Controversial evangelist Zacharias speaks at Penn

The main idea of Zacharias’ talk was truth and its connection to meaning

· February 11, 2014, 11:53 pm   ·  Updated February 12, 2014, 1:45 am

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Joe Li | DP


Internationally renowned evangelical Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias spoke at Irvine Auditorium last night.

Zacharias, a native of India, has spent the past 40 years communicating evangelical ideology to crowds all over the world. Pastor Aaron Campbell, a 1997 College graduate, planned Zacharias’ visit two and a half years ago because Zacharias is in such demand. His talk “Is Truth Real?” explained several of his apologist views.

Zacharias started the talk by admitting that he is aware of the controversy sparked by his views on homosexuality, abortion and atheism. “I have been here long enough to hear some of the buzz … [and am prepared to] be standing in front of a hostile American university,” he said.

The main idea of Zacharias’ talk was truth and its connection to meaning. He stressed that truth does exist and that both truth and meaning can be discovered through two processes. The first is the process of secularism — refraining from forcing “religious or world views on others.”

“I never go anywhere to change anybody’s mind,” Zacharias said. “I have no desire to change your lifestyle or your values.”

The second “process” is pluralism. Zacharias believes that not all religions lead to the same conception of truth and morality.

Zacharias also stressed the importance of objective moral values and following Jesus’s teachings, since Jesus is the ultimate purveyor of truth, he said.

According to Zacharias, Jesus indicated three paths to living morally. The first path was to take responsibility for oneself rather than blaming one’s environment. Forgiveness, redemption and belief in God and the afterlife also guide Zacharias in his quest for meaning.

“God gives us hope that everything will not end in these short years,” Zacharias said.

During the question and answer session, one audience member asked Zacharias about his opinion on homosexuality. Zacharias did not give a direct answer. “I am not your judge, God is your judge,” he said. In his books, Zacharias says that he does not support homosexuality.

Another audience member asked whether or not reason was separate from faith. “Interplay between faith and reason is everywhere,” Zacharias said. “God has put enough in this world to make faith in him a reasonable thing”.

The reactions to Zacharias’ presentation were mixed. College freshman Cody Min felt having someone with “a different view point” like Zacharias speak on campus was exciting. “I want to see what he has to say first, but I generally agree with his ‘God exists’ theory,” Min said before the talk.

Engineering master’s candidate and Director of Outreach for Penn Secular Society Collin Boots, who is a columnist for the Daily Pennsylvanian, was frustrated by some Penn students’s excitement. “I want to make people aware of the darker side of [Zacharias’] ideologies,” Boots said.

College sophomore Roderick Cook, who also writes for the DP, had a similar view as Boots. Cook protested outside the event holding a sign that read “Ravi Zacharias thinks I am an aberration and a violation to God.” The protest was inspired by Cook’s homosexuality.

College and Engineering sophomore Aardra Rajendran, the spirituality chair for Hindu Student Council, felt Zacharias respects others’ beliefs. “It is good for people to be passionate for what they believe in,” she said. “People have to make their own decisions.”

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