How to Relate to Young People In a “Feel Good” Age – Sean McDowell

The book Evidence That Demands A Verdict celebrates 45 years since it was first published! That means it is older than most parents of current classical Christian students! But is a book that boasts such a title still relevant in this new age where feelings rule? Do logical arguments and evidence even work anymore to convince people that Christianity is worth taking seriously? Dr. Sean McDowell offers classical Christian schools and parents practical advice about how to relate more intentionally, especially to young people who indulge their feelings and often believe that traditional values are mean, insensitive and bigoted. Dr. McDowell explains that there are definitely better ways to relate than just offering the evidence to believe – but we still need to do that, too! Tune in to find out how!

Sean McDowell

Dr. Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a Biblical worldview. Sean is an Associate Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. And he is the Resident Scholar for Summit California.

Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps give him exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors, and parents alike. In 2008 he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, California. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014.

Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities, and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism, and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times.

How to Relate to Young People

In a “Feel Good” Age

A Conversation with Sean McDowell

A half-century ago, logical arguments served as terrific tools for many people sharing the Christian faith.  For instance, a young person might have learned that if you stack the original manuscripts of the New Testament, the stack would be over a mile high.  When compared to the measly four-foot high stacks of original classical manuscripts, this evidence pointed to the reliability of the Scriptures and proved a stepping-stone, even an “Aha” moment, for many considering Christianity.

The classic book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh McDowell, led the charge in presenting such evidence.  In fact, this year we celebrate the 45th anniversary of its publication.  This book is older than many parents of current classical Christian students!

But is a book that boasts such a title still relevant in this new age of “whatever” and “if it feels good”?  In fact, do people even respond to logical arguments anymore and are they even relevant tools today?

On a recent BaseCampLive episode, Sean McDowell, the son of Josh McDowell, shares that Evidence That Demands A Verdict has been re-published and updated to respond to this new cultural shift of feelings over facts and common objections raised over the past twenty years.

McDowell recounts how this summer he took high schoolers to GA Tech University to interview and engage random students in meaningful conversations.  They reported that the students they met were, “Brilliant kids but not very thoughtful about God.”

This technically savvy generation can easily find any justification via a google search, thereby giving them permission to believe false narratives.  They end up rejecting biology as “mean” and put their feelings on a pedestal instead.  These upside-down ideas have led to a “Culture of Absurdity”, according to BaseCamp Live host Davies Owens.

In response to highly sensitive kids who are also quite skeptical, McDowell’s team rigorously fact-checked Evidence That Demands A Verdict to avoid any inaccuracies and overstatements.

Logic still matters…but what about our feelings?

McDowell emphasizes that while logic appears to have gone out the window, it still actually plays an important role.  Evidence continues to be a foundational piece of faith for many young people who want to believe that the Scriptures are indeed dependable.

On the other hand, he reminds us that Augustine, the fourth century theologian, said that people are moved more by what they love than what they believe.  The classical word describing these feelings would be “affections.”

So which do we emphasize more, logic or feelings, as we train up a child in the way they should go?

Sean Mcdowell encourages “truth in the context of relationships with evidence woven in.”  Jesus and the disciples modeled this perfectly in the New Testament as they shared truth in the form of engaging stories.  Most importantly, they cared about people.

How can Classical Christian Schools better model this?

First, Classical Christian Schools should evaluate if they are encouraging students to match their loves to their logic.  Students need to wrestle with great ideas that engage them passionately and then follow these ideas logically through to the end see if they make sense and are backed up by Scripture.

Secondly, students who are presented with the truth of the gospel without joy risk flinging off Christianity when they graduate and leave for college.   They also risk sharing the gospel in an unloving and judgmental way that turns off unbelievers.

Third, teachers must remember that God creates students differently…some are wired to be rational, some relational and some experiential, both believers and non-believers.  Yes, our schools – and parents – should train up students to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” I Peter 3:15. Again, logic and love when hearing and sharing the gospel.  Evidence and affections.

Parents need to “Up their Game One Level”

Parents can only pass on to the next generation what they themselves believe, McDowell warns. Modeling the practice of reading and living out the Christian worldview are intentional ways to help kids.

“Parents are often intimidated but we don’t have to be the expert… just having the conversation is a huge win,” says McDowell.  Our children are listening even when we think they don’t hear a word.

Take advantage of resources out there such as reading 15 min a day together out of Evidence That Demands A Verdict.  Send them to Summit Ministries.  Listen together to podcasts such as Sean McDowell’s Think Biblically podcast.

Finally, get to “the question behind the question.”  Listen for the heart issue behind their concerns about Christianity or other beliefs.

This love and logic recipe may be just the ticket to guard the hearts of our children and reach the wider culture.  As expected, Jesus knew this all along.

Key Takeaway

Ultimately, the battle over our kid’s affections doesn’t mean that we should indulge their feelings, nor should we deny them.  That’s where intentional parents and classical christian schools guide them in testing everything with logic and love.  What conversation can you have today or which podcast can you watch with your kids and listen to what they have to say? Converse…don’t lecture!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2