What does it mean to be human? More than 3,500 students and Ann Arbor residents filled Hill Auditorium on Tuesday night to grapple with this very question and listen to Christian apologist writers Ravi Zacharias and Abdu Murray discuss questions of value, morality and human worth in the context of a Christian faith.
Christian apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that uses historical evidence, philosophical reasoning, as well of other forms of academic inquiry to defend the religion against criticism. One of the speakers, Zacharias, is the founder of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries based in Toronto, which promotes this school of thought. Murray serves as the North American director of these ministries.
Sponsored by Christian student organization Michigan Cru, the event was centered on the idea that humans are not collections of random atoms, but replete with intrinsic worth provided by God. The presenters believe in the modern loss of self-worth, and how humans derive their value from others, rather than from Christianity.
Murray discussed the importance of the “Golden Rule,” the concept that rather than treating others kindly because of a selfish desire for reciprocal kindness, humans should empathize with all humans and foster relationships bound by love.
“I want to leave you with that,” he said. “Because if we take in that message, and live as somebody else, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of their creeds, regardless of their backgrounds, regardless of their ethnicities, if we can take in that message and live like that, then maybe our correct idea of what it means to be human will ultimately be restored.”
Murray also believes relationships are failing due to humans passing judgement onto others rather than deriving intrinsic worth from God.
“Our sense of connectedness is cracked,” Murray said. “If our connection to God is cracked, our connection to each other is cracked.”
Zacharias expanded upon Murray’s idea of intrinsic worth by explaining how relationships are what help make human beings unique, despite being made in the image of God.
“How God manages this is absolutely remarkable, by introducing the notion of the family and love between the fellow human being,” Zacharias said. “While you and I share the image of God, you have a distinctive uniqueness where your relationships give you the privilege of a kind of love that they cannot give to anybody else. You are in a relationship with that privilege to God.”
Zacharias said citizens put too much value in their governments rather than in their own self-worth.
“Some nations actually believe that the value of an individual is made by those in power,” he said. “That’s not what the Bible reminds you and me; it reminds us that you are made with such essential worth and intrinsic worth.”
Zacharias ended the event with his disappointment in the amount of social division in the modern world. He questioned what civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. would think of the hatred being spewed — believing that the words of intolerance send a terrible message to today’s youth.
“What has happened to us now?” Zacharias said. “If we can't even talk to each other in a civil way, we are sending a horrible example to our young — to say that unless you think like me, I’m going to be intolerant of you.”
Regardless of their religious views, students in attendance shared the opinion that the speakers presented interesting points and thought-provoking ideas.
LSA sophomore Mary Kate McNamara said she appreciated how the talk allowed people of many different worldviews to come together and discuss a topic relevant to all humans.
“I really liked the Q&A at the end,” McNamara said. “I found it very interesting and refreshing that people with such different world perspectives, whether they are Christian, of another religion or non-religious, could discuss a topic as important as human worth and dignity with such respect for one another.”
LSA senior Erin Finn said she was excited to take part in a forum where the Christian perspective on the purpose of life was illuminated, as too many people view Christianity as a strict set of rules rather than guiding purpose of life.
She explained that message of the speakers and how they voiced her beliefs accurately to a large group of people, resonated within her.
“Ravi and Abdu really touched on how Christianity is about an ultimate gift of love from God, and how God’s love for us gives our life purpose,” Finn said. “They noted how this his necessitates nothing from us, but rather arises from our intrinsic worth as human beings made in God’s image. As a Christian, I was really happy that other people could hear what I actually believe, not what they might think I believe.”