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Ravi Zacharias has “Good News For Happy Unbelievers”

06 Jun

[An interview from the magazine Christianity Today {date unknown} with Ravi Zacharias, who came to Christ in India during a crisis and is now an evangelist and apologist for Christianity on campuses nationwide]

CT: Are people who don’t believe in Christ as happy as they seem?

RZ: The happy pagan is wrapped up in the belief that this world and the success it affords are the greatest pursuits in life. He or she feels no need for anything transcendent. Life has been reduced to temporal pursuits disconnected from all the other disciplines necessary for life to be meaningfully engaged.

Many of these people are sophisticated thinkers in their fields—scientists, mathematicians, computer engineers. They are specialists with a glaring weakness. They do not ask the questions of life itself.

CT: What questions do they ask?

RZ: At the universities I visit, the exclusivity of Christ is challenged in every open forum—“How can you possibly talk about one God or one way when there are so many good options?”

Today, sensitivities are at an all-time high—and rightfully so. Tolerance of different races and religions have been lacking over the years, but pluralism has given way to relativism. Most of the intellectual elite of this country completely disavow the idea of absolute truth.

CT: What are the temptations you face as you speak to pagans among us?

RZ: One is to become angry. It can be frustrating to see how society has taken the sacred out of everything. Jesus resisted the temptation of outrage and the quick fix of condemnation. He spent most of his time preparing wineskins before pouring new wine into them. Our tendency is to start pouring the wine into skins that will only burst.

CT: How can the church critique alternative beliefs to Christianity so that people will listen?

RZ: If you can make any religion look idiotic, chances are you haven’t understood that religion. You can’t take treasured beliefs from the past and mock them.

The old Indian proverb holds true. Once you’ve cut off a person’s nose, there’s no point in giving him a rose to smell. We tend to think that being kind and listening to the opposition implies that we have sacrificed the message. We need to learn how to handle critique and how to address an antagonist. Even as you wrestle with the ideas of an opponent, you must keep the dignity of the opponent intact.

CT: Why is Christianity increasingly relegated to the margins of our society?

RZ: The attacks have come principally on two fronts. First, the academic world has made great gains in its philosophic and scientific exploits. It infers that those advances give credence to an agnostic or an atheistic worldview.

By contrast, the questions of today’s average young person, who is the product of America’s intellectual bastions, have been virtually unaddressed by the church. There is a danger when we give young people only a catalog of dos and don’ts. In these young minds, the gospel is not intellectually credible.

Second, while our country’s intellectual skeptics attack us rationally, the arts attack us by appealing to the passions. Today there is no greater force in the molding of the North American mind than the invasion of the imagination by the visual media.

CT: How does the church reach someone whose very framework or grid disallows any common ground?

RZ: Though the task is difficult, the opportunities are unprecedented, such as being present in the passages of life. The church still meets people at the transition points. Marriages break down. Children commit suicide and leave helpless parents. Death and suffering are everywhere.

In India, there is a saying that you can touch your nose directly or you can touch your nose the long way around. You need to go the long way around to reach some people. From there, the intellectual questions can be addressed. The church should provide a setting in which people can express their questions. In churches, we live with the danger of one-way verbal traffic.

CT: Is the gospel gaining a hearing among our thinking elite?

RZ: Yes, we see this in all arenas—political, business, academic, and the arts. We do our universities a disservice when we brand them as a lost cause. There are some frightfully honest students out there, and when their questions are respectfully dealt with, many admit their vulnerability.

Even though the search for meaning is debunked today, the cries of the human heart can be smothered for only so long. In these yearnings, the search for significance and fulfillment continues.

About Ravi Zacharias: For over thirty-five years, Ravi Zacharias has spoken all over the world in great halls and universities, notably Harvard, Princeton, and numerous universities internationally. He is listed as a Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford university. He has appeared on CNN and other international broadcasts. The author of several books for adults and children, he powerfully mixes biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. His most recent works include Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality, Has Christianity Failed You?, Walking from East to West, a memoir; The Grand Weaver, an exploration of God’s intention in both the ordinary and the startling elements of life; and The End of Reason, a rebuttal of the claims of the so-called New Atheists. His weekly radio program, Let My People Think, is broadcast on 1,692 stations worldwide, and his weekday program, Just Thinking, is on 412. He is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices in Canada, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children and reside in Atlanta.

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