The Cancel Culture and the Christian

Bernie Diaz, February 24, 2020

If you follow the news and some of the more ridiculous headlines and stories that find the light of day – particularly from the west coast (or is it the ‘left coast’?) of this country, you’ll see the revision of American history now taking place more consistently than ever before our very eyes.

Recently, a San Francisco area school board reversed its scheme to replace the names of some fairly notable Americans like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from nearly four dozen of its K-12 public schools, due to their alleged ties to historic ‘racism and oppression.’  

Such revisionism (which includes other founding fathers and figures such as Thomas Jefferson) has taken on an identity of its own and is better known today as cancel culture.

This kind of shaming or call-out culture, is by definition, a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of history books, off of statues and buildings, social or professional circles – past or present – whether it be online, on social media, or in person due to affiliations, actions or words deemed politically incorrect by certain cultural gatekeepers.

Fortunately, the exposed idiocy of that school district’s renaming initiative – in light of its more relevant responsibility to educate its student body in a pandemic, forced it to plead a mea culpa and reverse course.

However, the ministry and legacy of the late Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, may not be so fortunate.  

The likely reformation if not collapse of Zacharias’ RZIM ministry has been widely reported and dissected already by many commentators in and out of Christendom – both near and far, in the wake of the revelation that the acclaimed speaker and author had been participating in and covering up sexual sin for the past several years before his death at age 74 in May of last year.

First, there was a scandal that surfaced indicating that Zacharias had falsified his academic credentials from some time ago. Then, that his ministry organization glossed over, if not ignored allegations from a woman in 2018, alleging that Zacharias had “sexted her” with lewd and inappropriate images and messages.

Not much more can and should be added here, other than the above incident proved to be merely the tip of an iceberg that melted with an investigation’s finding of Zacharias’ involvement with massage parlors that he had owned, prostitutes and even an alleged rape of a woman who was said to have relented to his advances, on the condition she could retain her personal faith in Christ, as promised her by the apologist.

Such news of spiritual abuse is both horrific and tragic on all accounts. The revelation of this scandal – the latest fall of a national, Christian leader was a tough personal pill for me to swallow.

My journey to faith in Christ nearly three decades ago, began in large part due to the Lord’s use of apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) including the writing and teaching ministries of men like Ravi Zacharias, William Craig, R.C. Sproul and Josh McDowell.  

Ravi’s unique, philosophically precise and compelling method of arguing for the rationality of the Christian faith in contrast to the weakness he presented of the atheistic worldview, grabbed a hold of my mind and attention as a means of common grace that drew me to further seek the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By God’s sovereign grace, that attraction became a means of my redemption.

Should my testimony and of tens of thousands of Christians who have a similar one, now be tainted somehow by a cancel culture that threatens to completely erase the existence and legacy of Zacharias’ ministry?

Should we burn all of Ravi’s books (e.g. Can Man Live Without God) and erase or delete all of his countless debates and university presentations and question and answer sessions with students which planted seeds of gospel curiosity in so many for the sake of the cancel culture?

I hope not. Because If we do, then we might need to cut out the pages of our Bibles in Jeffersonian fashion, which directly and unashamedly describe the sins, doubts and moral struggles of men such as Moses who murdered, David who cheated, Abraham and Jacob who lied, Peter who denied and Paul who conspired to kill the Christians of the earliest church.   

… as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.. (Ro. 3:10,23, ESV)

What book of the Bible would be complete, what examples of repentance could we follow, if we allowed morally flawed, but yet redeemed and restored men and women of the faith to be ‘canceled’ out of our scriptural history?

 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.. (Eph. 2:4-5).

The wonderful news that we call gospel is a story of men and women who were once as Paul described as spiritually “dead,” in which they once walked as “sons of disobedience” and “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” to be made alive by God who saves and justifies sinners like Zacharias.

Though we are in no position to judge Ravi’s spiritual condition based upon the poor finish of his race, we can still acknowledge and be grateful for the kingdom ministry that God worked through him to lead others to saving faith and proceed to point that the greatest sinners were, are and can be saved by his amazing grace. That grace is amazing because it is great enough to save the vilest of sinners in the forgiveness of their sins.

Celebrity pastors and leaders may rise and fall, but as we can see clearly enough in the fall of Ravi Zacharias, what he and others ‘may have meant for evil, God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen. 50:20).’ That truth of Christianity cannot be canceled out by any culture.

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