Fall 1997, I entered undergraduate school full of excitement and anticipation as I began a journey of focused learning and new relationships. Little did I know, I was in for a very big surprise. The surprise wasn’t that I didn’t develop new relationships or that I didn’t learn new things. The surprise was that I encountered several professors, two in particular, who were avowed atheists and were determined to overthrow the faith of as many students as possible. To my utter shock, my philosophy professor even had the audacity to say, “Your parents may have indoctrinated you with religion, but I am here to educate you that what they taught you was false. You may have been a Christian when you enrolled in this class, but you probably won’t be one when this class is done.” Wow. This is what a professor in his mid-30’s announced to a class full of impressionable 18 year olds. There I was, shocked, angry and very nervous. Was this right? Could he do this? Was he allowed to say that? I’m sure most of us in the class felt the same way, but that day, we all had the same response. Nothing. We all said nothing.
As the semester got underway, slam after slam came about the Christian faith. My religion professor was a little more covert with his attack upon the Christian faith, but my philosophy professor was overt, to the point of downright ridicule that included short bursts of anger. One day about a month into the course, I had heard enough. My faith was a deeply personal matter, not just because I grew up believing in God, but because Jesus made such a profound transformation in my life while a sophomore in high school. My middle school years were bad. Let me restate that, they were terrible! Constant suspensions, fights, failed grades and even a short stint in handcuffs in the principals office. Needless to say, my faith wasn’t a result of childhood indoctrination, but an authentic experience with the Jesus. I raised my hand and waited to be called upon. Seconds later, my professor acknowledged my hand and motioned towards me. This began a back and forth debate that lasted nearly 20 minutes. During this exchange, my professor made a statement that has proved to be one of the most important statements these ears ever heard. As I recounted my personal experience with Jesus and how He transformed my life, I could see on the faces of my peers the impact my story was having upon them. He noticed it as well. As a result, in anger, he said, “Marcus, personal experience is highly subjective and unreliable. You can’t convince me with stories. In this class, facts--historical, scientific facts--are what counts.” With that said, he dismissed the class.
Abbreviating what could very well be a very long story about the remainder of that year and the forthcoming years, it was that statement that led me to the bookstore where I encountered the writing of Dr. #RaviZacharias. As I consumed book after book, my mind was blown away at his beautiful and brilliant mind. Whenever he quoted another author or book, I would go the book store and order it. This went on to such an extent that I started taking philosophy courses, just so I could discuss my findings with other curious people. My university advisor sat down with me one day, and she said, “Marcus, either you are going to major in philosophy or you are going to be here for 7 years getting a business degree.” With that said, I got the memo and stopped taking the philosophy courses, but I actively sought every available opportunity to share my discoveries with anyone who would listen. Unknown to my friends, I would sneak off and attend the meetings held by atheists and agnostics on campus to discuss the historical, scientific and philosophical evidence for Jesus, His works, His message, God and the authenticity of the Bible. Of course, I made more than a handful of enemies on campus, but at the same time, I made lifelong friends. Interestingly, during my senior year, I even gained the respect of a few of the leading atheists on campus.
By the time 2001 came around, my faith in Jesus was firmly established on the grounds of a meaningful personal experience, as well as, historical, scientific and philosophical evidence. As graduation approached, it was only fitting that I paid a visit to my freshman philosophy professor. When I walked into his office, we greeted each other and I said, “Sir, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you.” With a slight look of shock on his face, he replied, “For what, Marcus?” I continued, with a smile on my face, “Well sir, it is because of you that I am a better Christian today than I was four years ago when I sat in your class.” Before he could interject, I continued, “You see, your statement about historical and scientific facts led me on a journey to discover a world of historical, scientific and philosophical research that I didn’t know existed. You count on students not doing independent research and self study so they simply take you at your words, which I have learned, are also biased. Basically, you take advantage of our ignorance.”
The professor was certainly taken aback by my statements and preceded to give a canned "scholarly" response. "Well, Marcus, I am glad you found something that works for you." To this statement, I nodded and replied, "If you challenged your atheism as much as you ask your students to challenge their belief in God, maybe you would come to a different conclusion." No, I wasn't smart enough for that statement. I modified it from a statement made by #Ravi. With that, I turned and walked out of his office.
Today, nearly 23 years removed from that experience, my wife and young adult children value the work of #RZIM. We constantly listen to the podcasts and Ravi’s audio books to discuss the implications. Additionally, tens of thousands of people within the African American context have been exposed to your ideas and perspective as you have influenced how I speak and do business. Yes, I am a man of business. Yes, I am a man of faith. And I am better at both of them because of your work. I know there are hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of other stories like mine all over the world, yet, I wanted it to be recorded that your ministry had a profound impact upon my life.
A life well lived is certainly an appropriate epithet and the ripple effect of the pebble in the pond is a meaningful and personal metaphor. #ThankYouRavi