In a 2012 speech before the C.S. Lewis Institute, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias referred to himself as a “professor at Oxford” after saying he had studied at Cambridge. Watch (the complete speech is here. The clip is at 52:41):
In fact, Zacharias was never on the faculty in any capacity at Oxford University. He spent some time in the city of Oxford with an honorary position at Wycliffe Hall, a ministry preparation school which has an affiliation with Oxford but his statement here is simply false.
For those who followed the scandal surrounding Zacharias’ credentials back in December 2017, this will seem like old news. However, what was true then is still true – in the public statements from his ministry, Zacharias never addressed his false claims about credentials from Oxford and Cambridge. He has not acknowledged them, even though some of them still persist in his publications and speeches such as this video.
Zacharias’ false claims about his credentials came under scrutiny through the persistent work of attorney Steve Baughman. Christianity Today briefly took up of credential inflation via an interview with John Stackhouse, an apologist and professor at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada.
I asked Dr. Stackhouse if I could include his reactions to the false claim by Zacharias to the C.S. Lewis Institute and he agreed as long as I made it clear that he is also a human being who understands the temptations to cover insecurity with credential inflation. Stackhouse said the comment might seem to some observers like “no big deal.” However, he said, “It is a big deal. No one who knows anything about the respective cultures of Oxford and Cambridge universities would claim to be ‘a professor at Oxford’ who wasn’t in fact a full Professor at Oxford.”
Stackhouse explained that in North America, colleges and universities “refer to assistant and associate professors as ‘Professor,’ but at Oxford you have to have attained that final rank for that term to apply to you.” Those who have rank at less than full professor are given other titles.
He added, “And to say you are a ‘professor at Oxford’ while referring to Cambridge University (“my studies at Cambridge”) clearly implies that you are on the staff of the university—not on the staff of the apologetics institute you yourself founded in the city of Oxford, or a lecturer at an affiliated theological college, or anything else.”
In Stackhouse’s opinion, the claim isn’t a “slip of the tongue.” He said:
It isn’t a “dynamic equivalent” translation of a foreign educational situation for a lay American audience. It is a falsehood that serves only to exaggerate his intellectual authority. One just can’t make a remark like this as a mere error. It’s like saying “I’m an astronaut” or “I’m a senator.” If you understand the terms at all, you can’t use them unless you literally are an astronaut or senator.
Compounding the problem is that Zacharias hasn’t personally addressed these issues. I asked Ravi Zacharias International Ministries for a comment on this video last night and did not hear from them today.
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