Image: Ravi Zacharias at the Society of World Changers induction ceremony at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion
Ravi Zacharias at the Society of World Changers induction ceremony at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., on March 30, 2016.
By David K. Li

Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias, who built an international ministry with a zealous, intellectual defense of his faith, died following a brief bout with sarcoma, loved ones said Tuesday.

The founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries was 74 when he died on Thursday at his home in Atlanta.

RZIM President Michael Ramsden said Zacharias always welcomed any voice who questioned Christianity.

″[Ravi] saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered,” Ramsden said in a statement.

“People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved; they were people who needed the person of Christ. Those who knew him well will remember him first for his kindness, gentleness, and generosity of spirit. The love and kindness he had come to know in and through Jesus Christ was the same love he wanted to share with all he met.”

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he was saddened by Zacharias’ death and praised the minister’s life calling.

“He was a faithful servant who made an incredible impact on our world,” Kemp said in a statement. “Praying for peace and comfort for his loved ones during this difficult time.”

Zacharias is survived by his wife of 48 years, two daughters, a son and five grandchildren.

“It was his Savior, Jesus Christ, that my dad always wanted most to talk about,” daughter and ministry CEO Sarah Zacharias Davis said in a statement. “Even in his final days, until he lacked the energy and breath to speak, he turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done. “

Zacharias has said he was 17 and living in India when he tried killing himself with poison before finding peace and his life’s calling in scripture.

“He perpetually marveled that God took a 17-year-old skeptic, defeated in hopelessness and unbelief, and called him into a life of glorious hope and belief in the truth of Scripture—a message he would carry across the globe for 48 years,” Davis said of her late father.

Controversies

In 2017, Christianity Today reported accusations that Zacharias had exaggerated his academic credentials; for instance that he had referred to himself in multiple articles and videos with the title “Doctor” or “Dr.”, despite lacking a PhD qualification. In response, Zacharias claimed to have been “conferred ten honorary doctorates” and claimed further that “in Ravi’s homeland of India… honorific titles are customary and are used frequently out of respect for elders, including by the RZIM India team when addressing Ravi.” The veracity of Zacharias’s purported academic positions at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was also questioned.

In a statement, RZIM indicated that “[in] earlier years, ‘Dr.’ did appear before Ravi’s name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it.” Christianity Today reported that Zacharias’s online biography was edited following the accusations regarding his credentials.

Canadian ministry supporter, Lori Anne Thompson accused Zacharias of impropriety involving sexting and exchanging inappropriate emails with her. Christianity Today magazine reported that Zacharias filed a RICO suit against Thompson in response to a demand letter containing explicit allegations against Zacharias. The case was settled in November 2017. In a December 3, 2017 statement, Zacharias said, “Let me state categorically that I never met [Thompson] alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to [her]—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility.” Zacharias added that he had been “absolutely faithful” to his wife Margie throughout their marriage, but acknowledged that he “failed to exercise wise caution and to protect [himself] from even the appearance of impropriety…”Zacharias declined to comment on the alleged suicide threat he made to Thompson, citing the terms of his non-disclosure agreement with Thompson.

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