Ravi Zacharias and the Case of Christian Credential Inflation

Many evangelists and apologists have a history of overstating their qualifications.

CT EDITORS |DECEMBER 7, 2017 – for Christianity Today

Image: Courtesy of Ben May / RZIM

Earlier this week, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) released a statement addressing its namesake’s credentials, which have recently been under fire.

“In earlier years, ‘Dr.’ did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates,” stated RZIM. “However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.”

From CT’s report:

According to the biography currently posted on RZIM’s website, Zacharias received a master of divinity degree from Trinity International University and “has conferred ten honorary doctorates, including a Doctor of Laws and a Doctor of Sacred Theology.”

Up until earlier this year, the RZIM bio had not used the phrase “honorary doctorates;” instead, it had stated that Zacharias had been “honored with the conferring of six doctoral degrees.” The site also previously referred to him as “Dr. Zacharias” through 2014, as did multiple press releases, news features, and event postings.

Apologist and religious studies professor John G. Stackhouse wasn’t surprised by the news.

“There’s a long and not very edifying tradition of Christian evangelists and speakers inflating their credentials,” said Stackhouse.

Stackhouse says that he personally confronted two RIZM employees about problems he saw with Zacharias’s credentials but that no changes were made after the conversation.

“Ravi Zacharias is the biggest name in apologetics currently,” said Stackhouse. “As he goes, so goes apologetics so it’s really important that he be scrupulous in everything he does.”

Stackhouse recently joined associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the temptation for Christian leaders to inflate their credentials and achievements, what responsibility the church has in encouraging that sort of behavior, and how we might better hold each other accountable.

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