Enforcing Honesty and Restoring Colleagues

There have been several discussions lately about how to approach people who have dealt with the facts in a less than honest way. Are human beings still evolving in response to any recognizable factors? - #132 by Randy @AMWolfe mentioned Marc Hauser, a researcher at Harvard; @sfmatheson and @Jay313 referenced Jordan Peterson (who might deserve a whole thread of his own, as he’s multifaceted, apparently); and Ravi Zacharias’ reference to his credentials Ravi Zacharias: Apologist or Fabulist? An interview with Steve Baughman - Randal Rauser. http://raviwatch.com/

We all are tempted to cheat. Sometimes, those who are most well off and high-profile experience the greatest pressure. What is the best way to confront and, hopefully, eventually restore those who fall?

This is a two-part question. First, what is the best way to confront and correct dishonesty? Second, once you’ve helped correct the problem, is there a way to restore these folks?

It’s important to remember that whatever rule we use in judging others will come to bear on us-that’s not just biblical, it’s practical. However, I’d appreciate your insight into which, if any, of these folks can be restored; and in which way.



Lurking to learn the answer. But aware of the possibility I am guilty of such. I’m kind of at a stage of mourning where I can’t pay attention to other people and the things they say as much or it affects me personally in an unhealthy way.

If you could actually correct a problem I think that in itself is very restorative. And by that I mean something different than a halfhearted correction that one might see from one of the examples you listed above in recent times. That is a ‘hey everyone, I lied for decades for personal gain sorry about that’ could be a good place to start.


Of those you mentioned, Hauser allegedly falsified data in his research, while Peterson simply misinterprets science, philosophy, theology, and – well – everything. Zacharias has exaggerated his credentials, but his work itself is not at issue.

Hauser was dishonest in his scientific work, so it was the scientific community’s job to confront, correct, and decide how to deal with his fraud, not the Christian community’s. (Find another line of work would be my advice, but I don’t get a vote.)

Peterson is just wrong, not dishonest.

Zacharias easily could admit and correct his previous exaggerations. (I have no idea if he has already done this or not.) Since probably 90% of the population is guilty of exaggerating on a resume, people would forgive him, but the stain on his personal reputation will follow him the rest of his career, just as allegations of sexual harassment have stained the reputations of prominent scientists without invalidating their work.


@Jay313, thank you! Good way to deal with each of these.

I think you’re right that Christian ideals of talking with someone one on one first, then bringing in others if they don’t change, don’t always work–mainly in areas of danger to someone. However, it’s probably a good idea to do that if there’s no imminent danger.

I did read somewhere that if you are confronting someone one-on-one, it’s a good idea to presume misunderstanding or innocence first–sometimes it is a misunderstanding. Doing so also prevents excessive defensiveness and posturing.

I have read that Ravi Zacharias retracted his exaggeration of his studies. I think you’re right, that it’s a huge temptation for all of us to do this–often it’s subconscious).


This is a difficult question. Few of us have or ever will have the amount of influence that someone like Ravi Zacharias has, and a breach of trust can be a really hard thing to fix. It’s hard to know how to trust someone again if they’ve been blatantly dishonest in one area (especially for a long period of time), even if it doesn’t automatically mean their ideas are necessarily wrong.

Edit: it almost makes it harder in his case, because he’s still running his ministry and doing his thing – how can you “restore” someone who hasn’t officially “fallen” from anywhere in the first place?


And in the back of my mind, perhaps the more disturbing thing is that the Christian community has tolerated this sort of misrepresentation, and in fact encouraged it by making the cheap and meaningless degrees common and expected. It has pretty much made the integrity of the Christian establishment a farce, and in so doing has hurt the gospel. So, I suppose I am saying we share in this shame and sin.


Yeah, that’s a good point. Many famous Christian teachers also don’t seem to have much in the way of accountability, especially when they build and run their own ministries that are not under any denominational heading.

I remember assuming that Kent Hovind was “under attack” because people (outside the church) said he got his doctorate from a degree mill. Except it was actually true, but since I never heard it from inside the church, I assumed it was just those “evil” secularists at work and didn’t take it seriously.


I think that one unhealthy thing in the church is that we often use “appeal to authority” when arguing various theological points (Calvin said, Augustine said, Billy Graham said…) and that leads to blindly accepting questionable credentials when that authority suits our purpose. Of course, that fault is common outside the church as well, but we should be better.


Yes, that’s an easy fallacy to fall into, isn’t it. It’s interesting to see how we can all fall into error. It’s terrible to see shaken baby syndrome, with the infants affected becoming brain damaged or dying, but everyone is at risk (who hasn’t wondered if they really loved their infants when screeching all night?). Yet, the OB’s are very strict at counseling everyone against it before leaving the nursery (we got the lecture and video with my now 5 year old, though everyone knew who I was–and appreciated their concern and seriousness).

To put it in a different context: abuse occurs in families everywhere. With the prevalence of physical and sexual abuse, who doesn’t know, or at least suspect, a family who has had a “minor” occurrence that did not report it to the police because they didn’t want to bring a family member to justice? Yet, we know the consequences are terrible. In a faith family, one sometimes thinks of other members as brothers and sisters. It becomes harder yet to confront things like this. I wonder if starting early with counseling against this, as with families preventing shaken baby syndrome, could help avoid abuse and catch it early in the Church. Maybe that will happen more with the current climate. I don’t know.

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Thank you Randy for a very interesting and timely thread. Just reading and thinking for now but I have a personal story to share in this regard to show it happens in the secular world as well.

Some 25 years ago one of my wife’s younger sisters told her she suspected their father of inappropriate sexual behavior. This was during the peak of the recovered memories movement when it seemed commonplace to hear yet another public person announce their own experience with it. I was camping with my stepson in the southwest when she got the call so when I talked to her on the phone on the way back I was dumbstruck. Having no reason to doubt her sister we initially believed there must be something to it. But our immediate response was to make sure he was okay and would survive the confrontation.

But no particulars were ever forthcoming from her sister and soon that sister decided my wife was also complicit in whatever nefarious deeds had been done. At that point we knew something wasn’t right. Sadly both of my wife’s parents died with this blight on their hearts and to this day that sister will have nothing to do with either of us. It is appalling to see how her sister just throws people away. Even had it turned out that her father had been guilty of the behavior she came to ‘recover’ with her therapist, it wouldn’t have erased everything else that he was and what he meant to others.

So this subject is very interesting to me, Randy. Thanks for bringing it up.

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It’s common when people are just starting out. Speaking of resumes, there are the little white lies of exaggerated accomplishments, and then there are the whoppers of invented credentials. For almost every business and academic institution, the latter will get you fired. Christians should be at least as discerning, in my opinion.

I wouldn’t throw Calvin or Augustine under that blanket, but I’ve run into that problem far too often lately. When it comes to apologetics, evangelical Christians are especially gullible. Almost any claim will be believed as long as it’s couched in Culture War language and sprinkled with buzzwords like “liberal,” “secular,” “atheistic,” “inerrant,” etc.


That is a very good point. When people hurt, it is impossible to avoid the temptation to blame throwing and anger–and even those who think they are victimized can be blind, causing yet another needless injury.

All of this reminds me of a saying I just read: It takes great maturity to say “Sorry,” It takes even more to say, “I forgive you.”

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Oh, that was just hyperbole for effect, though both Calvin and Augustine said things that are questionable. I don’t think they padded their resume though, nor did Billy Graham, though some of his underlings did falsely refer to him as “Dr. Graham” as I remember.

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False memory recovery has caused a lot of pain and suffering. I hope your wife has come to peace with it, as it sounds as though her sister is truly mentally ill.


Thank you Phil, she has. Her parents never could of course. I imagine it would be like having ones child die before them, except knowing it was the wish of the child. Thanks to the False Memory Foundation they understood how such a thing could be brought about, but that didn’t erase the loss or sadness of course.

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Elle… I do appreciate how charitable everyone is being about this. I am familiar with only one of the names mentioned in this controversy. It is probably easy for anyone in a high position to eventually believe their press releases. It is also easy to want to overcome charges of “why should I believe YOU??? You only have XYZ degree” by noting the presence of a framed paper on your wall – never mind how you got it…The framed “degree” led credibility to remarks, and we do value certainty of expertise…


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