World-famous Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias died today at the age of 74 after a short battle with Sarcoma. His organization, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), announced in March that doctors had discovered a malignant tumor on his spine while performing surgery. His death ends a 46-year career of traveling the globe to evangelize the lost and defend the Christian worldview.
Zacharias intended for his life to end much sooner; he attempted suicide at the age of 17. A religious skeptic at the time, Zacharias survived the attempt, overcame his despondency, and found salvation through considering the words of Christ: “Because I live, you also will live”. After leaving his native India, Zacharias received a theological education at Ontario Bible College (1966) and Trinity International Seminary (1972). At the outset of his ministry, he was ordained by the Christian Missionary Alliance. Despite chronic back pain that made travel very difficult, Zacharias maintained an evangelistic speaking schedule almost until the very end of his life.
In addition to his extensive speaking engagements, Zacharias contributed as author, contributor, or editor to dozens of Christian books, including Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults. RZIM as an organization grew to feature an extensive radio and podcast ministry (most notably the Let My People Think program) and currently advertises seventy-three global speakers. RZIM reported over $25M in revenue in 2014. Zacharias was universally respected in the international Christian community for his ability to answer the most difficult and sensitive questions about the Christian faith with poise and acumen. He was the most adept of speakers, able to both give prepared speeches and respond quickly to unplanned questions from his audience.
However, he was not without his detractors. Some conservative evangelicals have lamented Zacharias’ hesitancy to condemn the Roman Catholic Church as a heretical cult and his employment of same-sex attracted Anglican priest Sam Allberry as an RZIM global speaker. The final years of Zacharias’ ministry were marred by credible accusations of a cyber affair between he and a female follower of his ministry and the discovery that RZIM had inflated Zacharias academic credentials in its promotional materials. Zacharias is survived by his wife of 46 years, Margie, and their three grown children. At this time of loss, Christians should pray for his family and they grieve privately for a very public figure. Christians should also remember his example as an apologist. Ravi Zacharias lived out 1 Peter 3:15 time after time, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that was within him, yet with gentleness and respect.