Throwback Thursday: What “gospel” does apologist Ravi Zacharias proclaim?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on March 3, 2016 and has been revised. As an introduction, Ravi Zacharias was a very popular evangelical apologist who died on May 19, 2020. Disturbing reports of predatory sexual abuse involving Zacharias have come to light in recent months. Also disturbing was Zacharias’ long history of promoting ecumenism with Roman Catholicism.

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During my lunch break today, I took a quick trip to the post office and tuned into The Word, WZXV, 99.7 FM, Christian radio station here in Rochester, New York. Every day at 11:00 a.m., the station plays the daily message from popular evangelical apologist, Ravi Zacharias.

Zacharias is widely considered to be one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists. He’s an excellent speaker – the words flow out of his mouth like honey. But beware, Zacharias’ messages are sometimes dangerous.

Today, the station broadcast one of Zacharias’ messages from his “Memories of Muggeridge” series (see far below for the link). Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was a highly respected British author and journalist and a longtime agnostic and eventual convert to Roman Catholicism.

In the message, Zacharias spoke about Muggeridge’s growing disillusionment with politics, journalism, commerce, education, entertainment, and religion. He was allegedly searching for the ultimate truth. Muggeridge was subsequently baptized into the Roman Catholic church at the age of 79 in 1982. It was Muggeridge who first introduced the world to Mother Teresa and thrust her into the spotlight as THE standard of “Christian” charity.

As a Roman Catholic, Muggeridge believed in salvation by sacramental grace and merit. He believed, as do all Catholics faithful to their church’s teaching, that one must be in a sinless “state of grace” at the moment of death in order to merit Heaven. For Catholics, justification comes from obeying the Ten Commandments perfectly (impossible!). If they break the Law, Catholics must confess all of their “mortal” (deadly/major) sins and be absolved by a priest before death or they are taught they will go to hell.

So why would Zacharias, one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists, hold up Muggeridge and Mother Teresa, who both believed in salvation by works, as shining Christian examples? I also heard Zacharias praising St. Francis of Assisi in a different broadcast. Is it that Zacharias is just totally ignorant of Catholic doctrine?  Is it that he believes the differences in salvation theology between Gospel Christianity and Roman Catholicism are not important? What goes through the mind of Ravi Zacharias? Either the Gospel is salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone or it is salvation by sacramental grace and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) as Rome teaches. It is either one or it is the other. It cannot be both!

A number of evangelical leaders are dismissing right doctrine and embracing those who teach works-salvation as “brothers and sisters in Christ” in the cause of “Christian unity.” I would ask them, is the Gospel the Gospel or isn’t it? Make no mistake; there are absolutely no Catholic apologists on EWTN Catholic radio singing the praises of Wycliffe, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Tyndale, Spurgeon, Moody, Lloyd-Jones, etc. like Zacharias fawns over Muggeridge, Mother Teresa, G.K. Chesterton, and St. Francis. So why are evangelicals like Zacharias so deferential? Why are evangelicals so blind?

By embracing error as truth, Zacharias betrays the Gospel and misleads those who admire him.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” – Galatians 3:10-13


Memories of Muggeridge, Part 4 of 5
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)
Broadcast 3/3/2016

Note: In this Throwback Thursday installment, I removed the link to the broadcast/podcast referenced above because RZIM no longer provides free access to that particular episode (#4) of the “Memories of Muggeridge” series or to episodes 2, 3, or 5 either. However, part 1 of the series can be accessed here.

See my earlier post on Ravi Zacharias’ dalliance with Roman Catholicism here.

18 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: What “gospel” does apologist Ravi Zacharias proclaim?

  1. This was a disturbing part of his ministry, this tolerance for Catholicism. Sometimes his stuff was great, other times, you had things like this. Regarding the sexual allegations, I read about them. Sad, sad, sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not deeply knowledgeable about Ravi’s ministry. From what I know, he seemed to specialize in rebutting atheism at seminars on college campuses. He was a disciple of theologian, Norman Geisler, which explains in part why he was so deferential re: Roman Catholicism. His famous speech at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City was pure compromise and accommodation. Not one Mormon left that building offended. Yes, the recent revelations about Zacharias are very sad. The man led a double life. May we, by God’s grace, walk what we talk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. While I haven’t listened to much of Ravi, what a tragic figure. My good friend Sarah (who I am having lunch with today) her son is 11 and for the past year has really been soaking up Ravi’s (pre-screened) teachings. I know this will be a topic of discussion today because since the official findings came out Sarah and her husband (who’s a Pastor) told him what happened and they will help him find another apologist to learn from.

    You probably saw this https://www.christianpost.com/news/john-macarthur-biggest-churches-push-superficial-christianity.html I personally struggle with MacArthur’s tone, especially in light of masks and social distancing. The church is being exposed in so many ways.

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    1. Yup, Ravi was living a double life. Very tragic and a lesson for us all. When I returned to the Lord in 2014, I immediately observed how highly Ravi was regarded by evangelicals, but I heard him accommodating RCism in his radio snippets shortly thereafter.

      Thanks for the link. I could write a 2000-word post about JMac. After we stopped streaming our former mega-church’s services, we streamed Grace Community’s Sunday service for about a month until JMac delivered his “there is no pandemic” sermon. Corinne and I were shocked. So irresponsible and dangerous. I get it about pastors being upset and frustrated about heavy restrictions. Compromises could have been worked out (through the courts if necessary), but to deny the pandemic and discourage all public health safety protocols was so irresponsible. It’s conjecture on my part but I imagine there was intense social pressure at GCC to conform to the “no pandemic” paradigm. Many pastors and laypeople across the country follow JMac’s lead. We had to find other pastors to listen to because we no longer wished to listen to JMac. It’s disheartening to hear other evangelical Christians parrot this pandemic-denial and conspiracy theory. I have it slated as a topic for a future post but haven’t gotten to writing it yet. I don’t desire to bash JMac, but I do want to criticize that pandemic-denial and conspiracy thinking.

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      1. Sarah’s son is listening to audio Bible before bed, yea God. Sarah and I said the same thing about JMac at lunch. Like you want to call out other people, someone has died at your Seminary, people haven’t been able to report Covid cases at the church, how then does this make him any better? I have always struggled with MacArthur’s tone, but this is different. The world is laughing at us as we point out specs in others while ignoring the log in our own eye. Ravi should be called out, but MacArthur isn’t a sinless man either.

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      2. Praise God for Sarah’s son listening to audio Bible. I agree that JMac’s tone is a bit haughty and arrogant. I greatly appreciated his unwillingness to bend to ecumenism, but this pandemic denial is terrible and, yes, it invites mockery upon the Gospel as well as putting people’s health at risk.

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  3. I don’t know who Malcolm Muggeridge was until I read your blog. It’s crazy how much Ravi fawns over Catholics from Teresa, Chesterton, etc. My concern for him began a few years ago when he was exposed with fraud with the education that he had including lies about being taught in Oxford physics, etc. Theres a few books I want to read from him sitting at home but I admit my appetite isn’t that big to read him after more about him was revealed

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    1. As we have discussed before, I am absolutely dumbfounded by pop apologists Zacharias, Craig, Strobel, Turek, and McDowell, all disciples of Geisler, who leapfrog over the irreconcilable difference between Biblical justification and RC justification. Yup, there were many warning flags with Zacharias. Someone should have asked him why he was buying into two spas with masseuses. He was living a double life. Did you ever watch his speech at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on YouTube? It was so accommodating and compromising. No Mormon in that auditorium was upset with that speech.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never saw that speech though I heard about it. Van Til is right if we present the Gospel and never press the antithesis then we are accommodating sinfully in our evangelism and apologetics. Have you done a post about the Mormon presentation?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. From what I remember of Ravi’s speech, he didn’t present the Gospel in such a way that even distinguished it from the Mormon’s false gospel. It was pious platitudes rather than decision-prompting meat. And of course there was not a critical word about Mormonism. No, I never wrote a post about it.

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      3. Crazy. At that time I remember some apologist praising Him but I didn’t think it sound right. It was the typical classical apologist crowd that was often blurring the line with Rome…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Muggeridge, Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi shining Christian examples? Ugh… I wonder, was he a Roman Catholic in disguise, or just an unsaved preacher. Billy turned the radio on in the car one day just as Ravi was exalting Mother Teresa. Very revealing. Thanks for your continual work in the Lord Tom!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy!

      RE: I wonder, was (Zacharias) a Roman Catholic in disguise?

      Your question reminds me of something ecumenist Tony Palmer once said. He confessed to pope Francis that he wanted to convert to Catholicism, but Francis dissuaded him, saying he was MUCH more valuable to the RCC as a Rome-friendly ecumenist within “evangelicalism.”
      I pray that the Lord continue to use you and Billy in presenting the truth about the RCC.

      BTW, I made the correction as you requested.

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