Where is the Condemnation from Theists For Zacharias’s Dishonesty?
September 2, 2015 by Jeffery Jay Lowder
If a prominent atheist such as Richard Dawkins had exaggerated his credentials in the way Ravi Zacharias has, then we can be sure that theists would have shouted that fact from the mountaintops.
So why is it that Zacharias is getting a “free pass” from theists?
I won't name names, but I know that several prominent, vocal theists do read this blog on a regular basis. (You know who you are.)
I'll begin by making some general comments about "hypocrisy" before turning to the specific case of Ravi.
i) Like liberals generally, Jeff is obsessed with the specter of hypocrisy (or equivalent terms). Mind you, liberals and atheists are only bothered by real or perceived hypocrisy by Republicans and Christians. When it comes to hypocritical Democrats, they shrug.
ii) Because Jeff shares this obsession, he just assumes that Christians are as alert to "hypocrisy" as he is, and would be quick to jump on that issue if someone like Richard Dawkins were the hypocrite. But due to our partisan commitments, we turn a blind eye when one of our own is guilty.
iii) Hypocrisy can stand for two different things:
In my experience, unbelievers fixate on the ethical dimension of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy as a character issue. Behavior that preemptively disqualifies the Republican or Christian from having an argument or position we should take seriously. You must have moral authority to speak to an issue. If you're a hypocrite, then we can safely discount your position or argument. That's the tactic.
As I say, they only care about the ethics of hypocrisy when it concerns a Christian or Republican.
iv) Now, I think the avoidance of hypocrisy is important for individual ethics. My personal behavior.
As a rule, I'm less concerned about hypocrisy in other people. It's not my responsibility. I'm not living their life for them.
A partial exception would be people who wield power over me. When voting for a candidate, his integrity (or lack thereof) is one consideration. Policy and morality are often linked, for good or ill.
Likewise, there are certain jobs, like the pastorate, that demand personal integrity.
v) "Hypocrisy" carries an ethical connotation. But I'm less concerned with the ethical dimension than the intellectual dimension.
Even then, intellectual consistency in the abstract isn't a virtue. If you begin with a faulty principle, and you think or act consistent with that faulty principle, then intellectual consistency is vicious rather than virtuous.
My concern isn't primarily with someone's consistency or inconsistency, but with whether their position is right or wrong. Consistency is good if the underlying principle is good, but if the underlying principle is bad, then the more inconsistent the better.
vi) That doesn't mean inconsistency is unimportant. There are people who begin with their cause, then resort to any argument to defend it. They don't hesitate to use contradictory arguments. They are blind or shameless partisans who routinely apply double standards.
What is that important? If they had a reasonable position, they should be able to defend it with consistent arguments. Lack of intellectual consistency may mean they don't have evidence and reason on their side. There is no guiding principle beyond whatever furthers the cause.
In that respect, it's useful to expose intellectual inconsistencies. That's a test of rationality rather than morality. Not so much what it says about their character, but their coherence–or lack thereof.
Mind you, people can be inconsistent for innocent reasons. They may lack the aptitude, expertise, or leisure time to work out a consistent position.
vii) Suppose Dawkins was guilty of resume inflation. That would be significant, not so much because of what it said about his character, but his qualifications. Is he an authority on the question at issue? It's not that his character is unimportant, but it's fairly unimportant to me, since I'm not him.
viii) Turning to Ravi, Jeff links to an earlier post on the same blog. I don't recall having seen that post. I don't mouse over to The Secular Outpost everyday. And when I do, I begin skimming it. I check the authors and titles. Depending on the author or title, I may or may not read it. It's a question of time management.
ix) I don't pay much attention to Ravi because he's a popularizer. As a rule, I don't read Christian popularizers. Rather, I read people I have something to learn from. Ravi isn't on my regular reading list. I don't recall if I've ever read a book by him. If so, it was many years ago.
Sometimes I'll read just enough of an author to make a preliminary judgment about whether he is worth reading. If I'm unimpressed, I likely will not revisit that writer.
It's different with atheism. I do read some popularizers–as well as the philosophers, scholars, and scientists. But that's because atheist popularizers are influential, and I use them as a foil.
x) The post Jeff links to accuses Ravi of resume inflation. For all I know, that may well be the case. If so, it is wrong for him to misrepresent his academic credentials.
xi) That said, I have no independent confirmation for some of the allegations in the post. And the post itself is from a hostile, partisan source, so it would be naive to presume the accuracy of the allegations.
To evaluate the supporting material, I'd have to attempt to do my own fact-checking. But why should I expend my time on that rather than something else? What makes that a priority?
xii) The post says his website altered his CV after some of his academic claims were challenged. That's quite possible. But I don't have before and after screenshots, so I can't verify that allegation.
xiii) The post faults him for touting a doctorate when, in fact, all he has are honorary doctorates. Well, I don't approve of honorary doctorates. But Ivy League institutions award these to prominent atheists. So why single out Ravi for opprobrium?
In fact, it's ironic that in the name of consistency, a Christian apologist is reproached for flaunting honorary doctorates when so many atheists do the same thing, yet that's passed over in silence.
xiv) The post uses the charge of resume inflation as a pretext to attack Ravi on positions they disagree with, like dating the book of Daniel. But that has nothing to do with resume inflation. Rather, that suggest the case against Ravi on resume inflation is thin, so they must pad it with extraneous allegations to make it look more impressive.
xv) East Indians (as well as other minorities) are severely underrepresented in Christian apologetics. So we need to encourage their participation.