Sean McDowell Interview
by Brad Blakeley
My name is Brad Blakeley—I’m a graduate of Biola’s Master of Apologetics program, a teaching pastor at the Church at Lake Mead ([email protected]), a high school teacher at Lake Mead Christian Academy, and an adjunct professor at Lincoln Christian University Las Vegas Extension campus—and I recently had the privilege of interviewing Sean McDowell, who is listed among the top 100 Christian apologists in the world. McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for reaching the younger generation with the Gospel message, previously serving as Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools where he taught Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has recently accepted a position at BIOLA University in the M.A. in Apologetics program, which was the main topic of our interview.
Blakeley: Alright, so I got eleven questions for you this morning,
This may be an obvious question, but I thought, rather than assume the answer I’d ask it. Why did you choose to get into apologetics professionally? Is it just in the “family DNA,” or did you have other reasons for this career path?
McDowell:A lot of what motivated me to get into apologetics was actually my own questions. I just had a questioning period, which I think is pretty natural for people. I really started to get serious about, you know—Do I really believe the Bible’s true? Does God exist? Is Christianity really the way to go? And so I just started to read more intently for myself and answering those questions just got me interested in thinking, you know, other people have to have these questions and if I can help others make sense of these difficult questions, then that would be rewarding. So, primarily, it came from my own interest.
Second, I think I am just wired that way. I’ve certainly been influenced by my dad, seeing him spend a life of studying and thinking and caring about helping other people and I kind of caught that passion from him.
Blakeley: Excellent. Could you give our audience a helpful definition of apologetics? How would you define it?
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McDowell: Let me give you context. Apologetics primarily comes from 1 Peter 3:15, where it says identify Christ as Lord in your heart, always be prepared to give an answer when people ask and do it with gentleness and respect. And the word for “answer” or defense is “apologia,” and it has a legal sense. So apologetics is the sub-branch under theology where we offer reasons for why we believe what we believe. That can be defensive reasons, such as why evil doesn’t discount God or that there’s not contradictions in the Bible or defending that Jesus is the only way, but also offering positive arguments for why we think the Bible’s true, God exists, God is good, etc.
Blakeley: You just about answered my third question, so if this is redundant, I’m sorry. What would you say are the main reasons or purposes of Christian apologetics?
McDowell: The first one is to strengthen Christians. I found in my experience, especially with young people, when they start to realize that this isn’t just a belief system they can compartmentalize in their mind, but this is really truth. This is real and there are good reasons to believe it. It gives Christians confidence.
Second, is just to help nonbelievers who have genuine questions to clear them away so they can see Jesus for who he is and be able to follow him and understand the nature of Christ.
So first for Christians, second for non-Christians. But, third, I think it’s also to create a cultural milieu where the gospel can even be heard…