Interview by: Gillian Fraser
Article source: JOY! Magazine
As the world struggles with the news that Ravi Zacharias has gone home to be with Jesus, Christians around the world are mourning the loss of this wonderful man of God. In 2018 I had the privilege to meet Ravi and I was so inspired by his heart for God. The following is the exclusive interview that was featured in JOY! Magazine:
Apologetics is a field of ministry that defends Christian doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. One such leader in this field is Ravi Zacharias, an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist and defender of traditional evangelicalism.
In 2018, Ravi toured South Africa for the Festival of Thought where he was joined by John Lennox, Michael Ramsden, and several other members of RZIM’s global speaking team. In collaboration with influential business, academic, and ministry leaders in the region, the RZIM team participated in 112 events in corporate boardrooms, on university campuses, and at churches across Johannesburg, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, and Cape Town.
Through lively business breakfasts, lunchtime talks, and campus open forums, each gathering addressed a significant topic such as the basis of ethics and integrity, the quest for justice, the role of women in building a nation, and whether science and faith are compatible.
A pure heart
I was honoured to get an opportunity to meet Ravi and learn more about his heart for the Lord when he was in Cape Town. So often when popularity and fame is involved, humans tend to elevate themselves or give off some sense of hubris, but meeting Ravi was an encounter that really stood out for me. He is one of the most humble and graceful men that I have ever met, and he shared many precious memories with me.
He has a genuine heart for the Lord and a faith that is unbelievably encouraging. He is gentle, wise, and embodies the fruit of the spirit better than any man I have ever encountered. Trying to capture his heart in the interview below does not do justice to the love that flows from him.
You have a phenomenal testimony of how you came to faith, please share this with our readers:
I was raised in a Hindu family in India. I came to know the Lord at the age of 17 on a hospital bed after I attempted to commit suicide. A Bible was brought to me and the Lord touched my heart, never to look back. I have told the full story in my book, Walking from East to West.
You recently travelled to our beautiful country – what were some of the highlights for you?
I have always loved visiting South Africa. Its people are so friendly and I enjoy their sights and the food. The highlights were many. Most important were the memories it brought back of being there years ago when I visited Cape Point and also did a safari. Amazing sights. Fantastic time.
Your ministry focusses on Christian Apologetics – what birthed your passion for this?
Knowing my own struggle as I was raised in a country of many religions, it was not enough to say, “Jesus is the answer.” First of all, there were many questions and secondly, there was a plurality of answers. So the question remained, “Why Jesus?”
I am more certain than ever the Gospel is the only coherent answer to the deepest questions of the soul. But everyone comes from a different context, so courtesy demands a careful listening and a contextual answer.
Apologetics makes truth claims clear and gives specific answers to specific questions. I sensed God’s deep calling in my heart to do this and to build a team to cover the globe.
“A wounded culture best understands the wounded Saviour.”
You travel around the world meeting with atheists who are always trying to prove the Bible wrong – What are some of the common questions that you get asked?
The questions fall into four categories: Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny. Some variation on these four broad backdrops. The most important is the problem of evil or suffering. Then there is the tension between faith and science. What about the Bible? Can it be trusted? Issues of comparative religions. The all-important struggle for meaning and the so called ‘hiddenness’ of God. Why isn’t God more evident?
In post-modern times, cultural challenges have emerged more than intellectual ones and the very notion of absolute truth is questioned. It’s also a great day of opportunity because emptiness is the hallmark of our times.
What would you say is the biggest reason that many of the youth are veering away from the Bible and from Jesus?
They sense that their questions are not addressed in most churches and the message appears to them to be irrelevant when placed beside the complexities of our information highway and the deafening voices that inundate their lives with mass media. Truth and relevance are the twin quests when answers are pursued.
As Christians, we have not done well in seeing the struggle of the millennials. The amazing thing is the many we see coming to the Lord as we travel. So there is hope.
You have a bounty of wisdom and knowledge when it comes to apologetics – where do you draw this insight from?
Oh my! I’m not at all sure I have a bounty of wisdom. I still keep learning through a winding path, often times through mistakes. But the basic grid I use is three fold – an argument, an illustration, and an application. It’s as simple as that. One has to meaningfully argue the answer with grace and courtesy. A story to back it up is highly important because the imagination is the handmaid of the intellect. But then the question of “so what” has to be addressed.
In other words, there are three levels – the intellectual, the existential, and the practical. Great authors, being raised in the East, and listening carefully have all inspired my apologetics. And then most importantly, watching the method of Jesus in the Gospels – He was a great story-teller in defence of the truth.
What advice would you give to someone who has sceptics in their family, who criticise and mock them for their faith?
We all know someone like that. Patience, prayer, and a good relationship are key. We should never feel the pressure to ram it down someone’s throat. People observe our lives more than we know. Know when to open your mouth and when not to.
To serious sceptics, giving them a good book in response to their questions is a wise way. They read in private and God opens a channel to their hearts.
When sceptics turn to Jesus, they become very powerful witnesses. Don’t give up. That’s the key. Honest inquirers will find answers. Dishonest ones fool themselves into a lie. Always pray for them. When a crisis comes into their lives, offer to pray with them. Some will agree, some won’t. God gets through in a crisis.
You have an office in South Africa – how can our readers get involved with your ministry and follow your updates?
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has over 70 full time apologists placed in 15 countries – and is ever growing. It’s a beautiful God-given team.
Our office in South Africa is led by Mahlatse Winston Mashua. They are based in Cape Town. Drop them a note and encourage them. You can follow RZIM updates on our website – www.rzim.org
“South Africa is beautiful!”
As the Lord lays it on your heart, please support us. We need your prayers and support as God enables each one. It’s been an honour to be with my South African friends. Thank you for all your hard work in the Festival of Thought. I look forward to returning someday. A wounded culture best understands the wounded Saviour. South Africa can lead the way through the wilderness of our earthly tensions and point to our Lord as the great healer and restorer.
Ravi Zacharias pictured in SA with Gillian Fraser at the Festival of Thought conference
Q: When is your birthday?
A: March 26, 1946
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes, married for 48 years
Q: Do you have any children?
A: Three children and five grandchildren
Q: What is your favourite hobby?
A: My favourite hobby is being home with the family. I have a wonderful wife, Margie.
Q: What is your full name?
A: Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias
Q: Where is your favourite place to travel to?
A: My favourite place to visit is the continent of Asia. I’m an Asian. (Singapore, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, and so on)
Q: Where are you currently based?
A: Home is Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Have lived there for 35 years. The rest of my family lives in Toronto, Canada.
Date published: 12/05/2020
Feature image: Ravi Zacharias in SA at the Festival of Thought conference
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