“Does God matter?” That was the question of the hour at Biola on Feb. 22, as well-known Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias and nationally syndicated radio host Dennis Prager dialogued in front of a crowd of 2,500 in Chase Gymnasium and more than 4,000 watching live online.
The sold-out event, sponsored by Hashtag Productions in partnership with Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute and Christian apologetics program, drew massive crowds from Southern California and beyond to hear Zacharias and Prager, along with radio host Frank Sontag as moderator, discuss the place of God and the basis for morality in an increasingly secular society.
“I firmly believe that America stands at a brink and at a time in her history where if we do not pay heed to the decline of our moral values, the cliff’s precipitous edge is extremely close,” Zacharias said during the event, dubbed a “dialogue” rather than a debate.
“When God is removed, there is no reason to do anything,” said Prager. “There is a very powerful argument for murder. If you can get away with it, why is it wrong? There is no secular answer to that question.”
Introducing the event, Biola President Barry H. Corey underscored the importance of the night’s theme — “Does God Matter? Finding Your Moral Footing in the Quicksand of Secularism.”
“It’s a topic that couldn’t be more pertinent to what we do here at Biola University,” Corey said. “We believe God does matter. In every major, every vocation, every pursuit we might undertake, God matters because he is the author of all truth, all purpose, all beauty, all goodness, all redemption.”
Corey noted that Biola’s belief that “God matters” in higher education is “increasingly countercultural.”
“At the prestigious institutions originally founded with God-centered missions, God is now on the margins, viewed as irrelevant to serious inquiry and a hindrance to intellectual respectability,” he said. “But without God, without a moral foundation and without a soul, education becomes fragmentary and directionless.”
The state of the contemporary university — which Prager dubbed “the secular temple” — was just one of the topics discussed during the two-hour event. Zacharias and Prager also touched on morality, atheism, racism, abortion, politics and prayer.
“If you are a praying person, your faith in God will carry you,” Zacharias said. “If you are not a praying person, you will carry your faith and you will get exhausted bearing the infinite.”
The focus of the discussion, however, was on the dangers of secularism.
“Secularism is its own religious idea, that the world is better with no God and no religion,” said Prager, who is a practicing Jew. “In the 20th century alone, more people have been murdered and tortured and slaughtered and enslaved by secular governments and secular ideas than by religion in 2,000 years.”
“Secularism flirts with the ultimate dehumanization and debasing of human life because it denies a transcendent definition of intrinsic worth,” added Zacharias.
Zacharias, who said he was “grateful to God” for Biola because “you’re producing some of the finest thinkers around,” emphasized the importance of belief in God as a basis for morality, but also made it clear that grace alone is what saves us.
“We are not ultimately in a relationship with God because we are moral, but because the grace of God that comes in spite of what our morality alone cannot do,” he said. “Jesus Christ didn’t come into this world to make bad people good; he came into this world to make dead people live.”
The event, which was live-streamed online for free to thousands, prompted hundreds of tweets using the hashtag #RaviPrager, as viewers asked questions via Twitter or shared pithy quotes from the evening’s proceedings.