by Glenn Smith, Chapter Director at Texas A&M University
Ratio Christi operates differently from how Christian apologetics have traditionally been done. In the past, apologists were alone, doing work that was breaking new ground. Therefore, the only avenue available to them was through teaching, writing books and articles, and debates. So, when Ratio Christi came along, many Christians and apologists simply did not understand how we went about our work. From the perspective campus directors, we are finding that the Christian community needs an explanation of what we are not . . . and what we are.
What Ratio Christi Is Not
There are several things that Ratio Christi is not. The items below might be supported by Ratio Christi on occasion, but these are not primarily what makes up Ratio Christi.
Ratio Christi is not a class: We do not teach apologetics in traditional classroom lecture style, with a teacher explaining concepts to students who sit in rows and watch slides. Keep in mind that college students are in classrooms full time. Why would they want to attend another class?
Ratio Christi is not a sermon or lecture: Ratio Christi directors do not give messages in the sense that a pastor would. We are not a church service and the students are not a congregation. Our meetings do not resemble traditional worship services.
Ratio Christi is not a presentation, seminar, or conference: Many apologetics organizations bring in guest speakers to give a seminar or apologetics conference. While these provide a great service to the body of Christ, and while Ratio Christi occasionally supports a speaker or conference, Ratio Christi chapters spend most of our time doing activities which are very different than conferences. Most of our meeting time is not spent in presentations or lectures.
Ratio Christi is not a research or publishing organization: Many fine apologetics publications exist, and Ratio Christi encourages everyone in the body of Christ to learn more through these publications. Ratio Christi, however, is not primarily a place for scholars to do research, publish, or read papers.
Ratio Christi is not trying to compete with other ministries: Many fine Christian organizations are on college campuses and do wonderful work. In no way does Ratio Christi view ourselves as an organization that wants to overlap with other ministries. Rather, we want to reach students whose needs are different than what existing ministries provide......but Ratio Christi has a strong desire to work alongside other ministries.
Further, Ratio Christi does not believe we can argue people into the kingdom: Apologetics is not about winning arguments. While we do believe in answering all men (1 Peter 3:15), we do not believe it is possible to argue people into Christianity; only the Holy Spirit can convict people. Arguing for the sake of arguing is a sin, but providing a defense of the word of God is a divine command.
What Sets Ratio Christi Apart?
Most apologetic ministries consist of people who do one or more of the following traditional methods of “doing apologetics":
• Teach classes
• Fly into town, hold a seminar, and fly out
• Give lectures at meetings once a month
• Write articles and books
• Build a website, blog, or post online videos
There is nothing wrong with these activities. In fact, they are much needed, and Ratio Christi supports them in many ways: by recommending conferences to our students, by reading the publications, by using their materials in our clubs, by using the research and websites to help answer sought after questions, and much more. But this traditional model of apologetics is so engrained that many Christian apologists have no other concept of doing ministry. So what does Ratio Christi do that is different from the traditional methods of doing apologetics?
Primary interaction and personal time with people. Many of the methods used in traditional apologetics ministries are one-way communication. Ratio Christi, however, focuses on conversations with people over a long period of time, often discussing issues for hours at a time, then continuing the discussion for weeks or years.
Ratio Christi’s primary interaction is outside of a church setting. Many of the traditional methods reach people inside church buildings. While this fulfills a great need, which is to educate the body of Christ, it leaves some needs unfulfilled. Since Ratio Christi meets primarily on university campuses, we have more interaction with people who disagree with us, people who will not darken the door of a church, people who will not attend meetings of other Christian organizations.
Ratio Christi meets weekly. By meeting weekly, students and mentors can interact in an informal manner and discuss questions in depth. Relationships are built, issues are dealt with at length. People with questions have the time to fully explore answers, and budding apologists have multiple opportunities to practice using apologetics with people. While other college ministries also meet weekly, Ratio Christi focuses mainly on loving God with all our minds (Matthew 22:37).
Ratio Christi provides a guided discussion format: A typical Ratio Christi meeting will have a group of people sitting in a circle having a discussion. There will be a topic, which the group will talk about in an open, guided discussion format. One or more trained students will have prepared questions with answers, and these student leaders often lead the discussion. An adult chapter leader will usually be present, mainly as a facilitator to ensure the discussion stays on topic and people have equal time. They can contribute periodically and make an accurate conclusion at the end. While on some occasions we bring in special apologetic speakers, the weekly discussion format is the meat-and-potatoes of Ratio Christi.
This open format can be troublesome to those not accustomed to it. Students who are anti-Christian sometimes come to Ratio Christi meetings and pose difficult objections. I once brought a pastor friend of mine, who observed me, the chapter director, merely being a participant in the discussion between atheists and Christians. He left the meeting frustrated that I did not break in and correct everyone about each point. His only mental model of apologetics was a class where a teacher is the authority. By contrast, Ratio Christi directors are more like mentors or facilitators, teaching by guidance over a period of time.
Ratio Christi trains students to evangelize. Ratio Christi believes that many people, especially students, are timid in evangelism because they are intimidated by the questions that people ask. When skeptics and critics show up at Ratio Christi meetings with difficult objections to Christianity, the mature students are provided opportunities to defend the faith, and less-mature students can observe how apologetics is done in the real world, learning how to answer the most difficult questions.
Ratio Christi promotes discipleship: Some of our students are struggling with questions about their faith, some are strong in their faith but looking for a place to learn more, and some are already trained apologists, looking for an opportunity to practice their gifts and talents. Our weekly meetings provide opportunities to meet all these needs.
Ratio Christi provides an audience for other apologists. Many apologists have spent years developing their minds, but then find themselves frustrated because they are not finding more opportunities to minister. Ratio Christi chapters can bring trained apologists on campus in front of an audience that desperately needs a strong defense of Christianity. We can assure you, there are plenty of opportunities to use apologetics on the university campus.
Ratio Christi provides an intellectual voice on campus. The need for trained Christian apologists on university campuses is obvious. The voices of those who vehemently disagree with Christianity is loud. Ravi Zacharias has an apt illustration. The university community has relegated Christians to the modern equivalent of a reservation. As long as we are outside of the community and stay on our reservation, they will tolerate us. But if we come into town and pretend to have something to say, we are met with voices of disagreement. Sadly, some Christian ministers have bought into the reservation mentality, thinking that we should not deal with intellectual issues as they relate to faith. Ratio Christi provides a much needed intellectual Christian voice on campus.
Ratio Christi is not a class, lecture, or sermon, but we teach regularly via guided discussions. Ratio Christi is not primarily a seminar, but we do bring in guest speakers. Our primary focus is not to publish, but we do provide published materials when appropriate. We do not try to compete with other ministries, but want to help them grow by reaching people who are intellectually skeptical of Christianity. Ratio Christi does not try to argue people into the kingdom, but we do believe we are commanded to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). We meet weekly, spending as much time as we can training up the next generation to be able to present a well-reasoned presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Will you join in the work? The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.