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Ravi Zacharias

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Ravi Zacharias
File:Ravi Zacharias.jpg
Zacharias in 2004
Born Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias
(1946-03-26)26 March 1946
Madras, Madras, India
Died 19 May 2020(2020-05-19) (aged 74) Atlanta, Georgia
Occupation Christian apologist, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Website rzim.org
Academic background
Alma mater Trinity International University
School or tradition Christian philosophy
Academic work
Era 21st-century philosophy
Main interests Philosophy of religion, Christian Apologetics, Worldview
Notable ideas Four Criteria for a Coherent Worldview

Ravi Zacharias (26 March 1946 – 19 May 2020[1]) was an Indian-born Canadian-American Christian apologist. A defender of the Christian Faith,[2][3] Zacharias was the author of numerous Christian books, including the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's Gold Medallion Book Award winner Can Man Live Without God? in the category "theology and doctrine"[4] and Christian bestsellers Light in the Shadow of Jihad[5] and The Grand Weaver.[6] Zacharias was the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and host of the radio programs Let My People Think and Just Thinking.[7]

Early life and education

Zacharias was born on March 26, 1946 in Madras, India. His family moved to Delhi when he was quite young and he grew up there.[8] His family was Anglican,[9] but he says that he was an atheist until the age of 17 when he tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. While he was in the hospital, a local Christian worker brought him a Bible and told his mother to read to him from John 14.[10] Zacharias says that it was John 14:19 that touched him as the defining paradigm: "Because I live, you also will live." He said that he thought, "This may be my only hope: A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of Life." and that he committed his life to Christ praying, "Jesus if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth."[11]

In 1966, Zacharias immigrated with his family to Canada, earning his undergraduate degree from the Ontario Bible College in 1972 (now Tyndale University) and his M.Div. from Trinity International University. In 1990, he did a two to three-month sabbatical at Ridley Hall, a Church of England theological school in Cambridge.

Career

Ministry

File:Ravi Zacharias at Christ Community Chapel.jpg
Ravi Zacharias talks to pastor Joe Coffey at Christ Community Chapel about answering objections to Christianity.

Zacharias spent the summer of 1971 in South Vietnam, where he evangelized US soldiers, as well as imprisoned Viet Cong members.[12] After graduating from Ontario Bible College, he began an itinerant ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada (C&MA).[13] In 1974 the C&MA sent him to Cambodia, where he preached only a short time before its fall to the Khmer Rouge.[14] In 1977, after graduating from Trinity, Zacharias was commissioned by the C&MA to preach worldwide.[15]

In 1983, Zacharias was invited to speak in Amsterdam at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's annual evangelists' conference. It was here that he first noticed a lack of ministry in the area of Christian apologetics.[16] After Amsterdam, Zacharias spent the summer evangelizing in India, where he continued to see the need for apologetics ministry, both to lead people to Christ and to train Christian leaders. In August 1984 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries was founded in Toronto, Canada to pursue his calling as a "classical evangelist in the arena of the intellectually resistant."[17] Today its headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia, and has offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Romania, Turkey, Austria, Spain, and South Africa.[18] He was later ordained by the Christian and Missionary Alliance and commissioned as an international evangelist.[17]

In 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Zacharias was invited to speak in Moscow.[clarification needed] While there he spoke to students at the Lenin Military Academy as well as political leaders at the Center for Geopolitical Strategy.[19] This was the first of many evangelism opportunities in the political sphere. Future events included an invitation to Bogota, Colombia in 1993,[clarification needed] where he spoke to members of the judiciary on the importance of having a solid moral foundation.[20]

In 1990 he wrote his first book, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism.[21] In 1993 Zacharias was invited[clarification needed] to speak at his first Veritas Forum at Harvard University,[22] and later that year was one of the keynote speakers at Urbana.[23] Zacharias continues to be a frequent guest at these forums,[24] both giving lectures and answering students in question and answer sessions at academic institutions such as the University of Georgia,[25] the University of Michigan,[26] and Penn State.[27]

Zacharias attracted media attention when in 2004 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) opened its signature pulpit at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to him for a series of messages. Zacharias delivered a sermon on "Who Is the Truth? Defending Jesus Christ as The Way, The Truth and The Life" to some 7,000 lay-persons and scholars from both LDS and Protestant camps in an initiatory move towards open dialogue between the camps.[28]

Some evangelicals criticized Zacharias' decision not to use this opportunity to directly address the "deep and foundational" differences between the historic Christian faith and that of the teachings of the LDS Church. He responded by asserting that Christians should not immediately condemn Mormonism's theological differences but "graciously build one step at a time in communicating our faith with clarity and conviction". He said this is just as effective as showing someone the faults of their faith.[29] The speaking engagement was nearly sabotaged by a claim by event organizer Greg Johnson, president of Standing Together, that Zacharias had nothing to do with editing the book The Kingdom of the Cults and had only loaned his name to the latest edition. Johnson later apologized for his comment.[30]

Zacharias is a frequent keynote lecturer within the evangelical community at events such as the Future of Truth conference in 2004,[31] the National Religious Broadcasters' Convention and Exposition in 2005,[32] the National Conference on Christian Apologetics in 2006.[33] On successive nights in October 2007, he addressed first the students and faculty of Virginia Tech, then the community of Blacksburg, Virginia, on the topic of evil and suffering in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre.[34] Zacharias has represented the evangelical community at occasions such as the National Day of Prayer in Washington, DC, the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations, and the African Union Prayer Breakfast in Maputo, Mozambique, and was named honorary chairman of the 2008 National Day of Prayer task force.[35] He also participated in the ecumenical Together 2016 meetings in July 2016, which Pope Francis addressed, describing the event as a valiant effort.[36][37][38]

Zacharias was interviewed in Focus on the Family's Truth Project. In November 2009, Zacharias signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration which affirms the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good.[39]

In 2014, Zacharias republished his book The Lamb and The Fuhrer, an imaginary conversation between Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ and Dietrich Bonhoffer, as a graphic novel.[40] In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio appointed Zacharias to his pro-life "Dignity Of Life" advisory panel.[41]

In 2015, according to the public Form 990 tax return, Ravi Zacharias and his wife reported earning a combined total of $523,926 from his non-profit Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).[42]

Controversies

In 2017, Christianity Today reported accusations that Zacharias had exaggerated his academic credentials; for instance that he had referred to himself in multiple articles and videos with the title "Doctor" or "Dr.", despite lacking a PhD qualification. In response, Zacharias claimed to have been "conferred ten honorary doctorates" and claimed further that "in Ravi’s homeland of India... honorific titles are customary and are used frequently out of respect for elders, including by the RZIM India team when addressing Ravi." The veracity of Zacharias's purported academic positions at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was also questioned.[43]

In a statement, RZIM indicated that "[in] earlier years, 'Dr.' did appear before Ravi's name in some of our materials, including on our website, which is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates. However, because this practice can be contentious in certain circles, we no longer use it." Christianity Today reported that Zacharias's online biography was edited following the accusations regarding his credentials.[44]

Canadian ministry supporter, Lori Anne Thompson accused Zacharias of impropriety involving sexting and exchanging inappropriate emails with her. Christianity Today magazine reported that Zacharias filed a RICO suit against Thompson in response to a demand letter containing explicit allegations against Zacharias. The case was settled in November 2017. In a December 3, 2017 statement, Zacharias said, "Let me state categorically that I never met [Thompson] alone, publicly or privately. The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to [her]—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility." Zacharias added that he had been "absolutely faithful" to his wife Margie throughout their marriage, but acknowledged that he "failed to exercise wise caution and to protect [himself] from even the appearance of impropriety..." Zacharias declined to comment on the alleged suicide threat he made to Ms. Thompson, citing the terms of his non-disclosure agreement with Thompson.[43]

Worldview

Zacharias claims that a coherent worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer four questions: that of origin, meaning of life, morality, and destiny. He claims that while every major religion makes exclusive claims about truth, the Christian faith is unique in its ability to answer all four of these questions.[45] He routinely speaks on the coherence of the Christian worldview,[46] saying that Christianity is capable of withstanding the toughest philosophical attacks.[47] Zacharias believes that the apologist must argue from three levels: from logic to make it tenable; from feelings to make it livable; and from whether one has the right to use it to make moral judgments.[48] Zacharias' style of apologetic focuses predominantly on Christianity's answers to life's great existential questions,[49] with defense of God.

Personal life

In May 1972, Zacharias married Margaret "Margie" Reynolds, whom he met at his church's youth group.[50] They had three children.[citation needed] He lived in Atlanta, Georgia.[10]

Illness

In March 2020, it was revealed that Zacharias had been diagnosed with a malignant and rare cancer within his spine.[51] In May 2020, his family confirmed that doctors were unable to further treat the cancer. A number of high-profile Christians posted messages online detailing Zacharias's influence upon them.[52] On May, 19, 2020, Ravi Zacharias passed away.[53]

Death

After 48 years of teaching and commending Christianity, Zacharias died on 19 May, 2020, Tuesday morning at his Atlanta Home.

In March 2020, Zacharias announced he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on his sacrum. Three weeks prior to his announcement, the apologist had undergone successful back surgery when he began to experience "very severe pain, so intense in the night, especially, that I have been unable to sleep."

A biopsy resulted in Zacharias' diagnosis of Sarcoma, a type of cancer that begins in bone and soft tissue.

The apologist began to undergo chemotherapy treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas in hopes of shrinking the tumour. Zacharias began treatments at the centre just before its closure to patients outside of Texas due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In early May, despite success in his chemo treatments, Zacharias' prognosis became grim. Though the cancer on his sacrum had responded to treatments, the area where the cancer had metastasized had worsened.

Sarah Zacharias Davis, Zacharias' daughter and CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) announced Zacharias would be returning to his home in Atlanta, Georgia for "whatever time the Lord gives us."

Zacharias is survived by his wife, Margaret, and his three children Sarah, Nathan, and Naomi.[54].

Bibliography

References

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  8. Zacharias 2006, pp. 42–43.
  9. Zacharias 2006, p. 45.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Ravi at Princeton University - Why I'm Not an Atheist" – via www.youtube.com.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Zacharias 2006, pp. 101–105.
  12. Zacharias 2006, p. 170.
  13. Zacharias 2006, p. 163.
  14. Zacharias 2006, p. 173.
  15. Zacharias 2006, p. 178.
  16. Zacharias 2006, p. 185.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Edward Plowman (March 1998). "Meet Ravi Zacharias". National and International Religion Report. Evangelicals Now. Retrieved 4 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Zacharias 2006, pp. 192–193.
  19. Zacharias 2006, pp. 197–199.
  20. Zacharias 2006, pp. 200–201.
  21. Zacharias 2006, p. 203.
  22. Zacharias 2006, pp. 205–206.
  23. Zacharias, Ravi. "Jesus Christ Among Other Gods: Urbana 1993 Address". Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "NEWS: Truth Makes a Comeback in University Settings". Christianity Today. 40 (1). January 1996. Retrieved 18 February 2008. While certain speakers such as Zacharias, sociologist Os Guinness, law professor Phillip Johnson, and philosopher Eleanor Stump have made repeat appearances, the actual presentation differs from school to school.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Parker, Pearman (28 September 2007). "Celebrated evangelist attracts thousands". redandblack.com. The Red and Black Publishing Company Inc. Retrieved 18 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  31. Newswire, PR (15 July 2004). "Future of Truth Conference Explores Biblical Realities, Exposes Theological Heresies to Present a More Convincing Picture of Truth in Today's Society; Conference Will Feature Trusted Theologians Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Phillip Johnson, Erwin Lutzer, Emir Caner and Frank Peretti at The Moody Church in Chicago". PR Newswire Association LLC. Retrieved 18 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  33. Vu, Michelle (2 March 2007). "MissionFest Opens Asking 'What Does it Mean to be Human?'". The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  41. Gryboski, Michael (21 January 2016). "Rubio Forms 'Dignity of Life' Board Featuring Al Mohler, Ravi Zacharias". The Christian Post. Retrieved 11 March 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  43. 43.0 43.1 Shellnutt, Kate; Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff (3 December 2017). "Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique". News & Reporting. Christianity Today. Retrieved 24 February 2018.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  45. Zacharias, Ravi (1997). Deliver Us From Evil. Nashville: Word. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-8499-3950-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  48. Zacharias, Ravi; Norman L. Geisler (2003). Is Your Church Ready?. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 33-34. ISBN 0-8499-3950-X. Retrieved 17 March 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. For example: Zacharias, Ravi (1994). Can Man Live Without God. Dallas: Word Publishing. Introduction, page xvi. ISBN 0-8499-1173-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. Zacharias 2006.
  51. Foust, Michael (13 March 2020). "Ravi Zacharias Reveals He Has Malignant Tumor: 'We Are Trusting The Lord'". Christian Headlines. Retrieved 21 March 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  52. BST, Staff writer Sun 17 May 2020 12:16. "Ravi Zacharias cancer update: Beautiful tributes for apologist after grim prognosis". www.christiantoday.com. Retrieved 18 May 2020.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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Works cited

  • Zacharias, Ravi (2006). Walking From East to West: God in the Shadows. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-25915-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links