Although I just became aware of it last night, Ravi Zachiarias has been fighting off claims of using false credentials since 2015. At one point, he claimed doctorate degrees he doesn’t have and appointments at Oxford and Cambridge he didn’t hold. Given the stature of Zacharias, I was very surprised I had not heard about this. However, I was not surprised that deception about academic credentials did not slow him down in the Christian world. Despite the fact that fraud can end careers in the real world, I haven’t seen fraudulent credentials cause much of a problem for Christian celebrities (e.g., David Barton, Robert Morris, Joyce Meyer).
Steve Baughman, writing at the League of Ordinary Gentleman, updated his 2015 work earlier this month by noting how protective of Zacharias the “Christian Industrial Complex” has been. Patrick Henry College had Zacharias as a commencement speaker even though they knew he had once embellished his credentials. In short, Baughman’s update resonates with what I have found over and over again. When deception among Christian leaders is exposed, the default position is to close ranks and deny there is any problem.According to Baughman, Zacharias has quietly removed some of the claims since 2015. I did some checking via the Wayback Machine and sure enough before 2015, Zacharias bio referred to him as Dr. Zacharias and included some of the misleading wording. After the publication of facts by Baughman, gradually the bio was cleaned up. However, at least one false claim remains on Zacharias’ author page with Penguin/Random House. According to that page, Zacharias hold three doctorates.
In the most recent post, Baughman indicates there are other false claims which have yet to be cleaned up.
While I understand, appreciate and have experienced the Christian virtue of forgiveness (haven’t we all), there is a problem when obvious deliberate fraud is overlooked. When a Christian celebrity looks into the camera and tells a falsehood, we can not trust what is said afterwards. How can we trust the history of a David Barton when he says he has an earned doctorate he knows he doesn’t have? How can we trust the word of Ravi Zacharias about apologetics when he claims academic credentials he knows he doesn’t possess? When Christians self-righteously promote Nashville Statements but overlook these failings, we preach in vain.