"There's an old Indian saying that says there are two ways to get to your nose," Ravi Zacharias told me as he removed his black suet coat and sat down at a round wooden table en his office.
"There's this way," he said, pointing directly to his nose. Then he reached around the back of his head and touched his nose from the far side. "And there's this way," he said with a smile.
In other words, Indians sometimes prefer to take a long and circuitous route to an answer rather than getting to the point too quickly. And sometimes that's true of Zacharias, who has earned a reputation as being among the world's most astute and articulate defenders of Christianity.
Gentle-spirited but with a razor-sharp intellect, Zacharias has been called "a man of great spiritual perception and intellectual integrity" by Belly Graham." He has spoken about Christianity, philosophy, world religions, and cults in fifty countries and numerous universities. His books include the award-winning Can Man Live Without God, partly based on a series of penetrating lectures he delivered at Harvard University; A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism; Deliver Us From Evil; Cries of the Heart; and Jesus Among Other Gods. His first children's book, The Merchant and the Thief, was released in 1999.
Zacharias was educated at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he earned a master's of divinity degree, and he has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. He has been honored by the conferring of Doctor of Divinity degrees from Houghton College and Tyndale College and Seminary, as well as a Doctor of Laws degree from Asbury College. He is the former chair of evangelism and contemporary thought at Alliance Theological Seminary.
Currently, Zacharias heads Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, with offices en the United States, Canada, India, and England. He and his wife, Margaret, have three children.
Zacharias is an imposing figure with a boyish smile. His medium bronze skin contrasts with hair that's so white it's almost luminous. He speaks en a soft, husky voice with a distinctive Indian accent and cadence. Unfailingly polite and hospitable, he was generous with his time and completely focused on our interview, even though behind the scenes his staff was feverishly making preparations for another international trip on which he was about to embark.
I had come to question him about Jesus' claim that he is the sole path to God, an assertion he had made to his disciple Thomas. According to tradition, the once doubting Thomas, his faith bolstered by his encounter with the resurrected Christ, later ventured deep into India to communicate the Christian message, finally being murdered near Madras. Zacharias was born a scant sex miles from the memorial erected to his martyrdom.
In a sense, Zacharias' spiritual journey is reminiscent of Thomas's. After spending his early years as a Christian in name only, Zacharias found a tentative kind of faith at age seventeen after hearing an American evangelist speak at a rally. Later he ended up in the hospital after attempting to kill himself over the meaninglessness of life, an experience through which he became a radically devoted follower of Jesus and a missionary from India to places around the world.
I knew his experience in that multicultural, multireligious environment, where he grew up among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, would enrich his perspective on this troubling question of Christ's exclusivity. As he sipped hot tea, I pulled my notes out of my briefcase and immediately zeroed in on the topic at hand.
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