Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union
April 4, 2013

Ravi Zacharias Speaks before Capacity Crowd at Princeton University

A life without God is an existence without answers to some of its most penetrating questions and comfort for its most arduous challenges.

Acclaimed author and broadcaster Ravi Zacharias shared those perspectives when the international minister appeared at Princeton University on April 4 at the invitation of eight campus organizations.

In a lecture entitled, Why I Am Not an Atheist, Zacharias said atheism leaves its followers with no moral absolutes and scant hope.

"We really fail to understand where life goes if you choose to define it without God," Zacharias told the packed audience in McCosh Hall.

The lecture was sponsored by Princeton Faith and Action (pfanda.com), Athletes in Action (princeton.edu/~aia), Baptist Student Fellowship, Faculty Commons, the Graduate Christian Fellowship (princeton.edu/~ivgrad), Manna Christian Fellowship (manna.mycpanel.princeton.edu), Princeton Evangelical Fellowship (pef.mycpanel.princeton.edu), and the Wesley Foundation (princeton.

Zacharias spoke at Princeton during a visit to New Jersey that also featured an appearance on April 5 at Princeton Alliance Church in Plainsboro.

The native of India is a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, an independent theology program within Oxford University. Zacharias previously served as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University, where he studied philosophers and literature of the Romantic era.

During his appearance at Princeton, the famed apologist highlighted the inadequacies of atheism, especially when its followers try to probe deeper life issues without any transcendent points of reference. An atheistic worldview makes central questions about the meaning of humanity and the like virtually unanswerable, he said.

"How do we define the most essential things in life?" Zacharias asked Princeton students rhetorically. "We struggle to explain life without all points of reference... without any transcendental, ontic points of reference."

Essentially, atheism points to meaninglessness in response to life's chief queries, notably ones surrounding death, suffering, and justice.

In addition, a key missing ingredient from atheism is firm boundaries involving issues of morality.

A philosophical view that denies God as an absolute moral giver, in turn, trivializes evil and desacralizes human life. Standards become relative.

"Among the ramifications to a life without God is the difficulty of anchoring morality. Without a transcendent lawgiver to establish morality, evil can be trivialized in relativism," Zacharias said.

As such, Zacharias wholeheartedly rejects atheism. "I simply cannot find a rationally defensible way for moral reasoning," he said. "We are, at our core, moral beings."

Those who doubt God's existence often point to evil and suffering as rationales for not affirming a benevolent, omniscient deity. Nonetheless, such concepts are rooted in ethical reasoning, which, by definition, suggests a divine moral lawgiver. Without the actuality of God, it also is difficult to realize meaning and fulfillment, Zacharias said. "What meaning do we really attribute to God? Are we entitled to our definition of meaning?" Zacharias asked rhetorically.

In addition, a worldview that denies God, by extension, negates the prospects of purpose, justice, and eternal reward. "There is no hope," he said. "Death becomes the end. If death is the end, there is no difference between Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler."

However, Christians can embrace the hope found in Christ's resurrection, namely assurances of eternal life, comfort, and reunion, Zacharias said.

"The abandoning of God leaves you with some extra tough questions. Why am I not an atheist? You simply cannot build a life with life's deepest questions that continue to haunt when you're running from God," Zacharias told Princeton students.

Zacharias is the founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and features offices in six additional countries. His weekly radio program, Let My People Think, airs on 2,078 outlets worldwide. Other broadcast endeavors include a weekday radio program and a regular television program.

A prolific author in the disciplines of comparative religions, cults, and philosophy, Zacharias holds a series of honorary doctorates, as well as a master of divinity from Trinity International University in Illinois.

Also during Zacharias' appearance, Vince Vitale, Princeton '04, fielded queries from students during a robust, enlightening question-and-answer session.

Among his extensive credentials, Vitale is a top scholar at The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, a partnership between Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Oxford University's Wycliffe Hall. Vitale, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, also is a member of the faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford.

Ultimately, Zacharias told students the path to a fulfilling, meaningful life involves faith in an omnipotent God who wants to engage with each individual in a personal relationship.

"God is nearer to you than you realize," he said. "Find the glue that puts all of life together."