The Cautionary Story of Ravi Zacharias
This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
When I write, I usually avoid telling someone else’s story and I rarely refer to specific news events. There’s one story though, that I’ve been watching over the last six months, that I think is painfully fitting for today’s passage – the sad story of Ravi Zacharias.
For those of you who don’t know, Zacharias was a brilliant speaker, truth-seeker, author, and Christian apologist (one who defends the Christian faith). For more than 40 years he spoke to millions all over the globe and authored more than 30 books. I’ve heard him many times on the radio and every time I listened, I thought, I wish I was that smart. I wish I could think through these difficult questions and answer them as clearly as he does. Zacharias possessed a truly gifted mind and was a tremendous success by any measure.
Then, about a year ago, at age 74, he died from cancer. I didn’t know him personally of course, but still, I was saddened to learn that such an intellectual giant was gone. Several months later though, it became apparent that something was very wrong with Ravi Zacharias’s legacy. You can look up the details if you want – I’ll not review them all here – but basically, it turns out that Zacharias was a sexual predator who’d been using his power and influence to abuse women all over the world. He was a brilliant academic, whose intellect afforded him tremendous respect and power, but he was a monster. Though Zacharias knew right, that didn’t lead to living right.
In today’s passage, Paul addressed this specific flaw in our nature. He knew that for Christians, knowing right doctrine would always be a trap that could easily lead to pride. The more knowledge a man possesses, the more highly he thinks of himself. Arrogance and power often corrupt, leading the intellectual to justify doing whatever he wants. Knowledge alone is no protection from evil behavior. One can know the Bible as well as an angel and still live like a devil.
Knowledge isn’t evil of course. We must first know God to love him, but knowledge isn’t love and it isn’t worth much by itself. I was a reasonably intelligent physician who knew my drug use was toxic, but I did it anyway, following myself above God. Knowledge, if it is to become true wisdom, is simply a steppingstone to right behavior and loving God. Knowing right is useless unless it leads to living and loving right.