Tag Archives: rzim

Upcoming Debate: Br. Shadid Lewis and Dr. Andy Bannister


cc-2018-sitenews-shadidbannisterdebate

For further information, please see the Facebook event page as created by Ratio Christi. There is no information as of yet on whether or not there will be a livestream of the debate or the duration till the recording will be made public. As soon as any pertinent details are made aware to us, we’ll update this post and share the relevant information on our social media platforms.

and God knows best.

Early Review of QuranGateway.Org

Developed in tandem by Dr. Andy Bannister and Dr. Daniel Brubaker, QuranGateway.Org aims to be an educational and research based resource for the study of manuscripts of the Qur’an. Several months ago I was able to view the website as it developed and have since been following its updates. What makes QuranGateway unique is that it provides a searchable database based on Daniel Brubaker’s PhD thesis about variants in the Qur’anic manuscript tradition. The website is also based on Dr. Bannister’s research from a few years ago on the oral formulations of the Qur’anic narratives that correlate with Biblical narratives.  In the image below, we can take a quick preview of the interface and the information generally provided on the “Browsing Surah List” help page (click to enlarge):


Quran Gateway Browsing Surah List

Based on Dr. Bannister’s analysis of themes in the Qur’an, various charts and infographs have been generated using his primary research data (click to enlarge):

Quran Gateway Intro to ChartsOne of the main features of the website, though the functionality is erratic at times (I am not sure if it is based on incorrect data from Brubaker’s thesis or website database issues), is the ability to view some scribal changes in some early manuscripts of the Qur’an. One will note however, that the reason for such scribal changes and errors is not explicitly explained in pages that list the changes themselves. This is obviously an issue, as one has to ask, why would they list the changes without using the entirety of Brubaker’s data where it is explained that these were largely either scribal mistakes, or due to the orthographic development of the Arabic language? Hidden away on a largely obscure page, we are eventually told that the vast majority of these variants are in and of themselves, irrelevant (click to enlarge):

Quran Gateway Scribal Changes

The purpose of the website therefore seems to be confusing. On the one hand, its main emphasis seems to be twofold, themes in the Qur’an based on Dr. Bannister’s research and scribal changes based on Dr. Brubaker’s research, yet when it comes to the latter the data seems to be largely incomplete. Most of Dr. Brubaker’s analysis in his PhD thesis indicates that almost all the scribal changes cannot be found in the Qira’at literature, meaning then that they are unique issues delimited only to single manuscripts themselves, most of which were the use of the Arabic letter alif as it pertains to early Arabic orthography (see pages 29 to 30 here). This information however, seems not to have made its way to the website which is perhaps the most important information that should be included. This is because Dr. Brubaker painstakingly compared the lapsus calami and scribal idiosyncrasies with the vast array of Qira’at literature and documented his results in his thesis, which is one of the two main sources for the dataset on the website. On the one hand we are being told, here is a tool where you can search for these scribal differences, but on the other hand, here’s no contextual information based on a comparative analysis with the rest of the documented information about the varying readings in the Qur’anic tradition that we’ve already done, but we won’t give it to you.

Similarly, while the website aims to be a hub for research, it lacks on its team of scholars any Muslim scholar on the Qur’an. One of the issues here is that if the website is aiming to be a hub for objective academic research and study, and is not meant to be a polemical based Christian apologetics website, then shouldn’t there be a panel of scholars rather than merely two Christian apologists? Dr. Bannister is a Christian apologist, he leads the SOLAS CPC organization in the UK. Dr. Brubaker is also active in Christian apologetics, having used his research to help Joseph Jay Smith in a debate with Dr. Shabir Ally. This issue therefore takes credibility away from the objective based research facade that has been presented. As far as I am aware, no Muslim has been invited to preview the website itself, though the website has been previewed with various Christian groups, most recently in Toronto in December of 2017 (could’ve been November, I can’t seem to recall at this moment).

While I do look forward to using the website, the incomplete data, and lack of diverse scholarship on the panel beyond two Christian apologists presents with it serious credibility issues that need be attended to. One area of possible issue is legally, where some of the facsimiles of early manuscripts have been used without permission from their copyright holders and the rights that were allowed by atleast two organizations are now under reconsideration due to the other facsimiles being used without expressed permission and also due to the Christian apologetics inclination on the website which rather than being viewed as an objective research tool, lends credence to the website being merely a polemical tool for a specific religious group. Despite these issues, I do hope to see further development done to the website. For further information and to see the website in action, here are three videos:

and God knows best.

Ravi Zacharias Caught Lying About Credentials Again

In 2015, Ravi Zacharias was outed for manufacturing claims about his scholarship regarding being a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. This led to him acknowledging and then removing the claim from his website. This year, the same person who did the first investigation has done a second video demonstrating that Ravi has lied again, this time about studying quantum physics at Cambridge University:

Why does Ravi have the need to continuously pad his credentials? We all agree that lying is a sin, therefore as a leader of an international ministry, why doesn’t he seem to understand that making fraudulent claims about oneself is wrong? It’s simply unjustifiable. To call Ravi to be truthful in his actions and descriptions about himself, we are asking those who are interested in the truth to send Ravi an email at the following address: PR@RZIM.ORG

The subject line is as follows: Did Ravi Zacharias really study quantum physics at Cambridge?

The email body is as follows:

Dear Mr. Zacharias and Ms. Malhotra:

I write you in a spirit of inquiry, not challenge. Serious allegations, purporting to be carefully-researched and based on publicly available information, have been made that Mr. Zacharias has systematically exaggerated his academic credentials.

And while I have formed no conclusion as to the merits of these charges, I can see no harm in Mr. Zacharias publicly responding to them. Indeed, given the growing concern about these allegations, it seems that no legitimate purpose will be served by Mr. Zacharias continuing to remain silent.

In furtherance of the truth, might you kindly address the following questions?

Did Ravi Zacharias ever enroll in, or audit, a physics class taught by John Polkinghorne at Cambridge University?

Was Mr. Zacharias ever “a visiting scholar at Cambridge University”? If so, is there a reason that this claim was removed from his website after he was criticized for making it? How does Mr. Zacharias respond to the email statement allegedly made by the Cambridge Office of External Affairs that his attending classes at the University whilst on sabbatical at Ridley Hall would not have made him a visiting scholar at their University?

At page 205 of his autobiography, Mr. Zacharias writes about spending time at Cambridge University where, he says, “I was invited to be a visiting scholar.” Given that Mr. Zacharias’ sabbatical supervisor, Jeremy Begbie, has stated, in writing, that Mr. Zacharias was only a “visiting scholar” at Ridley Hall (which is not a constituent part of the University), might you kindly state who it was who invited Mr. Zacharias to be a visiting scholar at Cambridge University itself?

Mr. Zacharias has claimed to have been “a senior research fellow” at Oxford University. Is this claim true? Was the position in fact an honorary one? If so, is there a reason that in February of 2103 Mr. Zacharias said in an Apologetics315 interview “If I’m in an academic forum, then the fact that I’m a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall Oxford University, that’s a credential with which I work in the academy”? Is there a reason the entire Senior Research Fellow claim has been removed from his website?

Mr. Zacharias’s bio and publicity materials refer to him as “Dr. Zacharias.” Does Mr. Zacharias have a PhD or other academic doctorate? If not, how might he reply to the concern that his routine use of the title “Dr.” is likely to create a false impression in significant numbers of people?

The jacket of Mr. Zacharias’s book New Birth or Rebirth? says “Zacharias holds three doctoral degrees.” His publisher bios at Random House and Penguin refer to him holding multiple doctoral degrees. These make no mention of such degrees being honorary. What responsibility does Mr. Zacharias have to ensure that those promoting the sales of his books make clear that his doctorates are exclusively honorary? (This question may, of course, be disregarded if Mr. Zacharias has in fact earned an academic doctorate.)

Thank you very much for your anticipated cooperation in shedding light on these important issues.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

More details to follow.

Nabeel Qureishi has Cancer

Earlier today, Nabeel Qureishi posted on Facebook that he had advanced stomach cancer. This is quite unfortunate news. To the Muslim community, I simply ask that you pray for his healing and guidance, he has an opportunity to come closer to the truth and we need to support him during this time.

To Nabeel,

I know that being diagnosed with an illness with a grim prognosis, turns your life upside down. It might take a few days, a few weeks, or in my case, a few years to come to understand what you’ve been diagnosed with and what treatment options you have. Whatever plans you had for the future are most certainly inconceivable now, and I know that the urgency and immediacy of all these changes to your life can be overwhelming and most certainly physiologically draining.

I know that you must be suffering from a great deal of pain and sickness. On an array of medications that turns daily life into one big blur, where you find yourself having to seclude yourself from a public lifestyle. The weight of this on your new family must be excruciating and seeing them suffer because you’re suffering must be mentally tortuous.

He knows, Nabeel. Trust in the plan of God. At one point in your life you had a transition that led you to live a drastically different lifestyle and to take a path you had never imagined. Sadly, you are now facing a much more difficult transition with a very uncertain end. Pray to God during this trying time and seek His rahma (mercy), seek His rizq (provision/ sustenance), and most importantly seek His salam (peace). You’ve been through a difficult and life changing transition before, with God all things are possible, so hold on tight to the rope of God, rely on Him, trust in His plan and seek Him with ikhlas (sincerity) through sabr (patience).

And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent. – Qur’an 65:2-3.

Your Brother from Adam (peace be upon him),
Br. Ijaz Ahmad.

Note to Muslims: Try to lift Nabeel up during this time, don’t mock him as some have done with respect to the passing of Shaykh Deedat. Rise above the negativity and pray for his healing and guidance.

and Allah knows best.

Nabeel Qureishi Deemed Heretic by Christian Scholar

The former Qadiani, Nabeel Qureishi attempted to unceremoniously drag noted Christian scholar and theologian, Miroslav Volf into his response to the Wheaton College suspension of a Professor for promoting solidarity between Islam and Christianity.

cc-2015-nq-slav

Unfortunately for Nabeel, he earned the ire of Miroslav Volf, who deemed him a heretic for arguing that Jews worship a different God than that of Jesus’s. His argument is that according to the Bible, Jesus acknowledged that Jews worshiped ‘His Father’, despite denying his (Jesus’s) alleged divinity. As such, not only does this demonstrate Nabeel’s lack of education when it comes to his own theology, it indicates to the wider public that Nabeel is not serious about his faith and is clearly more interested in pandering to the lay-Christian audience that follows RZIM.

This is quite disappointing, but in some respect it is a sign that not only does Nabeel not understand Islam, despite trying to study Christianity, he still is unable to grasp its theological nuances to the extent according to one well noted Christian scholar, he holds heretical notions and beliefs.

and God knows best.

Response to Hill’s and Baez’s Defense of Ravi Zacharias’ Fraud by Steve Baughman

The following is a guest post by Steve Baughman, otherwise known as the Friendly Banjo Atheist on YouTube. Steve was the first person to bring to the public’s awareness, the issue of Ravi Zacharias’ false academic credentials. To catch up to speed, check this article here. Since Steve’s initial video about Ravi’s fraud, there have been a lot of ‘excuses’ offered in the name of defending Ravi by those close to or working on behalf of his ministry. In this exclusive article, Steve responds to some of these defensive arguments and demonstrates without a doubt that Ravi has personally benefited from the use of fraudulent academic credentials. Perhaps though, what is most troublesome, is that Christians have chosen to defend Ravi, rather than calling upon him to be truthful and honest. Does this mean that Christians are willing to commit fraud, so as long as it benefits their faith?


STEVE BAUGHMAN RESPONDS TO NICK HILL AND PROFESSOR BEAU BAEZ

NICK HILL’S DEFENSE OF RAVI ZACHARIAS

Nick Hill’s defense of his former Christian apologetics teacher is full of facts.  Almost all of them are irrelevant, and what is left is misleading, false or downright bizarre.

The first point misleads. Ravi Zacharias does not stand accused of specifically claiming to have a PhD. The accusation is that hepresents himself as one who has earned a PhD when he has not.  For the specifics of Mr. Zacharias’ “Dr. Zacharias” behavior, see my reply to Professor Beau Baez below.

Nick Hill’s second is bizarre.  The complaint against Mr. Zacharias is that nowhere at his RZIM.org bio does he disclose that his doctorates are “honorary.”  Mr. Hill thinks this no problem.  If we want to know if the doctorates are real or honorary, all we have to do is “google the titles and where he received them” and we can see that these schools do not offer academic doctorates. Thus, we would be able to deduce that Mr. Zacharias’ degrees are honorary.

One wonders how Mr. Hill can be serious that, in lieu of Mr. Zacharias simply putting the word “honorary” in his bio, we are to spend hours researching and visiting the websites of each school to see if they offer academic doctorates of the kinds Mr. Zacharias was awarded.  I say “hours” because Mr. Zacharias does not list the names of the schools that gave him these doctorates, so we would first have to find that out somehow.

Third, and falsely, Mr. Hill tells us that during his sabbatical Mr. Zacharias “was supervised by a Cambridge scholar Dr. Jeremy Begbie.”  Mr. Hill should know, however, that Dr. Begebie did not begin teaching at Cambridge until 1993, three years after Mr. Zacharias was his student at Ridley Hall.  This information is publicly available at Dr. Begbie’s Duke University profile.

https://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/cv/BegbieCV-0714.pdf

In his defense of Ravi Zacharias Nick Hill presents us with a fine example of the absurd and sometimes fact-adverse depths to which devotees of Ravi Zacharias will descend in defense of their guru.

PROFESSOR BEAU BAEZ’S DEFENSE OF RAVI ZACHARIAS

Law Professor Beau Baez does not fare much better.  He offers five defenses of Mr. Zacharias. Each one is very easily dispatched.

First, Mr. Zacharias should not be held accountable when others loosely refer to him as “Dr. Zacharias.” 

This is a straw man.  The problem is that Mr. Zacharias actively promotes himself as “Dr. Zacharias.”  We see it at his website, at his YouTube posts, in the jacket of his autobiography, and it seems that he even instructs his secretary to call him “Dr.” (When I called his office to speak to him, his personal secretary answered “Dr. Zacharias office.”  You can too. (770) 449-6766. Ask to be put thru to Mr. Zacharias’ office.)

Second, it is not uncommon for people to call themselves “Dr.” based solely on honorary degrees.

The problem for Mr. Zacharias is that Mr. Zacharias uses the title “Dr.”in academic settings where it is very likely to cause some people (probably many) to believe he has earned an academic doctorate. It is undisputed that this is an ethically controversial practice,

It is undisputed that more people will falsely believe he has a PhD if he calls himself “Dr. Zacharias” than if he calls himself “Mr. Zacharias,”

Mr. Zacharias does not disclose at his website that the doctorate degrees are honorary,

The only conceivable benefit of using the “Dr.” title and failing to disclose the honorary nature of the degrees is that it bolsters Mr. Zacharias’ public image by leading many to think he has a PhD,

and

The potential to mislead can be greatly reduced by simply adding the word “honorary” to his bio and refraining from using the controversial title.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the fact that even one of the institutions that gave Mr. Zacharias an honorary doctorate does not approve of the practice.  In response to my inquiry, Asbury University informed me that, “As a general rule, Asbury University — which utilizes Associated Press style as its foundation — does not refer to a recipient of an honorary doctorate issued by the University as “Dr.”

Knowing the controversial nature of the practice and its potential to mislead, Mr. Zacharias continues to hold himself out to the world as “Dr. Ravi Zacharias.”

Third, Prof. Baez says “when I saw the degrees that he listed on his website I immediately recognized them as honorary degrees. I see no reason to list the obviousness [sic] nature of the degrees–he was not hiding anything.”

This is truly odd.  Mr. Zacharias’s website says

“He has been honored with the conferring of six doctoral degrees, including a Doctor of Laws and a Doctor of Sacred Theology.”

That’s it!  How was Prof. Baez able to “immediately recognize these as honorary degrees” when four of them are not even named?  And how did he know that there was not a real doctorate amongst them?

If one Googles “Doctor of Sacred Theology” and “Doctor of Laws” one immediately learns that these are often demanding academic degrees in both the United Kingdom and the United States (the two countries where Mr. Zacharias spends most of his time).

These are not “immediately recognizable” as honorary degrees.

Now, in fairness to Prof. Baez, he has indicated to me in correspondence that “When I see that many doctorate degrees I immediately conclude that they are honorary degrees. Two earned doctorate degrees is fairly unusual, let alone anything beyond that. ”

But this argument is also odd. Prof. Baez assumes it to be common knowledge that “conferring of six doctoral degrees” means they areall honorary.  But why does he assume this?

A casual investigator trying to ascertain Mr. Zacharias’ actual credentials might find that Allam Iqbal holds 17 PhDs from top universities, and that Viva Luxme has earned 15!

http://answerscdn.com/Q/What_is_the_most_Ph.Ds_one_person_has_ever_earned

I do not know if this is information or misinformation.  But that comes up when one searches.  And it gives the lie to Prof. Baez’s apparent assumption that we are all like him and “immediately recognize” that “conferring of six doctoral degrees” means that all were honorary.

What conceivable reason could Ravi Zacharias, or his people, have for not simply adding the word “honorary” to his bio, other than to mislead?

Fourth, Prof. Baez tells us that “it is possible that Ravi was unaware of the loose affiliation Ridley now has with Cambridge University.”

By way of brief background, Ravi Zacharias has very thin academic credentials. He has a Master’s Degree in Divinity and no academic publications to his credit. The crown jewel of his academic bio is the claim, which he has loudly made for the past 25 years, that he was once a “Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University.”  Without that claim he is just another circuit rider with a preacher’s degree and a load of political connections.

I investigated and found the Cambridge claim to be false.  The true fact is that in 1990 Mr. Zacharias did a sabbatical at a relatively unknown place called Ridley Hall, which was affiliated with Cambridge, and that while at Ridley he “attended” some classes at Cambridge.  Cambridge University confirmed that Mr. Zacharias was never a visiting scholar at Cambridge University.

I then informed Mr. Zacharias of my intent to go public with this information if he could not explain himself. Several days later he withdrew the “Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University” claim from his website bio.

Prof. Baez now asks us to believe that perhaps Mr. Zacharias was confused and honestly thought that being on sabbatical at Ridley Hall and attending classes at Cambridge University entitled him to claim that he was a “visiting scholar at Cambridge University.”

This is very charitable to Mr. Zacharias. But why should we assume “good faith” on Mr. Zacharias’ part here? We may acknowledge the affiliation between Ridley Hall and Cambridge University just as we may acknowledge the affiliation between, say, Babson College and M.I.T.  The fact remains that any Babson student who claims to have been a “visiting scholar at M.I.T.” merely by virtue of that affiliation and attending some classes at M.I.T. would be subject to academic discipline for C.V. fraud.

To make matters worse, I was not the first to raise the Cambridge problem with Mr. Zacharias.

I have a devout Christian colleague who several years ago developed suspicions about Mr. Zacharias’ Cambridge claim.  He informs me that he made several inquiries of Mr. Zacharias’ ministry about the matter and eventually RZIM stopped replying. My colleague then stopped pursuing the matter.

I must also note that Mr. Zacharias’ supervisor at Ridley Hall, Dr. Jeremy Begbie, makes a very clear distinction in his C.V. between his duties at Cambridge and his duties at Ridley Hall.

https://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/cv/BegbieCV-0714.pdf

Should we not expect similar integrity and clarity of understanding from Mr. Zacharias?  After all, this was an impressive claim to be making. Are we to believe that Mr. Zacharias just never noticed its falsity until a banjo playing atheist on the Internet threatened to expose him?

Finally, Prof. Baez notes that “From what I understand, as soon as any question was raised about his credentials he quickly clarified them on his website.”

That is not quite accurate.  Mr. Zacharias did remove the false Cambridge claim.  But he continues to refer to himself as “Dr. Zacharias” in his videos and at his website, where the word “honorary” remains tellingly absent.

Prof. Baez asks us to be charitable and to not impute ill motives to Mr. Zacharias.  We can agree that charity is a good policy.  But it cannot be disputed that what we see with Mr. Zacharias on the “Dr. Zacharias” issue is (at very best!) a willingness to construe an ethical gray area in a way most conducive to his public image.  It also cannot be disputed that his practice of calling himself “Dr. Zacharias” is more likely to mislead large numbers of people than “Mr. Zacharias” would. But he chooses to do it anyway.

Such a demonstrated preference for public image over truth makes it more likely that on the “visiting scholar at Cambridge University” claim Ravi Zacharias simply chose to mislead the public because it made him look good and he thought he could get away with it.  And he did, for 25 years.

All interested in making inquiry directly of Mr. Zacharias’ press secretary may contact Ruth RuthMalhotra, RZIM Public Relations, Email:pr@rzim.org   Phone: (770) 449-6766

———————————

Steve Baughman is an attorney and banjo teacher in San Francisco.  He is known on YouTube as The Friendly Banjo Atheist who first exposed the misleading claims Ravi Zacharias made about his credentials.  Mr. Baughman first contacted Mr. Zacharias’ ministry with his concerns in May, 2015. All references to Mr. Zacharias’ website are as of 10/27/15.

Steve can be reached through his Friendly Banjo Atheist channel at YouTube or by email at FriendlyBanjoAtheist (at) gmail  (dot) you-know- what.