Lessons From Josh & Sean McDowell: Building Reasonable Faith At Home
What one mother of teenagers gleaned from apologists Josh and Sean McDowell, authors of Evidence That Demands A Verdict, during their March visit to Singapore.
When Josh McDowell and his son Sean were in Singapore recently, I attended as many of their speaking engagements as possible, including the Reasonable Faith Conference 2018. Their books and resources have played a great part in my mothering journey. They recently co-authored and updated Josh’s classic Evidence That Demands A Verdict, a highly recommended resource to help answer the toughest questions on the Christian faith.
Now that my children are in their teenage season, I find that I have so much more to learn, especially when it comes to equipping my children with apologetics. “Apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, meaning “defence” or “answer”. Accordingly, Christian apologetics is the practice of giving reasons that support the Christian faith and respond to objections raised against it. In our increasingly complex environment, I believe that this is becoming an important life skill that I need to build in my children. In addition, teaching them to present the reasons for believing in what they believe in, with gentleness and respect, is also critical.
I was very thankful to have both my teens with me at the conference. I realized through our conversations that they are making sense of the various worldviews and have questions about their beliefs and values. To be able to facilitate their discovery and learning, I’ve learned that I need to be a step ahead of them, and that means reading up on and researching the things they are thinking about. It may sound a little daunting, but it is something I have been doing ever since I was pregnant with them— reading and learning about their development as I grew up with them.
Sean McDowell, who leads the Bible department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools in California, spoke on topics such as the argument regarding the martyrdom of the apostles in the resurrection: To what extent does their martyrdom count as evidence? He highlighted various pieces of evidence for the historicity of the apostles’ suffering and martyrdom beyond what the Bible records, and explained why the willingness of the apostles to suffer and die for their faith does not prove the resurrection is true, but shows the depth of their conviction. (For a more detailed explanation, read the chapter of this discussion in their updated book Evidence That Demands A Verdict.)
The younger McDowell also covered a popular argument on evil: If God is all powerful, He can stop evil. If God is good, He would want to stop evil. But evil exists, so God does not exist. McDowell highlighted that God gives us the freedom of choice, which carries consequences to human decisions. He concluded that just because there is evil, it does not mean that God does not exist.
His sessions were very thought-provoking, and I noticed that my teens were deeply engaged with the new perspectives. Sean McDowell has a YouTube channel with interesting short videos of him answering difficult questions, which will no doubt be a useful resource for my teens.
Similarly, his father Josh McDowell has also made many of his resources freely available for download on his website. Here are two I found useful:
• The Lodz scrolls will take you through a spiritual adventure through history and archaeology to satisfy you on the reliability of the Bible. Learn how the 500-year-old Lodz scrolls were preserved and see how the manuscript fragments that were hidden for over 1,600 years. It is also available as a free app that can be downloaded from Google Play and App Store.
• The 50 Shades of Love is about the definition of love, and highlights the danger of allowing culture to define it for our children. This deck of slides provide an insightful and Biblical understanding of what love really is.
Listening to both McDowells, there was a sense of “wow, I never thought of it that way”, which is important as it provides the motivation for working towards discovering more about the Bible and our faith in God.
Father and son also gave nuggets of wisdom to parents to approach discussions with their children:
- Ask our children “What do you think?” instead of making statements at them so that they can have the opportunity to make sense of issues on their own.
- Ask our children questions like “How do you know that is true?” “So what? How does that apply to me?” so that they can seek to own their faith, rather than live on our faith.
- We need to raise our children to be able to make right moral choices. Josh McDowell’s new book Set Free To Choose Right will help parents understand why today’s youth feel they have the right to determine what is “right” or “wrong” for themselves, and how to motivate them to make good choices.
After the conference, my teen had the opportunity to share a devotion in her school on apologetics and encourage her peers to figure out why they believe what they believe. Subsequently she had school mates who approached her to challenge her sharing. I was glad that she did not find those discussions intimidating but mentally stimulating. This led to more conversations at home about the issues her schoolmates raised.
Through all this, I was reminded that our young people are living in a complex world, where almost everything can be considered by them as a “social construct”—a concept or perception of something based on collective views developed and maintained within a society or social group, as opposed to existing naturally. For example, in today’s society, gender and religion are commonly considered social constructs.
As Christian parents of tweens and teens, now may be the time to step up our parenting to employ apologetics and learn how to raise our children to understand and defend their faith respectfully.
by Carol Loi