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  • Writer's pictureJohn Stackhouse

Throw Away All Your Ravi Zacharias Books? Or All Your Luther?

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

A friend grieves the news of a report on Ravi Zacharias’s awful sins. And there are more on the public record now that don’t show up in his report (such as his absolutely disqualifying lies about his academic credentials, accomplishments, and positions, detailed in Steve Baughman’s well-researched and unjustly overlooked book).

How can he read Ravi Zacharias anymore? Worse, he knew RZ personally and was blessed by knowing him. What, now, about all that, in retrospect? Does he just rewrite his memories and throw away RZ’s books in the shadow of Zacharias’s wickedness?

What I wrote on his Facebook stream I put here, too, in case it can be of some small help:

What remains truly astonishing to me is the undeniable and enduring value in the work of notorious sinners such as Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, and Jean Vanier.

To be sure, I’ve been on my guard for a long time with Barth (and Paul Tillich similarly) to see whether their theology is actually bent in such a way as to accommodate their sin. (I have yet to come across someone who has taken this hermeneutical approach to either theologian, but hundreds of scholars study them, so maybe someone has.) Same now with Yoder. But still: so much blessing from such toxic streams…

Yet we know Martin Luther was capable of both great blessing and hair-raising cursing. John Calvin and John Knox made terrible decisions as leaders accompanied by invective harsh even by sixteenth-century standards.

None of the grace God passed to us through such people excuses their sins, of course, as none of what little good I’ve been able to do as a teacher and writer excuses one jot of my own considerable transgressions.

I’m just wondering aloud at how God has been somehow able (and, yes, mysteriously willing) to truly bless many others through people who were demonstrably very, darkly wicked. These aren’t isolated cases.

And doesn’t God do the same strange thing every day through me, through you, if only on a smaller scale? It’s all very odd, and disquieting.

(But whom else has God to work with? There aren’t that many saints around…)

I thus won’t chuck all my Barth, Yoder, etc. even as I wince every single time I happen upon their names, as their abuse of women is forever attached to every good thing they said.

What is genuinely good deserves appreciation as such. But we must remain on our interpretative guard: Only Jesus spoke God’s own truth all the time. None of the rest of us deserve automatic and total deference, even as God is mysteriously pleased to grant us the privilege of conveying grace to each other.

The challenge, then, is to listen well, expecting distortion because of sin, but also trusting God to bless withal. What else can we do?

[For my critique of RZ as an apologist, please click HERE.]


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