Despite Warning Signs, Tyndale House Published a Pocket Edition of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven in 2014

BWCBFHpaperback

Despite being aware that Alex Malarkey called the book about him deceptive and that his mother believed the book to be filled with inaccuracies, Tyndale House published a pocket paperback edition of the book  in March 2014. The publication date is over two years after they became aware that Alex posted his comments about the deceptive nature of the book on a Facebook fan page for the book.

In an April 20, 2012 email I have just obtained, Tyndale House publisher Jan Harris Long told Kevin and Beth Malarkey that the Tyndale team was aware that Alex had called the book “deceptive” in a Facebook posting. Long wrote:

We published The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven in the belief that it was a book your entire family was behind. We specifically asked if Alex was comfortable with doing the book and were told that he was. It was our understanding that Alex thought the book would be his way of fulfilling a calling to be a missionary. Several months ago, however, Alex posted a comment on the web saying that the book was “deceptive,” which was obviously of great  concern to us.

Tyndale’s reps then asked Kevin Malarkey to check with Alex but there is no indication from the email that Malarkey provided any feedback to Tyndale.

Because of Alex’s fragile health situation at the time, Kevin wanted to delay having that conversation with him, but said he would do so at a later time.  So far, however, we haven’t gotten any further information on this.

After indicating that Tyndale wanted a list of specific inaccuracies (which Beth Malarkey later provided), the publisher seemed to suggest that a resolution was required to continue:

This leaves us in a difficult situation. We entered into a book agreement in good faith and published a manuscript that we believed to be accurate. As part of our editorial and documentary development process, we interviewed a number of people who were either involved in the story or were witnesses to it. After being told that there may be inaccuracies in the book, we attempted to get information so that we could either confirm the book’s accuracy or correct any errors, but have been unable to get specifics.

Since we were unable to get any specific information that would enable us to revise the manuscript—and we didn’t want to create or add to tensions in your home—we did not force the issue.  But when one of our colleagues in our media services department told us that Beth had called last week and, among other things, expressed the view that Tyndale was “exploiting” her son, we felt we had no option but to insist that this situation be addressed.

We are requesting a meeting or phone call with the two of you and Matt Jacobson to talk through these issues and to identify next steps. Our goal is to 1) find out what, if any, inaccuracies are in the book so we can correct them and 2) to find a path forward that is glorifying to God.

It is clear that Tyndale wanted to meet with the Malarkeys. It is also clear that the publisher received Malarkey’s list of problems with the book, and that they were aware that Alex considered it deceptive. However, after insisting that the situation be addressed, the publisher did little else to address it. Instead of backing away from the book (as Tyndale has done with Mark Driscoll), they moved ahead. Despite the warning signs, the publisher continued promoting and selling the book and even published the book again in yet another form (the pocket paperback).

Ambassador Speakers

I have recently learned of yet another warning sign that the publisher may or may not have known about. For a brief period after the book was published, Kevin Malarkey was promoted by Ambassador Speakers agency. However, according to the president of Ambassador, Wes Yoder, Malarkey was removed from the roster about three years ago. However, Malarkey’s profile (now available via Google cache) had remained available via Google search. It has now been removed. Yoder told me simply: “We believed Beth was telling us the truth.”

Perhaps Tyndale House did not know that Kevin was removed from this agency. However, it seems like a significant event for a Tyndale best-selling author to keep from the publisher.

 

More Reasons Tyndale House Should Have Investigated Obvious Problems with The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

(See update at the end of the post)

If you are reading this, there is pretty good chance you know that Tyndale House decided to stop printing The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. The boy, Alex Malarkey, suffered a horrific car accident when he was six years old but has recently retracted his story about going to and coming back from heaven. The fallout has been an intense media storm.

A good overview of the controversy was published yesterday by the UK Guardian. That paper has some of the communications between Alex Malarkey’s mother and Tyndale House along with Tyndale House’s latest statements on the subject.

A good source for much of the email exchange in 2012 in which Beth Malarkey asked Tyndale to pull the book from print is at Phil Johnson’s blog. At the end of that exchange, Jan Harris Long publisher at Tyndale House said:

Even if we could make a case for breaking our contract, the book could (and probably would) be back in print with another publisher within a few weeks. So I don’t think that would achieve your goal.

In those emails, Beth Malarkey made a pretty good case that Tyndale should investigate the facts in the book and ask Kevin Malarkey and the book agent some hard questions. Mrs. Malarkey also provided the identity of people mentioned in the book and expressed doubts that those people were interviewed for the project. In other words, leads were given that would have allowed Tyndale to investigate claims in the book. After all, when Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarism, Tyndale launched an investigation of those allegations. Clearly, Beth Malarkey’s allegations were as serious, if not more so, than those leveled against Driscoll. Last night, I asked Tyndale House if the company conducted an investigation. No replies to my questions as yet.

According to the email exchange, the problems with the story go back to the beginning. In one of the emails, Beth Malarkey said Tyndale employees had heard Alex protest about the inclusion of angels and heaven in the story when he was being interviewed for the book. On April 23, 2012, Beth Malarkey wrote:

From: beth malarkey
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 6:46 PM
To: Jan Long Harris
Subject: RE: innaccuracies

Sorry., but I had one more thought….you guys were here. On November 3 & 4, 2009, I had to pull Alex into the room to help him calm down. Some of the team from tyndale were asking him questions about heaven and angels. He made it clear that he did not want a book going in that direction and that he was not supposed to tell. I  tried to ask the team members to please not push him on the matter just because Alex had seen things  and he was a child. It was made clear soon after that that the title choice and cover picture were not going to be decided by Alex anyway. I am guessing that in November the direction of the story was pretty much already determined just not directly stated to Alex. So you see, Alex has spoken directly to team members before…..

Jan Harris Long replied that she was unaware of Alex’s feelings about including heaven and angels. However, if Beth Malarkey is correct, then someone at Tyndale knew the book did not properly reflect the sentiment of the child author. Tyndale had more than enough to go on in 2012 to launch an investigation.

On February 24, 2013, Beth Malarkey again wrote to Jan Harris Long claiming that Alex was being exploited.

From: beth malarkey
Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2013 5:23 PM
To: Jan Long Harris
Subject: Re: Conference call?is

Dear Jan,

It has been almost a year since my last correspondence with your group. I have learned much and gained much strength as I continue on this journey. I did receive more phone calls after that last email that I exchanged with you, as well as some mail, but i really saw no point in forwarding those things onto your group. I was extremely disappointed that all that seemed to want to be accomplished was some changes to materials to try to improve what was claimed to be(by me)inaccurate. The real issues of what was being done (and is still being done) with my son never really seemed to be a concern. I was told that Kevin is in contract with you, which I am guessing is the reason that he was forwarded all the emails that I sent to you.(He told me that he was sent each page). His threats of not being believed if I spoke up seem to be true.  I was told by you that you can not tell someone how to spend their money. I am ALex Malarkey’s mom and only caregiver but yet I am not allowed to know what legal contracts were signed with my minor, dependent child’s name possibly on them? If he is indeed a coauthor, he would be entitled to at least 50% of the royalties. Have any checks been written to him? He is a medicaid recipient and can not have money so if money has been sent to him, where is it? How can all of this be allowed to go on?? This is not an issue of just truth not being told but something much deeper and yet it being promoted and encouraged. I have sought much counsel on the matter and the one thing that I can do is take care of my kids and tell the truth. This is not something that a child needs to be asked about but adults need to examine very closely for the possible wrongs and then take action. A child is being exploited and that is truth. His name is being used on materials that are selling because people believe they are reading his words, and that he is benefiting financially from the sales of the materials, neither of which is true.

Long wrote back on March 4 to say she was sorry the book was a source of distress. Long indicated that she had taken up some of Malarkey’s questions with the book agent, Matt Jacobson, although she didn’t disclose Jacobson’s answers. She told Malarkey that the reason Kevin Malarkey was getting the royalties is because he entered into the contract with Tyndale House. Long promised to send Alex royalties if Kevin allowed it contractually. Apparently that never happened. I have made efforts to contact Kevin Malarkey with no success.

By this time, Beth Malarkey had made a clear case for exploitation and Tyndale House had grounds to launch an investigation, not only about the facts of the book but the exploitation of the minor child being used to sell the book. It is amazing that this was allowed to go on for as long as it did. Given the information now available, it appears that the ball is again in the court of Tyndale House and their contractual partners. The burden is on them to try to make things right with those they have used and duped.

UPDATE: Yesterday, Tyndale House released a statement to Christianity Today and on their website.

Tyndale said that they put the book on “out-of-print status” and informed retailers that products could be returned. Regarding what the publisher knew and when, Tyndale said:

While it was only this past week that Alex Malarkey retracted his story, leading to Tyndale’s immediate decision to take the book out of print, our editors had tried on multiple occasions to meet with the family to correct any perceived inaccuracies,” stated Tyndale. “On several occasions in 2012, Tyndale reached out to Beth Malarkey to schedule a meeting to respond to a list of alleged inaccuracies in the book. After originally agreeing to a meeting, Mrs. Malarkey sent us an email on May 22, 2012, saying that, out of concern for her son, she no longer wished to meet.

As I demonstrated above, if Beth Malarkey’s allegations are true (and they were not denied by Tyndale at the time), Tyndale’s process from the beginning was flawed. The boy did not want material regarding heaven and angels in the book, and yet claims about heaven and angels make up a large part of the book. Alex Malarkey did not co-write the book and, according to his mother, protested at least some of the content from the beginning. Tyndale has yet to address this claim from Alex’s mother.

Furthermore, as I demonstrate above, the May 22, 2012 email was not the last effort Alex’s mother made to reach out to Tyndale. Again in 2013, she wrote to Jan Harris Long and asked for help to end the exploitation of her son.

Tyndale’s statement ends with the May 22 email as if Malarkey’s decision not to meet on Tyndale’s terms was decisive and sufficient to relieve them of obligation. However, Malarkey did reach out again. Also, in my opinion, Tyndale’s responsibility to investigate the claims made by Malarkey was not relieved by Malarkey’s May 22, 2012 email.  She had already given them sufficient information to prompt an investigation.

Tyndale House Talks to the Guardian (UK) About The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven; Emails Indicate Tyndale House Knew Details About Exploitation

I will have some observations and other questions about this article in the UK Guardian today about The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.

As I read this and examine the research I have, it seems to me that Tyndale House still hasn’t confronted the seriousness of this situation. Their credibility was seriously compromised by their dealings with Mark Driscoll over plagiarism. This situation should prompt some serious public disclosures and changes.

UPDATE: I have obtained a series of emails between Beth Malarkey and Tyndale House. While I am not sure that I have all of them, I can confirm that Mrs. Malarkey alerted Tyndale House in April 2012 about numerous problems of fact in the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Beyond fact problems, Alex’s mother protested the exploitation of her son. Mrs. Malarkey asserted that Alex expressed to Tyndale visitors before the book was published that he didn’t want elements of the story to be published. Those elements were published anyway.

I am still working my way through them and will publish some material in another post soon. I have also asked Tyndale House yet again for their side of the matter.

Has Tyndale House Recalled the Boy Who Came Back From Heaven?

I know the publisher has said the book was pulled from print. However, at least some retailers continue to sell the book. I called several local Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million stores to find out if Tyndale House had recalled the books. None of the four locations I called had heard of the controversy and they all had copies in stock.

Tyndale House has disabled the book’s product page.

Tyndale has not responded to questions about whether they intend to recall the product or simply not print the book again. Tyndale claims that Alex Malarkey’s mother declined to meet with Tyndale, but Phil Johnson has produced emails which appear to contradict that story. Kevin Malarkey has not responded to requests for comment, although the UK Daily Mail says his parents are standing by him.

It has been removed from Amazon.

Big Questions for Tyndale House After Pulling Boy Who Came Back From Heaven (UPDATED)

UPDATE 2 (1/17/15) – Last night Tyndale released a statement indicating that the company has stopped printing The Boy book because of information they received this week.

Earlier this week Tyndale learned that Alex Malarkey, co-author of ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,’ was retracting the story he had told his father and that he recounted in the book they co-authored for publication in 2010. It is because of this new information that we are taking the book out of print. For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies. On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.

However, Phil Johnson continues to dispute this narrative saying that Beth and Alex wanted to meet with Tyndale (see this link for emails).

It is not clear if Tyndale is pulling product from the shelves or just not reprinting the book.

UPDATE: Phil Johnson claims Tyndale House knew two years ago that the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven was invented. Beth Malarkey retweeted this link when Johnson posted it. I expect to hear from her soon, but as of now all I am hearing is crickets from Tyndale House.


 

…………….
(Original post begins here)

Yesterday afternoon, Tyndale House announced that the company would no longer publish the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.

The book had been a best-seller and was the basis for a television movie of the same name in 2010. There are at least two big questions for Tyndale House now that the company will no longer print the book. I asked Tyndale House spokesperson Todd Starowitz these questions yesterday via email and twitter and left phone messages, thus far with no answers.

First, what now happens to all of the existing product? We know that Lifeway Christian Stores is returning existing product to the publisher, but what about other retailers? Even though negative reviews are now piling up, Amazon still carries the book without disclaimer. Barnes and Noble still has it available. A local Barnes and Noble store still had a copy of the book and had not heard about the retraction. The staff there had not gotten a request from Tyndale to pull products off the shelves. On the other hand, Family Christian Bookstores are pulling the book off the shelves and the manager of the one I called said Tyndale had requested them. Thus far, Tyndale’s spokesperson has not replied about the company’s plans.

The second, and more difficult question is: When did Tyndale House learn that Beth Malarkey and her son denied the contents of the book? Given how long Alex Malarkey’s mom has been speaking out on this matter, it is hard to understand how Tyndale House did not know about it. However, neither Tyndale House nor Beth Malarkey has not responded to requests for this specific information.

The answers to these questions have consequences in dollar signs and trust. If Tyndale does not make a good faith effort to pull existing product off the shelves, they risk further erosion in their image, while making additional money from unsuspecting customers. If Tyndale House knew the boy had recanted his story, then some disclosure should have been made with a proactive public statement. One hopes Tyndale House will move to quickly restore public trust by disclosing the reasons for waiting until yesterday, just after Lifeway Stores pulled the products from the shelves, to take a similar step.

UPDATE: The website supporting the book is now down (google cache as of January 15, 2015). The domain is owned by Tyndale House. The product page on Tyndale’s website still is up as is the promo video on the You Tube page.

A Tyndale House Divided

This morning, David Sessions, editor at Daily Beast, placed this note at the top of my article there.

Editor’s Note: After this story was published, Tyndale House issued a statement contradicting what they had previously told The Daily Beast. The publisher affirmed their relationship with Mark Driscoll and said they plan to reprint his book, A Call to Resurgence, as sales demand. For further updates on the story,click here.

On July 1, Tyndale House leaders issued a statement contradicting what their own senior public relations manager Todd Starowitz told me about reprinting A Call to Resurgence. Very shortly after the statement was issued, Mr. Starowitz replied to me via email and said I had quoted him accurately but that he had given me inaccurate information. After Mr. Starowitz confirmed this to me, I expected to see a correction from Tyndale House. However, as of this morning, I have seen no correction from Tyndale.

Let that sink in: Tyndale House’s public statement contradicts the public statement of their own senior public relations manager. I realize PR is not my field, but that doesn’t seem like state of the art practice.

There are other aspects to the situation which also cause me to wonder what is going on at Tyndale House. I know the Tuesday public statement from Tyndale House says they are all in with Driscoll and Resurgence and The Problem with Christianity but all I got from Tyndale about Resurgence last week was silence.

My interest in the fate of The Problem with Christianity started on May 30 when I tweeted Tyndale House about the publication date for the book. Their reply is below.


 

As far as I knew, that was the first public statement about the fate of the book. I followed up with the following questions:

@TyndaleHouse Is there a new scheduled date or is it on hold? And can you say what the delay is about?

So even at this stage, Tyndale House could have expressed support for Driscoll. They could have said then what they said on Tuesday, but instead, they didn’t answer.

Then on June 18, I wrote the following inquiries to Todd Starowitz, Tyndale’s senior public relations manager:

Mr. Starowitz:

On May 30, someone from you twitter account alerted me that Mark Driscoll’s next book The Problem with Christianity will not be published as planned in the Fall.

However, when I followed up to ask about a new date for publication, there was no answer. I am writing to ask if there is a current publication date for that book.

I have also heard that Tyndale is reevaluating their relationship with Rev. Driscoll and may not publish the book. Can you shed light on that story?

If Tyndale wanted to say something about their relationship with Driscoll, they could have done so in mid-June. Starowitz answered:

At this time we do not have a pub date for The Problem with Christianity.

I wrote back the same day and asked:

Do you still plan to publish Elsy (sic) Fitzpatrick’s, Good News for Weary Women? And then are there any other books slated for publication via the Resurgence imprint in the future?

Starowitz wrote back right away and said:

Elsy (sic) Fitzpatrick’s* book currently has a BBD of 8/1/14 and a release date of 9/14.

To my knowledge we do not have any additional Resurgence titles that have release dates scheduled at this time.

My follow up:

Todd: Thanks again for addressing my prior questions. Your answers made me think of a related follow up. Did Tyndale print a paperback version of A Call to Resurgence? And do you plan to reprint the hard cover version of ACTR?

Starowitz replied:

Warren, we did not print a paperback version. I don’t expect that we will reprint the hardcover.

I wrote back the next day (6/19) to see if I could discern the meaning of these remarkable statements coming from Tyndale:

Todd: Are you at liberty to say why there is no publication date for The Problem with Christianity? Is the delay due to a delay on Rev. Driscoll’s end or did Tyndale decide not to publish the book for some reason (and if so, can you say what that reason is?). Do you anticipate that Tyndale will ever publish the book?

He wrote back with a promise to get the information when Ron Beers returned the following week:

The questions I answered yesterday were easily garnered from our production schedules. Ron Beers, one of Tyndale’s publishers, will need to answer these questions and is out of the office and unreachable until early next week. I will provide you with a response when I am able to touch base with him next week.

The following week, I wrote a couple of times to ask for answers to those follow up questions. On one occasion, Starowitz said he would work on getting the answers. The last two times, I told Todd that an article would come out on Monday in the Daily Beast. For instance on June 28, I asked:

Todd – My deadline has been extended to tomorrow and so I thought I would try one more time to see if there is anything else you can say about the Resurgence-Tyndale relationship. Otherwise, I will just use what you already sent.

Why didn’t Tyndale tell me on June 28 what they angrily proclaimed on July 1? How hard would it have been for Tyndale to say last week what they said this week?

In my opinion, Tyndale owes Driscoll an apology for treating a publishing partner so cavalierly. I asked on multiple occasions about the nature of their relationship and Tyndale said nothing, even knowing that the information Starowitz gave me was coming out in a national publication. In addition to an apology to Driscoll, they need to retract their angry, self-righteous press release and accept responsibility for the incorrect information they provided.

I don’t know what is going on at Tyndale but right now, it appears to be a House divided.

Additional note: This is an interesting blog from Joel Connelly comparing Tyndale’s turnabout to World Vision’s reversal on gay marriage.

*The author’s name is actually Elyse Fitzpatrick.

Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House Release Statement of Apology to Christian Post

Read the article here.

Driscoll told CP:

“Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” stated the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor. “As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

Tyndale House then released a defense of Driscoll which includes an admission by Driscoll that he is responsible for the errors in the Peter study guide. Driscoll also indicated that other books would be reviewed. He could start here.

Here is the full statement:

Tyndale House Publishers Regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Call to Resurgence

Dec 18, 2013

          On November 21, 2013 Pastor Mark Driscoll participated in a radio interview via phone to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence. The interview was arranged by his book publisher, Tyndale House. During that interview, the talk show host accused Pastor Driscoll of plagiarism in his new book, claiming that he had not properly cited ideas that originally came from Peter Jones, Director of truthXchange and Adjunct Professor at Westminster Seminary in California. In the days following the interview, the talk show host posted on her blog further allegations of plagiarism against Pastor Driscoll, complete with screenshots of other books where she alleged he had committed plagiarism. She later removed all of those posts and issued a public apology.

Since that time, both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House have been asked to make statements addressing this issue. While Tyndale has made two brief statements, it has spent much of the past three weeks looking carefully into these claims, as has Pastor Driscoll. Tyndale House and Mark Driscoll take any claims of plagiarism seriously. Tyndale does not condone it in any of its works, and if discovered, the company takes action to correct it immediately.  Driscoll has consistently spoken out against plagiarism in his writing and publishing.  If any mistakes are ever made in that regard, he is equally committed to correcting such errors as soon as they are discovered. Pastor Driscoll has fully cooperated with Tyndale and both have worked together to carefully investigate the issue with respect to A Call to Resurgence. 

After taking the necessary and important time needed to investigate all aspects of this issue, Tyndale House Publishers has concluded the following:

1.   Pertaining to his Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence, Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones. While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer’s deliberate use of someone’s words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source. Both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale completely agree that the above definition describes an ethical breach and therefore work hard to provide proper citation and to give credit where credit is due in all their works.  Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones’s ideas and claim them as his own. Moreover, at Pastor Driscoll’s invitation, Peter Jones has written on the Resurgence website, and spoken at a Resurgence event, as well as a Mars Hill workshop. Quite the opposite of trying to take Peter Jones’s ideas, Mark Driscoll has provided several opportunities for Peter Jones to publicly express his ideas to a large audience.

2.   In a separate issue unrelated to any Tyndale title, the radio host also made an allegation with regard to a study guide that was published in-house at Mars Hill. In this instance, Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made. He says:

In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided. The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless.  I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we’ve contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.

Our Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have all been thoroughly informed, as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.

We’ve removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold. That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well.

Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for. As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

“To his credit, Mark Driscoll has moved quickly to make all necessary changes where mistakes were made in the study guide” said Ron Beers, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Tyndale. “Moreover, he has assured us that he has personally spoken with the primary editor of a commentary that was inadvertently used in the study guide without adequate citation, and all parties spoken to have told Pastor Driscoll that they are satisfied with the steps he has taken to correct the errors. Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus.”

A good beginning but there are other issues which were not addressed by this statement.

Fact Checking Claims about Ravi Zacharias’ Credentials: Is Dr. Zacharias in the House?

Last week, I posted a link to an article by Steve Baughman at Ordinary Times on Culture and Politics on the academic credentials of ChristianRZIM logo apologist Ravi Zacharias. In his article, Baughman summarized claims he first made two years ago. He said Zacharias falsely used the title “Dr.” and embellished his connections to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Baughman also disclosed that Zacharias had recently brought a lawsuit against a Canadian couple. In that suit, Zacharias accused the couple of extorting money from him after first sending him sexually explicit photos. The couple claimed that Zacharias solicited those photos but Zacharias denied any wrongdoing. On November 9, Zacharias and the couple settled the suit out of court. The settlement is sealed and Zacharias handled the legal costs personally.

In a series of articles, I plan to evaluate the claims of academic fraud. This post takes up how Zacharias used the title “Dr.”

Is Dr. Zacharias in the House?

In a Patheos post from 2015, Baughman and two co-authors wrote:

The “Dr. Zacharias” Claim

Ravi Zacharias refers to himself in his official bio and in the videos released by his ministry as “Dr. Zacharias.” He frequently appears at academic institutions where the title “Dr.” is generally understood as indicating that the subject has completed a doctoral program.

Mr. Zacharias has no doctoral degree.  He has a Masters of Divinity degree and has done no doctoral work.  He has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates by Christian schools.

Prior to receiving a complaint from us, the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, of which Mr. Zacharias is a founding member, claimed at its website that Mr. Zacharias “has been conferred a Doctor of Divinity degree from both Houghton College and Tyndale College and Seminary, Toronto, and a Doctor of Laws degree from Ashbury College (sic), Kentucky.”

Then in his more recent post from earlier this month, Baughman wrote:

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]

First, Zacharias’ Master of Divinity is a fine degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. TEDS is not an obscure religious institution within the evangelical world. The degree is rigorous and often takes 3 or more years to complete. There is no need to waste any time criticizing his education at TEDS.

However, regarding the use of the title Dr., Baughman is on firmer ground. It cannot be disputed that Zacharias has used and continues to use the title in reference to himself when, in fact, he has not earned a doctorate. To get comment from Zacharias’ ministry, I wrote Ravi Zacharias International Ministry to get a response to Baughman’s criticisms. On behalf of the ministry, Mark DeMoss wrote back with this answer on the doctorate claim:

Neither Ravi nor his ministry has ever claimed he had an earned doctorate—though he has received numerous honorary doctorates. (It’s true that occasional references to Ravi Zacharias in other contexts—such as publishers’ author pages—include “Dr.” in front of his name and Ravi’s staff has been notifying such sources as they become aware of them and asking that they be revised so as not to even give an impression he might have an earned doctorate.)

RZIM is correct. Using Dr. in front of a name does imply that a person has earned a doctoral level degree. What makes this admission so striking is that Zacharias’ ministry has used Dr. in front of Mr. Zacharias’ name frequently. In fact, the ministry continues to use Dr. in front of Zacharias’ name.

Although I can’t find any unambiguous claims of an earned doctorate, there are numerous uses of Dr. Ravi Zacharias on websites controlled by Zacharias prior to 2015 (see below) and there are also more than a few that I found today. If Ravi’s staff is notifying sources, they need to start with Zacharias’ own organizations in India, Canada, Turkey, YouTube, and his own online academy.

Here is a bio from 2014:

Ravi Z 2014 Dr screen

Note the wording regarding his honorary doctorates. A lay person could read that and assume he had earned those doctorates since he used the title Dr. and since the word “honorary” was not used. Zacharias has since corrected this on one of his current websites but not on others.

However, some of his current websites still refer to him as Dr. For instance, here is the same paragraph from his current bio at the website for his online academy viewed just today.

ravi z academy screen

This bio has not been changed. I am confused by RZIM’s claim that Ravi Zacharias has not given the impression that he has an earned doctorate since this impression was once widespread and continues today on websites owned by the organization. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be any effort to correct ongoing impressions with other organizations. For instance, Gateway Church has Zacharias speak every year at the church and he has been consistently referred to as Dr. Zacharias as he is at an upcoming conference in December.

For good measure, let’s look at a tweet by RZIM India from just over a week ago (check out the entire twitter account):

 

Using honorary doctorates in this manner is not considered appropriate. I suspect Ravi Zacharias knows this. I have a follow up set of questions in to the ministry and will report any additional information. It is good that he changed some of the wording in his bio but it is troubling that it was said that he didn’t claim to represent himself as having a doctorate. I do think the ministry should address these issues head on with a unambiguous statement.

UPDATE:

RZIM released a Facebook statement earlier this evening.

I think it is ironic that some of the commenters on this post refer to Zacharias as “Dr. Zacharias.”

ravi z fb dr

I was hoping for a more humble response from Zacharias but we will see where this goes.

Next up: Was Ravi Zacharias a “visiting scholar” at Cambridge?

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