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Ravi Zacharias discusses the Bible, his life, families and religious freedom

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18 2014 8:40 a.m. MST

Dr. Ravi Zacharias speaks to an overflow crowd at the Tabernacle Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004 during the second of a three-part lecture series titled "In Pursuit of Truth." Zacharias was brought to Utah by Standing Together, a non-profit organization in Utah dedicated to bringing together Christians from different faiths in discussion to build friendship and understanding. Zacharias is an renown Christian philosopher and is the first Evangelical Christian to speak in the Tabernacle in more than 100 years. The third part of the lecture series will be at Weber State University ballroom Monday night.

Jason Olson, Deseret News archives

In 2004, Ravi Zacharias became the first evangelical leader to deliver a major address from the Salt Lake Tabernacle pulpit in more than 100 years.

Nearly a decade later, Zacharias has returned. The Christian apologist and author is scheduled to speak at an open forum at Brigham Young University on Friday, Jan. 17, and also at a sold-out event at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 p.m. Musical guest Fernando Ortega will accompany Zacharias at the Tabernacle. Both events are free and will be live-streamed on rzim.org.

"It is an honor to visit Utah again and I am particularly grateful for the invitations to speak at Brigham Young University and the Mormon Tabernacle," Zacharias said. "This is an extraordinary privilege the organizers have given to me, and I look forward to addressing key questions relating to life and liberty."

Zacharias' local host is Standing Together, a network of evangelical congregations along the Wasatch Front.

Zacharias is the founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. RZIM is headquartered in Atlanta, with additional offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.

Zacharias was born in India and immigrated to Canada with his family in the 1960s. For four decades, Zacharias has spoken all over the world and in numerous universities, including Harvard, Princeton and Oxford, as well as in government settings around the globe.

Prior to visiting BYU and the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Zacharias was available for an interview in which he discussed his favorite Bible stories, a critical time in his life, his prepared messages, families and religious freedom. Here is some of the discussion.

Deseret News: Tell me about one of your favorite stories in the Bible and how it has inspired you in your work.

Ravi Zacharias: When you go to stories, there are so many ranging from historic to the parables. In the historic category, I would say one of my most moving stories was the story of Nicodemus and Jesus. You are a leader and profess to know so much, and yet you don't know about the new birth? You don't know that this is begotten of God, and how you enter into the kingdom of heaven?

It was a reminder to me that religiosity can often times block you from the most fundamental truth that God wants to communicate to us.

When I look at the story of the prodigal son, as an Easterner, both of these stories meant a lot of me. … When you have wronged your father, and when you have treated him as if he were dead, which is the implication of "give me my inheritance," and then he goes and squanders it, then he comes to himself and makes his U-turn home, in an Eastern context, the father never would have left the home to meet him outside. He would have waited until the son came in flat on his face, begging forgiveness. But the grace of the father, to run to meet the son who is on his way back home, is so counterintuitive to the Eastern mindset. And there he was received and forgiven and robed and ringed and all of that.

To me, those two stories, one a historic encounter and one a parable, are the most powerful stories. I think it has something to do with the time in your life when you are reading, what it is that touches you in the most sensitive spot, in your own context.

DN: Who was the most influential person in your life growing up and what is one lesson you learned from that person that has stayed with you throughout your life?

RZ: I came to know Christ on a bed of suicide when I was 17. So the most influential person in my life was the man who brought me a Bible into my hospital room. Without it, nothing else would have changed. I was on my death-bed.

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