|In this March 30, 2016, photo, Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharias talks with Associate Professor Lenny Luchetti during the Society of World Changers induction ceremony at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind. Zacharias, who built an international ministry that strives to defend Christianity on intellectual grounds, has died at his home in Atlanta. AP|
By Jung Min-ho
Ravi Zacharias, a skeptic turned Christian evangelist who spent his life defending the faith on intellectual grounds, died Tuesday. He was 74.
The cause was complications from a rare form of bone cancer called sarcoma, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), the evangelical organization he established in 1984, said.
Zacharias was one of the most prominent and sought-after figures in apologetics ― a branch of theology that defends Christianity against objections ― who challenged various skeptics by using his razor-sharp logic and the voices of scientists, philosophers and even atheists.
He also published and edited more than 25 books, which have inspired many Christians and non-Christians around the world, including Korea.
Zacharias, who was born in Madras (now Chennai), India, discovered his calling in a hospital at 17, after trying to take his own life by swallowing poison over the fear of academic failure. He survived and found the meaning and purpose of his life in the Bible, which he was given by a medical worker.
"Inside me there was something new ― a new vibrancy, a new meaning, a new hope and a new Ravi Zacharias … Purpose and transformation were now writ large in my heart," he said in the book, "Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows."
"I also marvel at how God was in the shadows then, for I could have done permanent damage to my body … What if there had been some neurological debilitation? That did not happen. In the shadows was the One, who made me select the 'right' poison, just enough to awaken me from my stupidity and steady my feet in the right direction."
A few years after committing himself to Jesus Christ, Zacharias' family migrated to Canada, where he studied theology. Soon, he found himself spreading the gospel in the United States, Vietnam and Cambodia, where he preached before the country fell to the Khmer Rouge.
|Ravi Zacharias / Courtesy of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries|
Zacharias was convinced that it was "harder to find logic in life if there is no God" and "Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds."
Zacharias actively engaged in the question-and-answer format with the staunchest atheists who did not share his views. But winning the argument was never his goal: he was always more interested in questioners than the questions themselves.
"(Ravi) saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered," said Michael Ramsden, president of RZIM.
In 1992, Zacharias expanded into academia, launching the Veritas Forum on the campus of Harvard University. In 2004, he established the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics at Oxford University, where he was an honorary senior research fellow between 2007 and 2015.
Meanwhile, under the mission of "helping the thinker believe and the believer think," RZIM grew into a global organization with offices in 16 legal entities, including Romania, Singapore, Peru, Turkey and India.
All this was unfathomable when he made a commitment to Christ. But God mysteriously led his life.
The same Bible verse that led Zacharias to Christianity will be etched on his gravestone, said Sarah Zacharias Davis, his eldest daughter and CEO of RZIM.
"The Gospel of John records these words of Jesus: 'Because I live, you also will live' (14:19) ― seven words that changed the trajectory of Ravi Zacharias' life some 57 years ago," she said. "It is a verse etched on his grandmother's gravestone and will be etched on his too."
Two years ago at the funeral service of Billy Graham, a prominent evangelical Christian figure, Zacharias said: "A great voice has been lost, but the message goes on."
Christians around the world have now lost another great voice. But the message goes on.