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Living in Critical Times, Part 1

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias
The Truth Network Radio
July 18, 2020 1:00 am

Living in Critical Times, Part 1

Let My People Think / Ravi Zacharias

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July 18, 2020 1:00 am

Where do we find our moral framework? Where do we turn to for absolutes? On this week's Let My People Think, RZIM's Founder, the late Ravi Zacharias, takes a deep look at these questions as he gives a talk entitled "Living in Critical Times."

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Thank you for downloading from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Support for this podcast comes from your generous gifts and donations.

You can find out more about Ravi Zacharias and the team at The absolutes that built this nation, because the nation talked about the fact that they were naturally endowed rights given to us, that these truths were self-evident. All of these moral statements are very critical to understand in the light of our pluralistic culture in our time. We live in a society that wants nothing to do with God. However, once you do away with the existence of God, where do you turn for your absolutes?

How do we get an answer? Where do we find our moral framework? Hello and welcome to Let My People Think with author and apologist Ravi Zacharias. If Nietzsche is right and God is dead, it leaves four unanswered questions that bring coherence to your life. Ravi takes a deeper look at these questions in his brand new message titled Living in Critical Times.

Here's Ravi. The themes that we cover on campuses are oftentimes given to us by people who invite us as to what would be relevant. And if we can't handle the subject on hand, we'll let them know. I don't think it is questionable at all, but that we are living in very, very critical times. And I don't mean this to be a political statement, although it's a slanted comment on it.

When I go overseas, as we cover a lot of countries, within about 10 days I'll be doing a few campuses in India. And I have absolutely no doubt several of them are going to come up to me and say, what is going on in the American political arena? As they watch the debates, as they watch the vitriol, as they watch all kinds of strong language being used and personal attacks being made, rather than ideas being questioned and challenged. We recognize full well that this is a time of crises on the global scene. Many years ago, I was in Syria and I was a guest of the chief of intelligence in Damascus. They always called me in whenever I arrived to remind me not to get into the political turmoil of that part of the world, and I always gave them my word. But I looked at the chief of intelligence, surrounded by the military brass, and I said to him, I don't get into the politics of the region, sir, but it would be very helpful to me if you can briefly tell me what do you think is going on in this part of the world. I want you to know this was before anything like ISIS, any of the crises that had erupted, before the Arab Spring, and so on. And his answer to me shocked me because it was made in a statement or two. He said, Mr. Zacharias, if things do not change here within the next five years, this whole place is going to blow up. If things don't change here within the next five years or so, this whole place is going to blow up. And how do you come back with another question on that?

The fact of the matter is that there is an incredible uncertainty as weapons of destruction pile up and those controlling some of those weapons come from backdrops and political structures where they are more demagogically controlled than the will of the people or some ethical underpinning that drives their passions. And so I want to begin with two comments and then lead into a basic backdrop against which I want to address these issues of the four major questions of life. It was in the 1970s, I believe, that Malcolm Muggeridge, that prolific writer made this comment. He said, 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 brings the walls of his own cities crashing down until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, having drugged and polluted himself into stupefaction, he keels over a weary battered old brontosaurus and becomes extinct.

Now the fascinating thing about Muggeridge is that as a journalist and as one who described himself as being fatally fluent, lived an indulgent life, was a latecomer to Christ, also a chaplain of the University of Edinburgh, resigned his position from the chaplaincy when he saw the trend of where education was going and on the basis of all of that, talked about how we'd created boredom out of our own affluence, impotence out of our own erotomania, vulnerability out of our own strength and how this weary battered old brontosaurus keels over and becomes extinct. About a few years before he said that, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Prize for peace and here was a man who was so articulate and so precise in what he said and impassioned in what he believed. Listen to these words in his speech, I accept this award today with an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea that the isness of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal oughtness that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in a river of life. I refuse to accept the view that mankind 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 refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. Now here's the line, I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

So to you as young bright minds in one of the finest universities of the world, I have this question to you. If our entire educational ethos is built on naturalism and the scientific single vision of ultimate reality, which discipline in that framework gives to you the imperatives of unarmed truth and unconditional love? These are philosophical principles.

This is not given to us by the exact sciences. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. What of the exact sciences gives you this eternal oughtness that forever confronts us? And so I say to you, whatever world you will live in and it, you know, when you're sitting down and somebody introduces you and says, you know what, next month he's going to turn 70. You say my word, I didn't know that myself, but it's true. The calendar does not lie. And we are reminded again and again of as each passing year comes and goes, that the world is changing at a staggering pace. I have no idea what kind of world will be yours 10 to 15 years from now, but I'm hoping it is the kind of world that Dr. King talked about. The bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood. What a glorious thing it would be to have unarmed truth and unconditional love, because truth is the most powerful weapon in the world and love is the most supreme ethic in the world.

Where do we find these? The philosopher who lived between 1844 and 1900 was the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. His father was a pastor. Both of his grandfathers were pastors, but somewhere he clenched his fist at God and philosophically believed it could no longer be sustained. And he wrote this parable, you will recognize it.

I will read it for you in extensio, a few paragraphs, because on this I want to build my deductions. Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the marketplace and cried incessantly, I'm looking for God. I'm looking for God. As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, said one.

Did you lose his way like a child, said another. Maybe God is hiding. Is he afraid of us?

Has he gone on a voyage or emigrated? So they shouted and shouted and laughed him to scorn. But the madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. Where is God?

He cried. I'll tell you, we have killed him. You and I, we are all his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea?

Who gave us a sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now?

Away from all suns, maybe? Are we not perpetually falling forwards, backwards, sidewards, in all directions? Do you notice the metaphors he's using here?

They are poignant. Are we not perpetually falling backwards, forwards, sidewards? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not suddenly become colder? Is not more and more night coming on us all the time?

Must not lanterns now have to be lit in the morning hours? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the grave diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? God's decomposed too, you know, and he's dead. He remains dead and we killed him. Now, how shall we, the murderer of all murderers, compose ourselves? Because that which was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood from us?

With what water should we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement? What sacred games will we need to invent? Is this not the greatest of deeds, too great for us to handle? Must not we now ourselves become God simply to seem worthy of it? There's never been a greater deed, you know, and whoever shall be born after us for the sake of this deed shall be part of a different history than all history hitherto.

This tremendous event is still on its way, still traveling, and has not yet reached the years of men. The madman fell silent and regarded his listeners. They, too, were silent.

They stared at him in astonishment. He threw his lantern to the ground and it broke and he went out. I come too early.

Maybe my time has not yet come. It has been related further on the same day that the madman entered diverse churches and there sang a requiem, Eternam Deo. Led out and quieted, he is said to have retorted each time. What are these churches now if they are not the tombs on the sepulchres of God? God is dead.

We have killed him. I remember the famed Don Cupid who was professor at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He was an Anglican priest turned atheist and I remember on more than one occasion he would walk up to the window and point to the school opposite and the spires of a church and he said, this was all our heritage at one time.

It is gone. We no longer can believe any of this. Ironically, a few miles down the road was John Pokinghorn, one of the leading quantum physicists who was a late comer to Christ in whose lectures he would be arguing for the rationality and the defense of God's existence and so the world views collide. If you take Nietzsche's words then I have four unanswered questions that will bring coherence to your life and mine. The first is this, where do we find our moral framework?

Where do we find a moral law? If naturalism is completely in control, if materialism is all that there is and there is no absolute, remember what Nietzsche said, there is no up and down. There is no up and down and so if you listen to politics, it's right or left. There is no up and down. They don't believe in the vertical transcendent notion anymore. Will lanterns have to be lit in the morning hours?

What sacred games will we need to invent? Are we not perpetually falling? As Chesterton said, there's only one angle at which you can stand straight and many, many angles at which you can fall. Chesterton went on to say the tragedy of disbelieving in God is not that you end up believing in nothing. Alas, it is much worse.

You may end up believing in anything and we're testing the angles now. Where is there a moral law? The irony of this is as follows. Adolf Hitler took the Nietzschean phrase of a higher history, took the writings of Nietzsche, personally presented Nietzsche's writings to Stalin and Mussolini and between these three created a kind of a hell in this world and I've given the illustration so many times but I never tire of it because we are always not far away from being forced to repeat the same mistakes. It was in the 1980s during the Cold War when I happened to be visiting Poland and Russia. I'd never been to those parts of the world before and my host in Warsaw took me one day to visit the concentration camp of Auschwitz. I had been to Buchenwald and Dachau and some of the other camps but they were not death camps so emotionally I was not prepared for it and when you walk into Auschwitz, the only thing you hear in those confines, I kid you not, is silence.

You don't hear anything. Probably if I'm being brutally specific with it, the one thing I did hear was a young gal storming out of there and then bursting into sobs and going outside to sit in the front veranda of that building and when we walked out I still saw her sitting there holding her face in her hands. She was a young woman.

She saw what had happened. You see at Auschwitz alone they were obliterating them at 12,000 every day and Eichmann's comment was that the first time he saw what happened and got the report of a whole lot of them being herded into the gas ovens, denuded, the head shaven off and leaning flesh against flesh already emaciated. They were told they were going into the showers and when they would be taken into that room and the gas spigots would be turned on, they would only be able to hear one or two people screaming out gas and that's all they would hear and the bodies were literally shoveled out.

Eichmann said as painful as it was the first time, I learned we were now able to disperse of many, many bodies at the same time and do it in the quickest possible way. He said one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. But just outside the gas ovens were the words of Hitler, I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of a conscience, imperial, relentless and cruel. What they did with kids there, what they did with women kind there, as many people were dragged into this onslaught who didn't want to be dragged in, who never realized what they were going into.

When I wrote a book called Jesus Talks to Hitler in a great conversation series, I went to Nuremberg with one of my colleagues who is an authority on that to help me with my research. The first thing that struck me in the judgment hall at Nuremberg just above the tribunal were the Ten Commandments. And as you leave the hall, above the door, I forget, above or beside it was the garden of Eden and the temptation, you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil, meaning defining good and evil. So here was the challenge, were they going to let God be God or were they going to become definers of good and evil? Now the important thing to state here is to understand what I am not saying. I am not saying for a moment that an atheist by definition is an evil person, a mass murderer, this and that.

That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm just wanting to point out that once you do away with the absolute, once you do away with the existence of God, where do you turn for your absolutes? Where do you turn?

How do we get an answer? Probably the most recent work of Sam Harris made a noble effort at trying to talk about the moral landscape. And of course he transposed positions from talking about morality to wellbeing. And then he himself concedes towards the end that yes, we have a lot of psychopaths in the country, about 3 million of them, and a person can be a mass murderer and still be extremely happy. And in a puzzling conclusion then ends up not really with an absolute, but some kind of a continuum. And so the man today who stands in front of the lens of a camera and uses a sword without even having the courage for his or a face to be seen, to behead somebody can also say to you and to me, he is doing this for geopolitical wellbeing.

It's exactly what they believe. I have sat across tables and discussed dialogue and asked such questions. And I say the discussion even amongst philosophers is a divided house. Kai Nielsen, the renowned atheist from Calgary, we have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view or that really rational persons unhoodwinked by myth or ideology need not be individual egoist or classical amoralist. Reason doesn't decide here. The picture I have painted for you is really not a pleasant one.

Reflection on this actually depresses me. Pure practical reason even with a good knowledge of the facts will not take you to morality. This is a very outspoken atheist. He says this, even with a good knowledge of the facts will not take you to morality. Richard Rorty, if moral imperatives are not commanded by God's will and if they are not in some sense absolute, then what we wish to be is a matter simply of what men and women decide should be. There is no other source of judgment. Two renowned atheists, Bertrand Russell says, you know what, I cannot live as though its ethical values were simply a matter of personal taste, but I find my own views incredible.

I do not know what the real solution is. There has to be a rational justification above all of our differences and this is especially important for America at this time in her history where pluralism is a design and it is a good design. I happen to be a privileged one who was born in one part of the world, at the age of 20 moved to the other part of the world and because the doors of these nations were open with a legitimate pluralism, people like me could come here, earn a living, raise our families, but the absolutes that built this nation are now in serious jeopardy and we had better realize it. The absolutes that built this nation, because the nation talked about the fact that there were naturally endowed rights given to us, that these truths were self-evident. All of these moral statements are very critical to understand in the light of our pluralistic culture in our time. I know by going to places in the world right now, people look at me and will ask the question, what is going on in the West?

What is going on? Was it not Adolf Eichmann who finally when he was tried in Israel and was sentenced to the death penalty, I was there when they were dealing with all of the evidence and was given several pages and pages of the trial, which I was able to get back before I wrote my book. But here is Hannah Arendt describing Eichmann's last moment, this is critical, and I move to my next thought here. Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows with great dignity. He had asked for a bottle of red wine and drank half of it.

He refused the help of a Protestant minister, the Reverend William Hull, who offered to read the Bible with him. He had only two more hours to live and therefore he said good, quote, I have no time to waste. He walked the 50 yards from his cell to the execution chamber, calm and erect, with his hands bound behind him. When the guards tied his ankles and knees, he asked them to loosen the bonds so that he could stand straight.

I don't need that, he said. When the black hood was offered to him, he was in complete command of himself. Nay, he was more than that.

He was completely himself. Nothing could have demonstrated this more convincingly than the grotesque silliness of his last words. He began by stating emphatically that he was a Blobiger, to express in Nazi fashion that he was no Christian and did not believe in life after death. He then proceeded, quote, after a short while, gentlemen, we shall all meet again. Such is the fate of all men.

Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria. I shall not forget them. In the face of death, he had found the cliche used in funeral oratory under the gallows his memory played in the last trick. He was elated and he forgot that this was really his own funeral. It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson.

I want you to hear this now. It was as though in those last minutes he was summing up the lesson that this long, coarse and human wickedness has taught us. The lesson of the fearsome word and thought-defying banality of evil.

Evil had become trivial. You've been listening to a message from Ravi Zacharias titled Living in Critical Times. If you would like to purchase a complete copy of this message, call us at 1-800-448-6766.

You can also order online at or in Canada, that website is The goal of RZIM is to touch both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and influencers in our society. And this is accomplished by combining evangelism and apologetics.

We aim to help reach students on college campuses and universities, encourage churches and answer questions from Christians and skeptics. This is Ravi Zacharias and I just wanted to take a minute to share this verse with you today. Matthew 11, 28 and 29 says this. Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. No matter what you're going through today, I hope you'll take time to reflect on these beautiful words and find rest in the Lord Jesus Christ. To find out more about our ministry or to donate, be sure to call us or visit our website. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. Let My People Think is a listener supported radio ministry and is furnished by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-10 11:26:24 / 2024-03-10 11:35:36 / 9

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