A friend of mine forwarded to me a Christmas greeting that Ravi Zacharias emailed to his followers. It’s a weird, rambling 1400 word article. Here I want to highlight the fact that Zacharias pauses part way through to take some cheap shots at “naturalists”:
“My colleague Vince Vitale has a great line: If this world came from nothing, the naturalist also has to explain a virgin birth. The late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould made the comment that if you roll back the scroll of time, this world would never happen again. Well! There’s your miracle as well, but its specialists are called naturalists.
“And who are these naturalists? Men and women with designed brains and designed arguments to assure us that there is no design and that we are here by accident. So as much as the skeptic mocks the virgin birth and fights the miracle, he or she smuggles in one of his own and uses designed arguments to boast that our existence is an accident. As much as he or she fights the moral argument, she has no scientific explanation of why we ought to be moral in our conclusions.”
First, Vince Vitale’s “line” is not “great”.
Second, it’s clear enough that Zacharias is trying to belittle naturalistic explanations, but his hamfisted attempts to do so are confusing, at best. How does Gould’s assertion about the contingency of evolutionary history entail a “miracle”, exactly? After all, the occurrence of a contingent event does not constitute a miracle by any conventional definition of the word.
Third, how ironic that Zacharias should complain about skeptics “mocking” the virgin birth in the middle of a passage where he mocks and strawmans naturalists. If Mr. Zacharias wants civility and charity from others, why doesn’t he show it? (Of course, some Zacharias supporters might complain that I am not being charitable to his arguments. I’ll simply invite them to fill in the many blanks.)
As for the abysmal quality of Zacharias’ reasoning, it’s difficult to know where to begin. His reference to “designed brains” merely begs the question against naturalists who don’t accept that the brain is designed, to begin with. His suggestion that the naturalist’s denial of design in nature somehow contradicts the existence of “designed” arguments is nothing short of bizarre. And his final reference to the “moral argument” (which moral argument? There are many, Mr. Zacharias) apparently adds scientism to the mix. In short, this is a smear of icing on a very unpalatable rhetorical Christmas fruitcake.
The rambling confusion, lack of charity, and hypocrisy in that passage are bad enough. It’s compounded by the fact that it is dropped in the middle of a Christmas letter. And to think that this letter is being sent by a ministry to people who purportedly have some interest in reaching out to non-Christians.
Ravi Zacharias isn’t simply a liar and fabulist. Based on this letter, he’s also a very uncharitable (and confused) tribalist. The fact that his name is intimately associated with Christian apologetics is nothing short of a tragedy.