Vice President Mike Pence and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany paid tribute to Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias Tuesday, hours after it was announced he’d died of cancer at age 74.
Pence said in a post on Twitter that he and second lady Karen Pence were “[d]eeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist whose ministry for the Gospel of Jesus Christ impacted millions around the world.”
“Ravi was a man of faith who could ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ like few others in our time & he was my friend,” Pence, an evangelical Christian, wrote.
“Upon the death of Abner, the Bible tells us David said ‘do you not know that a prince & a great man has fallen today?’ Ravi was such a man & he will be missed. Karen & I send our deepest sympathies to his family and know he heard ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’”
Zacharias’ eldest daughter, Sarah Davis, first announced her father had passed in a message on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries’ website in a post titled, “Ravi Zacharias, Now With Jesus.”
“It was his Savior, Jesus Christ, that my dad always wanted most to talk about. Even in his final days, until he lacked the energy and breath to speak, he turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done,” she wrote.
“He perpetually marveled that God took a seventeen-year-old skeptic, defeated in hopelessness and unbelief, and called him into a life of glorious hope and belief in the truth of Scripture — a message he would carry across the globe for 48 years.”
McEnany, who was hired on April 7 as White House Press Secretary for President Donald Trump, cried as she spoke to CBN’s David Brody about the late Christian apologist.
“It’s a huge loss. My dad said to me that Billy Graham was the great evangelist, and I think Ravi Zacharias is the great apologist,” she said through tears. “Ravi’s someone that I never met. I know his team, and I knew some of those who are around him. For me, as a Christian, I always had the heart for Jesus Christ that I got at a very young age. I was saved when I was in my teens."
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
McEnany attended Oxford University in England as part of a study abroad program at Georgetown University and noted Zacharias’ presence at Oxford, where the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics was first established in 2004.
"To have someone from an academic place, as an apologist who could equip you with those arguments where you didn't have to check your brain at the door when you became a Christian, where there is the intellectual foundation for everything we believe," McEnany said of Zacharias. "There's prophecy. There's the human cell. There's the amazing creation of the human body and all of its complexity and the planet, the universe.”
McEnany said that Zacharias “put a philosophical and academic rationale” to the heart that she had for Jesus.
“[He] gave me the ability to go to Oxford, where there are renowned atheist scholars who try to say there's no intellectual undergirding for Christianity," she continued in the interview with CBN. "Ravi Zacharias, who happened to have an office at Oxford, was the person who provided the counter to that, the intelligence behind why we believe what we believe.
“Your mind can never get you fully there, it’s a place only your heart can take you,” she added. “But Ravi Zacharias provided those steps to put in the mind of an academic, ‘well, I should give the Christian faith some thought.’"
Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics is part of RZIM, which says its primary mission is to “reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
McEnany said that on Sunday, she had her 6-month-old daughter on her lap as she, her mother-in-law and husband, MLB player Sean Gilmartin, watched one of Zacharias’ previous sermons.
At the time, she said they knew his time on Earth was short. McEnany reflected on a message Zacharias’ daughter shared Tuesday when she announced his passing.
“I think the words that were at the very bottom of the announcement today of his passing are so important. He had a verse there, it said, ‘Because I live, you also will live,’ John 14:19," McEnany recalled.
“And they said that these seven words changed Ravi’s life 57 years ago. He was on a bed of suicide, as he described it, and it was a Bible that was handed to him and those words in particular that set him on a 57-year path that has truly saved lives.”
Davis said the Bible verse is carved into Zacharias' grandmother’s gravestone and it will also be etched on her father’s gravestone.
“We thank God for him and recommit our lives to sharing this truth with all who will hear, until He calls us to our eternal home,” Davis added.
Details about a public memorial for Zacharias are pending. Davis requested that those interested in sending flowers donate to RZIM instead.
Follow Melissa Barnhart on Twitter: @MelBarnhart