A Note from the Editors on the Ravi Zacharias Investigation

By Daniel Silliman
Christianity Today
September 29, 2020

Why we report bad news about leaders—even after they have passed away.

Christianity Today is motivated by a deep love for the church. That love is sometimes painful, especially when it means reporting evidence of harmful behavior by ministry leaders. These allegations are hard for us to publish, and they can be hard to read. Over the years, some readers have wondered why we publish evidence of wrongdoing by ministry leaders otherwise doing good in the world. Other readers, who support investigative reporting in general, think it should be aimed outside our particular Christian community. But our commitment to seeking truth transcends our commitment to tribe. And by reporting the truth, we care for our community.

Love compels us to love those hurt by ministry leaders—not just the immediate victims, but countless others who see the fallout from leaders’ sin and abuse and wonder if Christians really care. Deep love for the church also compels us to love erring ministry leaders. They often need disclosure to lead them to repentance.

Our love drives us to investigate allegations—or to continue our investigations—even when an accused leader is deceased. Sin’s devastation persists long after a ministry leader dies. Should we ask victims to carry the burden, trauma, and shame of their experiences alone in the dark? No. Neither a ministry leader’s good deeds nor his death should silence his victims. And people who sin need the grace that comes with the light. Death precludes the opportunity for a sinner’s repentance, but not the opportunity for a victim’s restoration and freedom.

The whole church needs that light, as painful as it can be. Christianity Today doesn’t undertake the long and expensive work of investigating accusations in order to create a list of notorious sinners. Our aim is correction—not just of the leaders we’re reporting on, but of all of us.

The Bible speaks very plainly about the flaws and failings of even its most heroic figures. The ultimate hero of the biblical stories, and the ultimate hero of our own stories, is not the human being in all of his or her sin but the God who works through sinful people to redeem them and accomplish his purposes. When Scripture details the grievous wrongs of its heroes, it’s “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). We don’t edit those parts out. In a similar way we’re also reluctant to set aside or downplay allegations against Christian leaders. We seek to investigate and report these stories fairly. We don’t presume guilt, and we don’t privilege the powerful; we hope our readers avoid those errors too.

We report these stories in part so that the church can learn from them. They remind us of our own vulnerability, our own need for transparency and accountability, and ultimately the need of all people for the grace of Jesus Christ and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. But we are also aware that the people in our stories are not mere sermon illustrations. Those who have been exploited are not here to help us. We are here to help them: to set the record straight, to expose injustices and hypocrisies, to provide a voice for the wounded, to lament with them, and to assure others like them that they are not alone. Judgment belongs only to God. But bringing light to the darkness is the responsibility of us all, even as we grieve.


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