The Ratio Christi chapter at Florida State University (FSU) has given us two previous Legatus Christi recipients (our outstanding student recognition) – Czar Bernstein and Tim Hsaio. This year, Chapter Director Ken Klos acknowledged two more chapter members.
“I presented the Legatus Christi certificate to Dan Palmere and Tina Rucker because they have been real stalwarts in our small group, and we are blessed to have them continue as assistant leaders,” Klos says. “This time last year, I didn’t even have a ‘leadership team.’ With most of our students having graduated, these two coming back to help me lead gives me great confidence that God has us in His hands and will guide us as we serve Him in the coming year.
They both graduated with their masters degrees in May 2015 – Dan with a M.A. in Music Therapy from FSU and Tina from Luther Rice with a M.A. in Christian Studies. I consider Dan an asset to my leadership team just because he has demonstrated true commitment to our Lord and Savior, and because of his strong spiritual discernment. And Tina, because apologetics was her major, is an excellent apologetic and theological resource who can equal or exceed my own abilities in most of those areas.”
Klos’ glowing report led us to ask Palmere and Rucker to do a Q&A session with us.
Q. When did you each find Christ as your Savior?
Palmere: I was raised Roman Catholic, went to church every week, and even as a undergrad I went to Mass. When I moved to Tallahassee in the fall of 2012, I found my identity as a Christian came from the fact that I went to church on Sunday, but every other day I lived just like other people. Nothing marked me as a Christian. But I soon met a group of Christians in my music studies and started attending meetings with them. They weren’t ashamed to talk about their faith, and I felt God calling me to pursue Him in more of a relationship.
I’m grateful for my Roman Catholic experience – it was a great foundation – but I really felt the Lord wanted me to learn more about Him and grow closer. I began exploring other churches and found there was more to this Christian faith than I knew. One day I had a lunch with my uncle Pat, who is evangelical and non-denominational, and it was the trigger to my accepting the Lord after numerous previous conversations. It’s great not to be a nominal Christian but to walk with Him each day, and I still learn more all the time.
Rucker: I came to know Christ about fourteen years ago when I was in my early thirties.
Q. How did you get interested in apologetics, and then how did you find out about RC and get involved?
Palmere: I had never even heard of apologetics until it came up in a conversation with a friend, and he gave me a handbook – The Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Keeft, Pacelli, IVP Academics, 2003). I was wowed – I didn’t even know there was a field that explained what it meant to be a Christian! I was already at FSU and asked if there was anything apologetics-related on campus. Someone put me in touch with Ken, and I started attending meetings. It was a small Ratio Christi group, and this person didn’t even attend – they just knew about it! So I believe it was a “God set-up.” That fall, the group went to the Southern Evangelical Seminary National Conference on Apologetics and I started watching debates on YouTube.
Rucker: A friend of mine turned me onto the “Truth Project” about 3 years ago (a Focus on the Family DVD-based small group curriculum). It was at that time I first realized what apologetics was. Soon after, I heard Ravi Zacharias on the radio and wanted to learn more. I went to RZIM’s Summer Institute and met several wonderful friends. One of them told me about The Poached Eggapologetics website and I learned about RC from there. I found the link to RC at FSU and called Ken. The rest is history!
Q. How does your chapter function?
Palmere: We have a mixed bag. Since the end of the spring semester (2015), we don’t have students right now that we know are coming back. But we go through books together and come up with topics and books we’re interested in and discuss them. I’ve brought in objections that I encounter from people outside and brought them to Ken and Tim (Hsaio). We focus on equipping believers and are still a young chapter trying to find our role on campus. We want to tailor to the FSU students’ needs. Last spring we focused on social issues through the books Indivisible and Cold Case Christianity. If we hear something in the news, we try to address it.
Rucker: Yes, our chapter is rebuilding. We are trying to get students interested through tables at club fairs, Facebook, fliers, and word of mouth (Pray for more students at FSU to find out about RC!).
Q. Did you know anything about the “exponential” factor of Legatus Christi – i.e., that we desire for our students to bring others up under them in order to multiply the number of apologetics-wise witnesses?
Palmere: I read about LC in the Ratio Christi newsletters, and I knew Czar who had received one. He is now at Oxford for a masters in philosophy.
Rucker: I did not previously know about the LC certificate, but I now understand that I need to step up and help lead and encourage students to get involved.
Q: How do you think apologetics has enriched your life, your own faith, and your witness to others?
Palmere: I just want to continue to know God and have His heart for people. He’s given me a heart to see campuses unite as believers and reach our city for Christ. Apologetics is a key part of that. When you approach someone with the gospel there’s always like this curtain that goes up. But we can’t neglect just loving the one in front of us. We can use apologetics to engage the person who believes Christianity doesn’t require any brains. Like Ravi says (paraphrased), it is a tool to help clear the brush to get a clear portrait of Christ.
Rucker: Apologetics has made my faith much stronger. It has given me more confidence and trust in the Word. It helps me to have the boldness to bring up sensitive subjects to unbelievers and hopefully, be a good witness for Christ. For my master’s degree, I took all my electives in apologetics!
Q: What’s next for each of you, short or long term?
Palmere: There’s always a part of everyone longing to know their next step. I haven’t had a revelation! Why did I get this music degree, and now I’m working in insurance? But I know He has a plan. I am helping Ken out with the chapter, and hope to keep helping him be the hands and feet. All the while, I am still in love with music. I have an opportunity to teach music on the side, and occasionally I have performances come up – resorts, background music for corporate dinners and that’s fun. I love singing the old standards from the 1930s and 40s my grandparents listened to, and I play with a jazz band occasionally.
I am also Board Certified in music therapy, with the credentials M.T.B.C. – it’s kind of like occupational speech therapy. Not too many positions open up in this field, but I’m not actively looking.
Rucker: I am praying about this one! I’m not quite sure either. I just returned from a two-week mission trip to bush Alaska. I may possibly be working with SEND-N in their efforts to recruit missionaries, gain financial support, prayer support, and overall awareness of the native life in bush Alaska. In the meantime, I will try to help build the FSU chapter of RC, lead students to the best of my abilities, and grow in my studies in apologetics as well as attend and possibly teach some women’s studies at my home church.
Q. Do you think you will “carry the torch” of the apologetics you’ve learned far into your future endeavors?
Palmere: It’s a tool in the tool belt. But I’ve learned, always keep the bigger perspective on why you’re reading what you’re reading. Have a response to common objections, but don’t lose your own identity in someone else’s great points. Read the Bible to know Him. Never forget your first love, Jesus, and to show love through everything you say – not arguing. That would make it useless. We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation. We want people to be captivated by how we live our lives (1 Peter 3:15) – let them see we don’t respond like the world when life squeezes us.
Rucker: I didn’t yet know Christ throughout my whole time at FSU, from 18-22 years old. I struggled and had many questions, but couldn’t find anyone to talk to. I was not interested in going to a church and getting preached at. I know there are other students with the same questions and reservations about “religion” that want and need to talk to someone that has answers….or at least knows where to find them. I just want to help students to have and to know Christ at a much earlier age than I did.
See photos of Palmere and Rucker below. Palmere gives a shout out to his girlfriend, Erica. “We met a year and a half ago when I started attending the church we go to now. She is continuing toward a degree in education and has a heart for kids.”