We Will Never Change the Outside Until We Change Within.

Riot! written on multiple road sign

We will never change the outside until we change within
We will never change the outside until we change within

We will never change the outside

until we change within. This is a phrase used by Ravi Zacharias in a talk given at the Mormon Temple in 2017. It was my husband who introduced me to the Indian Christian apologist. After hearing just one riveting talk, I was hooked. And then proceeded to read many of his over thirty books and listen to countless presentations similar to the one I write about today.

In this excellent presentation, Ravi teaches me, albeit inadvertently:

  • The ease with which we can be seduced into the wrong judgement of another.
  • About the extreme dangers which lie in removing a word or phrase from its original context.
  • And of the irresistible temptation to turn our gaze outward instead of inward to see vastness of incapacity to love.

Ravi Zacharias died this last May 19th, leaving hundreds of millions of us profoundly saddened by the loss of this remarkable man with an extraordinary intellect permitting him to shower this ever darkening world with Truth. Speaking at his memorial service in Atlanta, Vice President Pence’s words warrant repeating:


“When giants fall, the impact is felt near and far,” Pence said. “So it was in Atlanta, around America and around the world on May the 19th, when this gentle giant of the faith, on whose shoulders so many of us have leaned, was with us no more.”

Vice President Pence mourns loss

Zacharias begins his prescient sixty-five minute talk with CK Chesterton’s claim that great art and great reason depend upon ‘good moral soil.’ There can be neither great art or great reason without a foundation of morality. “Without moral soil,” Zacharias emphatically states, “we have systemic contradiction when meaning, reason and purpose become sheer brute pragmatism- doing whatever works at the moment.”

What a splendid phrase to describe the last several decades of American history and that of the western world: “sheer brute pragmatism.” The phrase conjures up wars- Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan as well as the economic wars with clever names like ‘QE 1 and 2’ and ‘stimulus benefits.’ And, of course, plagues, riots, rebellion along with ever increasing deceit which darkens our world.

Our loss of morality has flourished

in academia. Carefully seeded decades ago and assimilated by our youth, the ‘best and brightest’ of us, the capitulation of our universities to the most radical among us has deprived young, hungry, twenty-first- century minds of some of humanity’s wisest minds.


…a quick search on the internet reveals something staggering. If not calamitous. At least for those in search of wisdom and truth. Those responsible for the university curricula have capitulated to a minority- it always is a minority- who claim that the dead white guy be absented from their studies.
I write ‘calamitous’ because a million years ago,  while working my way through my undergraduate degree in pursuit of wisdom and truth, it was just those dead white guys who, in a very real sense, saved my life. What absurdity to cave in to inanity and deprive students of some of the greatest minds of humanity because they are…white.

Wisdom From One of the Dead White Guys

Zacharias returns to the eighties to highlight the loss of morality among out intellectual elite. From a speech given by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. for the 1989 induction of the new President of Brown University, Ravi takes this phrase wholly out of context.

“The mystic prophets of the Absolute cannot save us.” In the video, Ravi removes his reading glasses and looks around at his audience as he repeats Schlesinger’s phrase. “Sustained by our history and tradition, we must save ourselves at whatever risk of heresy or blasphemy. We can find solace in the memorable representation of the human struggle against the absolute…”

A careful read of the full text of Schlesinger’s speech reveals a context that the apologist Zacharias either missed or chose to ignore. A primary point of this talk is against the absolutism that each of us can fall victim to: We will never change the outside until we change within. Although Ravi’s entire sixty-five minute address is packed with wisdom, he erred in using Schlesinger’s words as evidence of the moral decay that must be addressed in the western world. And his error serves as warning to me. And makes me think of a quote of Jonathan Swift:

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love.

When faced with blatant, searing, offenses against everything we believe in, where must we turn?

We will never change the outside until we change within

Ourselves-we must turn inward, to our own hearts, confess our own prejudices, stomp on our anger, resentment and moral outrage. Although Chesterton wrote these words a hundred years ago, Ravi quotes him because of the astounding relevance of his words to this century…to this day.


But the new rebel is a skeptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. . . . As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time…

CK Chestetson

We must overlook the riots, rebellion and odious lies and turn to Jesus. Ponder and pray about the way He treated those who cursed, defiled, tortured and crucified Him. He gives us no other way but to forgive and love everyone, without exception.

Impossible… I know. A few years ago, I wrote these words:


I despise precipitous judgement, made with an incomplete knowledge of facts, context, injustice. When I do it, I feel shame at my unfairness to others-at my rush to judgement. Because, of course, it’s the me I cannot stand that stares back at me. It has nothing at all to do with them.
We find if willing to look and then listen, that those most justifiable of feeling moral outrage…. don’t. Consider  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s comments about his horrendous treatment in the Gulag by Russian officials.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Indeed.

Us vs Them

We are given no choice…His words cannot be misconstrued…”I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…for if you love those who love you, what recompense do you have?…And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Impossible…without the Theological Virtues.

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