(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
The popularity of a college student group primarily focused on defending their faith in Jesus on university campuses throughout the U.S. and world has increased dramatically in the last year.
While operating in the mostly secular environment of college academia, including students and professors, a Christian apologetics alliance known as Ratio Christi (Latin for "reason of Christ" or the "rationality of Christ") is aggressively seeking and placing apologists on campuses to lead student chapters.
This movement comes at a time when Christian leaders such as prominent evangelical Chuck Colson say atheist – or nontheist – groups are on the rise on college campuses. Colson recently praised Ratio Christi in a column he wrote, expressing his joy at knowing the group is "working to reclaim the intellectual battleground on college campuses."
"Colson is well aware that the battle for the mind is centered around the university," Ratio Christi President Rick Schenker told The Christian Post. "Secular thought dominates most educational institutions. Christian students are ridiculed and openly humiliated by fellow students, and sometimes even faculty, for believing in God, the Bible and Jesus Christ."
Schenker said his group went from 12 to 65 chapters within less than a year. The biggest challenge the organization faces is funding the rapid growth and expressed interest of other "supported missionaries" or chapter leaders.
"We tried to slow it down, but the inquiries keep coming … mostly from apologists who want to open a chapter," he said. "This became overwhelming after we started a 'supported missionary' program that seeks to place apologists on campus as full time missionaries."
"We have an extensive vetting process ... especially if the apologist wants to become a full-time missionary," he added. "Beyond the 65 chapters that are either fully functional, or in the process of forming, we must have well over 50 leads for new chapters in the pipeline."
Schenker was recently asked in an interview for thebestschools.org to give his thoughts on the subject of Christian apologetics.
"Apologetics is the branch of Christian theology that seeks to address the intellectual obstacles that keep people from taking faith seriously," he answered. "I think it is so important that the church is heading into a new age – the age of the apologist. The modern church is under intellectual attack."
A typical Ratio Christi campus group is made up of students who want to go deeper into the study of the intellectual framework of the Christian faith, said Schenker. In addition to hosting weekly meetings, Ratio Christi offers training for other student ministries and Christian faculty members. The group also works to support other Christian ministries.
This school year has been a busy one for the group – holding interfaith dialogues, lectures, and debates at major universities.
"Each fully accredited chapter is required to do at least one public event each year," Schenker said. "Some do one each semester."
The organization started three and a half years ago as a student-run ministry of Southern Evangelical Seminary. While looking for work in 2010, Schenker found the group's website. Because he felt "it was a mass movement waiting to happen," he asked to join as its leader. The ministry became a certified nonprofit group one year ago and has steadily gained more attention ever since.
"We unashamedly defend the veracity of God, the Bible, and Christ's resurrection and engage in the battle for the mind right on the university campuses," Schenker explained. "We believe, like Colson, that the Christian world offers the best explanation for all of the issues of life. And that we can equip university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ."
On the Web: http://ratiochristi.org/