Ravi Zacharias on "Why I'm not an Atheist"
at Princeton University
InnerVoice staff had the privilege of being invited to hear Dr. Ravi Zacharias speak to the faculty and students at Princeton University on April 4, 2013. Twenty years have elapsed since Dr. Zacharias addressed an audience at Princeton. Zacharias and his colleague, Vince Vitale, were welcomed to McCosh Hall by the President of the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, Carra Torres. The auditorium was filled to capacity and several students remarked that the event was the ‘buzz’ in many conversations on campus all week. Dr. Zachiarias’ topic for the evening was, “Why I am not an Atheist”.
Warmly and thoughtfully, Dr. Zacharias presented his reasons as to why he thought Atheism was not a viable belief or foundation to base a world view on. He presented many valid, logical answers supporting his view while respecting the opposing viewpoint, with sincerity and confidence. I highly recommend listening to the entire message on YouTube or when it becomes available on the RZIM.org website to hear the complete response to the following question, which has been edited for clarity.
I wanted to highlight one particular question (which has been edited for clarity) and answer given by Vince Vitale, a Princeton Graduate and member of Ravi Zacharias’ International Ministry staff. A student from Ukraine, asked this:
It seemed that this question had not been asked in quite this way before. Vanity is considered a 'sin' according to teachings in the Bible, and this student wins my applause for asking something noteworthy. Zacharias and Vitale took a moment to consider their response. Vitale took the microphone first, sharing this perfect illustration:
VITALE: "Thank you for asking a great question. An analogy of human procreation is helpful in answering this question. Someone can procreate out of their own desire to meet a certain need that they have. They may want to have a child [in hope of fixing] a marriage or give them an identity or self worth that they don’t already have. [A motivation driven by a selfish desire.]
I also think there is a type of procreation where the motivation is out of love for your future child. Not because of anything you need or what that child will do, earn or accomplish. It’s simply about the love [and adoration] of a parent standing over their newborn child, just delighting in that child. The parents are not thinking about how productive the child will be for the family business, how many awards that child will earn [during their life] or anything like that. [They created a child] out of love and that child [bears their] image.
Christians call that grace. It’s a type of love that is in no way dependent on what you can give to the lover or what you will earn, deserve, merit or accomplish. [God’s love] is simply the love of a [perfect] parent for a child. That is why the act of creation is not an act of vanity because it is not an act where God needs something or deserves something from us so he can feel good. He created simply out of that grace type of love a [parent has for a child].
STUDENT: “Does God want us to be like him? To try to act like him?”
VITALE: The answer is yes, but he doesn’t expect us to be able to do that ourselves or on our own. The Bible says that when you make a decision, a free decision, to trust God, his actual spirit comes to live inside of you, in a real way. And you experience for yourself what it’s like to be transformed from the inside out, more into his likeness. There is a story [in the Bible in the book of Luke, chapter 15] called the Prodigal Son where God is described like a loving father.
In the story, this father has a son who demands his inheritance prematurely and the son goes off and squanders his money with prostitutes and wild living. The son decides to return home after he realizes that he was wrong and that he would be better off as a servant in his father’s house rather than suffering, hungry and alone. God is symbolized as the father in the story. He runs and embraces his son and is so happy when his son has returned home. He forgives his son and restores him to his rightful place in the family, not as a servant. [The father never stopped loving his son, no matter what he did.]
Yes, God does want us to be like him and it’s by his power and spirit that he helps us to become like him. Even when we go in the completely opposite direction, just like a good parent with a wayward child, the love for the child [stays the same] and is no different. It is not dependent if we are more like our father or less like him [or if we have done things we regret. God’s love for us never changes.]
ZACHARIAS CONTINUED: If I love someone and they refuse to love me, I hurt because I’ve lost [their love. I can continue to love them even if they don’t love me back]. For instance, I am a grandfather now. I can enjoy my grandson without the worry and anxiety that I had when I was the parent. That’s my daughter’s job! But, as I look at his young life and ask myself, “What do you want for this child?” Do you want him out of vanity or out of love and the supreme idea of “What is his life’s purpose?”
[We discover that purpose] sometimes through suffering, sometimes through pain, sometimes through sacrifice. My prayer for [my grandson] is that he will grow up to fulfill the law and the purpose that God has for him, and do it with honor and dignity. What path that will take, I do not know.
What I do know is this: God loves you for your sake and wants what’s best for you because nothing you do this way or that way will make him less than God. But what you do can make you less than what it means to be human. --"
I have only highlighted one response from Vince Vitale and Dr. Zacharias from the evening. Again, I strongly recommend that you listen to the entire message to hear Dr. Zacharias’ defense of the topic and listen to his challenge at the end. For those who believe that Atheism is a foundation for a belief system, this is a ‘must hear’ message. Dr. Zacharias will challenge your thinking as he goes in depth on issues like good versus evil, how could Christians commit violent atrocities like the Crusades and why believing in God is a reasonable, logical conclusion.
For archived messages by Dr. Zacharias, you can download the app for your smartphone titled RZIM or listen to other messages on RZIM’s website
Our sincere thanks to Gregg Downs, Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel of Mercer County, for including InnerVoice in this exclusive event.