Last week I went to a speaking engagement/Q&A with Michael Ramsden and Ravi Zacharias. Couple side notes before I begin..
I met Michael Ramsden last January at the reception of my best friend's wedding. He is brilliantly funny, has a wonderful accent, and very clearly loves the Lord and has spent a great deal of time learning and working to understand Christianity.
I met Ravi Zacharias (and his wonderful wife Margie) a little over a year ago in his home. He is an amazing man both in front of an audience and in his own home. A few of my favorite things about him are how totally normal he is, he has just as many amusing or unique tendencies as any other person I have ever met. Yet, at the same time he has dedicated his whole life (since 17) to learning about Christ, Christianity, and teaching what he has learned to anyone with questions. Part of what I appreciate about him and his ministry Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM) is how much dedication he has to being and apologist (a link to what apologetics is just in case you don't know). He has been described as being the C.S. Lewis of this time, and I can definitely see that.
Anyway, on to the discussion I went to. It was hosted by the C.S. Lewis Institute, and held in the Constitution Hall of the DAR building downtown DC, with easily 1,500+ people in attendance (which is always encouraging).
Michael Ramsden started and was hysterical throughout his entire talk, but the thing that struck me the most about what he was talking about was how easily he wove literature, humor, facts, and faith in with Christianity in a manner that makes perfect sense. He started by explaining that there is a general thought, and one he held on to for quite a while when he was first learning about Christianity, and even after he realized he did actually believe Christ was the real deal... He was somewhat upset because his life was "good" before.. which left a lingering doubt of "will life be less fulfilling as a Christian?" He then commenced into explaining that "faith" is never actually used in a manner described as "stepping into the dark" but actually stepping into the light (Heb. 11:6 "..And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."). He then connected that thought with the idea that not only "God is.." but that God is trustworthy. The thing that is unique about the "Christian faith" is that the claim is that it is true and real, and that it is not based on an absence of evidence. Michael Ramsden then talked about the idea that so many Christians have "failed," but failed at what? What does it mean to be told that a Christian has failed? What does it mean to truly be a Christian?.. (Galaians 5, the fruits of the spirit) and that to "fail" is to live a life not worthy of the calling. But, in order to understand what the calling is, we have to understand the truth. He did a great job mixing a tough subject of truth, failure, hurt, and love with just enough comedy to tie it all together, at one point he said "I am sorry if you have met a church that is not meek, that has failed (to show love and truth)... Please give us their name and number..."
Michael Ramsden then proceeded to explain that when we are talking about Christians, then we have to be open about failure, the idea is not to hide it, because everyone knows we have failed. The real question that many people struggle with is "I am a good person, but I'm questioning whether there is a good God." When the reality is, we are not good people. Then very comically he pointed out, if you believe you are absolutely perfect, then the only option for you to do is to get married. (which of course sent everyone roaring with laughter...) He then very seriously pointed out that the fear and the core of the problem is that we feel that there is a failure of character of God himself... And, that we do not want God to pass judgement on us, but then we automatically want judgement passed on injustices... We can't understand why God wouldn't leave us alone.. but that if God operated that way it would quickly come across as though either God was schizophrenic or He is at war with himself.
He ended with a few last thoughts... True love exists only in the presence of judgement, not in the absence of better judgement. God loves us unconditionally with complete and total judgement, not in the absence of better judgement. The idea is that if you have never known truth, you've never known love either. You cannot truly love someone without knowing the truth about them, pass a knowing judgement, and then choose to love them anyway.
His parting thoughts were this: Whenever justice is absent, the result is despair and hopelessness. And, Mercy is exercised through justice.
Then Ravi Zacharias spoke second. He told the story of how he became a Christian, and why he is an apologist. But, the thing that I appreciate about his approach to being an apologist was virtually summed up in this one statement,
"Always remember you're not just answering a question, you're answering an questioner."
With that statement, he moved on to logically walking through the validity of the bible and God himself. Here are a few of his talking points:
There is nothing in history that sees the personality of God like the contrast we see in the Bible.
We struggle with the sovereignty of God, and the responsibility of humanity.
When you are looking at Christianity, and what it means or entails, he had three main points. 1. It is a life of meaning, but not without tears. 2. It is a life of perfection that reaches out to the flawed. And 3. It is a life of hard physicality but a triumph of spirituality.
1. It is a life of meaning, but not without tears.
As humans, we talk often about moral law, but we try to forget evil and neglect the moral law giver. The problem with being human is our longing becomes agonizing because we always want to touch and feel. (Which is what caused the fall in the garden to begin with).
As Christians, we don't often emphasize the moment of encounter with God that causes us to believe in Jesus and His story. We try to downplay it in a way.
2. It is a life of perfection that reaches out to the flawed.
One of the biggest problems people have with Christians is the broken people come to our churches, they make a huge blunder in some fashion, and then we never let them forget it... (how terribly sad.. and totally true.) Ravi went on to explain that he is not advocating that we need an "all embrace" wrong and sin attitude, or that it doesn't matter, but that in our own lives we have to be hard and stringent, but with others we need the grace filled arms of God. There is no other worldview that does not lean on the works.. "My Grace is sufficient.." (2 Cor. 12:9)
Ravi went on to explain that as Christians we often adopt an "I don't agree, and refuse to support.." attitude, and then try to step out of someone's life to show how much we disapprove. But, that the reality is if we take our own voice out of the life of a broken person because we don't agree with them, we are leaving them exclusively with the contrary voices... (If that isn't a reality check, then I am not sure what is..)
3. It is a life of hard physicality but a triumph of spirituality.
From there he went on to explain that when people are faced with Christianity, the reality is no one truly hears the gospel until they are made uncomfortable by it..
The loneliest people are those who become tired of pleasure and are still left wanting... When the ultimate fulfillment comes from learning to love God in spirit and in truth.
Most of the questions asked about Christians (hypocrisy, authentic, truth, etc..) are really questions about God's moral character, and can he be trusted.
Lastly, according to Christ, no one killed him, he freely gave his life. Which would serve as a sign for us to know who He is, so we may know the certainty of who He is and what He offers.
After the Q&A part of the night (I did not put all the note from that section in this post) Ravi ended with these parting thoughts,
"We have to take the questions we are being asked seriously, and we cannot fail to see the person behind the question..."
"Take your faith seriously.."
"People are desperately seeking Christ, don't bring all the other baggage (humanity, Christianity, and sin)..."
The thing that I loved the most about listening to Ravi speak was the sheer level of work and understanding he puts into living his life for Christ. It was clear as people were asking questions that he was purposeful about answering the person just as much as the question. I was amazed.. and spent a lot of the time overwhelmed by the ability he has to naturally speak at any level, theology, facts, history, etc.. the amount of knowledge he has is impressive to say the least.. But, not once did it ever come out without humility and smothered in Christ's love and grace. What I appreciate throughout all of this is that I know on a personal level the man speaking, and he is not perfect, but I appreciate that about him as well.
I am sure I will post additional thoughts.. especially since this in not the entirety of my notes from this evening.