Interview with Sean McDowell on His Latest Book, “A New Kind of Apologist”

A New Kind of Apologist

I’m excited to tell you today about an excellent book that just came out: A New Kind of Apologist, edited by Sean McDowell. Sean is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, and an internationally recognized speaker. A New Kind of Apologist contains 27 short chapters written by leading apologists, each addressing a key cultural issue currently facing Christians.

Though the word apologist sometimes evokes the image of a professional author or speaker, it’s important to remember that all Christians are called to be apologists—people who are prepared to give a reason for why we believe (1 Peter 3:15). And as Christian parents, we have the specific responsibility of being apologists to our kids. With that in mind, this book is a wonderful resource for parents because it addresses so many different cultural issues impacting our children, all in one very accessible volume. For example, there are chapters on religious liberty, transgenderism, social justice, Christians in the “argument culture,” and much more. The emphasis throughout is on how to express the truth of Christianity in a way that is relational, gracious, and holistic. A New Kind of Apologist will not only help you think about how to share your faith, it will help you help your kids share their faith.

I highlighted pages all over the book, but my favorite chapters for parents specifically were:

  • “Don’t Blame Us, It’s in the Bible”: Understanding New Strategies for Shaking Up the Faith of New Generations (Dan Kimball)
  • “A Practical Plan to Raise Up the Next Generation” (Brett Kunkle)
  • “Using Hollywood Blockbusters to Share Your Faith” (Lenny Esposito; great movie examples you can use with your kids!)
  • “Intuitional Apologetics: Using Our Deepest Intuitions to Point Toward God” (Terry Glaspey)
  • “Motivating Others to ‘Give an Answer'” (Mark Mittelberg)
  • “Telling the Truth About Sex in a Broken Culture” (John Stonestreet)

I had the opportunity to do an interview exchange with Sean today—I sent him some questions about A New Kind of Apologist to feature here, and he sent me some questions about Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side to feature on his blog. Many thanks to Sean for taking the time to share the following words of wisdom for parents!

 

You’ve been involved in writing and speaking about apologetics for many years. Why does this particular point in time call for a “new kind of apologist”?

There are two primary reasons we need a “new kind of apologist” today. First, there are new pressing cultural issues that apologists must address with clarity and persuasiveness. There are chapters in A New Kind of Apologist on race, social justice, economics, politics, LGBT issues, and other topics often ignored by apologists. We must have the confidence and willingness to speak out on these issues in a clear and compelling manner.

Second, Christians today are increasingly being considered intolerant, hateful, and bigoted because of the kind of beliefs we hold. While we have always been called to speak truth in love, it is more important today than ever that we are gracious, kind, and humble in how we approach others. As the apostle Paul said, “correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:25).

 

Based on your (extensive!) experience in speaking with young people, which subjects in the book do you feel most urgently need parents’ attention today, and why?

In my experience as a speaker, teacher, and parent, the most important issues today for parents to address with their kids are related to sexual ethics. While it is critical to address LGBT issues (which are currently the most prominent), it’s important to give a broader biblical ethic about sex, marriage, and singleness. We can’t just teach what we’re against, but must articulate and give a case regarding what we are for. If we don’t talk to our kids about sex, they will inevitably adopt the larger cultural narrative from movies, music, their friends, and the Internet. Sociologist Mark Regnerus said it best: “Conversations about sex can be uncomfortable for both parent and child, but not having them—or handling them poorly—can cause long-term damage.”¹

Keep a few things in mind when having these discussions. First, build a relationship with your kids. As my dad often says, “Rules without relationships leads to rebellion.” Second, start early. Because of the Internet, kids are being exposed to pornography earlier than any previous generation. Third, teach the reasons why God gave us commandments to reserve sex to a married relationship between one man and one woman for life. Fourth, rather than just giving “the talk,” look for small opportunities that arise throughout the day to have brief, meaningful conversations (such as in response to songs, movies, or incidents that happen at school).

 

A key aspect of being a Christian engaging with a secular culture is learning to do so with both love and truth. Many young people like the idea of loving others, but avoid expressing Christian truth for fear of being labeled intolerant. How can parents better help their kids understand the necessary relationship between love and truth and develop the courage to express both?

Great question! I would first ask parents a question: “Are you modeling love and truth in your own relationships?” If parents don’t have relationships in which they express love and truth to people with radically different beliefs, then why should the kids listen to their “empty” words? Kids follow our actions much more than our words. If we want our kids to be willing to stand up for truth when it is unpopular, we have to be willing to do the same. Also, share stories with kids about Christians who stand up for truth lovingly, even when it costs them something. There are plenty of stories of Christians doing this in the present, and of course, many who have done so in the past.

 

My favorite chapter in the book is “Don’t Blame Us, It’s in the Bible” by Dan Kimball. Kimball talks about the fact that Christians mostly study verses of encouragement or lifestyle guidance, but miss the tough passages that skeptics love to attack. Consequently, kids aren’t learning about those passages either and their faith gets seriously shaken when they eventually encounter them. What advice do you have for parents on introducing and discussing these tough parts of the Bible with their kids?
Another great question! My first advice is simply to talk about them. Don’t avoid the tough passages in the Bible, even if you’re uncertain about them yourself. Be willing to bring them up with your kids and talk about them so kids aren’t shocked when they hear these objections for the first time from a skeptic, atheist, or other non-believer. Second, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re unsure how to answer a tough question, or how to make sense of a difficult passage. Kids need to see us living in the tension of belief and doubt. Third, find good answers. Honestly, Natasha, your book Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side is fantastic. It is an excellent resource to help parents. The kid-versions of Lee Strobel’s “Case” books are also tremendous.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to share here, Sean!

You can order A New Kind of Apologist from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Christian Book Distributors (Christian Book Distributors has it on sale for just $8.49!).

Be sure to follow Sean’s blog at seanmcdowell.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell

 

¹Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit (New York: Oxford, 2007), 62.