Who was Ravi Zacharias?Ravi Zacharias (1946—2020) was an Indian born Canadian American Christian apologist, speaker, and writer who founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). He spent forty-eight years defending Christianity as the only way to address life's great existential questions.
Ravi Zacharias was born on March 26, 1946 in Madras, India to Malayali parents. They soon moved to Delhi where Ravi spent his childhood. Although his parents raised him as an Anglican, he had always been skeptical of the Christian faith. Without faith to give his life purpose or meaning, Ravi became suicidal. At the age of seventeen, he attempted to take his own life by swallowing poison. While he was recovering in the hospital, a Christian worker gave his mother a Bible and suggested she read John 14 to her son. In this passage, the disciple Philip had asked Jesus "Lord, show us the Father" (John 14:8) and part of Jesus' response was, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works" (John 14:10). This verse spoke directly to Ravi's heart and changed his life as he understood God to be real and decided to surrender his life to God's leading.
A few years later, in 1966, Ravi, his parents, and family immigrated to Canada. In Canada, he met his future wife, Margaret "Margie" Reynolds, at church youth group and the two were married in 1972. He also graduated from undergraduate work at Ontario Bible College in 1972. Ravi did missionary work in South Vietnam evangelizing to U.S. soldiers and imprisoned members of the Viet Cong. He then went on to itinerant ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance church (C&MA) in Canada. In 1974, he was a missionary to Cambodia until it fell to the Khmer Rouge. In 1976, he earned his M. Div. from Trinity International University where he studied under Norman Geisler. Due to his experience as a missionary and his new degree, he taught at Alliance Theological Seminary as professor of evangelism from 1980 to 1984. He spent the summer of 1984 evangelizing in his old homeland of India. It was there that Ravi recognized a need for apologetics both to win skeptics to Christ and in order to train Christian leaders.
At the end of that summer, in August 1984, he founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Toronto, Canada (now located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA). His goal was to show that Christianity was the only worldview that could satisfactorily answer life's great existential questions. He believed these questions to be ones of origin, the meaning of life, a basis for morality, and destiny. A coherent worldview must address those four concerns. Ravi also believed that worldview must be argued on three levels: logic to make it tenable, feelings to make it livable, and the right to use the worldview to make moral judgments. He spoke at forums and panel discussions, hosted radio programs, and authored books on theology, apologetics, comparative religions, and philosophy. He was known for his eloquence and grace in defending the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. Over his lifetime, he presented to millions of people in over seventy countries, his radio programming is still played, and his books continue to sell, so his life's work continues to have effect.
In 2017 accusations were made that Ravi Zacharias had engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with a younger woman over text and email. That was resolved in a non-disclosure agreement; most who knew Ravi thought the accusations may have been exaggerated and his behavior had likely been a lapse in judgment at worst. However, following his death in 2020, further accusations about inappropriate behavior were made. RZIM hired a company to conduct an investigation into the allegations and the claims have been corroborated. This revelation changes none of the truths that Ravi Zacharias shared and taught. The truth of God remains unchanging, even when His followers do not fully live it out. We see biblical examples of this in such prominent figures as Moses, King David, Noah, and Peter. The effectiveness of the preaching of the gospel is credited to God, not to those who do the preaching (1 Corinthians 1:20–27). The veracity of the message is measured against God's Word, not the sins of those who have taught it.
In March 2020 Ravi was diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer and he passed away at his home in Atlanta, GA on May 19, 2020. He is survived by his wife, son, two daughters, and five grandchildren. His mission was to present and defend the truth of Jesus Christ so that others might find life in Him. With God's enabling work through him, Ravi Zacharias had great success in reaching others for Christ.
It is truly sad that Ravi Zacharias' personal conduct has damaged his witness. What a reminder for all of us who proclaim Jesus Christ that both our words and our actions matter. First Corinthians 10:12–13 is a fitting exhortation: "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." When facing our own sin, we need to flee, turn to God, and turn to the family of Christ for help and encouragement in overcoming (Hebrews 3:13; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 5:16).
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