Ravi Zacharias - Christianity In The Culture
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James: Ravi, just tell our viewers, just very briefly the name of the center so if they go to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, R.Z.I.M. Online, they can go and learn even more about it and be involved. Tell us the name of it.
Ravi: Our web site is www.rzim.org. If you log on and move to the section that is called the center, i-act, the institute of apologetics and contemporary thought, and it forms a nice acronym because we want to act upon the issues of our time. So that's what we hope the procurement of the building in early 2016, and then the building of the program: and some time shortly thereafter, to hopefully be built full and running with the resident faculty and various programs that we can offer. Also, online programs. Universities are already talking to us about coming alongside and loaning their faculty. Imagine having a place where if you're sophisticated in philosophy, you want to come and listen to an Alvin Plantinga talk on something, or a John Lennox. We would invite people like that. But then we have to do it at a popular level, James and Betty.
You were talking earlier on about levels of engagement, and most importantly, what you've done as a mother. You've prepared many pointed arrows that guys like us could not do: so you do a marvelous job in that. If we can bring people in from junior high and up, prepare them at a popular level of understanding seriously the issues and a meaningful response, basically it's engaging people in conversation so that the light of Jesus Christ may be presented to them. I do not know of any other message out there outside of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has the answers to what we are searching for: the whole transformation of the heart that is needed, the graciousness in our attitude that is needed, how to deal with sensitive issues with effectiveness, and then to have reliance on the transforming power of Jesus Christ. All this is in the Gospel story and we hope i-act will be a place where people can come for weekends, for a week, for a whole summer and do a year's study there. We will have individualized programs to help prepare people to be effective in what we need to do.
James: What I see you doing is multiplying the beautiful gift God's given you. Ravi, I believe the gift God's given you will be multiplied. I believe this divine enabling God's placed on you and this zeal for God and his wisdom, not just our knowledge or our brilliance but the wisdom of God, I believe it will just spread and we so desperately need it. You've written this book on suffering and we're living in a day now when there is tremendous pressure being exerted on Christians. Whoever thought that we would watch Christians lined up and beheaded? And the fact be known, if you actually watched some of them and saw their countenance as they lost their head, there was a peace that passed understanding in their very countenance. I find us wondering, do we have that kind of commitment to Christ? There is a tremendous amount of pressure, there's a lot of pain, there is a lot of loss, there is a lot of things that once seemed stable or been shaken and people are beginning to hurt and they're confused. I've got to ask you a question before we even touch suffering. Is this pressure a time for Christians to just say, "Well, what will be will be. It is the end time. We knew it was going to get worse. We might as well settle for it and hope Jesus gets us out of here". Is that a proper attitude for those who have been redeemed by the Lord to have to just settle in for what comes and sit back and let it happen?
Ravi: As you were talking, James, I was thinking of an experience I had just a few years ago, maybe 4-5 years ago maximum. I was in Damascus, Syria and every time I arrived in Damascus to speak, and I've done this several times, the next day always had to show up at the chief of intelligence office: they would send a summons for me to come there. They would be dressed up in their military garb and the generals and all would be sitting there. I'm on the other side of the table, plates full of baklava and all of that, which I dare not touch because I didn't know what the questions were going to be. But they looked at me and would be very gracious. And the chief of intelligence said to me, "You are very welcome in our country". He said, "In fact, Zacharias, we need you here". He said, "But don't get involved in the politics of the region: just don't meddle with that". I said to him, "I've never done that, sir. You know it and I appreciate your welcome".
I said, "May I ask you a question? What do you think of all that is happening in the Middle East and so on? What are your thoughts on it"? He said, "You want to know my answer"? I said, "Yes, sir". He said, "I give this part of the world no more than five years and the whole place is going to blow up". I said that on a radio program after I came back and I had no clue what he was talking about. I said, "Five years"? He said, "Yes. If nothing changes the whole place is going to blow up". And you know when ISIS and all took over, he was one of the first to have his office ransacked and he was assassinated in his office, and the news carried the story of the chief of intelligence being killed. It always stays in my mind what he would say to me, "We need you here". Why did he say that? Many leaders in these Islamic countries, I can quote one more from Abu Dhabi Sheikh Nahyan, who has hosted me for lectureship at Shaikh Zayed University, one of the most sophisticated universities in our world. He keeps telling me, "We need you here. Please come"!
They opened the doors because they know the witness of the Christian and the example of the Christian is needed in that rather tumultuous terrain out there. And no, it is not a time for us to retreat. When Augustine was dying in Carthage, when he was dying and the barbarians were scaling the walls, think of the two books that he's best known for, his confessions and the city of God: that the ultimate city was a city whose builder and maker is God. While he was sick and dying there were people kneeling by his bedside for prayer. And the three churches he planted were not destroyed by the barbarians, one in hippo and one in Carthage, and so on. That impact of Augustine has lingered now for centuries, for 16 centuries it's remained and the impact of the Gospel.
It is not a time for us to retreat. In fact, it is a time for us to engage even more. But to do that undergirded by the love of Jesus Christ, and the confidence and the conviction that he really places in your heart and mine. More of those who are apparently hostile toward us are willing to listen today than at any time I remember. I will be in Egypt the first week of December. They are already telling us to expect overflow crowds in every auditorium that they will get. The average young person in some of these places fed up with what they're seeing, the politicization of religion and all the havoc that's being wreaked. Think of the beauty of the message of grace and forgiveness. You will not find that anywhere else. This is the time to engage and to give courage to our young people.
I see some of them backpacking in China and other places and making a difference. Who would have thought in the mid 1960s when Mao Zedong was burning the libraries in Nanjing and everywhere else? So the name of Christ will be forgotten here. The Christian church is destroyed here. The fastest growing church in the world today is in China. So we must take hold of the time and not lose heart. Yes, my heart goes out to the Christians in Syria and all who paid with their lives but so it is when our turn comes, we should be willing to live for the Gospel not just to die for it. And if God calls upon us to lay down our lives we'll do it.
James: I don't think anyone would be willing to die for something they're not willing to live for. I think, Ravi, one of the things I sense you doing when you're talking about suffering, making sense of the pain that comes. Betty and I learned, or are in the process of learning a very deep lesson. I preached a lot on the freedom that Christ came to set captives free but it had never hit me as hard as that first phrase, that he came to bind up the brokenhearted until we lost our daughter to cancer, and she died a precious young mother. That broken heart needed binding. It was a suffering. The non-Christian will oftentimes throw at you pain and suffering as the reason not to believe in God. You sat here sometime ago surrounded by students from the seminaries and all the different areas here and you made a statement, "Isn't it interesting to notice that the people who worship mother nature, when a catastrophic event occurs they always blame Father God". And that really resonated. The suffering seems to be what the let's say self-thought intellectual throws on God that there couldn't be a God or these things wouldn't happen: and suffering seems to be part of it.
Ravi: My heart goes out to both of you and I could imagine that it's a wound that never completely goes away. God touches the wound, cradles you, and to have people like you go through that and be a witness says a lot more than that book could ever say, James and Betty. So thank you for being examples to all of us in that time of great loss. You were very kind in talking about my own personal life earlier on but I'm just one of many speakers on this team, James. There is about 43 or 44 others: I'm just one of them. God laid this on my heart 30 years ago to form this ministry. But when I look at the younger apologists that are on this team, people like Michael Ramsden, Nabeel Qureshi, Vince Vitale, tom price, Christian Hofreiter, Amy Orr-Ewing, Margaret Manning in Seattle and so on, we've got Jill Carattini in our office in Atlanta who writes every day and just inspires people all over the globe with her writing and just thinking.
I see that as a reason for hope. This is co-authored with one of our younger apologists, Vince Vitale. He's a tutor at Oxford University, graduate of Princeton and has masters, got his doctorate at Oxford, and his doctoral dissertation was on the issue of pain and suffering. When faith words asked us if we would together collaborate on this book, I agreed to do it because I knew I was writing with a young man who had broken some new ground on thinking this issue through. But going back to your initial question, people often think of it as an intellectual question but I'm sure when you folks went through what you did, it is the heart that's being broken at that point. Yes, the "Why" comes but the "How to from here onwards" becomes so important. When we ask it intellectually, C.S. Lewis used to say, "Nothing is so self defeating as a question that has not been fully thought through until it has been fully posed". What did he mean by that? When you fully pose a question you have to disclose your assumptions.
So, if a person says there is too much evil in this world they assume there is good. If you assume there's good, you assume a moral absolute by which to differentiate between good and evil, a moral law. If you assume a moral law, you must assume a moral law giver but that's whom they are trying to disprove and not prove because if there is no moral law giver there is no moral law. If there is no moral law there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. The question self-destructs.
Now somebody might say to me, "Why do we need a moral law giver"? We need a moral law giver, listen to me carefully please, because any time a problem or a question on evil or suffering is raised, it is either raised by a person or about a person: right? Which means the question assumes intrinsic value for personhood and materialism does not have that luxury. Naturalism, materialism, if you have the random product of time plus matter plus chance we have no intrinsic worth. It's only extrinsic worth conveyed by somebody else. But the question assumes intrinsic worth, which means we are the offspring or the creation of a person who has intrinsic worth and that ultimate worth is in God himself. So you have to evaluate the questions assumptions. Then you move toward the heart and give answers and that's what we actually try to deal with in there.