Ravi Zacharias is a professing Christian apologist who has written such books as, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, Beyond Opinion, and Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith (co-authored with Dr. Norman Geisler). He is also the head of RZIM: Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, whose mission statement is:
The primary mission of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is to support, expand and enhance the preaching, teaching and vision of Ravi Zacharias. Distinctive in its strong evangelistic and apologetic foundation, it is intended to touch both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and opinion-makers of society and to REACH and CHALLENGE those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this video, Ravi explains the “problem with evil,” an objection that so many people raise against the idea of a god. The argument is basically, “How can a good god exist when there is evil in the world.” The most common answer, and the one that Ravi offers, is that it is the fault of man because they choose to abuse the free will that God has lovingly given them. While I would agree with Ravi that someone even posing such a question presupposes a moral law, I think that Ravi makes some serious theological errors. While watching the video, keep the following few statements in mind:
1. “Necessary to love is the component of the will. You can not have love without the freedom to not love.”
I would agree that it is necessary for our love of God to be willful, but scripturally we don’t love God by nature. It is only until God gives us a new heart that we will to love Him. So, yes, the component of our will is necessary in our love toward God, but He must make us willing – otherwise we are not.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5
“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20
“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Romans 8:7
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
Not having love without the freedom to not love may be true of human relationships, but certainly not the relationship between God and His human creation. The issue is that Ravi is philosophically conforming God to human standards of love. Humanity is born sinful, and doesn’t have the freedom to love God. Prior to freedom in Christ, we are enslaved to sin. In fact, Scripture also tells us that we are dead in sin.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” John 8:34
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” Romans 6:20
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,” Colossians 2:13
2. “The greatest gift of God is the gift of the freedom of our will, in order that we can love.”
This is pretty twisted, especially since Scripture never teaches this explicitly. In fact, the opposite is true. God’s greatest gift is not the ability of humanity, but the ability of God. Paul tells us that grace is the gift of God by which we are given faith. It had nothing to do with human effort in order that no human could boast. If any boasting is done, it is done in the accomplishments of Christ – namely, the gospel. Grace is the mercy that God bestows on an unworthy creation. Though Christians were once filthy, He makes them clean. Though they were sinning against Him, He still became incarnate and died for them. This shows the unspeakable richness of His great love and mercy because the offenses committed against Him were of infinite value.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
3. “With the greatest common gift, comes the greatest possible calamity. When you violate that love, the entailments actually follow.”
Because Adam exercised sin with the free will God gave him, Adam’s sin enslaved all of mankind. This means that everyone since then has not had free will. This was explained earlier. In Adam, that “love” was violated. The entailments did follow. All of humanity is dead in trespasses and sin. Their darkened hearts could never incline to God unless their hearts are made willing.
4. “And so, both good is real, & evil is real. And the human heart must be able to recognize this, & choose that which is good.”
Unfortunately, the heart never can choose good apart from God’s grace. It will always lean toward sin, because it can’t do anything else. The Bible says that the heart of man is deceitful, and no one can know it. How then can such a heart rightfully discern what is right and wrong? Even if the heart could choose “righteousness” this would never cause God to show favor to us, because even our righteousness is like filthy rags.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6
5. “We are the point of God’s creation.”
We are the point of God’s creation. We…. man…. is point. We are the center. God is man centered? We are certainly within God’s creation, and part of His purposes, but the end to these means (creation, etc.) is not MAN. The end is GOD. Part of the gospel is that Christ came to show submission to the will of the Father. Even until death. Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but gave His life because of the FATHER’S will. God purposed the salvation of humans and reprobation of humans so that He would be glorified by both, regardless of their fate. His glory is the end. His Name is to be proclaimed in all the earth. What Ravi stated here, whether he misspoke or not is absolutely and fundamentally wrong. He is answering a question that almost any unbeliever asks, and he responds with a purely man-centered answer.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” Romans 9:22-23
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21
“whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11
“and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father– to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:6
“saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'” Revelation 7:12
It is important to realize that God doesn’t simply “allow” evil. He ordains it. He is not the author of it, but He is the cause. In other words, He is not directly committing the sinful act. Humanity does that, and so they are held accountable. Furthermore, God answers to no one. Humans are bound to God’s law because He created us and decreed that it would be so. But there is no law that He is subject to, no morality to which He must bend the knee.
There is no such thing as evil “without purpose.” He is not a passive God. He is active and involved in His creation. Before the foundation of the world was laid, He purposed to save a particular people. This involved creating Adam and Eve, knowing full well that they would sin. This meant He created a world that He knew full well would involve murders, rapes, robberies, etc. God is allowed to do with His creation what He wants to do with His own creation. Instead of coming to vain philosophical conclusions, Ravi should answer them Biblically.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6
“The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.” Isaiah 45:7
“‘Have you not heard? Long ago I did it; From ancient times I planned it. Now I have brought it to pass, That you should turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps.” 2 Kings 19:25
“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” Amos 3:6
“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?” Lamentations 3:38
“Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” Isaiah 46:10
Perhaps you will then say, why would God still find fault, because if He has ordained these things, who can resist His will? Paul answers this very objection:
“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:19-21