Thoughts from Ravi Zacharias on Image, the Arts, Technology, Media and Culture

Two months after announcing he had cancer, beloved Ravi Zacharias went home to be with our Lord. He has left an amazing legacy as a Christian apologist.

I decided to follow his podcast, Let My People Think.  I started scrolling. I was intrigued by a two-part series that relates to the purpose of this blog (and for eQuipping for eMinistry, too). Ravi discusses media and arts in our lives and culture. It’s all wrapped up in technology and projecting an image to the world.

As a tribute to Ravi, I’ll touch on some of his thoughts. I was trying to write a summary review and found that challenging. So, instead, I’ll let you listen to Ravi or read this interview to more fully understand his message (see NOTES). When appropriate, I’ll include timestamps for the two podcasts and links for the interview. (The interview was about a book Ravi published in 2012.)

Thoughts from Ravi Zacharias on Image, the Arts, Technology, Media and Culture

The whole world is speaking the same language and it is in images, making a name for ourselves.

Ravi Zacharias (1946 – 2020)

Image

1:30 Ravi begins part one of the podcast, recounting the Temptation of Christ (see NOTES about Matthew 4:1-11). He suggests that Satan tempts the Lord through the intellect, the will, and the imagination. Ravi is convinced Satan was tempting Jesus in how he could be perceived (his image). Satan was tempting Jesus to display power and ability to the world in order to attract followers.

Ravi explains the media caters to the imagination and may bypass reason. The lie appears to be the truth and the truth seems to be a lie. “. . . good can appear to be boring, what is evil can appear to be intriguing and full of charm. So, I would say the media has lent itself very well in shaping the way the listener is actually examining truth claims.” (RZ’s answer to question 6.)

How have social media’s images and sound bites captured the imagination and drawn people from the truth?

Biblical Views on the Media

Ravi presented three biblical views on today’s media.

4:35 Speaking to the BBC, Malcolm Muggeridge (1903 – 1990) suggested Satan was offering Jesus “prime time.” He believed that Matthew 4:1-11 addressed the impact of the media in our times.

Neil Postman (1931 – 2003) theorized that yielding to temptations in imagination is breaking the second commandment about worshipping a graven image (Exodus 20:4-6).

After explaining those two Christian perspectives, Ravi believes the Tower of Babel account in Genesis 11:1-9 gives us an even stronger message.

“Let Us Make a Name for Ourselves”

6:11 Ravi sums up the Tower of Babel story: “When cupidity (greed) and self-aggrandizement is the motive, unity is catastrophic.”

The people were united in one language, desiring to make a name for themselves. God confused their languages because He knew there was now no limit to what they could do.

Ravi asks what could break loose now that imagination, human pride and a common “language” of tastes and ideas have spread globally through images and sound bites.

7:06  Ravi asks us to step back and see where the history of communication has taken us: “We are no longer merely a propositional culture. We are no longer merely a scribal culture. We are no longer merely a print culture. The whole world Is speaking the same language and it is in images, making a name for ourselves.”

How has the temptation to build a following derailed Christian ministry?

Our Technology and Media Culture

9:00  Ravi uses a heart attack to illustrate how people cannot distance themselves from the trauma of our media culture because they are part of it. We are totally immersed in the electronic image culture.

Ravi recounts a story from Muggeridge who was in Biafra at a public execution. The cameraman’s battery died, so the execution was delayed until the camera was ready. Muggeridge concludes that the greatest barbarism was not the executioners or the viewers, but the cameras.

11:15 “It is not so much what the camera is portraying, but it is locked into a certain mode which if it is not understood will completely distort reality and change our appetites dramatically.”

Ravi mentions the insight of Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980) who noted the medium does not have or carry the message. . . it is the message. (You can find videos online of Marshall McLuhan explaining this.)

How do we deal with this complex situation where “we are wrapped up in the message and the message is in the medium?”

12:00 Incredibly, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881) wrote: “At first, art imitates life. Then life will imitate art. Then life will find its very existence from the arts.”

What false messages have you recognized in images and sound bites?

The Path

The media’s message follows this path (RZ’s answer to question 7):

  1. a false message goes out in images or sound bites. This fraction of the whole misrepresents the context,
  2. the message seduces you,
  3. you draw the wrong conclusion,
  4. and, Ravi concludes, “. . . even the finest ideas can be reduced.”

The truth is distorted, lost, misrepresented, . . .

The rest of part one focuses on the first problem.

The Devastating and Powerful Seduction Found in the Media

6:30 In part two, Ravi picks up the second problem here.

Ravi addresses the damage that may come through false messages in the media.

“So, the dangers are, it leads you into an insulated reality where you can become actually impervious to the truth, and that is a dangerous, deadly state to be in. It takes you away from the truth of who God is, and what He wishes to offer you in a personal relationship with Him.” (RZ’s answer to question 11.)

7:15 We may be enamored by the airbrushed images of athletes and actors, but we never ask what did it cost them to gain their fame?

God enables us to see what is in our hearts. He helps us “see how we can be . . . seduced by many innocent allurements [which] suddenly can destroy us overnight . . . but the world does not know how to deal with this.”

8:18 “Though the bored person hungers for things to happen to him, the disheartening fact is that when they do he empties them of the very meaning he unconsciously yearns for by using them as distractions . . . [However] no distraction can cure boredom, just as the company so unceasingly pursued cannot stave off loneliness. The bored person is lonely for himself, not, as he thinks, for others… and no distraction can restore it. Hence he goes unrelieved and insatiable. He misses the individuality, the capacity for experience from which he is disbarred. No distraction can restore it.”
from Ernest Van den Haag (1914 – 2002)

People look inside themselves and find boredom.

10:12 Ravi asks producers what they are doing to our children when they protect their own children.

How do you think boredom is affecting people? Where are they searching in the media to relieve their emptiness?

The Sixties

13:09 In the sixties, reason was jettisoned. God was forgotten, losing the ability to understand reality or be consoled by God. We became god of God. We became an electronic generation. Images took control. Propaganda was tinkering with people’s minds.

What are people worshipping?

The Arts

17:13 Ravi makes this profound statement, “Unless we get a glimpse of eternity, the arts will only take us to the edge if not into the abyss.”

Our emotions are deep. Only God can truly satisfy our longings.

17:25 C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) wrote in The Weight of Glory: “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Ravi warns we should not worship the good images or the memories of our deep desires. Only God satisfies us. God knows our need for Him.

20:25 Ravi concluded with a quote from Simone Weil (1909 – 1943) “The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.”

What is your vision for the arts to glorify God and draw people to Him?

NOTES:

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