“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.” ― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata
Please join me in praying for TWW friends: Amy Smith, Anna Keith, Shawnie Beth, Amy Moore, Rachel Green Miller, and Mitch Little. They are in Texas and are enduring the startlingly massive ice and snow storm accompanies by incredibly low temperatures. Their power grid has been taxed and many have been without electricity and heat. Amy Smith’s area has been told to boil their water as the water delivery system has been failing as well. Love you guys!
There is a term that is being used on social media that is quite helpful. *Sin-leveling.* This is something that is often seen in Calvinista circles. Basically, it means that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. Except, even a cursory reading of the Old Testament, will inform the curious that there are different punishments for different violations of the law. Even our judicial system has various punishments for various crimes.
Joe Carter posted Report: Ravi Zacharias Engaged in Sexual Abuse on The Gospel Coalition’s website.
Carter does a good job outlining the findings of the law firm that investigated RZIM. Here are a couple of statements from the post that I want to focus on. The bold highlights were put there by me for emphasis.
- How could a man who was so beloved and respected commit such acts against these women and against a holy God? I believe it was because of a dangerous mix of inflated entitlement, unwarranted secrecy, and cheap grace.
- What renown can do, however, is inflame a person’s sense of entitlement.
- The deference and respect that come with the position can lead some to think they deserve such deference because of who they are, and not because of the role they serve.
- They begin to think the sacrifices they make for the job should be offset by making allowances for their behavior—including sinful behavior—because they are “Great Men.
Carter then makes the argument that this is all about *cheap grace.* He quotes Bonhoeffer of whom I am a fan.
- Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Here is where he makes his biggest mistake.
- Like other disgraced leaders, Zacharias knew, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good”
- The lesson is that if we want to become Great Men who do great and mighty works for the kingdom, we are just as vulnerable to such sin as any celebrity.
What is his mistake?
Carter puts the incredible and extensive depravity of RZ’s actions into a category of “we are just as vulnerable to such sin as any celebrity.* Really? Are RZ’s actions indicative of garden variety, besetting sins of average Christians? Let’s look at these normal sins…
- 200+ pictures of women on his phone
- Continued contact with women up until a few months before his death
- Massage therapists traveling with him
- Sexual abuse of the massage therapists
- Importation of women from several countries to *work with him.*
- Two apartments in Bangcock, Thailand which is known for its sex industry which involves human trafficking.
The savvy readers of TWW are already predicting what I am about to say. However, just so you don’t think these thoughts are limited to Joe Carter, here are more examples. Call me naive but I don’t think many of us are involved in such prolific, depraved activities.
Collin Hansen wrote, for The Gospel Coalition website, Ravi Zacharias and the Judgment of God
Let me remind you, Carter and Hansen are not some pastors they found to write a post about RZ. Hansen is the editor-in-chief for TGC and Carter is an editor for TGC. It is my opinion that they represent the shared viewpoint of many leaders who run in these circles. We need to pay attention to what these two say since it will help us to understand the view of their associates on the issues surrounding RZ’s incredible depravity. Is it just a simple sin issue as they seem to indicate?
- Many people who worked for Zacharias will suffer because they trusted him, even when allegations began to surface.
- I don’t see a lot of surprise, because his abuse looks like the pattern of sexual exploitation we’ve come to understand from men who betray trust.
One thing that I don’t understand is the surprise that is being expressed by these men, their friends, and those who worked for RZIM. Do they read their Bibles? Aren’t the Scriptures replete with examples of men who did really bad things? Frankly, I was not surprised in the least. In 2015, a cursory look at RZ’s biography made me realize that he was a serial liar and that there would be other stories to come. Yet those who surrounded RZ and those who asked him to speak, etc. didn’t do what I had done which was to look up to his biography and see if it was true. The information was readily available. We are left with a question. Why didn’t they do the same? Or, even more concerning, did they know and cover it up?
- No one can know what transpired between Zacharias and God at his judgment, whether he understood what he’d done and repented of his sins and pleaded on the blood of Christ for forgiveness.
- But we do know God’s justice is being done, one way or another. And the sexually immoral, apart from the righteousness of Christ, do not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10).
RZIM and BFFs knew that he lied about his bio. Yet, they never seemed to ask any more questions. They never asked why a guy needs 24/7 access to massage therapists. They ignored what was readily available. Were they just too lazy to check it out for themselves? Or did they already suspect and didn’t want to rock the boat? There is no excuse, no matter the answer.
- The world loves its heroes, but it’s also learning to believe victims, now that we’ve heard from more and more of them. Abusers may be able to switch towns, change churches, and start new ministries, but the internet will not allow them to evade scrutiny.
- Sex is increasingly disembodied with the ubiquity of porn. Abuse follows the same pattern. Ministry policies for prevention and protection must fully account for this shift.
And he had to get the old *submit and obey* in there. The TGC crowd expects it.
- Human accountability is good. But it can’t match accountability from God, who alone knows and sees all. That’s why we can obey our leaders and submit to them. They will give an account, as Zacharias must now (Heb. 13:17).
In the meantime, even he had to admit that Zacharias probably had help in keeping things on the down-low.
- Zacharias went to extraordinary lengths to cover for his abuse. And he seemed to have help.
Hansen makes a good point here even though he, as well as Carter, missed the even bigger problem.
- I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ministry in which tens of millions of dollars in revenue and multiple family members in leadership positions has ended well.
He sums it up and almost gets there but he whiffed it.
- He broke our trust by first and foremost violating the trust of vulnerable, exposed women. We agonize on their behalf and beg God that no one else would suffer as they did. We lament this grievous evil.
- Leaders, because Jesus took the form of a servant for us, we can serve others. We must not exploit them for our sexual or financial gain.
Micheal Brown, writing for the Christian Post penned How should we respond to the Ravi Zacharias scandal?
Here are some of his thoughts. He doesn’t quite get there either.
- It’s the same with entertaining secret sin in our lives. It may take years, even decades, before that sin catches up to us in a public, outward way. But all the while it is destroying us on the inside. All the while, we are becoming performers, having compartmentalized our lives.
He’s close to the answer at the beginning of the next statement but veered away.
- The problem is that, for a Christian leader in particular, it is very hard to come clean and ask for help. Even if you are a loving husband who is a blue-collar worker and not a pastor or preacher, would you find it easy to tell your wife you were struggling with porn? Or you were getting pulled into an emotional relationship with a female co-worker?
He is getting there with the *get help* admonition but I bet he would disagree with me on my conclusion.
- The tragedy is that, if we do not stop and get help, we can lead two very distinct lives, to the point of completely deceiving ourselves.
- (re: Samson) Can you imagine that? He just had sex with a Philistine prostitute. He is guilty and he is unclean. Yet he still has his supernatural strength.
I agree with what he says here.
- To say it again: Do not be enamored by someone’s gift.
- In charismatic circles, it can be gifts of power that enamor us. In Reformed and non-charismatic circles, it can be gifts of eloquence or learning that enamor us. Instead, let us be careful never to exalt a person because of their gifting, which comes from God. Let us, instead, look at the quality of their life – their character, their interpersonal relationships, their integrity.
- That’s why Jude wrote, “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4).
He does a great job in decrying the lack of accountability in ministries and almost gets there but…
- What about you? Are you sure you want to pick up a stone?Maybe we never did what Ravi did, but have we fallen short in other ways? Have we violated God’s purity? Have we given place to unholy thoughts? Have we ever crossed dangerous lines, even a little? Have you? Have I?I suggest you put your stones down and, instead, ask some serious questions. Is there hypocrisy in your own life? Do you have secret, besetting sins? Are you leading a double life yourself? These are the questions I ask myself as well.
What did they miss? Ravi Zacharias had a profound psychiatric problem that affected him for most, if not all, of his life.
Folks, sexual abuse is a sin, of course. But RZ’s issue went far deeper and I am having trouble finding anyone who recognizes what is going on here. ACBC (aka biblical counseling) loves to put everything under the category of simple sin. Then the solution is simple. *Just stop it.* However, intelligent people who have worked with those of have serious mental illness understand that *stopping it* is not as simple as it sounds. For some, it proves impossible, even with tremendous help and support.
RZ appears to have had some form of paraphilia. I keep referring to this paper posted on the National Institutes of Health website: Paraphilias: definition, diagnosis, and treatment, RZ’s acts were quite possibly criminal if he was involved in molesting massage therapists. Also, how sure is RZIM that all pictures of females were of females of consenting age? This behavior went on for years and involved an untold number of women. RZ knew he was doing wrong if he truly believed in the Bible. He likely didn’t want to stop the behavior and probably could not stop it without serious intervention. He knew all sorts of people and could have received the medical and psychiatric intervention he needed. However, his behavior was so ingrained that it is quite possible that he could have had difficulty controlling his behavior, even with expert professional help.
Does anyone actually believe that the *weekend warrior* poorly trained *biblical counselors* are equipped to intervene in such an intense psychiatric problem as RZ?
Owen Strachan and friends appear to believe that, at any moment, we could all become serial molesters, and therein lies the problem.
My friend, Christine Pack nailed it on Twitter. Owen Strachan, another one of the TGC/CBMW brigade, said something silly, and Pack called him on it.
Owen Strachan and The Gospel Coalition do not appear to understand the difference between simple sin and sin compounded by complex psychiatric illness. There is no question in my mind that RZ was a deeply sick man. It should be obvious to everyone else as well.
- Some in this group of Callvnists reject the possibility of serious mental illness that can contribute to sex abuse.
- Some of them, like Owen Strachan, appear to believe that, at any moment, each one of us could become serial predators.
- I know I will never become a serial molester.
- If Owen Strachan believes he could become a molester, he needs to get help, immediately.
- Some sins are much worse than others. A child molester causes far more damage than a guy who cusses at a driver who cut him off.
- Many leaders have rejected the possibility that RZ used the worldwide church to procure money, fame, and victims. I think he did.
- I’m not sure RZ ever really believed the Christian faith. I think he saw it as a means to the end.
- Many of RZ’s followers believed that he was a brilliant apologist. I never thought that he was. I have a great idea for a doctoral thesis. Read all of RZ’s books and lectures and find the lies and red flags.
- He who lies in his biography is probably lying elsewhere. Anyone who lies in the biography should be forced to step down, immediately.
- Any person who doesn’t have an earned doctorate should not be called *Doctor.* even if someone thinks they are a really good pastor.
I think we have to deal with the fact that there are probably a fair number of molesters who are involved in Christian ministry. We all have a responsibility to make sure that leaders are who they say they are. And the next time some pastor claims he needs a full-time masseuse, dump him quickly.