Renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias spoke to about 400 students and faculty members at Brigham Young University on Friday and addressed the question, "What does it mean to be human?"
Zacharias spoke at the university, which is sponsored by the Mormon Church, as a part of the school's "Faith, Family and Society" lecture series.
"If you ask me what has been the loss in our time, I think truly it has been the loss of definitions," he said, indicating that society no longer knows how to define things like good, evil, family, the "sacredness of sexuality" and what it means to be human.
Zacharias began his message by reading from Psalm 8, in which King David praises God for his creation and asks, "…what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
"We are here not by accident," said Zacharias. "We are here from the mind and design of a creator."
The creation narrative, he says, gives people an "intrinsic worth" that a political theory or government could not give. He also says people have "essential value" before God, which was highlighted by Jesus when he said the two greatest commandments are to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and to "love your neighbor as yourself."
"You take away these two and you're creating a world of anarchy, unable to sustain initial value and initial worth, that intrinsic worth that God gives to you and to me," said Zacharias. "This is what we've lost in our time."
He also discussed how the incarnation of Christ gives humans the "absoluteness of the moral law and the supremacy of love," as well as the human need for God's transforming power and the fulfillment of the Christian hope.
"The world has become a lonely place, but the world is looking for answers," he said. "When you carry the message of what it means to be human as given to us in our Christian worldview, you give them the answers from the creation, the incarnation, to transformation, to consummation."
Zacharias also took questions from the audience after his message. When asked how people of faith should approach those who are anti-theistic, the speaker said it is important to recognize that Christians live in an era in which their faith has been stigmatized as being for non-thinkers.
Among other things, he encouraged people of faith to do their "homework" and prepare to answer skeptics' questions either directly or by connecting them to helpful resources. He also says believers need to learn to ask "the right kind of questions" that will help people become open to examining their own assumptions and beliefs, but says it is ultimately God who will cause transformation in a person.
"The changing of a person's heart is really not your prerogative, or mine," he said. "Only God's big enough to do that, but God uses us as instruments."
In addition to speaking at BYU, Zacharias also spoke at the Mormon Tabernacle for the second time on Saturday. When he first spoke at the Tabernacle in 2004 he became the first non-Mormon speaker to address its audience in 105 years.
Zacharias's local host during his visit was Standing Together, a network of evangelical congregations working to bring biblical unity and spiritual transformation to the community in Utah.
"The Mormon and evangelical communities were given a wonderful gift by Ravi Zacharias at the Mormon Tabernacle and BYU, the gift of courage to reach out to others with different beliefs and to engage each other with gentleness and respect as we seek together to know the Truth," said Gregory Johnson, president of Standing Together, in a statement.
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) is based in Atlanta, Ga., and has offices in six other nations. Zacharias has authored or edited more than 20 books, and during the last 40 years has spoken in locations around the world, including at universities such as Oxford, Princeton and Harvard.