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Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020)

July 2020 | by John Tredgett

Ravi Zacharias
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Prominent apologist, author, and speaker Ravi Zacharias has died aged 74 following a brief battle with cancer.

An online memorial service in his honour was watched by over 70,000 people and eulogies were given by figures including US Vice President Mike Pence. He described Ravi as ‘the greatest Christian apologist of this century; the C. S. Lewis of his day’.

Ravi spoke at conferences and university campuses for nearly 50 years and across 70 countries. Some 200 days each year were taken up by speaking engagements, and Ravi travelled over 4 million miles annually.

Countering atheism and secularism was Ravi’s speciality. ‘To help the believer think and the thinker believe’ was the watchword of his ministry. He frequently asserted the standards of ‘logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance’, affirming that Christianity alone met these principles.

As a speaker, Ravi coupled an avuncular delivery with intellectual rigour. Following apologetics talks, he often engaged audience members in Q&A sessions. Expert at responding off the cuff, Ravi could provide extensive answers for sceptics during these sessions, appealing to reason and evidence in defence of the Christian worldview.

Ravi was raised in an Anglican family in Delhi. He himself was a restless sceptic and attempted suicide at 17. In hospital, a Bible was given to him and words from John 14:19 struck Ravi and occasioned his conversion: ‘Because I live, you shall live also.’

The family moved to Canada in 1966. Ravi studied theology at Ontario Bible College and Trinity International University. He developed a gift for evangelism with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, teaching at Alliance Theological Seminary in the 1980s.

In 1984, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries began, its mission to train Christian apologists. Today it has over 200 employees in 16 countries across the world.

Ravi authored over 30 books on apologetics, including Jesus Among Secular Gods, The Real Face of Atheism, and his memoir, Walking from East to West.

Ravi was not without critics. In 2004, he agreed to speak at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and garnered criticism from some quarters.

Nonetheless, evangelicals of all stripes lamented his passing. Ligonier Ministries tweeted that Ravi’s ‘compelling and winsome defense of the faith will continue to serve people around the world for years to come’.

J. D. Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, grieved ‘the loss of a spiritual and intellectual giant’ and Franklin Graham said, ‘A great voice is lost, but the message goes on.’

By John Tredgett

UPDATE January 2021 – After this obituary was first published, several allegations of sexual misconduct relating to Ravi Zacharias came to light. A statement from the organisation he founded, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, accepts these allegations are true. An article responding to this development is expected to be published in the February 2021 edition of Evangelical Times.  

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