John MacArthur Doesn’t Know Any Evangelical Churches Which Disrespect Minorities

Possibly in response to reaction to his remarks to seminary students last week, John MacArthur took a more conciliatory tone in his most recent blog post on social justice. Published Monday August 27, MacArthur said, “I do not relish controversy, and I particularly dislike engaging in polemical battles with other evangelical Christians.” However, he defended his stance on social justice saying, “But as my previous posts in this series demonstrate, when the gospel is under attack from within the visible church, such controversy is necessary.”

About racism, MacArthur wrote:

Racism is a stain on American history that has left shame, injustice, and horrible violence in its wake. The institution of slavery and a costly civil war left a deep racial divide and bred bitter resentment on every side. No sensible person would suggest that all the vestiges of those evils were totally erased by the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Civil rights legislation now guards the legal principle of equal rights for all Americans, but no law can change the heart of someone who is filled with prejudice or bitterness.

In the next passage, he seems to move from understanding the ravages of racism in our history to not understanding it.

As Christians we know that the human heart is evil, so undoubtedly there are still people who secretly harbor animosity against ethnicities other than their own. But any open expression of acrimony, ill will, or deliberate antagonism across ethnic lines will be scorned and emphatically rejected across the whole spectrum of mainstream American life today.

Of course, people everywhere still tend to be oblivious to or inconsiderate of customs, traditions, community values, and ethnic differences outside their own culture. Culture clash is a universal problem, not a uniquely American quandary—and it’s not necessarily an expression of ethnic hostility. But Americans’ contempt for racial bigotry is now so acute that even accidental cultural or ethnic insensitivity is regularly met with the same resentment as blind, angry racism—and even a simple social gaffe is likely to be treated the same as bigotry. There are people—increasing numbers of them—so obsessed with this issue that they seem able to find proof of racism in practically everything that is said or done by anyone who doesn’t share their worldview.

I understand when fallen, worldly people filled with resentment lash out at others that way. I don’t understand why Bible-believing Christians would take up that cause. I thought the evangelical church was living out true unity in Christ without regard for race. That has certainly been my experience in every church I’ve ever been part of, and it’s also what I have seen in the wider evangelical world. I don’t know of any authentically evangelical church where people would be excluded or even disrespected because of their ethnicity or skin color. Just last Sunday night—as we do every month—we received about a hundred new members into Grace Church. It was another testimony to God’s love crossing all ethnic lines, as the group was composed of Hispanics, Filipinos, Chinese, Ugandans, Nigerians, Mongolians, Koreans, Ukrainians, Armenians, Lithuanians, Russians, Austrians, people of Arabic descent, as well as black and white Americans.

It seems to me that there are many minority brothers and sisters who have been crying out in the church hoping that establishment white preachers will listen to the disrespect and exclusion that they experience. MacArthur says in this paragraph that he doesn’t know any “authentically evangelical church” where this is happening. One of his alums, Terrance Jones, wrote a response to one of his blog posts recently. I wonder if he read it.

When he says those who seek racial reconciliation are a disaster for the gospel, I suspect they feel disrespected. Perhaps, white pastors who dismiss minority voices should listen first and speak later, much later.

Furthermore, look and listen to the culture. We have a president who has hosted 100 evangelical big names last night who early in his term said there were “very fine people” among neo-Nazi demonstrators. That same president prefers immigrants from white Norway versus black and brown “s***hole countries.” These same evangelical leaders give this president the highest praise.

When evangelical leaders are silent when the president or other elected leaders divide us through their racism or xenophobia, somebody must come along side them. Social justice minded Christians have done so. What good does MacArthur’s criticism do?

MacArthur finishes his post by criticizing apologies to groups for past wrongs.

So by this view of “social justice,” a person’s skin color might automatically require a public expression of repentance—not merely for the evils of whatever culture his ancestors were part of, but also for specific crimes he cannot possibly have been guilty of.

There’s nothing remotely “just” about that idea, and certainly nothing related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The answer to every evil in every heart is not repentance for what someone else may have done, but repentance for our own sins, including hatred, anger, bitterness, or any other sinful attitude or behavior.

When it comes to personal salvation, of course individual repentance is necessary. However, no social justice advocate I know ever promoted public repentance as a way to salvation. This is a straw man.

Taking it a bit further, the value of representatives of government or of a church saying we were wrong is symbolic and can be healing. Individual leaders took actions on behalf of organizations or nations. Leaders today should lead those organizations and nations and say those actions were wrong. For instance, I am a supporter of the Native American Apology Resolution.  Conservative Christian Sam Brownback pushed it through Congress when he was a Senator and it was signed by Barack Obama (even though it was never really publicized well).

A critical response to MacArthur’s series on Social Justice posted Wednesday by TMUS alum Terrance Jones.

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Image: The Master’s University, by Lukasinla [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 

Academic Freedom Under Review at Brown University

On August 16, peer reviewed journal PLOS One published “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports” by Lisa Littman, an Assistant Professor at Brown University. In essence, Littman surveyed over 250 parents of children who expressed gender dysphoria with an onset in adolescence or later. She also found that the onset of gender dysphoria took place in the context of peer groups where others in the group became gender dysphoric. On August 22, Brown University published a press release (archived) regarding the study. Then on August 27, Brown removed the news item from the school website, stating:

Brown University Statement — Monday, Aug. 27, 2018

In light of questions raised about research design and data collection related to Lisa Littman’s study on “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” Brown determined that removing the article from news distribution is the most responsible course of action.

As a general practice, university news offices often make determinations about publishing faculty research based on its publication in established, peer-reviewed journals considered to be in good standing. The journal PLOS ONE on the morning of Aug. 27 published a comment on the research study by Lisa Littman, who holds the position of assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown, indicating that the journal “will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses.” Below is the comment posted on the study in the journal PLOS ONE:

“PLOS ONE is aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy and COPE guidelines. As part of our follow up we will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses. We will provide a further update once we have completed our assessment and discussions.” — PLOS ONE August 27, 2018

Then today, Brown’s Dean of the School of Public Health Bess H. Marcus issued a statement explaining the decision to remove the news item. After repeating the above statement, Dr. Marcus added the following:

Independent of the University’s removal of the article because of concerns about research methodology, the School of Public Health has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.

The University and School have always affirmed the importance of academic freedom and the value of rigorous debate informed by research. The merits of all research should be debated vigorously, because that is the process by which knowledge ultimately advances, often through tentative findings that are often overridden or corrected in subsequent higher quality research. The spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence. At the same time, we believe firmly that it is also incumbent on public health researchers to listen to multiple perspectives and to recognize and articulate the limitations of their work. This process includes acknowledging and considering the perspectives of those who criticize our research methods and conclusions and working to improve future research to address these limitations and better serve public health. There is an added obligation for vigilance in research design and analysis any time there are implications for the health of the communities at the center of research and study.

The School’s commitment to studying and supporting the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority populations is unwavering. Our faculty and students are on the cutting edge of research on transgender populations domestically and globally. The commitment of the School to diversity and inclusion is central to our mission, and we pride ourselves on building a community that fully recognizes and affirms the full diversity of gender and sexual identity in its members. These commitments are an unshakable part of our core values as a community.

In an effort to support robust research and constructive dialogue on gender identity in adolescents and youth, the School will be organizing a panel of experts to present the latest research in this area and to define directions for future work to optimize health in transgender communities. We believe that more and better research is needed to help guide advances in the health of the LGBTQ community. We welcome input from faculty, staff and students about the composition of this panel and scope of the discussion.

Researchers Come to Littman’s Defense

In response to Brown’s actions, a group of sexuality researchers signed a letter in support of Littman. Written by J. Michael Bailey, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, the letter cautions Brown to consider the source of criticism:

We are aware of the very loud opposition to Dr. Littman’s article from some transgender activists. This was predictable to anyone who has followed transgender issues during the past few years. However, you should not overreact to this criticism, for several reasons. First, these activists do not represent all transgender persons. There is no one transgender community that speaks as one. Second, those who are protesting the loudest are trying to silence Dr. Littman by intimidation and false or irrelevant accusations. They are not engaging in good faith scientific criticism. Some of us know this strategy all too well, having been targets of it. Third, and most importantly, ROGD is a very serious public health concern. You should be proud that Brown University has opened the door to its study, and hopefully someday, to its successful treatment.

The study has been criticized on several methodological points summarized in an article by transgender activist Julia Serano. These critiques have been answered by Roberto D’Angelo and Lisa Marchiano of the Pediatric and Adolescent Gender Dysphoria Working Group.

From my perspective, the study is a preliminary examination of a syndrome which was once rare but is now increasingly seen by clinicians. I have heard about these cases more frequently over the past decade and seen several such situations. As such, the study is worthwhile and true to the stated purpose (“A study of parent reports”).

It should go without saying that more data are needed and interviews with the teens who are in the groups identifying as transgender need to follow this study. Even so, that is no reason to walk back on this preliminary effort to examine what parents are seeing in their children.

 

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The Social Justice Debate: Jordan Peterson on White Privilege

Last week I posted John MacArthur’s response to a seminary student’s question about social justice in the church. In that reply, MacArthur invoked the concept of intersectionality and defined it in a manner which echoed Jordan Peterson in his infamous lecture on white privilege.

Since I first heard Peterson on white privilege, I have considered writing a critical response. The MacArthur post provoked me to finally get to it.  In the 10 minute clip below, Peterson explains why he doubts the privilege associated with “white privilege” is actually due to whiteness. Here is the clip. He begins with his views of intersectionality, followed by a critique of white privilege which starts at 4:45.

He doesn’t play fair here by only criticizing one theoretical article from 1988. Nearly all social science concepts start with a notion of some kind which then serves to generate testable hypotheses. As of now, there are empirical studies on the concept. However, his audience leaves thinking white privilege is only the idea of an isolated professor.

At 7:01, Peterson reads from a list of attitudes and behaviors taken for granted by white people. The list was crafted by Peggy McIntosh in a 1988 paper (the full list is here) titled, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” Note that she says it is a personal account.

Okay, so here’s her white privilege list, some of it, there’s like 50 things. ‘ I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.’ ‘If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.’ That’s actually a wealth thing, by the way. ‘I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.’ ‘I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.’ ‘I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.’ ‘When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.’ There’s 50 of those, I think, something like that.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture? So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege. There’s many things it could be. Certainly could be wealth. And the intersectional people have already figured out there are many things it could be. So like, what the hell? Seriously, well, what’s going on?

Well, we let these pseudo-disciplines into the university because we’re stupid and guilty, seriously. And they have no methodological requirements and plenty of power and plenty of time to produce nonsensical research and produce like resentful activists and now we’re bearing the fruits of that. It’s not pretty, so white privilege.

So Like Seriously What’s Wrong?

Other than Peterson’s argument by exasperation, the main problem I see is his assumption that majorities of one kind or another build and own the culture. In America, that is silly, and an aspect of white nationalist fantasy. I realize he is Canadian but his arguments apparently appeal to Americans who like the majority white. In America, our history leads us straightaway to race. You can’t talk about majorities and minorities without talking about race.

Let’s apply his argument to America instead of China and see if it doesn’t sound like race is at least one of the important issues of privilege in America. Remember he is criticizing the idea of white privilege. Here is what he said in the video. After that I will substitute America for China.

Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to China, you’re Chinese, is the same true if you’re Chinese? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?

Now let’s substitute America for China.

“Okay, is that white privilege, or is that, like majority privilege? Is the same true if you go to [America]? If you go to [America], you’re [American], is the same true if you’re [American]? Is it majority privilege, and if it’s majority privilege, isn’t that just part of living within your culture?”

See the problem? He seems to be saying that the real, true Americans are the majority Americans. He solidifies this messages by asking, “isn’t that just part of living within your culture?” Jordan, what do you mean “your culture?” In America, the culture isn’t mine as a member of any majority. It is supposed to belong to all citizens. However, it is very clear to me that simply because I am white, I never have had to deal with some things that my African-American friends have had to deal with. By law, it is just as much their culture as mine but they contend with different social rules that they did not get to construct.

Peterson continues to talk about “your culture” as if it belongs to some unspecified majority alone. In what is the most shocking part of this rant to me, he justifies majority privilege as the right of the majority. Then he essentially excludes the minorities from the culture by saying they “accrue fewer benefits” and “aren’t in the culture.”

So let’s say you live in your culture, you’re privileged in that culture, well obviously. That’s what the culture is for. That’s what it’s for. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you? Well, you might say one of the consequences is that it accrues fewer benefits to those who aren’t in the culture. Yeah, but you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that. Say it’s white privilege.

An American distinctive is the belief that people from all kinds of backgrounds can make good and have a better life. Many of us want to believe in the promise of America for everybody to realize the same benefits of being an American. Peterson appears to promote a backward view toward an America where the majority stores up benefits for themselves. In the end, he doesn’t refute the concept of white privilege as much as he tries to shout it down. For what purpose? I can’t think of any good one.

While I believe the concept of white privilege does need more empirical support, I also believe there is a use of the term which is simply descriptive. It stands for the observation that race matters in American society and has mattered since the founding. One does not need to embrace identity psychology to simply recognize that racism has not been eradicated from our cultural institutions (e.g., the church, political parties, law enforcement, etc.) and that efforts to minimize that fact are corrosive to our culture.  White guys stomping around yelling, “seriously, what the hell?” doesn’t get us any closer to treating others as we want to be treated or ensuring equal treatment under the law.

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Image: Dr.Jordan Peterson delivering a lecture at the University of Toronto in 2017. March 20, 2017, Source: Adam Jacobs, Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

John MacArthur on Intersectionality and Social Justice

On Wednesday, school president John MacArthur welcomed seminary students to The Master’s Seminary. After he discussed the recent accreditation probation (more on that in this and future posts), he was asked about his recent blog posts about social justice. I have most of the audio of his answer and a transcript of all of it. In it, he goes beyond his recent blog posts to discuss why he believes a focus on social justice is a threat to the gospel. The transcript begins just below and a link to the audio follows the transcript.

Question:
I’ve been keeping up with your blog posts on Grace to You. You’ve been talking about social justice is an issue now. You said Wednesday you’re going to mention what the hindrances to the gospel were entitled with. Do you mind giving us a sneak peak today?

John MacArthur:
Well, that wouldn’t be fair. I’m not going to say … I wrote that already, but … Let me just give it to you in simple form. Obviously, social justice, which means equity in social treatment, right? Social justice means equity in how you’re treated socially. It’s not legal justice. I mean, we believe that all people should have legal justice, justice under the law. That’s never going to happen, either. You got people in prison who didn’t do something they were sentenced to prison for. You’ve got a lot of people who’ve been treated wrongly, even under the law.

But social justice means social equity, making sure everybody gets the social equity. That’s never going to happen in a fallen world, in the best of circumstances. But that is not the church’s concern. Let me tell you what the problem is. The mindset of social justice is that certain people are victims. You will notice what’s called intersectionality. There’s an overlapping victimization pattern coming now. You can see it all in bold relief at the recent Southern Baptist convention.

The LGBTQ people are abused, and abused people, their abused category. So they are victims of discrimination. Women are victims of discrimination. You even have Thabiti Anyabwile, my friend, writing an article apologizing to Beth Moore, for I don’t know what. For being part of the male conspiracy against women, because women have been collectively abused. They’re also victims.

Then you have the racial minority issue, where they have been also victims. When you bring those together, you come up with this new concept of intersectionality, so that it would play out like this. If you are a woman, you’re a part of a victim class. If you’re a black woman, you’re doubly part of the victim class. If you’re a homosexual or lesbian black woman, you are the most empowered human being in this culture. You have moral authority, because you’re in multiple victim classes. So that’s what’s going on.

You see, all those … You got homosexuals, women, men, racial issues, ethnic groups, all mingled together, and now the Southern Baptist convention is apologizing to all of the victims. This I think is a complete disaster for the gospel, because the gospel says you are not a victim. You are a perpetrator of sin and rebellion against God. If you recategorize all those people as victims, you cut them off at the start with the gospel.

Most of these people talking about social justice are concerned about it at the back end of the gospel. You know, are you really a believer if you don’t care about that? Well, of course we care about that. But when you turn people into victims … I talked about the higher rate of abortion among black women in New York City. 75 percent of babies are killed in the womb. I was just afraid, because that was not something that … That was not the biggest issue. That is a big issue. That is murder.

Fornication is sin. Adultery is sin. Homosexuality is sin. Stealing is sin. Lying is sin. Cheating is sin. But if I turn all these people into victims, I’ve cut them off from the essential necessity in the gospel, and that is full culpability for your own sin. So I’m asking these people all the time, why aren’t you preaching against sin, regardless of who they are? Men, women, homosexual identity people, or ethnic groups, whatever they are.

I was thinking about 2 Corinthians, 5:16. Paul says, “We no longer see any man in the flesh. We don’t even see Christ in the flesh.” I don’t see people in the flesh. I see them with the eyes of God. If I stop at their flesh, and get stuck, at that point, I have missed the whole point of the gospel. That what concerns me about the Martin Luther King elevation. The man denied the authority of scripture, denied the trinity, denied the deity of Jesus Christ, denied the gospel, and lived an immoral life. How does he become heroic? Only if you look at him in the flesh.

God doesn’t see him in the flesh. God sees him in his heart attitude toward Him. We went and … people who say they’re evangelicals get completely consumed with the flesh, and with what’s happening in the physical world, and then make those people feel like they’re all victims. This is no good service to them. Are there inequities? You bet. I wrote about them in that first blog. I’ve seen it.

Read the book, The Blood Land. Between Russia and Germany prior to World War II, as many as 15 million people were killed. None of them in a military uniform. None of them in a war. They were just massacred. 15 million people. That takes a lot of work to kill 15 million people, one at a time. Are there atrocities in the world? You bet. Stalin kills 50 million. Hitler kills 6 million Jews. 2,000 Nigerians are slaughtered in the last week.
This is a tough place to live. Sin has consequence. It has social consequence. It has deadly consequence. I’m not denying the curse of Adam. I’m not denying that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the third and fourth generation. This is a sinful generation right here. Sinful fathers in this generation are going to make life really difficult for the next three, four generations. But nobody ever went to hell for the sin of Adam. Nobody ever went to hell for the sins of the fathers. They go because they believe not in Christ, and because they haven’t confronted their own sin in an honest way.

So all this talk is simply looking at people on a fleshly level, and that’s the wrong look. That’s why it’s not a gospel reality, because it stops the gospel dead in its tracks at the start. You are not a victim. You are a perpetrator of sin against God, and in all.

The Bible warns, and I’ll get into this Sunday morning, but if you’re a watchman, and you don’t warn, the blood of those people is on your hands. If these people have a message, the message ought to be forget the history, forget the past, forget what went wrong, forget a fallen world … You better deal with your sin. That’s gospel. Turning people into victims is not gospel.

That just confuses everything, because all among us, let’s be honest … You’re letting them blame God. This is not new. Adam, what did he say? The woman … He didn’t blame me. He went to sleep single. He did not pick Eve. She showed up, by the creative power of God. I’m in the mess I’m in because of you. That’s where it has to go. Then you have to convince some person that there’s a good, gracious, loving God in heaven, who has turned you into a victim.

How in the world can reformed people believe this when they believe that God is sovereign over absolutely everything, and never does evil? This so confounds the gospel at its basic premise of the personal, individual sinfulness of every person. I’m going to preach on Ezekiel 18 eventually, once I get all this going.

God says, “Every soul is mine.” Wow. “Every person is mine. I’m behind your life. I have directed that life, and I hold you completely responsibility to repent.” That’s the message of the gospel. That’s the message that must be preached. That’s the message that Ezekiel preaches in chapter 18, and at the end he says, “Forget about blaming somebody else, and repent.” Great gospel chapter.

This sounds, especially in the beginning, like Jordan Peterson’s discussion of intersectionality (about 3:40 into this video).

It is hard for me to see how it can be wrong to strive for equal social treatment for all. One may advocate for traditional Christian redemption and for equal social treatment at the same time without doing violence to either one. Where Christians have failed to treat others the way we want to be treated, remorse and apologies are in order. I learned that in kindergarten (well preschool, because I was evicted from preschool since I hadn’t learned that yet). Being honest about historical facts (e.g., native Americans and the trail of tears, or slavery or the captivity of Japanese) doesn’t compromise the gospel.

Audio of MacArthur’s answer on social justice.

MacArthur’s blog where you can follow his thoughts on Social Justice.

A critical response to MacArthur’s series on Social Justice posted Wednesday by TMUS alum Terrance Jones.

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Image: The Master’s University, by Lukasinla [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons 

Tim Clinton’s Co-Author: I Always Check My Sources

Defending himself against charges of academic misconduct last week, American Association of Christian Counselors president and Trump advisor Tim Clinton blamed a former employee for lifting material from other sources for use in articles which carried Clinton’s byline. Even though AACC’s code of ethics discourages ghostwriters, Clinton blamed an employee who functioned in that manner for material in his articles which came from other sources.

One online article by Clinton, “Press On,” (cached)* which contained plagiarized material was first published in the book Ignite Your Faith by Clinton and Max Davis. Because I wanted to find out how the copied content got into “Press On,” I contacted Davis for comment (I also contacted Clinton with no response).

When I contacted Davis, he said he did not have any part in writing the devotional “Press On.” He added that he always checks his sources and “never once in all my years as a writer has this happened” referring to copied content ending up in one of his books.

He also wanted me to know that he was not the fired AACC employee blamed by Clinton for academic misconduct to the Christian Post.

*The same article with the title “Strive to Excel” was once posted on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website. It is archived here.

 

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(In the image, Tim Clinton is above Donald Trump’s head, to the right of V.P. Pence, Image: Johnnie Moore’s Twitter feed)

Exclusive: Ravi Zacharias Apologizes for False Claims about His Credentials at Oxford and Cambridge

In response to my request for a comment about his false claim to be a professor at Oxford (see this post for video) in a speech to the C.S. Lewis Institute, Ravi Zacharias sent the following statement to me:

“I am thankful for the opportunities I have had throughout my life to pursue an education from a broad range of outstanding institutions. I earned my bachelor’s degree in theology from Ontario Bible College (now known as Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto) and then completed a Master’s in Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. I was then privileged to serve as Chair and Associate Professor of Evangelism and Associate Professor of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York. In subsequent years, I had the opportunity to participate in guided studies at Ridley Hall, an independent theological college affiliated with the University of Cambridge, which consisted of studies in a few subjects including philosophy and world religions. I was also a Senior Research Fellow, an honorary title which Wycliffe Hall, a permanent private hall of the University of Oxford, bestowed for a number of years. This role provided a wonderful opportunity for me to lecture there.

While I have been privileged to receive several honorary doctorates from other institutions, to be clear, I have never earned a doctoral degree and was never enrolled at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. And while I have lectured at Wycliffe Hall, I am not and have never been a professor at the University of Oxford. I recognize that academic terms and designations are important, and I apologize for any occasion on which I have wrongly titled my association with either of these institutions. For these reasons, I previously updated my curriculum vitae on the RZIM website to best reflect my educational and professional experience.”

The second paragraph contains some new admissions (in bold print). He acknowledges never being enrolled in Oxford or Cambridge and apologizes for using titles in the past suggesting he was a professor at Oxford. This took place over two decades.

In December 2017, Zacharias acknowledged that he did not have an earned doctorate and said he would discontinue using the title “Dr” (he has honorary doctorates). However, at that time, he did not address his past misleading academic claims involving Oxford and Cambridge. Today, this statement partially addresses that situation.

As I did yesterday, I asked for reaction from Canadian apologist John Stackhouse. Via email, Stackhouse said:

It is good to have Ravi Zacharias apologize for misleading claims about his academic credentials—as he has now done again. But now what?

Not only Mr Zacharias himself, but Mr Zacharias’s publishers, the RZIM board, RZIM staff members, RZIM institutional partners, RZIM donors, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance all have vital decisions to make now. What can and should be salvaged of a ministry whose leader has admitted that he lied, repeatedly, about the basic facts of his competence to perform that ministry?

Christians should pray for integrity, honesty, courage, gentleness, and wisdom for everyone involved in this mess—for it is, despite the mild language of this admission by Mr Zacharias, a terrible mess indeed.

 

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Image: Kristamaranatha at the English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Dear Gospel for Asia: How Will Funds Raised for Kerala Flood Victims Get to Them?

Over the past week, the news out of the state of Kerala in India has been devastating. Due to severe flooding, over 400 are dead and 800,000 have been displaced. Sadly, those numbers are expected to climb. Of course, the natural impulse is to help.

Kerala is the home of K.P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (now called Ayana Charitable Trust in India), and Believers’ Church. While it is understandable that K.P. has been informing his followers about what is happening there, he is also doing something that raises a question: K.P. is raising foreign donations to send to flood victims. The question is how will those funds get to flood victims?

In 2017, the government of India canceled the registration of Gospel for Asia (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church India, and two other affiliated organizations to receive foreign donations. Yohannan is raising money but it isn’t clear how those funds will get to flood victims when the Indian organizations he fronts can’t receive them?

Different Answers from Different Sources

Yesterday via email in response to a GFA press release asking for donations for flood victims, I asked public relations contact Gregg Wooding of InChrist Communications if he could explain how donations will get to flood victims. He replied:

GFA has headquarters in Kerala, India. Volunteers are actively rescuing, feeding those affected by flooding and providing other supplies.

I wrote back to ask how GFA in Kerala could receive those funds since the Indian government had canceled the organization’s FCRA registration. He did not answer.

Earlier in the day a source called GFA in Wills Point, TX on behalf of my blog and asked how American donations could be accepted in India since the FCRA registrations had been canceled. The caller was told that GFA still is able to operate in India, but the license to receive money is with Believers Eastern Church. The GFA representative said that the funds given to GFA are sent to Believers Church. He added that GFA and Believers’ Church are technically and legally different entities. GFA cannot guarantee money given for India disaster relief will be used for that purpose through Believers’ Church because GFA has no legal or ultimate authority over Believers’ Church. Money given to GFA is preferenced by donors for a certain purpose and Believers’ Church in practice uses the money for what it is preferenced for.

Leaving aside the uncertainty that the Believers’ Church might not use the funds as intended, GFA’s answer doesn’t match what the Indian government says. As I will demonstrate below, the registrations for GFA (Ayana Charitable Trust), Believers’ Church, and two other GFA affiliated organizations were canceled in 2017.  The question remains – how will American funds get to flood victims since GFA and Believers’ Church are unable to receive foreign contributions? Maybe there is an answer to this question, but GFA hasn’t provided one that fits with information available to the public.

FCRA – Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

In India, a charity must be registered with the government to receive foreign donations. There are rigorous reporting requirements as specified by the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the records are available to the world via the Home Ministry’s website. In fact, those records prompted the early questions about Gospel for Asia’s finances that eventually led to GFA being removed from membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The FCRA rules are clear that only registered organizations can receive foreign donations (click here for a larger image).

Among other conditions, the rules (Q.2b) state that an organization “must obtain the FCRA registration/prior permission from the Central Government.” In contrast, Q.3i specifies that “individuals or associations who have been prohibited from receiving foreign contributions” cannot receive them.

To determine organizations which have been canceled, one can go to the India’s Home Ministry website and scroll down to the FCRA link.  On that site, there is a link near the bottom left which reads: List of Associations whose registration has been cancelled. If you click through, you will need to select the state of Kerala. Once you do that, you will see Ayana Charitable Trust at the top of the list. Scrolling down you will soon encounter Believers’ Church India and Love India Ministries and Last Hour Ministries.  Here are screen caps of Ayana Charitable Trust (formerly GFA-India), Believers’ Church, Love India Ministries, and Last Hour Ministries on the canceled list).

Since the very organizations which GFA and GFA’s PR representative said will take the money can’t do so, it is a fair and significant question to ask how donations intended for flood victims will get to them.  So far, GFA has not provided a satisfactory answer or provided evidence that the Indian government is wrong. Donors should demand more.

For more on the impact of the revocation of registration to receive foreign funds in India, see this article on Compassion International. When the Indian government canceled their registration to receive foreign donations, they left India. 

 

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Image: with permission Indian Navy (GODL-India) [GODL-India (https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf)], via Wikimedia Commons

Blast from the Past: Ravi Zacharias Made Himself a Professor at Oxford

In a 2012 speech before the C.S. Lewis Institute, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias referred to himself as a “professor at Oxford” after saying he had studied at Cambridge.  Watch (the complete speech is here. The clip is at 52:41):

In fact, Zacharias was never on the faculty in any capacity at Oxford University. He spent some time in the city of Oxford with an honorary position at Wycliffe Hall, a ministry preparation school which has an affiliation with Oxford but his statement here is simply false.

For those who followed the scandal surrounding Zacharias’ credentials back in December 2017, this will seem like old news. However, what was true then is still true – in the public statements from his ministry, Zacharias never addressed his false claims about credentials from Oxford and Cambridge. He has not acknowledged them, even though some of them still persist in his publications and speeches such as this video.

Zacharias’ false claims about his credentials came under scrutiny through the persistent work of attorney Steve Baughman. Christianity Today briefly took up of credential inflation via an interview with John Stackhouse, an apologist and professor at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada.

I asked Dr. Stackhouse if I could include his reactions to the false claim by Zacharias to the C.S. Lewis Institute and he agreed as long as I made it clear that he is also a human being who understands the temptations to cover insecurity with credential inflation. Stackhouse said the comment might seem to some observers like “no big deal.” However, he said, “It is a big deal. No one who knows anything about the respective cultures of Oxford and Cambridge universities would claim to be ‘a professor at Oxford’ who wasn’t in fact a full Professor at Oxford.”

Stackhouse explained that in North America, colleges and universities “refer to assistant and associate professors as ‘Professor,’ but at Oxford you have to have attained that final rank for that term to apply to you.” Those who have rank at less than full professor are given other titles.

He added, “And to say you are a ‘professor at Oxford’ while referring to Cambridge University (“my studies at Cambridge”) clearly implies that you are on the staff of the university—not on the staff of the apologetics institute you yourself founded in the city of Oxford, or a lecturer at an affiliated theological college, or anything else.”

In Stackhouse’s opinion, the claim isn’t a “slip of the tongue.” He said:

It isn’t a “dynamic equivalent” translation of a foreign educational situation for a lay American audience.  It is a falsehood that serves only to exaggerate his intellectual authority. One just can’t make a remark like this as a mere error. It’s like saying “I’m an astronaut” or “I’m a senator.” If you understand the terms at all, you can’t use them unless you literally are an astronaut or senator.

Compounding the problem is that Zacharias hasn’t personally addressed these issues. I asked Ravi Zacharias International Ministries for a comment on this video last night and did not hear from them today.

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Image: Kristamaranatha at the English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Donald Drains the Swamp – New Book by Eric Metaxas

After books on Christian heavyweights Bonhoeffer and Luther, Eric Metaxas tackles the heaviest weight of them all – Donald the Caveman. I haven’t seen a pre-publication copy as yet, but I can only imagine the wonders within this prehistoric prose.

I do wonder how Metaxas will delicately handle a full treatment of Donald the Caveman’s swamp draining. How, for instance, will he depict the Access Hollywood episode and all that grabbing?

The Stormy Daniels payoff chapter should be a delicate one for a children’s book. Maybe the book will carry a parent’s advisory.

Will there be an entire chapter on Donald the Cavemen’s golf escapades? You have to fill the swamp before you can drain it, I guess.

How about a chapter about the S***hole countries, the very fine neo-Nazis, John Dean the rat, our allies the enemies, and his good friend and mentor Vlad.

Should be amazing.

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Fair use of image from Amazon book page.

Tim Clinton: Who You Gonna Blame? Ghostwriters!

On Wednesday, I documented that 59% of a 2005 column with American Association of Christian Counselors president Tim Clinton’s byline in Christian Counseling Today came from op-eds by Chuck Colson and Pete DuPont. When asked by the Christian Post about the matter, Clinton through his spokesman Jimmy Queen again blamed a former employee for lifting the material.

For the president of the AACC, this defense seems like a leap out of the frying pan into the fire. Blaming the ghostwriter lets Clinton maintain his “zero tolerance for plagiarism” but creates another conflict with his own code of ethics. Enter AACC code of ethics 1-880-c:

1-880-c: Avoiding Ghost Writers
Christian counselors shall resist use of ghostwriters, where the name of a prominent leader-author is attached to work substantially or wholly written by someone else. Authors give due authorship credit to anyone who has substantially contributed to the published text. Order of authorship should typically reflect the level of substantive contribution to a work.

Nearly 60% of Clinton’s column came from material we now know he did not write himself. He may have rearranged a few sentences but most of it was taken verbatim from op-eds Chuck Colson and Pete DuPont. Thus, even if Clinton didn’t know where that material came from, he knew it didn’t come from him. Mr. Plagiarizing Ghostwriter should have gotten first author credit if the AACC code of ethics is a guide.

Other Problems with the Defense

Clinton’s column, “Judicial Tyranny and the Loss of Self-Government” contains personal elements clearly intended to communicate that he is speaking in the first person. He begins with a personal anecdote involving his children. He wrote, “I don’t often write about political matters” leading the reader to believe that the words to come are his words about political matters.

In the middle of the two borrowed sections of text, he or someone inserts a connecting paragraph. Then at the end, it is Clinton writing again about a CounselAlert sent out in April 2005 on the issue of voting rules for judicial appointments. Only Clinton knows what he knew. However, if the situation is actually about ghostwriting, then I wonder what happens now?

The issue of ghostwriting came up in a big way for evangelicals during the demise of Mars Hill Church when Mark Driscoll’s “content management system” came into public view. No doubt many big name Christian authors use them. However, the AACC took a stand and said Christian counselors don’t do it. Now we learn that apparently at least one of them does and has done so for years.

What now?

Check a side-by-side comparison of Clinton’s “Judicial Tyranny and the Loss of Self-Government” and the op-eds by Colson and DuPont.

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(In the image, Tim Clinton is above Donald Trump’s head, to the right of V.P. Pence, Image: Johnnie Moore’s Twitter feed)