“My Teenage Years Brought a Crisis That Challenged Me to Own My Faith”
We admit it. We love our Legatus Christi students! Summer is an exciting time for us to recognize the many students in our Ratio Christi chapters who received the Legatus Christi certificate at the end of the school year.
Ratio Christi chapter directors select students who are both well-versed in Christian apologetics and capable of meeting the challenge of being an “Ambassador of Christ” (see the requirements for Legatus Christi).
Today we’re recognizing David Zilz. David is a PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Ratio Christi Regional Director Joe Whitchurch wrote this about David:
“As a Ph.D. student the pressures are enormous and he has been fruitful, respectful, and faithful even under intense contexts. David is academically strong, demonstrates Christ-like character with integrity, engages people with compassion and respect, and pursues God with all his mind and heart.”
We asked David about his experiences with Christ and Ratio Christi.
Q: When did you find Christ as your Savior and how did it happen?
A: I have known Jesus as Savior since my parents introduced me to Him at a young age. While I grew up in a Christian home, my teenage years brought a crisis of faith that challenged me to own my faith and answer for myself what I really believed and why. God used apologetics in this process to encourage me and reassure me of the truth of what I had been taught as a child.
Q: What kind of impact did church and a youth group have on you, if any?
A: I was not heavily involved in a youth group. My spiritual formation was largely family-based. However, I did attend a Christian high school and learned some basic apologetics in a junior-level course there.
Q: How did apologetics help you?
A: My interest in apologetics grew out of a period of deep personal questioning as a teenager and in college. Although I had been taught the essential Christian faith since I was younger, as a young adult I wondered, “How can I know whether any of these Christian ideas was actually true? What about all the other competing ideas and worldviews? What is a rational view to take on important life questions?” My questioning and uncertainty led to a period of depression and anxiety, and I was hungry for answers.
At some point during this time in college, I returned to my Christian high school for a Josh McDowell event. His message of faith based on facts and evidence rather than blindly believing really resonated with me. Ever since then, I've been devouring information on historical evidences for Jesus, looking to understand more deeply the historical foundation for my faith.
Q: How did you get an interest in Ratio Christi?
A: My interest in Ratio Christi developed in graduate school, when I was looking to share many of the things I had learned with others, and to come alongside others who might be asking questions similar to mine, in order to comfort people with the comfort I had received from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
Q: Tell us about your Ratio Christi chapter at Purdue. What’s it like?
A: Our Ratio Christi chapter is still in the process of developing. So far, we've focused on weekly meetings with a mix of discussion and teaching/presentation. The topics have largely been planned in advance in order to facilitate preparation. We like to reach out to people who may be skeptical or curious about the Christian faith, but I believe we could do an even better job at this than we have so far.
Q: What did you think about receiving the Legatus Christi certificate?
A: It was an honor to receive the Legatus Christi certificate. I actually was surprised when I found out about it since I didn't even know I had been nominated.
Q: Did you previously learn about the Legatus Christi certificate, and the challenge it contains to disciple others (“exponential evangelism”)?
A: I actually had only heard about Legatus Christi at a Purdue event, but I didn't know that much about it. I was not aware of the exponential component of Legatus Christi at first, but it makes sense and is similar to the spiritual multiplication concept that other ministries teach, like Cru for example.
Q: How has Christian apologetics enriched your life, your own faith and your witness to others?
A: Apologetics has enriched my life primarily through giving me a solid foundation for my beliefs. When my feelings or circumstances change, waver, or fail, I can rest on the facts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and I can bank my life on these things. In addition, having wrestled with a lot of the questions which can be addressed through apologetics, I have a lot more confidence talking with people about what I believe and why. This has helped me to be a more effective witness to others.
Q: How has being an officer in you RC chapter helped you?
A: My experience as a Ratio Christi chapter officer helped me to develop skills in teaching and leading discussion on apologetics topics.
Q: Do you see yourself “carrying the torch” of the apologetics you’ve learned into your future endeavors?
A: Now that I am nearing the end of graduate school, I’m not sure how I will continue to learn and apply apologetics in my life, but I would like to continue to engage my own questions, have open discussions with people interested in the faith, and perhaps teach apologetics in local churches.
Q: When do you graduate, and would you like to stay connected to the ministry of Ratio Christi?
A: I plan to graduate with a PhD in Electrical Engineering this coming December, and have stepped down from leadership in our Ratio Christi chapter. I think the mission and strategy of Ratio Christi is important, though, and perhaps I will end up working in a town with another chapter.
Q: What are your other plans for ministry and career in the future?
A: I want to seek God's leading, but my current plan is to work in engineering research and development for a while before becoming a teaching professor at a small university or college. I really enjoy engaging college students, as they are in a unique time of life full of seeking truth and purpose, and I would love to minister in this type of environment.
Q: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
A: I think intellectual skepticism is a huge barrier to Christian faith for a lot of people, and we can better serve their spiritual needs when we equip ourselves with tools for building intellectual bridges and explaining the good reasons for believing in Jesus. Of course, it still is important to emphasize the Gospel itself, and Jesus Himself, and to stay connected to Jesus in life and witness. Apologetics is a useful tool, but not the end goal.
Thanks, David! Awesome to share your thoughts with our readers.
A second Purdue recipient: The Ratio Christi Chapter at Purdue University also recognized Paul Kalbfleisch with the Legatus Christi certificate (see photo below). Paul is a PhD student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering and has been traveling since classes ended in May, so we have not been able to talk with him about the designation.
However, Regional Director Joe Whitchurch shared some of his reasons for awarding the Legatus Christi certificate to Paul. “Paul excels in defending the truth of Christianity and giving arguments for God’s existence. He engages non-Christians with love, gentleness and respect and shows a heart of compassion for them.”
Our congratulations to both David and Paul for being recognized with the Legatus Christi Certificate!
To help the Purdue University chapter of Ratio Christi continue their great work with students like David and Paul, please click here.
Content in blogs does not necessarily represent Ratio Christi’s views. Details