July-August 2015 – In the 2014 movie God’s Not Dead, college student Josh Wheaton defends his faith before his classmates and atheist professor. In the campus apologetics alliance of Ratio Christi, that scene is a reality. Meaning “reason of Christ,” Ratio Christi equips students and faculty with a reason to believe, defend, and share their faith.
Each college chapter hosts campus-wide apologetics events and meets weekly for student-led discussions moderated by a trained apologist serving as chapter director. The club is also open to professors, nonbelievers, and members of other religions to attend, and it partners with other campus ministries. The intention is to meet the huge need for apologetics in every arena of campus life, as AFA Journal discussed with Ratio Christi President Corey Miller.
AFA Journal: Why is apologetics needed on the college campus?
Corey Miller: Americans, especially on secular campuses, are evidently not equipped to deal with the massive secularization taking place. The university is the most strategic point at controlling the direction of culture, because it is where the dissemination of ideas happens. We must take back the university if we are going to advance the gospel rather than retreat from it in our culture.
Apologetics is a nonnegotiable tool. Current evangelism in the West requires apologetics. In fact, I think the reason many Christians in the West don’t use apologetics is that they don’t do evangelism.
AFAJ: How does Ratio Christi specifically fill the need on college campuses?
CM: It’s like a special ops campus ministry. Ratio Christi aims not to add just one more ministry, but focuses attention on apologetics evangelism, seeking to partner with, rather than compete with, other campus ministries as well as the local church.
AFAJ: Why does Ratio Christi emphasize engaging professors as well as students?
CM: You cannot adequately reach the whole campus unless you are whole campus focused. If you can get the professors, you can get their classroom too, for 30 years. We network with Christian professors to teach them, not just to be professors who happen to be Christians, but missional professors. And we address the competing worldviews of non-Christian professors in a way they can identify with. That’s why we partner with speakers of academic reputation sufficient to impress secular professors.
AFAJ: How did you learn the importance of being able to explain your faith?
CM: I was a sixth generation Mormon from Utah. When I left Mormonism, I was challenged to consider the foundations of my faith or possibly return to Mormonism. When I discovered the problems of Mormonism, it created a kind of healthy skepticism that God used to give me an insatiable desire for truth. So, as a person who had a 0.3 grade point average at one time, I ended up acquiring three graduate degrees and a Ph.D.
AFAJ: How does Ratio Christi emphasize pursuing truth?
CM: The student in God’s Not Dead represents the kind of students involved in Ratio Christi chapters, in terms of their tenacity to research and defend the faith, not only for themselves in the classroom but also for the sake of hundreds of others who are ill- equipped to deal with the secular tidal wave.
AFAJ: Has Ratio Christi encountered pushback for its outspoken defense of Christianity?
CM: In the California state university system, Ratio Christi chapters have been derecognized, kicked off campus, just as some other campus ministries have been. We continue to meet because you don’t need formal authorization to have an impact on campus. And we are pursuing litigation to face the issue in California and in other states.
AFAJ: How have you personally experienced the need for Christians to take a stand on college campuses?
CM: As an undergrad, I was kicked out of my first college class [because of my beliefs] and took a legal route to get back into the college classroom. As a grad student working on a Ph.D. in philosophy, I had my Ph.D. undermined during my dissertation year because I had “too much of a faith perspective.” And as an adjunct university professor at a major university, I was in legal proceedings last year because I taught the alternative to the politically correct LGBT issue.
Even though I had atheist, nonbelieving students defending me for the sake of free thinking, the university would not listen to my case until Alliance Defending Freedom stepped in, and I was exonerated without having to go to court.
So, I know, and Ratio Christi knows, what’s at stake in taking the universities back for Christ. As goes the university, so goes the culture.
Texas A&M student Andrew Robbins received the Legatus Christi award, conferred by Ratio Christi on student members who have attained high standards in using apologetics. Robbins told AFAJ Ratio Christi has taught him to evangelize and respect the non-Christian.
“What I have learned from Ratio Christi has helped me engage nonbelievers,” he said. “Ratio Christi is a place where questions are taken seriously and discussed openly. Evangelism should be about listening to what a person believes, to their objections. Only then will an unbeliever take what I am saying seriously and consider the gospel.”
Legatus Christi recipient and Ratio Christi student president at University of Michigan Dearborn, Olivia Mensah found apologetics provides a reason for faith when reaching out to those opposed to Christianity.
“Muslim students often come to our display tables or meetings and they’re ready to discuss their faith; so must we be,” she said. “One professor on campus rips Christianity apart, just like the one in God’s Not Dead. It’s very important to be settled in the truth and not carried by the wind of opinion. Apologetics is the basis to say faith and reason are not mutually exclusive – you don’t need to have blind faith.”
Ryan Moore heard about Ratio Christi while studying at Frank Turek’s CrossExamined Instructor Academy in 2013. He has been Ratio Christi chapter president at Tennessee Tech since his freshman year. He told AFAJ Ratio Christi has enabled him to network with students, faculty, and ministries to teach apologetics.
“I have used the enormous network of apologists Ratio Christi has built, and I train people in apologetics at many churches, events, and schools,” he said. “Students from six other college ministries come to our meetings. We are attempting to change the culture at Tennessee Tech.”
Ratio Christi partners
▶ William Lane Craig
▶ Dave Geisler
▶ David Noebel
▶ Frank Turek
Crossexamined, the radio show, airs on American Family Radio on Saturdays at 10 a.m.
Ratio Christi blog