Ravi Zacharias - Religious Freedom
James: I'm James Robison: my wife Betty and I welcome you to this special time. Ravi Zacharias is our guest. Would you welcome Ravi? We're glad you're here, Ravi. You've been a guest on life today. This is kind of the television program that other people pay for. Isn't it nice when you don't have to bear the load? And we do it with joy because we want to share what you say. We have launched the stream. You were kind enough when we launched it to say you believed it was the Roman Road for our day. What did you mean by that?
Ravi: You were talking to me so often, long before it was launched, James, which I appreciated, and pulling together some of the best minds in what you could put in front of the world through all that the Cyber World allows and facilitates today, and with all the nonsense that people can have access to, to combine truth with that elegance of sublime thought and bring them together in that confluence called "The stream". It amazed me because whenever you read any book on evangelism, as we were talking, if you're reading writers from the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, whenever, they would always tell you two of the great points of leverage for the early disciples was in the Roman road and the Greek language. It was a language and the road that took the Gospel to wherever they went.
If I look at one place today that combines the language and the road, it is really this thing that we do over the web. For you to pull that together and pull the best of the minds together as you and I talked, I said, "This is the Roman road of today, James and this is the Greek language of today". People are consuming information through that means and they are responding to information in that way. I'm a hardcover book type of guy. I still read profusely. But today's readers are on a screen and they can multitask doing this in so many different ways. To get that kind of material the way you're doing it, I commend you for it. I hope the best days are ahead: and that the Roman road will just get wider and wider 'til all the world can be touched. You know one or two words you can Google and pull up articles, and I think with the kind of material you're pulling together I pray you'll have a huge impact with that actually, James.
James: Thank you, Ravi. Our stream editors have asked me to ask you some questions and I'm going to read it the way they ask because I know people want to know: a lot of Christians are saying that America is becoming so hostile to Christianity, that Christians should retreat into Christian communities and simply model good Christian living rather than trying to fight and dominate public life. Are those the only options? Retreat into bunkers or try to dominate the culture? Is there another better way?
Ravi: Well, if you retreat you can't model. You can't go into hiding and say, "I'm modeling". You're only modeling to yourself. So it tells you exactly the opposite, not to hide your light under a bushel. But to let your light so shine before men that they could see our good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Now I understand why this sense of fear and this sense of cynicism comes because you see the battle sort of swinging in one particular direction. If I were to stay at home and read just the news, I would come to the same conclusion, James and Betty. But I'll tell you what. After four decades of crisscrossing this globe I see people in audiences, I don't know of any university campus that we've been in to in recent times, maybe it was one exception, I remember Uppsala, in Sweden, it was about 70% full or something. In every place it is over 100% — they have to open extra rooms.
Now these are in the cerebral bastions. And then when you're told, when I go to India and speak to the Bollywood crowd, they just fill up the ballrooms or whatever I'm speaking to them on. One of my colleagues is in your audience. We were together recently in Mumbai, in Delhi, and in Chennai, every place was packed and there were people in the audience who even 10-15 years ago I would have said were not going to be there. Now this is a global change. I realize full well that the question is more focusing in the United States and maybe Canada and North America. Every university campus, whether we were at Harvard or Princeton or Cornell or Johns Hopkins or Yale or Penn State, I can tell you they're all full. These kids are wanting to listen to answers: they're looking for meaning.
One student at Cornell said to me, "Every waking moment I'm thinking as a naturalist. And now today, these two talks you've given yesterday and today are moving me into the supernatural realm". She was on the platform and the tears running down her face. "How do I make this shift"? Professional athletes, ball players. One year I was speaking to the Atlanta braves, they were playing against the Saint Louis cards once and I was doing their chapel. One of the players from one of the teams stayed back after I'd finished and they were about to go for practice. He literally put his head on my shoulder and wept. He said, "I wish I'd heard this talk years ago before I lost everything of value that I've lost even though I earn more money than I ever did".
There are people there who are hungry and yearning. Don't just go with the public mood that the media often portrays. In every audience there is somebody who is hoping you're right and willing to listen to you. Yes, the wheat and the tares are growing at the same time. I think probably the greatest onslaught comes from faculty members sometimes in the academy but there are also fine Christian scholars in there that tell you they're seeing a response in private to what they do.
So I would just say yes, the day seems dark, it may seem grim, but I think of what king George Vi said in 1939, "I said to the man at the gate of the year, give me a light that I may walk safely into the unknown". He said to me, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God and it shall be to you better than the light and safer than the known". God is leading us in accomplishing things. And while the days may seem dark, this is not the last chapter and there is a lot more yet to happen and we know what the last chapter actually says.
James: Didn't the New Testament Christians and didn't the apostle Paul face as serious a challenge, and as let's say as committed an enemy to truth as we face?
Ravi: You think of what Paul was up against. He was a product of three cultures: Greece, Rome, and being the product of the Hebrew culture. All of them were hostile toward his conversion. Even the disciples didn't know what to do with him so they put him in a basket and lowered him over the wall. They didn't realize they were putting a man in the basket who was going to write 1/3 of the New Testament. And he changed history! Saul of Tarsus to Paul changed history. Just when it seems darkest, God has a way of turning things around and that is the surest way for us to know that he is sovereign and revival is his working. So don't retreat! Maybe think through carefully how you engage but you must engage. Somebody you will meet is looking for answers and one person can make a difference.
James: God does the impossible with any yielded vessel. You were on a bed of suicide as a teenager, and basically a total unbeliever, and here I am, product of a rape, a forced sexual relationship where the doctor wouldn't abort me. You and I fell in love with Jesus. Our lives were changed. We've been able to impact lives. We're examples of what Christ in a person can do. As surely as Christ clothed himself with Saul, Paul's humanity, and expressed the life of Christ through that humanity, he can do the same thing through any of us today. And we're just two examples and out here are millions of people who can do the very same thing.
Ravi: I think that goes back to the point you were talking earlier on about suffering and pain. When you read 1 Corinthians 13, what does he say? Now abide faith, hope, and love: and the greatest of these is love. The 3 excellencies of life: faith, hope, and love. None of them is attainable without suffering and without pain. And if that is true individually I think it is also true nationally. So when God takes us through these valleys and then emerge once again faith, hope, and love, you see that God (this is important now) God triumphs not in spite of the darkness, tree of evil, the suffering, God conquers through it, not in spite of, but through it. So even if the days are grim God's conquering comes through that and we see once again the supreme light which he wants us to follow.
James: Here's a question that our editors have wanted you to answer and I think it is very pertinent. I know you're in the process of really putting together quite a lengthy explanation, an understanding of how we should consider this. But what are your thoughts about the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court claiming that there is a right to so-called same sex marriage in the constitution. Your response?
Ravi: Yes, you're absolutely right. I'm pondering this very, very carefully, James and Betty. Very few questions have I taken so long to think through. My blackberry is busy on every flight as I'm penning thoughts and ideas that I want to pull together because this is such a sensitive issue and so volatile an issue. The body in the Christian worldview is the temple of the living God. It is indisputable. C.S. Lewis said, "You do not have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body. You are a soul, you have a body". So our base of definitions comes from that logical and chronological connection that we are essentially souls, we have a body. We all have temptations, proclivities, dispositions: even the purest person living here will say, "I battle temptation". What are the temptations? Lust, greed, and pride — the Bible says "All that is in the flesh".
And so we start off from two different vantage points. The foundational starting point is different from a secularist view to a Christian theistic framework. But there are many, even in that worldview of thought that I know, James, who will tell you how they've lived in struggle and want to honor God and therefore, lead lives of resistance to that temptation. I know them. In a matter of hours I'll be with one of them sitting across the table. So to make my answer brief at this point and more at length later, yes, the chasm is wide. Where is the bridge? The bridge isn't two hungers and two searches: the search for identity and the search for intimacy.
We all look for identity and intimacy. How best do we communicate that my identity has to be as a child of the living God? That I'm his offspring and he has called me to the sacred, and to the holy, and to that which gives me my identity from which all my decisions come, that's the first thing. The second thing is where do I find my intimacy? I cannot find it in sexual consummation alone because that will only fulfill the body and the emotions to a degree. Deep in our longing is that soulish consummation, which we need. That's why in the Christian faith you have the indwelling presence of the living God. How we communicate this in a bridge that my identity is in him and my intimacy is with him and because of that all earthly attractions have to come under his purview and he provides the boundaries for me.
So we start off with big chasms, we have to find the bridge for these two, and my goal is how best to communicate to every person, whatever your proclivity is, that only in your identity in Christ and only in the consummate relationship with the living God with his Holy Spirit living in you can you not only know what it is right to do, let me stress that! We talk so much about rights. We have to first define what is right. If you don't define what is right and only talk about rights, then any other worldview with its rights can supersede the previous one. Where is it going to go next? Rights must be based on right. That comes in my identity with Jesus Christ and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. That identity and that intimacy is what we need to be preaching with love, and not with hostility. The power of God transforms hearts and the intents those hearts have.
James: Do you appreciate what Ravi shared? In about three minutes, Ravi, a lot of pressure on businesses: how they serve the people who ask for same sex service and so forth, to make them a cake, whatever. You almost, would a person have to make a bachelor party and put nudes all over the cake or make breasts: would they be forced to do that? Would they have a right to say NO as a baker to some kind of request like that even?
Ravi: Given right from the first amendment to me and an understanding of this nation's founding, even Jefferson and Washington particularly, made it very clear, that apart from religious belief he didn't know how we were going to find our moral basis. Today, philosophers will tell you that. You take over a person's right to conscience and right to religious belief then the country will ultimately be completely decimated. And so if the justice have ordered to make it 5-4 can be taken at his word, he at least went so far as to say our consciences ought not to be violated, and the freedom of our religion ought to be given free: he didn't use the word exercise which justice Roberts carefully pointed out. He said, "I hope in what they have said they're not taking away the exercise of your free religion".
This is one of those hinge moments in history. Time will tell but I hope and pray to God that every person who makes law. Here's the way I look at it, James. Law is what builds this nation. The trunk is the political structure. The branches are our culture: law, trunk, branches — the laws, politics, culture. What holds the roots? What is the root? If the root is law what holds the roots? The roots are not sustaining themselves. It has to be a moral soil. It has to be a moral soil. Therefore, when the framers say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that we are endowed by our Creator," there is the theistic framework. There is the moral self-disclosing, naturalistic framework and moral law itself.
So the moral law has to hold the roots. The roots hold the trunk, the trunk holds the branches. If you find that the branches are breaking it's because the soil is not holding on to the roots. We must be careful to remind people that that moral soil comes from a transcendent perspective. I am not self-reflective in my definitions of good and bad. It comes to me from the God who has created me, who has given me also the reminder to be gracious and loving in the way I propagate those boundaries. It was G.K. Chesterton who said, "Whenever you remove any fence always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place". And those fences are there for a purpose. So the moral soil is very critical.