I first met Elizabeth when she was a first-year graduate student at Purdue University. In a world where people believe the words ‘Christian’ and ‘Thinker’ are oxymoronic, Elizabeth breaks the mold and is both. My first impression was that she was very timid but I could not have been more incorrect. She is not an outgoing super-salesperson extravert but she is genuine, warm, and engaging.
Elizabeth was encountering significant verbal pressure from colleagues in her academic department because she, unlike most others, was willing to be known (without being obnoxious) as a genuine Christian and an inquisitive developing scholar.
I think I may have discerned this from her willingness to attend Ratio Christi meetings under then Chapter Director, John Cantey. At that time, the chapter was stronger in lecture than in reaching out to students who were strangers, so to speak, such as public or contact outreach/evangelism.
I recall her willingness to facilitate Christian apologetics teaching and presentation training when few others were willing due to the time commitment. As for Elizabeth, she leaned in and excelled at presentations and was also open and teachable as well as an eager learner with critical thinking and people skills.
Elizabeth was also willing to be involved in advertising Ratio Christi group meetings in a less than friendly campus atmosphere. While doing so, an international student inquired about the purpose of Ratio Christi and she generously engaged in some generous and thoughtful Christ-honoring conversation with a strong Christian worldview.
This academic year, Elizabeth has been faithful as a student officer, in addition to participating in weekly meetings and tabling outreach. She also participated in an R&D (read and discuss) group with grad students and faculty. In addition, Elizabeth has been instrumental in bringing along other graduate students to the weekly full chapter meetings. When challenges occurred within the club, she willingly changed roles, moving from Chapter VP to Chapter President preventing questions as to the chapter’s status.
For scholarship, teachability, character, reasonable and appropriate steps of faith’s obedience, and for authentic generous communication of her faith in winsome outreach, I think Elizabeth is an exemplar of what the Legatus Christi (Ambassador of Christ) in apologetics evangelism is all about. – Joe Whitchurch
Q: When did you come to Christ as Lord and Savior, and how did that come about?
I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior when I was seven years old after hearing about my need for salvation in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), however, it was not until I was twelve that I began to live for the Lord.
Q: In your high school church youth group, how much did you learn about the Christian faith and reasons to believe?
In high-school and middle-school I was a part of AWANA and youth group. AWANA focuses on preparing students to defend essential doctrines of the Christian faith using the Bible, so I was well prepared to address theological questions when I started college. Our youth group typically focused on Bible study, but one summer our youth pastor took us through the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler and Turek. Through this study and other concurrent events, I realized Christianity was more than just a personal belief, it was the truth about reality, and required the surrender of my whole life to Christ. It also showed me that answers to the hard questions were out there.
Q: How did you become interested in apologetics, and how did you get involved with Ratio Christi?
A study led by my youth pastor sparked my interest in apologetics, but I lacked the resources to learn more. I completed my undergraduate degree in the South, where belief in God was the societal norm. When I started my PhD at Purdue University, my colleagues brazenly challenged my faith, and I found myself without compelling reasons behind my answers to deep philosophical questions. As an engineer, I have learned to dissect the natural world as science is predicated on logic and the order prevalent in nature. I decided if God was indeed real and the Creator of the natural world and reality, as I knew Him to be. The truth in His Word had to align with the truth of reality. Why would God create a world of incredible natural order and yet demand blind and irrational faith from His creation? I concluded that there had to be good extrabiblical answers to the hard questions. I began looking for any kind of apologetics ministry and discovered Ratio Christi.
Q: What impact has the Ratio Christi College Prep ministry had on your walk with God and your personal ministry?
Before I joined Ratio Christi, I was not equipped to have fruitful conversations with unbelieving colleagues who did not view the Bible as authoritative. Because of my training in Ratio Christi, I am now prepared to defend my faith using both theological and extrabiblical/philosophical arguments. The skills I’ve learned through Ratio Christi have enabled me to have fruitful apologetic conversations, even on topics I have not extensively studied on my own. I am no longer afraid to share the Gospel because I am confident in my reasons for belief in Christianity, even without invoking the Bible.
Q: What is this RC chapter like?
Our club typically consists of a mix of believers and unbelievers who are graduate students and undergraduate students of different majors. We typically hold weekly meetings in which we discuss a particular argument for Christianity or how to address a particular argument against Christianity. The meetings are very interactive and periodically we spend a club meeting doing man-on-the-street interviews with students on campus.
Q: What were some of your favorite areas of involvement with your local RCCP chapter?
I love teaching and leading club meetings, especially on topics related to the intersections of Christianity, faith, and science. I want to communicate to non-scientists that their faith should be strengthened rather than weakened by modern scientific discoveries and that they should not be intimidated by “scientific arguments” against God, as many of these are far more metaphysical than scientific in nature. I also like challenging the scientists to grow in knowledge and their ability to justify their faith to their colleagues.
Q: What does your Legatus Christi award mean to you?
This award is a great honor. To me, it is tangible evidence of God’s work and calling in my life. Just a few years ago, I knew almost nothing about apologetics, but today the Lord has given me the means to develop and brought other Christians into my life to help develop those skills for His purpose. I am grateful to the servant-hearted Christians who have taken the time to teach me over the years.
Q: How do you envision taking the apologetics you have learned through Ratio Christi into your future endeavors?
The most common question I receive when people find out I’m a Christian is, “How can you be a scientist and a Christian? Isn’t that contradictory?” Surprisingly, I receive this question from believers almost as frequently as from unbelievers! There is a great misconception among skeptics, and Christians alike, that science somehow disproves the Christian God. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be prepared to give a defense to anyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. The apologetics I learned in Ratio Christi has strengthened my faith, but also equipped me to strengthen the faith of other believers and to reach out to unbelievers in my life. I want to combine my skills and credentials in science and my background in apologetics to encourage and equip fellow believers and reach others for Christ.
Q: What are your short and long-term career/ministry/mission plans?
Short–term, I plan to complete my doctorate and postdoctoral studies while continuing to learn apologetics on the side. Long–term, I’d like to become a professor in my field at a research university. The sciences within academia are a prodigious unreached mission field. My colleagues in the sciences are incredibly gifted people who have achieved more than most would hope to achieve in life, yet like all of us, their lives are necessarily void of true purpose and ultimate meaning and hope without God. These are people who will likely never walk through the doors of a church because they have far more credentials than the average Christian pastor or churchgoer. There is a great need for Christians with equal credentials and excellence in scientific fields to enter academia and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with gentleness and respect by leading exemplary lives and careers, and through personal relationships.
Q: Would you consider coming back to work with your RC chapter, starting one at another school, or working with RC in any other capacity?
I would love to serve as a chapter advisor for a Ratio Christi chapter or help start a Ratio Christi chapter at the university where I am a professor one day.
Q: What would you say to other students who might be considering getting involved in Ratio Christi, whether they be skeptics, seekers, or believers?
“What is reality?” “Why am I here?” “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “What is truth and how can I discover it?” “How do I understand the suffering in my life and in the world?” “What is right and wrong?” “Is there a God?” These questions plague humanity. No matter who we are, no matter what our background, at some point in our lives we must ask these questions. They are some of the most important questions we can ever ask; their answers affect everything about our lives, our identity, and how we relate to others. Is it not then worth taking time to find answers? Should we be satisfied with less than the truth? We cannot have true confidence that our answers reflect truth if we close our minds to possibilities. If what we believe is really true, whether skeptic or believer, it should also stand the test of reason and evidence and thus, we have nothing to fear by questioning it. Ratio Christi is a place where people of all backgrounds can participate in deep conversations about the important questions in life, reasonable belief, and what is true and become better equipped to analyze and communicate why they believe what they believe.