Sean McDowell | July 6, 2015

Interview: Josh McDowell on Apologetics Today

SEAN: Dad, was apologetics as important when you began your ministry 50 years ago or so? Why or why not?

JOSH: Yes it was. Back when I began my ministry, almost no one was doing apologetics. I was like a lone voice crying in the wilderness. That’s one reason why Evidence that Demands a Verdict did so well. There was nothing else like it out there. Back then materialism was the issue that drove people away from the truth. There was an undercurrent of skepticism, and nobody was answering the tough questions. Whereas today, the issue is more intellectual, driven by the Internet, and related to the abundance of information that is tearing at the very fiber of truth. After about the first 10 years of using apologetics, I really became more relational in my approach, teaching truth in the context of relationships.

SEAN: what lessons have you learned the hard way in doing apologetics?

JOSH: When you make public presentations there are two down sides. One, you can overstate it. This can happen without even realizing it. Sometimes I have caught myself doing this and wish I could go back and change it. Second, you may leave things out of a presentation. I have made true statements in multiple church services. But as the services progress, I accidentally leave certain details out. By the third and fourth talks, I have to write, “Details, details, details” in my notes or I will forget something crucial. If you leave out details you can be totally misinterpreted. I’ve had to fight those two things my whole life.

SEAN: What are the two most common questions you get from people relating to apologetics?

JOSH: The two main questions I get are on the deity of Christ and the reliability of the Scriptures. People often say, “The Bible was put together by a committee, how can you trust it?” Another, probably one of the bigger areas I have to deal with now, is the area of sexuality and pornography, because it starts to erode the authority of your source of truth.

SEAN: What advice would you give to young apologists?

JOSH: First, spend time with older apologists that have been successful in their families and ministry. When I was young, I so wanted to travel with certain men to learn from them. But they would say, “No I don’t do that.” They would never share their material with me. I remember thinking, “If I ever develop a reputation, I’m going do everything I can to help others succeed. I will share my material abundantly.” That has been a guiding principle for me. Second, truth was never given for the sake of knowing truth. Truth was given for the sake of being applied to relationships with God, spouses, parents, children, friends, and non-believers. I had a well-known apologist call me one time and say, “What’s the difference between you and me? I speak at a university and ten people come to Christ. You speak at a university and 600 come to Christ.” I said, “Here’s why. You’re teaching truth for the sake of knowing truth. And I’m teaching truth for the sake of applying it to your life. Truth is meant to be experienced in relationships.” This is why, my whole life, I’ve always shared my testimony.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, the National Spokesman for Summit Ministries, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.