Emptiness and meaninglessness is now systemic and is “almost global” in millennial culture, according to Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias. In an address October 13 before an estimated 20,000 mostly young Evangelical Christians, the author and speaker sought to address how they can respond to an increasingly divided environment – characterized by declining virtue alongside unfiltered opinions – and “be an answer in a very dark world right now.”
The Christian apologist and author appeared at Q Commons, an evangelical conference series telecast to 100 sites across the United States and overseas. Begun as a project of Evangelical author Gabe Lyons, Q is frequently compared to TED Talks with a format of short, timed presentations and a focus on cultural engagement.
Zacharias’ talk was followed with Lyons’ interview of USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers and The New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat about Christians should think about voting, and an interview with Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist Lecrae speaking on race, righteous anger and resolution. Each of the brief talks was intended to touch on a recent development that has consequences for the Christian church.
Beginning with Psalms chapter 11 verse 3: “If the foundations are being destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” Zacharias quoted 20th Century British journalist and media personality Malcolm Muggeridge:
“It is difficult to resist the conclusion that 20th Century Man has decided to abolish himself. Tired of the struggle to be himself, he has created boredom out of his own affluence, impotence out of his own erotomania, and vulnerability out of his own strength. He himself blows the trumpet that bring the walls of his own cities crashing down until at last educated himself into imbecility, having drugged and polluted himself into stupefaction, he keels over, a weary, battered old brontosaurus, and becomes extinct.”
Zacharias also drew upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address:
“I refuse to believe that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life. I refuse to believe than man is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Zacharias noted that, despite pointing to different destinations, Muggeridge and King were both speaking amidst the cultural upheaval of the 1960s.
“If we believe that that unarmed truth and unconditional love will ultimately have final word in reality, then our entire educational system today – particularly higher education – is built on a flawed foundation,” Zacharias assessed. “With a scientific single vision, what imperatives of truth and love come from that particular discipline? Unarmed truth and unconditional love are metaphysical propositions, or dare I suggest, spiritual realities.”
Recounting his arrival in the west in the 1960s, Zacharias wondered how accumulation of wealth and comfort in his new home of Toronto existed alongside rebellion and unhappiness.
Zacharias recounted social theorist Peter Berger’s writings about cultural moods arising at that time, listing secularization, pluralization and privatization. Secularization in which religious institutions lost their social significance, pluralization in which none of a competing number of available worldviews was dominant, and privatization where there was breakdown of cleavage in the experience of humanity between public and private expressions and a breakdown where the sacred was relegated to the private.
“That’s where we actually ended up, in the desacralization of life and the loss of meaning,” Zacharias announced. “Secularization brought us to a societal mood without shame, pluralization brought us to a state from the universities where skepticism was rampant and there was no reason and logic. Privatization where there was a loss of meaning.”
Zacharias identified four pillars “on which the foundations must stand”: eternity, morality, accountability and charity, declaring, “These are all biblical mandates”.
“Eternity gives us the greatest perspective, morality teaches us to love the greatest law: to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our soul and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves,” Zacharias explained. “Accountability gives us the greatest problem: that it is from within, the problem of self-centeredness and sin that destroys within us.”
“We have lost our purpose for existence, and the reason we have lost our purpose is because we have lost connection with the creator and with an autocratic mindset we choose to live our lives,” Zacharias identified. “Charity gives us the greatest ethic, so the greatest perspective, the greatest commandment, the greatest problem and the greatest ethic which takes us ultimately to love.”
Zacharias proposed that restoring these four pillars “starts with your heart and mind – unless you and I are willing to admit the brokenness within, we will never be able to solve the brokenness without.”
God, Zacharias assured, provided the answer in Jesus Christ: “we the church must carry that light, that eternal perspective that we must give to them: the greatest commandment, the accountability of every human being, and the charity we must display in a culture of so many tensions.”
Recounting King George VI’s Royal Christmas Broadcast soon after the outbreak of World War II, Zacharias read words from Minnie Haskins’ 1908 poem “The Gate of the Year” given to the monarch by his 12-year-old daughter Elizabeth:
“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’”
“I say to you now, those simple words need to stand tall in your thinking and mine,” Zacharias insisted. “Put your hand into the hand of God by surrendering your own heart to him and walk out into the darkness: it shall be to you better than the light, and safer than the known.”
“The answer will come with your hand in God’s hand.”Google+