the facts. As an attorney told me, “Truth is its own defense” in a court of law. Thank you for revealing truth and I’m disgusted he associates himself with Christ. Wrong and pathetic.

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  20. Hi Steve,

    Very good reporting (and this comes from an evangelical Christian holding a theology degree). However, I concur with Dustin re: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School:

    Also, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is perhaps obscure outside of Christian academic circles, but it’s very well known within them, and is regionally accredited as a graduate institution (this is the highest level of accreditation available to higher education institutions). In the 80’s and 90’s especially, Trinity was a Big Deal kind of academic institution.

    In addition IIRC Trinity is accredited by the ATS, which is the theology accrediting body in the U.S. and Canada.

    I would agree that his bachelor’s degree comes from an obscure institution. But Trinity is anything but obscure, as far as the Evangelical world is concerned. A Trinity degree is usually highly respected.

    I also was going to object your argument regarding the dating of Daniel but you explained your point well in the comments. Keep up the good work. I’m sad that you had material to write such a thing based on true facts.

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  21. I don’t have any reason to argue against the facts presented in the article, and I definitely think ministers and scholars–but especially apologists–should be honest about their credentials. It seems that’s not the case here and so Zacharias should provide both full disclosure and repent of any wrongdoing.

    However, the article also exaggerates the matter and implies that things are worse than they are. Others have already pointed out the error regarding Trinity Evangelical and a careful run through of the article would likely betray additional issues. For example, it’s quite common for people with honorary doctorates to be referred to as a doctor, especially when being introduced in front of crowds where the formality of a resume isn’t exactly enforced. The author certainly established that credentials were both exaggerated and faked to a degree, but I don’t think he established that there is any “Christian Industrial Complex” or conspiracy by institutions or publishers to lie or deceive on purpose–or defend Mr. Zacharias except perhaps unwittingly. The presence of lawyers or others not wanting to divulge information or deal with questions by those who would undoubtedly provide both negative press and potential legal action is not prima facie evidence of anything except that companies and institutions have to be careful in this litigious day and age.

    The notion of “industrial complex” is itself a myth and perpetuating it so people will click on the article is undoubtedly an ethical problem all its own. We need to make sure that our criticisms and those who criticize are as above board and truthful as those they are critiquing. Transparency and honesty belongs on all sides of any situation like this. Sadly, we mostly see people take one side or the other.

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    • Kevin, well written post. Thank you for that. Let me address your points.

      We can disagree about how obscure Trinity is or is not, but they specifically told me that their MDiv is and always has been a non-academic program.

      I went to law school for a doctor of jurisprudence degree. It was an extremely demanding three years, but it was not academic work. If someone said I have no Advanced academic degree, I could not use the rigors of that law school course of study in rebuttal.

      The fact is that Ravi was zero advanced academic degrees. Given his claims to scholarly expertise, I think that is an important point.

      You are correct that “Dr.”is sometimes used even when the person only has an honorary degree. That really wasn’t the thrust of my point though. Ravi systematically avoided disclosing that his degrees for honorary. You may see my video “lying for Lord or self” for more documentation on that.

      As for the “Christian industrial complex”, The term comes from a Christianity Today writer, not me.

      Does it exist? I think so. When hundreds of emails to Christian institutions, Christian professors, Christian journalists, Christian student group leaders, yield “business as usual” and very close to zero replies, and the Christian media totally ignores compelling evidence of systematic deceit by so major a Christian figure, I think it’s not a stretch to describe it as I did.

      The pendency of litigation is no excuse for not stepping up to the plate and addressing allegations. It would not prejudice Ravi’s case to say “I forcefully deny having threatened suicide in writing. The email Mr. Bryant attributed to me is not mine….”

      or

      “With a heavy heart I confess that I crossed certain boundaries with Ms. Thompson and in a moment of weakness I attempted to manipulate her by threatening suicide …..”

      But he does none of that. Within days of his lawsuit being filed he took off to an undisclosed country in the Middle East.

      I consider that cowardly behavior.

      IMHO.

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      • Just to nitpick some more,

        Your insistence re: Trinity goes around two main points.

        1. Trinity is not well known (obscure, as you said), and

        2. That the M.Div degree is a professional degree as Trinity told you. Therefore, it must not be an academic degree.

        Regarding 1), some of us already pointed out a response. True, outside the Christian world Trinity may not be that well known, but which seminaries are known outside a Christian circle? Not many, if any at all.

        Regarding 2), yes, the M.Div program is a professional degree, but it is also used academically. See what the Degree Program Standards of the ATS (the accrediting body for theological studies in North America) says on the matter:

        The purpose of the Master of Divinity degree is to prepare persons for ordained ministry and for general pastoral and religious leadership responsibilities in congregations and other settings. Because of its breadth, it is the recommended degree for admission to the Doctor of Ministry degree program and a recommended degree for admission to advanced programs oriented to theological research and teaching.

        Source (emphasis mine)

        The equivalent academic program for M.Div would be the Master of Theological Studies (MTS), which is in fact a subset of the M.Div program, containing only the academic subjects and leaving out the professional ones.

        Any theological school granting advanced theology degrees would readily accept a M.Div degree from Trinity in any Ph.D. candidate.

        And in fact there has been for some time a discussion within theology schools. Some claim that the M.Div degree is a kind of chimera, mixing academia with professional training in a manner which is not really sustainable.

        I honestly think that such inaccuracy on your article, which is otherwise forceful and correct (and sad), only serves to detract the other (rightful) points it has to make.

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        • I regret creating a sideshow by calling Trinity “obscure” and Ravi’s MDiv a non-academic degree. I stand by both claims, but they serve only to divert us from the real issue, Ravi’s dishonest credential claims.

          That said, to the extent that I implied that Ravi’s MDiv was a cakewalk with no academic rigors, I was wrong. Same for Trinity, to the extent it is well known in evangelical circles, then my labeling it “obscure” is arguably not accurate.

          Now, I remain puzzled at all the ink being spilled on these side-issues. Sure, I probably overplayed my hand a bit on those two issues. If I were doing the article again I would drop both those descriptions.
          But does that make it significantly more likely that Ravi really was a “visiting scholar at Cambridge” and a department chair at Alliance? etc.

          Puzzled.

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          • Now, I remain puzzled at all the ink being spilled on these side-issues.

            It’s a cultural issue.

            The people whom you are most trying to convince have not only heard of Trinity, they hold it in high esteem. By saying Trinity is “obscure”, you’re making them think “…to *YOU*”. You’re signaling that you’re From Away.

            Imagine me making a comment about how Quebec City is an obscure city in Canada that never makes the news.

            Do you think that this does a better job of communicating that:
            A. Quebec City is an obscure city in Canada that never makes the news?
            or
            B. I’m yet another freaking American who can’t tell the difference between American attitudes and world attitudes?

            Now imagine that I’m talking to a group of Canadians and trying to get them to change their opinion on someone who comes from Quebec City.

            “It’s an obscure city in Canada.”

            “Jeez. I’m confused as to why all you people tightened your lips when I said that! More than that, I’m taking the attitude that the problem is obviously with you people rather than with a lack of perspective on my own part.”

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              • Someone who really wants to know the truth about Quebec City is likely to know “well, whatever I’m getting, if it contains the truth, it’ll only be coincidentally” from someone who throws that little aside in there.

                “Why aren’t you Canucks listening to me? You’ve already got almost all of our culture except for your money isn’t worth as much! You’re just biased against the truth, eh!”

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          • Thanks. Read Jaybird’s comment to understand why there was so much noise raised with this issue. By claiming these things, you greatly lowered your credibility with evangelicals.

            Specifically with the M.Div degree you stated in another comment:

            Re Trinity, I think you misunderstand me. I do not say Ravi claims that his MDiv is an academic degree. My point is that notwithstanding his many impressive claims about his credentials, when we peel away the fluff, we see a man with one academic degree, namely a BA.

            You think here in terms of “either-or”. MDiv is a professional degree, and therefore it cannot be academic. And this is plain wrong. The M.Div degree is clearly professional and academically demanding as you conceded; but what you don’t seem to realize is that the M.Div is not only academically difficult; it is also academically significant. It is one of few stepping stones towards a Ph.D. in theology.

            And yes, it detracted greatly from the very good points you had to make; and not only that; for us it signalled (wrongly) that “this guy obviously doesn’t really have a clue” and this is highly undesirable considering the importance of the matter discussed.

            Anyway. Thanks for raising the matter. Thanks for being civil and gracious and patient. Have a great Sunday.

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      • Steve,

        Thank you for your response. I’m not defending Zacharias in the slightest here. If the allegations are true (and certainly most of them seem to be well-established by your article), then Mr. Zacharias needs to admit them and face the consequences. His behavior with the legal matter you note and Ms. Thompson is especially problematic, if true.

        But, that doesn’t require you to claim more than necessary.

        Whatever some author from Christianity Today might theorize, acting like there is a “Christian Industrial Complex” and effectively arguing from silence doesn’t really establish that such exists. Simply because institutions or individuals don’t answer your requests doesn’t really establish anything except that they didn’t answer your requests (whether you feel you actually deserve a response or not). If, for the sake of argument, using the term “Christian Industrial Complex” is somehow legitimate in the article — which you know to be a controversial term and not necessarily a matter of fact — how is that different than Zacharias using Daniel as an example of prophetic fulfillment since he obviously believes in the truth of his opinion on the matter as well in spite of the claims of much of modern scholarship?

        We could likely quibble over who exactly endorses a late view of Daniel’s authorship and why, but the appeal to authority present in your citing of a Yale professor (and the majority of Christian scholarship) is regrettable since it also doesn’t immediately establish that Zacharias was wrong. It only means that scholars in highly specialized fields disagree with Zacharias. Incidentally, that seems to me to be the same situation you find yourself in with the claim regarding a “Christian Industrial Complex.” Why is that okay for you, but not for Zacharias? Simply because a majority of scholars disagree with Zacharias? I find that a rather tricky precipice on which to balance, but you are an attorney. ;)

        The other troubling factor here is that Zacharias “thundered” this in a presentation as a matter of his Christian theological outlook — he wasn’t writing an academic paper or necessarily relying on his academic credentials to do so even though you felt that might be why his claim ought to be taken seriously. I mean, did he say, “In my informed opinion as an academic doctor, I know this to be true…”? I find that highly doubtful. So, it seems you press with an argument or statement he didn’t make in this instance and then busy yourself with disproving something he never claimed. Yet, this is the narrative foundation of your entire inquiry in the matter. That doesn’t make your claims on the whole wrong, but in my view gives us an example where you may be claiming more than necessary.

        As for Trinity, where did Zacharias actually say that the M.Div. degree was an academic degree in the sense that it’s for an academic career at a university or seminary? I’m certainly open to evidence in that regard, I just didn’t seen it in your article. As Dustin points out above, the degree itself is certainly at least as rigorous as any academic degree and sometimes more so. I just wonder if there isn’t a bit of equivocation going on with the word “academic” here in your article especially when there’s no immediate proof offered that such is how Zacharias or his promoters have been using the term in reference to this degree alone. When you couple this allegation with the argument that Trinity Evangelical is an obscure (and imply therefore, not truly worth consideration compared to Ivy League or similar institutions–yet another assumption left untreated as to its validity), you overstate your case. Trinity Evangelical not only isn’t obscure in evangelical circles, it’s fully accredited and one of the largest evangelical seminaries in the world. Furthermore, any quick check of its Wikipedia page will reveal a long list of properly credentialed alumni and faculty.

        So, in my view your article contains factual and other errors even while I agree with your larger points and have no reason or wish to defend Mr. Zacharias for what are clear inaccuracies in his academic record.

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        • Kevin, here goes:

          There really is no analogy between me using the term “Christian Industrial Complex” and Ravi pretending that Daniel’s dating was an established fact. Everyone knows that my term is loaded, a statement of opinion. Not so for Ravi’s.

          Yes, he “thundered” the date out. You may see the lecture in my video “Ravi Zacharias misleads….” He pretended that the date was not controversial, then made the early date the basis for an argument for fulfilled prophecy. Dishonest IMHO.

          Re Trinity, I think you misunderstand me. I do not say Ravi claims that his MDiv is an academic degree. My point is that notwithstanding his many impressive claims about his credentials, when we peel away the fluff, we see a man with one academic degree, namely a BA.

          That said, I overplayed my hand on Trinity. Mea cupla. I am correct that Ravi’s MDiv degree was a professional one, not an academic one, but to the extent that this suggests it was not a demanding program my presentation of that issue is misleading.

          Same for Trinity being an “obscure” school. We can quibble about this, but it all creates a sideshow that draws attention away from the big issue, Ravi’s systematic deceit around his credentials.

          (Incidentally, it is funny how so much ink is being spilled on whether Ravi’s MDiv was academic and whether Trinity is “obscure”, whassup with that?)

          Thanks for your comments.

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  22. The so-called consensus on the dating of the book of Daniel is, itself, an exaggeration. The ancient Qumran Community, a separate sect of Jewish scholars in the first century AD affirmed its writing in the 6th-5th century BC. That is the earliest affirmation. Yale, as a modernist school of theology of course uses the historical critical method of the 19th century to arrive at its conclusions as do most who follow that school of thought. There is an enormous amount of research to the contrary should you choose due diligence over affirmation of a hypothesis.

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      • Steve, thanks, I take your point. I’m saddened by what you found on Ravi. I teach apologetics, have attended a talk he gave and used some of his videos. In person, he is gracious, humble, and solid. Not sure why this has occurred. Perhaps he could have parsed his Daniel illustration, but honestly if you do that you wind up saying every time there are theologians who disagree on every supernatural issue. That includes even basic Christian belief in the Bible–Christ’s birth, miracles, death, resurrection, etc. He is using what most consider traditional Christian teaching. You get into the theological weeds if you try to give all views. Personally, I don’t consider this misleading which of course does not address the credentials issue. Lee Strobel who is also an attorney has done a good job looking into matters of truth and scripture. You might profit from his approach. I hope Ravi addresses this soon. I’d love to hear how he handles it.

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        • Hi Ray. I’m curious, you do not consider it misleading for him to address in on specialist audience and tell them that Daniel was a sixth century document when he knows that that is hardly contested?

          I am also curious why you recommend Lee Strobel. Surely since you teach apologetics he realize that he is a popularizer, not a scholar. Why not refer me to William Lane Craig? Or far better yet, Al Plantinga?

          I don’t understand how popularizers carry so much traction even amongst educated Christians Like yourself.

          This is not a hostile comment. It’s just something that befuddles me. Strobel, Josh McDowell, Ravi et al are incapable of understanding the complex issues lurk immediately I need the surface of, say, free well, hell, God’s existence etc.

          Or so it seems to me.

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          • Thanks, Steve. This interchange is what leaves us bereft of real conversation which is where it all begins–in a relationship between people who know, care, and respect each other. It’s really a pale shadow here as good and courteous as it is. To respond carefully, certainly William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga are noted scholars in theology and philosophy but not knowing someone I’d never recommend beginning there. That would turn most people off to Christ as just too heady of a brew. While you may consider Lee Strobel a “popularizer,” a term without meaning for me, I thought the attorney connection might help. For most people who love the world of the mind, I normally recommend another lay “popularizer,” C. S. Lewis. I can’t help it if either he sells a lot of books 54 years after his death as they also communicate more clearly than any theologian I know of and address the apologetic questions with wit, clarity, and thoroughness and without prooftexting. He uses both logic (earlier) and imagination (later). I also like N. T. Wright for a whole array of his books on the Jesus Seminar as well as Simply Christian, his attempt at a latter day Mere Christianity. I also like John Stott who was a pastor, theologian, and author and had a similar clearly reasoned and written approach in such smaller works as Basic Christianity and Why I am a Christian and his magnificent The Cross of Christ. But as I learned from Plantinga, all theology is epistemology. If you are serious in your pursuit as you seem to have amply demonstrated then you need to explore more widely into revelation and imagination as reason, alone, is insufficient. I’d say read the Gospel of John without filters and presuppositions and let it sink in as Christopher Hitchens did with a friend. Read Till We Have Faces (Lewis) or the Lord of the Rings (Tolkien) or The Man Who Was Thursday (Chesterton) or watch Gran Torino (Eastwood). If those who believe that Jesus is the risen Lord are right then he speaks well beyond the boundaries of logic–not unreasonable yet knowable in ways beyond the Enlightenment shadow. I may be wrong and please forgive me for an unwarranted and perhaps unwanted assumption, but it feels to be not like you are pursuing whether there is any truth in “the God delusion” but the Hound of Heaven is pursuing you. Bottom line however, the only way that I teach apologetics is that you make friends first and have an interest in the person as a child of God, not as a future notch on someone’s spiritual belt. Hitchens had such friends and it made a huge difference in the end, to what degree we will not know just yet. Persist.

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  23. As an addendum to my post above, and connected in with one of Kevin’s points, I’ll also give an example re: the academic rigor of an MDiv. Bruce McCormack is the Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton, where he himself earned his PhD. His Master’s degree that got him into Princeton as a PhD candidate? An MDiv from Nazarene Theological Seminary, a place DEFINITELY more obscure than Trinity. If it’s good enough for Princeton….

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    • I concede that the Trinity degree is not helping my case. I wish I had not brought it up. It has become too much of a focus at the expense of the important stuff, Ravi Zacharias’s deceitful presentation of his academic credentials. Yes, he has no academic grad degrees, but no, that does not mean his grad program was a cakewalk. Conceded.

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  24. I am just back from traveling and exhausted. Also, I am getting a load of weird “Pingbacks” and also having a hard time finding several posts on my computer that appear on my iPhone (like Tim Cox’s excellent comments.) I will try to give this a bit of attention tomorrow, Sunday.

    Thanks everyone for a great discussion.

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  25. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your well-researched and truthful article, and your gracious responses to the posts above.

    I am an ordained and licensed pastor with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. My wife and I currently run a small non-profit ministry that focuses on addictions and at-risk families in our small community. I hold an MA in Pastoral Studies from a small unknown seminary, and most of the reading I do is in academic areas. But, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in anything.

    We were drawn to the CMA largely because of the integrity we saw in the people we knew connected to it. So, this revelation hits us pretty hard. As a CMA pastor, I am required to attend an accountability group with other CMA pastors in our geographical area. I have already alerted that group to your article. I am confident we will want to express to our denominational president, John Stumbo, a man I have met and respect, a desire that he seek the revocation Ravi’s credentials with the Alliance.

    I know first hand how difficult it can be to stand for what’s right when personal friendships, potential divisions, and possible financial backing for ministry may be at stake. So, I can understand, to a point, his slowness to act. But, I can’t excuse it.

    I’m an Evangelical in the doctrinal and classical sense of the word. That means that I believe in the essential points of the Christian Faith (Trinity, virgin birth, etc.), in the inerrancy of scripture, and in a definite point of conversion by faith and repentance in the life of the Christian believer. But, I’m ashamed of what the Evangelical Industrial Complex has become, the voting-block mentality (especially now – I’m so sorry!), and lack of integrity shown by prominent leaders such as RZ. So much of this makes me wonder if we’re not seeing the great apostasy that Jesus and the Apostle Paul predicted in Matthew 24:10 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

    The name – and therefore the authority – of God is often used for personal gain. Sometimes this is subtle and almost subconscious to the person misusing their ecclesiastical position. Other times, it’s pretty intentional and blatant. This, I believe, is the real reason for the third commandment – “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Deuteronomy 5:11 goes on to say, “… for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” So, RZ’s sin is currently finding him out and the rest of us need to take heed.

    Scandals like this one may characterize much of Evangelicalism – maybe even most of what claims that label. But, it’s not all of us. And, I remain convinced that the Christian faith does not rest on blind faith, but that it is supported by substantial evidence.

    If we will not clean our own house, than I’m thankful for people like you, Steve, from the outside who care enough about truth and integrity to hold our feet to the fire.

    For what it’s worth, I’m sorry we do not better represent the Gospel with the integrity and honesty both you and it deserve.

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  26. Hi Steve,
    Although I’m a Christian, I do appreciate this investigation of Ravi Zakharias’ credentials. I’ve always been irked myself at the obsession with doctorates within Christian evangelical circles. I’m also shocked about his recent legal case with Ms. Thompson – I’ve always thought of him as a squeaky clean kind of guy.

    That being said, I have some “objections” or qualifiers to a few of your points:
    – While it’s apparently true that Ravi has lately embellished his credentials lately, I’ve been reading his books since I was a teenager and I distinctly remembered him as having only a masters from Trinity International Divinity School as his highest degree, from reading the biography on the back of some of his books. I think passing off himself as a Dr. is a relatively recent phenomenon.
    – The same goes for the “Cambridge-educated” claim. I think Ravi actually tells about his experience at Cambridge in one of his other books – it was a short stay as an independent scholar of some sort. It’s good that you’ve more precisely established what his position was. But honestly, I’m surprised that you seem to think “visiting scholar” status is anything impressive. As anyone in academia knows, “visiting scholar” = untenured, temporary, probably unpaid position which is given to you when they can’t find you a more prestigious title.
    – Any serious, intellectually-minded person who reads any Zakharias’ books would immediately recognize him as more of a popularizer than a technical scholar. I would class him intellectually as somewhere between Lee Strobel and CS Lewis. None of his arguments are rigorous or detailed. In fact, Ravi himself claims in one of his books that he’s not interested in purely theoretical apologetics. The only people that Ravi is “fooling” are those who probably already think his popular work is more valuable than any highly technical paper on Reformed epistemology that Plantinga can churn out, for example.
    – As people have pointed above, I was quite of shocked at your characterization of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as “obscure”. Your attempted put-down of the institution by highlighting its undergraduate admissions rates when the degree Ravi got is a graduate degree comes off as petty and reaching for straws. The institution is pretty well-known in Christian circles (e.g. William Craig got two master’s degrees from there), and in many cases a degree from such a place would be viewed more positively in those circles than a degree from a secular university like Harvard or Yale.
    – Finally, it seems clear to me that while Ravi has embellished his academic background in recent years, this cannot be classified as outright deception. The fact of these embellishments alone is shameful and reveals an unspiritual obsession with worldly accomplishments. However Ravi has never claimed to be the equal of scholars and philosophers, so I’m nowhere near as outraged by it as you seem to be.

    Anyway, another interesting case of having so many credentials is the mathematician John Lennox, who often works together with Ravi Zakharias’ organization. Perhaps this is another person you want to investigate. He claims to have a PhD from Cambridge, a DSc from Cardiff, an MA in Bioethics from Surrey and a DPhil from Oxford – none of them claimed to be honorary. The first degree seems legit – I have seen the thesis itself, but I could not find any sign that Lennox ever wrote a DPhil Oxford thesis.

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    • Bob. The suicide threat is in a confidential (now public) legal letter to Ravi, which was attached to the complaint by Ravi’s attorney at Exhibit 1.

      Please see my video at YouTube. Ravi Zacharias online sex scandal. And also my new video “the case against Ravi Zacharias.”

      You can see the letter there. It is also available at th fed court PACER program.

      Ravi did not deny making that threat and it appears that copies of that suicide email Ravi sent Lori Anne are out there. That is, I suspect, why he did not deny making that suicide threat.

      Stay tuned on this issue.

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    • Rob. Thanks for all that. I am curious, would it bother you if he threatened suicide to pressure the woman not to tell her husband?

      Does it bother you that he did not deny it?

      I suspect he did not deny it because his suicide threat was in writing and copies are out there. Do you have a thought on that?

      As for “tearful confessions” carrying a lot of weight with evangelicals, there are many examples of that. I hope you are right that CMA is different.

      Yes, I erred in dissing Trinity. I wish I had not. It has become a sideshow in this thread. Mea culpa.

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    • Hi Rob. Thanks for these thoughts. Good ones.

      Ravi has been using the “doctor” thing since at least as far back as 1982. Please see my video at YouTube “lying for lord or self” or my new “the case against Ravi Zacharias.”

      “Visiting scholar at Cambridge” is indeed a prestigious gig. Many fine schools post congratulations notices in newspapers when their faculty get one.

      I am not sure I am “outraged” at Ravi’s exaggerations. But he’s, I do feel it important to document them (since I am one of the only ones who noticed them) and I do think the evangelical scene should start looking more closely at their loose standards of credential representation. Did you see the footnote about Ravi’s student’s LinkedIn profile? He (now a successful pastor in S. Calif) apparently thought it just fine to did re-describe his MDiv as something it was not. Not good.

      I am not sure at what point a series of exaggerated and false claims becomes “outright deception.” I am
      just pointing them out.

      Mea culpa re Trinity.

      A week or so ago I filed a FOI with Cambridge re John Lennox. I smell something there but am probably wrong. He is a real scholar and does not strike me as in need of false creds.

      Thx
      Sb

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  27. Hi Steve,
    Ravi’s team just posted a reply on his fb page- under visitor post- you need to click on the words “visitor post” or you will not see it. I tried to email you at OT on fb,sent you a screenshot there.
    Hope that helps.
    Britt

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  28. I’m a gay Christian (yes, today that is a bit of an oxymoron). Charletons like Ravi do not honestly represent the Christian community. Grew up in a Southern Baptist Church and have regular contact with my parent’s minister. He never once has told me my marriage to a man is wrong. Instead he asks how we are doing. I’m still in contact with many of those in my childhood church community. Not a single one has ever offered anything but support. We need to stop focusing on the charlatans and look at the people they claim to represent. They are good people.

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      • “it is a wonderful thing that more and more Christians are opening their minds about gay issues.”

        We definitely recognize and even expect this trend. But for those who use the Bible as the basis for their Christianity, it would not be considered moving towards enlightenment.

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