“‘Let My People Think’: Remembering Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020) and the Importance of the Life of Faith and the Life of the Mind”
“Zacharias: My Tribute to a Distant Intellectual Mentor and Teacher”
The famed Christian philosopher and apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. We do not know how long he’s going to be with us. As a result, I would like to share a brief testimony with you about how Dr. Zacharias has transformed my life. This is also a way for me to pay a tribute to him.
When I was in College, I began to listen to Ravi Zacharias regularly through his international radio program called “Let My People Think.” Literally, I listened to his philosophical talks every day, both before and after class. He would captivate my mind through his vast knowledge, critical reasoning, and intellectuality. In the process, Dr. Zacharias has become instantly my distant intellectual teacher and mentor. It was through his philosophical and religious writings and lectures that I have learned about the most important philosophers, both from the East and the West. He was through him that I encountered the most leading ideas in the world of philosophy and religious studies (i.e. Hinduism). For example, he introduced me to the central ideas of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, C.S. Lewis, Rousseau, Voltaire, Hume, Sartre, Dewey, Plantinga, Lennox, Craig, Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, James, etc.
Although I took four philosophy classes in College, Ravi was my best philosophy teacher. After I graduated from College, I applied to the University of South Florida to pursue an M.A. in (analytical) philosophy. (Unfortunately, I did not enroll in the philosophy program there.) His impact was so strong on me that I wanted to study philosophy professionally and at the academic level.
I must admit that Dr. Zacharias has become the most influential Christian thinker in my life. Language is not adequate to describe his impact on my intellectual development and analytical thinking. In the time of tape recording, I purchased literally every series he produced such as his famous philosophical lecture series at Ohio State University: “Jesus Among Other Gods,” as well as his thought-provoking lecture “Why I am a Christian,” in which he used analytical method and reasoning to argue for theism by deconstructing atheistic ideas in Western Philosophical tradition.
It was Mr. Zacharias who had fueled in me a passion to study in great detail the historicity of the New Testament Gospels, to test the validity of the texts of the New Testament, and to critically evaluate the claims of the resurrection of Jesus. As an Indian philosopher, he had also introduced me to another philosophical tradition beyond the West: Indian Philosophy. He has helped me to explore another worldview and to see the world intellectually from different epistemological lenses. Not only have I learned from him some of the greatest thinkers and philosophers India has produced; he had sparked the fire in me to learn more about Hinduism and Indian poetry and literature. It was also through Zacharias’s rich interdisciplinary knowledge and his impressive expertise on various religious traditions that I became interested in other religious traditions closer to home such as the Haitian Vodou.
Today, my heart is in pain because my teacher and mentor Ravi Zacharias, who had taught me many viable lessons about the life of the mind and the life of the soul (as he himself a devoted follower of Jesus Christ), is dead. I pray that your wife Margie and three children and friends will find peace and comfort in these difficult times. I also invite you to pray urgently and fervently for the Zacharias family. May your family and friends find strength and consolation in God in this time of transition! You have touched many lives for good and nurtured millions of individuals to think critically about the relationship between the life of faith and the life of the mind!
Peace and Blessings,
Dr. Celucien L. Joseph