Brandon Katz may have been an unlikely candidate to help start a Ratio Christi chapter, but God didn’t think so! Although he comes from a Jewish home, he became a believer in Jesus in 2011, and partly through learning apologetics has also been used to bring his mother to Christ. But let’s start at the beginning.
“Both my parents were Jewish, but not devoted to the faith,” Katz explains. “I went to Hebrew school in third and fourth grade and we observed holidays. Other than that it wasn’t a part of my life. I went to a private college prep school for eighth through twelveth grade, and never gave religion a lot of thought until community college. One day, I told some people that Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”
But a girl sitting at one of the computers overheard him.
“She came over and said, ‘Excuse me, some of us do. I’m Jewish and I believe in Jesus.’ This sparked my interest. About a year later I started reading the Bible in the book of John. When I got to Matthew, Jesus’ words jumped right out at me. But I thought Jesus placed such a high demand on people that I would never want to do that.”
When Katz transferred to the University of Maryland (UMD) he found Cru, went to one of their small groups and then a larger group, where the leader gave the parable of the treasure buried in the field and the kingdom of heaven being like a pearl (Matthew 17:44-45).
“At first it didn’t sit well with me – I wanted to go to heaven, but I wanted to live in the here and now. I had just turned 21 and wanted to party and didn’t want to remain celibate until marriage. But as I got more drawn into the parable, it hit me – if God wants me to surrender certain aspects or all of my life to him, it’s worth it.”
As a Jewish person, Katz still had a hard time accepting Jesus.
“I asked God to show me if Jesus was really the Messiah. Then I had a dream that Satan was sucking out my soul. I had been told that Jews don’t believe in Satan. In a second dream, I called on Jesus to take Satan away. I figured that was how God answered my question! The next night after a Bible study, I decided to follow Christ and a friend helped me pray the sinner’s prayer.”
Q: Many Jewish parents are stunned by this. How did your parents take the news?
A: I told my mom only a day later and my dad a couple months later. It was not one of those things that ruined our relationship. It became tense not because I believed in Jesus but that I believed He was the only way to God.”
Meanwhile, a mapping scientist named Larry Lund was undertaking the task of starting Ratio Christi at UMD in 2012. God had used evidential apologetics as one means of bringing him to the saving grace of Christ, so he knew the value of apologetics. Lund, now the Chapter Director for more than two years, recalls how he met Katz and the student’s progress toward leadership:
“While developing friendly relations with some existing campus ministry leaders, I was looking for students to support the effort of making RC a campus club. Several leaders mentioned Brandon as someone who had already been asking apologetics-related questions at their organizations, and that the young man had been an unobservant Jewish person who came to know Christ partially from being drawn to Cru and other campus ministries. So I approached Brandon. He liked the idea of being the first RC student and began sparking interest among other students for the Ratio Christi mission.
Within just a couple of weeks, primarily due to Brandon’s efforts, RC had reached its minimum membership quota. We grew in size over a semester, submitted a constitution to the student government, and were granted official status. Without Brandon’s hard work, none of those milestones would have been reached.”
Katz got started down the road to apologetics through Lund and Ratio Christi, and the coaching of a friend. Learning apologetics helped him better relate to his mother’s reluctance to accept Jesus.
“I had very little apologetic knowledge when I first starting talking to her,” he says. “She questioned God being sovereign while there could be so much evil in the world. She started going to church with me to support me but started getting hooked! Last semester, as I had learned more apologetics, I gave a presentation on how the Old Testament points to Jesus in the New Testament. My mom attended but didn’t understand much except for Daniel 7 and its prophecies about the Messiah. Daniel 7:13 is the passage about the son of man riding on the clouds and being given the eternal kingdom by the Ancient of Days. Mom looked at that passage as pointing to a divine messiah!”
While Katz’s mother started giving him advice on his presentation and power point skills, she also began looking at the ‘lord, liar, lunatic’ argument.
“That’s when I gave her evidence of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and appearances after resurrection,” Katz continues. “She also found an article about the fine-tuning design of the universe very compelling. This past summer, she talked to our pastor about professing Christ. Now, we still go to church together when I’m home.”
Katz’s display of his newfound and consistently growing apologetics knowledge, and the way he had immediately put it into practice, were key to Lund’s decision to present Katz with a Legatus Christi certificate. And he did it in a big way – he surprised Katz with the certificate for outstanding achievement on the podium during Ratio Christi’s 2014 Annual Symposium, in front of a room filled with students, guests and RC staff. Lund gave a long list of accolades:
“Brandon started with RC knowing next to nothing about Christian apologetics. He rapidly learned the evidence available for biblical truth. Soon, he was regularly posting at Facebook on topics that were miles ahead of his peers in depth and understanding. In his second year, he became knowledgeable on several Old Testament topics and developed a detailed understanding of how Yeshua ha Mashiach fulfilled all of the promises in his ancestral Bible.
Now Brandon presents apologetics subjects with a consistently winsome spirit. He approached me with the idea of delaying his other plans in order to become our chapter co-director for a year. Brandon is an answered prayer for me as a real contender for the hearts and minds of UMD students. It is an absolute honor to present him with Ratio Christi’s Legatus Christi certificate.”
Q: So what’s next for Brandon Katz?
A: “I’ve been learning Greek and now I’m starting to learn Hebrew in order to go further into New Testament studies before going on to grad school,” Katz says (he graduates next semester). “My major is in communications, but through Ratio Christi and my friend’s coaching I’ve been encouraged to pursue apologetics and work as a professor in a secular university. So I might become a historian and concentrate on the historical Jesus. I’d like to go for my Masters at a Christian school and then achieve a secular PhD to earn credibility and respect among the secular community. My friend once said, ‘Do you want a pat on the back or to be taken seriously?’”
Q: And what about carrying on the Legatus Christi tradition for Ratio Christi?
A: I’m primarily concerned with getting people interested in the meetings and looking for someone to follow in my footsteps and replace me. I don’t want just warm bodies there, but to help create more producers of more disciples. The Christian life is supposed to be about that.
Katz has a message for students:
“Get started on basic apologetics material early. You will want to know what non-Christians say about Christianity so that you can learn the best responses, especially at a secular school. I have one Jewish history professor who requires us to operate under a naturalistic presupposition, and to assume the Torah did not come from God to Moses but just from humans. Christians going to secular universities should expect this.”