Ravi Zacharias - Apologetics
James: Thank all of you! That is for our guest Ravi Zacharias. You'll meet him in just a moment. I'm James Robison: my wife Betty and I welcome you to life today. We have many people we admire and appreciate. We appreciate you, every one of you who pray for what God has commissioned us to do as a ministry and who encourages, thank you! The missionaries think you are their best friend because you enable them to do what God called them to do. Ravi Zacharias is a gift from God, I believe to the church in this day, I think to the world, and I praise God for him. Would you give a great welcome to Ravi Zacharias? Good to see you, buddy! Ravi, I wish we had an hour but this is not Oprah. And it is not Dr. Phil. But in a brief period of time I would like you to share with our viewers what God has put on your heart.
Ravi: James and I were talking for those of you listening, and over the period of months we've talked quite a bit actually, he is a very dear friend. I've been terribly concerned over the last few years about the trajectory of culture, where it is headed, why it is headed this way, what kind of thinking undergirds this kind of decision making and so on. Of course, I've had four arenas in which I've done a lot of work, the academic, the political, the business, and the arts: and those are the four shaping institutes or institutions of the way we think and why we think the way we do. I'll be very honest with you. If I were to have my ideal choice right now, I've been on the road now for 40 something years and the ministry as we know it, R.Z.I.M. Has been in existence 30 years.
I would love just to use the proverbial phrase, "Hang up the skates" and just sit back at home in front of a desk and write. You could enjoy it: enjoy more time with my children and grandchildren now. I'm not just saying this because it sounds good, it is true. That's really what I would rather do. But watching what's happening globally over the last year and a half, I've given careful thought, how best can we train our young? How do we help typical families cope with the hard questions of our time? How do we give not merely intellectual answers but emotionally-felt answers that cross this greatest chasm between the head and the heart? Francis Schaeffer had l'abri going in the '60s and '70s and he and Everett Koop wrote the book, how shall we then live? They saw where we were headed: they talked about it. They saw this brave new world coming. We didn't take that philosophical bent too seriously and now here we are with sort of no absolutes, no moral soil on which to build our laws and so forth.
So I'm, with the help of my team, forming what we are talking i-act: the institute of apologetics and contemporary thought. I was being invited to build it in Indonesia. There was a businessman willing to fund the whole thing. But I said, "No, I really need to do it back home. I need to be with the family and America needs a place like this desperately for global communication". So it will kind of be a global center for Christian thought responding to the intellectual cultural-felt issues of our time. And we've already seen a property. We'll have scholars and residents: people like John Lennox, the well-known scientist: Nabeel Qureshi, a marvelous testimonial from an Islamic background and his faith in Christ. We'll have the finest exponence and thinkers at a popular level, James. That's important. We have the Oxford Centre for Christian apologetics that deals with things at an academic and intellectual level because we have to meet the rigors of Oxford university's demands.
But here at a popular level, pastors, youth pastors, dads, moms, junior highs, senior highs, college students who know how to engage with the issues of our time. We have already spotted a property: it's a beautiful 70 acre lot in Atlanta. We've put in an intent to buy. At my stage, I'd rather not have that burden on my shoulders but I feel if there is a legacy this ministry is going to leave, it is i-act that we hope that by next year will be up and running. The closing of the deal, we hope, will be the end of this year. But there is a lot of cash involved in this to buy this because I would not put the ministry in debt. So those of you who are listening, please pray with us, think this through with us. And James invited me here, so graciously, to talk about it. If this goes as it is planned, James, we will have some of the more sophisticated thinkers at a popular level equipping this generation and our families to deal with the four questions of life: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.
I carry in my blackberry, many letters. One of them is from a 14-year-old bahrainian, and he was talking to me after being at a meeting. He wrote three or four profound paragraphs. I read it to some pastors just shortly before the taping of this program. You'd be spellbound listening to him. He'd read everything we had written on different subjects from can man live without God to deliver us from evil. He could name every sermon ever delivered by our team. He said, "These messages have changed my life". He said, "I've been following you from the time I was five years old and now I'm 14," he said. He has just moved from Bahrain to Toronto where he will be going to university. There are scores of young men and women like that who want to track, who want to engage, and we have just neglected that hunger.
So i-act, God willing, will be launched in January of 2016 as a center for global base for Christian apologetics at a popular level to reach people at all ages to engage people in the public square and in the workplace, and to be able to make a meaningful defense of the Christian faith and do so with love and gentleness and respect. One Peter 3:15-16: always set apart in your heart Christ as Lord and be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you: and to do that with gentleness and respect. That's what is going to be done at i-act in Atlanta, Georgia.
James: Do you appreciate a vision to do what he just referenced? I want you to go to the web site, Ravi Zacharias international ministry, R.Z.I.M. And you'll see there on the web site a place where you can learn about this center. Ravi, you know that we at life outreach, you know how much we feel, really a common call and a commitment to be yoked together for the Lord for his glory with what you're called to do. And we want our viewers to go there. We want you to find a can we help. It would be someplace you would want to send a family member, a young person to learn. And if we really know the truth, don't just try to defend truth we don't know, and experience and live, if we know it, it has that transforming affect, otherwise it's just words, it's just hooey in the wind, it means nothing. Tell us, tell the viewers because some may not understand what you mean by apologetics. Give us a simple definition.
Ravi: I'll do that and also, just to reinforce this building, by the way, has already got 35 fully equipped hotel rooms. It's got a state of the art kitchen. It's got all of this ready there with the Cyber capacity to touch the globe. So the physical structures are there for what we want. Apologetics comes from the Greek word transliterated into English apologia: always be prepared to give an apologia, a reason for the hope that is within you. When Peter saw the confusion at Pentecost, remember he said, let me explain. This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel. He's bringing evidence to bear and giving an explanation. Apologetics has two prongs to it. It is not merely giving an answer to questions but it is making truth claims clear.
That's a very critical point. We have to understand with clarity not only why we believe what we believe but what it is we actually believe. When Paul says to Timothy guard your doctrine and your conduct: what we believe is important, that informs how we live. So apologetics is that discipline. I want to say to you, it is not a military term. It is not to destroy the opponent. It is not like a warfare where you want to vanquish the opposition: you have to win the opposition. My mother who came from the southern part of India had a proverb for every occasion. She used to tell me, "Whenever you cut off a person's nose, there's no point in giving them a rose to smell".
So apologetics cannot cut off a person's nose. We are representing the sweet aroma of Christ. And that's what our team is doing there. R.Z.I.M. Is now based in about a dozen countries with about 45 full-time apologists. What a fine group of men and women we have, and facing the challenges of the time. It is not just the message, it is the method. I'll give you one quick illustration of this. When we were at Johns Hopkins a couple of years ago, they said it was the largest gathering in an audience for a religious occasion in their recent known history. They had to open up several different rooms, James. It was just an overflow crowd. If I remember right, I'm not sure it was over 1,000 or what in the room but it was an overflow crowd and then five extra rooms.
One young gal who was 18 came up to the front and she said, "I have arrived here this weekend because I'm checking this university out. I'm not a student here. I didn't believe any of this stuff that you and your colleague were talking about today". She said, "But today, after listening to not just what was said but the way it was said, I'm impressed. I want to know more". I had the privilege of leading her to Christ at the front of the auditorium just because of the methodology espoused. You cannot just have theological integrity in what you say, you have to have a methodological correctness. So whether Saul or whether Paul is speaking to Felix, or whoever he is, he is dealing with them at their level within their context. If you will ask the right questions, you open them up within their own assumptions and then you can determine the entry point of the discussion and give the right answers: so that's what apologetics does.
James: You talked today, when you talk to the pastors, about people who were happy pagans, passionate pagans. They are happy where they are, yet they are drunk on whatever it is they can get and filled with trying to fill the vacuum inside because they're so empty but we don't seem to know how to approach them.
Ravi: Well, this was what actually drove me to this calling. I was a professor at the time in the mid 1980s teaching in Nyack, New York with a young family, quite well settled. I was chairing the department there, dealing with contemporary issues and had the privilege of speaking for Billy Graham at Amsterdam '83. It was a wonderful privilege for me: that was the first time I met Dr. Billy Graham and the whole team. It was quite an emotional moment for me to meet this great evangelist and be on the platform with him. But when I saw this gathering of 4,000 of the world's leading evangelists and saw there was a gap and I talked to Dr. Graham about this and talked to Leighton Ford at length about it, and to cliff barrows.
Most of our evangelism was being done to the unhappy pagan: the one whose life was falling apart. And that's fine because they know that Jesus says, when you know you're sick, it's a blessing to you because you can find a physician. But the happy pagan is actually more lost. At least the unhappy pagan knows something is missing. But the happy pagan, the so-called term that I gave to somebody who tranquilized their meaninglessness with substitutions or pleasure, fame, wealth, and then you get somebody so successful like a Lee Iacocca, the automotive magnet who gave an interview to good housekeeping and said this, "Here I am in the twilight years of my life still wondering what it's all about". He said, "Fame and fortune is for the birds, I know that for sure. And I'm wondering what is it is all about".
Jack Higgins who wrote, the eagle has landed: when he was being interviewed, he was asked what is it he knew then that he wished he'd known as a younger man? He said, "I wish somebody would have told me when I was younger what I know now, that when you get to the top, there is nothing there. The loneliest people on this planet are those who have all that the world pursues and they come away empty. Now if that which they had accomplished and gained were all turned over into the hands of Jesus Christ and expressed in pure worship, think of how meaningful that life could be in the alLeviating of suffering for so much of humanity, and the education needs that we see. I see needs all over the place: you see them, you and Betty help meet them and your ministry does. But I just think this calling that I saw then to the happy pagan was a daunting one, James and Betty, and I'll tell you why.
I'm a private person. I don't even like being recognized. I'm very happy to be at home with my family. If anybody asked me, what do you love to do most? I'll tell you in one simple line: take my wife out for dinner. When I know the next day I will be home and will be able to take her out for dinner, that is a fulfilling thing to me as an itinerant. So to stand before hostile audiences is not something that I'm comfortable with but I knew unless we get there, we were not going to make a difference.
And now to see sophisticated thinkers, faculty members, professors, people in the acting world and the business world who will write to us letters and say, "Can I talk to you for about 15 minutes"? Or the most famous actors in the Philippines: I have somebody in your audience, who is a close friend of mine, who now knows that man, walked forward after a meeting in Manilla. I'd spoken on meaning and this handsome tall guy puts his arms out like this and he says, "I don't know what you're talking about meaning. I'm full of pain, shame, and guilt. My life is empty. What do you have to say to help me"? I said, "You're talking about that? You look like a man made for the movies".
Little did I know he was an actor. He'd made a wreck of his life. And if he were here he would probably say if anybody here is from the Philippines, I'm talking about a man named Hayden Kho, well-known. When you see what he did to his life and messed up his life, we chatted that night. He said, "Can I travel with you wherever you go? I'll pay my way for the next three to four months". I introduced him to the gentleman who is in your audience here today and we saw him make his commitment to Jesus Christ. Right as I'm talking to you he is in Oxford where I head within a few hours and see him tomorrow taking our course in apologetics. The changed life that we see again and again is a reinforcement.
James: Don't you want to see this? Don't you want to see this passion? Betty, you heard Ravi speak at Gateway, our church. You sat with me on the front row and she wept. Why did you weep?
Betty: As a homemaker, I can't go out and I can't, now at this time in my life, get the knowledge that you have through your training and your studying and everything. But I do, as a Christian, feel the responsibility. My mom, when I was little and I wanted to do something and she said, "No, you can't do that". I would say, "Why"? "Because I said so". Well, that's not good enough anymore. We need to, as Christians, and through God's word, and through our time spent with him, ask God for wisdom and understanding. And with his love, we can make a difference, each one of us. We won't have the opportunity that Ravi has, or maybe James and I have, but you can too. You make a difference with your individual lives and knowing that God has a purpose for you. So we need to really ask God, this time in our life, when things are such chaos, God give me wisdom, give me understanding. And God direct me and lead me, and give me the love that only you can give that makes the difference in their lives because they are looking for understanding. They looking for truth but they want proof of that truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ.