This week one of the last centuries’ greatest apologists–Ravi Zacharias–went to the God he so lovingly talked about and defended over the last few decades.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, an apologist is someone who defends something or someone against another’s disdain or criticisms. Christian apologists defend the Christian faith. The go-to passage for this practice is found in 1 Peter:
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14–16).
Christian apologetics goes back to the earliest days of the church when Paul defended Christianity before Rome. Soon after believers like Justin Martyr and Tertullian ably carried on the practice along with many others in the history of the Church.
In more recent days, God raised up Ravi Zacharias from the streets of India to be one of the most beloved and competent defenders of the faith. From local churches to major universities, his works have grounded believers and helped persuade atheists and pagans to forsake their idols and turn to the living God (1 Thess 1:9).
Ravi’s approach to defending the Christianity was centered around removing roadblocks to faith. He often focused on showing the coherence of the Christian worldview in the face of other competing isms. He was also Christ-focused in his works. A popular short series of books imagines Jesus speaking with many different thinkers and religious leaders. This was a way of making sure people understand that it was Christ which made Christianity unique among the world’s religions. Ravi was an evangelist in his apologetics; not merely a winner of debates.
What may be Ravi’s most lasting accomplishment is the establishing of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Despite his name being prominent, this ministry was less about him. He helped recruit and develop several other apologists to help equip the church to defend the faith across the globe.
My own experience with Ravi began in college after I heard him speak at a nearby church. Not surprisingly, I bought one of his books afterward. He’s been a constant presence in my faith journey and ministry to God’s people. Though I’ve never followed him closely or read all of his books I’ve never read something by him or heard him speak and not been helped by it. From his argument for God’s existence from the existence of beauty to his thought-provoking engagement with Oscar Wilde, my beliefs have been sharpened because of Ravi’s ministry.
If you want to begin reading some of this works, here are five I recommend:
Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows. This is Ravi’s autobiography. But it’s more than that too. It’s his explanation of how God brought him to faith through the same gospel that has saved millions more. Ravi is simply another in a long line of people brought of out of darkness into the joy of Christ’s light.
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message. Cutting across the current, twisted concept of “tolerance,” Ravi shows why believing all religions are the same is absurd. Moreover, there are good reasons to see Christ as superior to any other religious leader or system. This book is also available in a teen edition as well.
The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists. Former atheism has been around for the last few hundred years. But it’s been militant in the last few decades. Here, Ravi confronts and dismantles the critiques of these new atheists. Reading this book, you’ll be left with compelling reasons to believe in God’s existence, the reliability of Scripture, and the goodness of God and his people in the world.
The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind. This is a sort of “apologetics devotional.” Here, Ravi walks you through fifty-two reasons why faith in God through Christ is reasonable, essential, and joyful for life. This is a great introduction to the area of apologetics. It will feed your mind and your soul.
The Merchant and the Thief: A Folktale from India. This is Ravi for kids. Here we find an old tale told afresh with a gospel twist. This book has captivated my kids and it will likely have the same effect on yours.
Even if we never stand before great crowds, speak in universities, or write great books, Peter’s words ring true–we should be able to offer an answer to those who ask about the hope we have in Christ. Ravi’s ministry may help equip you to do that well.
This article was cross-posted at the Providence Bible Fellowship blog.