Darwinism and the Next Generation

Recently I was interviewed by Jonathan Morrow for his excellent new book Thinking Christianly (Zondervan, 2011). He asked me about Darwinism as well as reaching the next generation. Here is my brief excerpt. Enjoy!

Jonathan Morrow: It is commonplace to hear about the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution. Have you found this to be the case? Can you talk a little about the role that Darwinism plays in our culture?

Sean McDowell: There’s a well-known joke for lawyers that says when the facts are on your side, argue the facts. However, when you don’t have the facts, use emotion and state your case with absolute certainty. This is precisely what is going on with claims about the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution. We live in an information age, and materialist theories such as Darwinism are slowly going the way of the Dodo. Intelligent design (ID) is on the move. Many Darwinists know this, which is why they focus their primary attacks on ID being religiously motivated or based on ignorance and avoid engaging the actual arguments. But they can ignore the substance for only so long.

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Building a Sticky Faith

For those who care about the faith of the next generation, the book Sticky Faith is a must read. Youth experts Kara Powell and Chap Clark record the findings of the "College Transition Project,” which is a six-year research study of over 500 graduating seniors. Here is their stated goal: “To better understand the dynamics of youth group graduates’ transition to college, and to pinpoint the steps that leaders, churches, parents, and seniors themselves can take to help students stay on the Sticky Faith path” (18).

According to their research, between 40 and 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college. Only 20 percent of those who left the faith planned to. That means 80 percent of those who abandoned the faith were planning to stick with it. On the positive side, they estimate that between 30 and 60 percent return in their late twenties. But this still means between 40 and 70 percent of students who leave their faith never return.

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The Social Costs of Pornography

Pornography is tearing apart the fabric of our society. You may think this is an overstatement. After reading, “The Social Costs of Pornography” by the Witherspoon Institute, I think it may be an understatement.

In 2008, the Witherspoon Institute sponsored the first multidisciplinary exploration of the social costs of pornography. Scholars from various fields including philosophy, psychology, and medicine were included in the forum. Every major shade of religious belief was represented, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, agnosticism, and atheism. And both the left and right in American politics were present. They all agreed that there is a substantial multidimensional, empirical record of the harms pornography brings to society. Obviously, such agreement is rare.

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You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church

You Lost Me by David Kinnaman is the book I have been waiting for (Baker, 2011). I found myself reading it saying, “Yes, Yes, YES!” There has been much talk recently about the phenomena of young people disengaging the church when they leave high school, but now we have some substantive data as to why this is happening and what we can do about it. Kinnaman is the president of the Barna Research Group, so he backs up everything he says with research.

According to You Lost Me, 59% of young people with a Christian background report they have dropped out of the church after going regularly. Interestingly, Kinnaman notes that they are not necessarily leaving the faith. In fact, he says, “Most young Christians are struggling less with their faith in Christ than with their experience of church” (27). While historically young people often return to the church when they have kids, the new social and spiritual realities of this generation makes it less likely they will come back in the same numbers.
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Steve Jobs vs. Jesus

Steve Jobs is an icon. He has (almost) single-handedly transformed personal computing, revolutionized smart phones, created an intense market desire for the tablet computer, and changed how we shop for electronics. Few people have had the colossal business and cultural impact over the past three decades as Steve Jobs. I will never forget when my family got our first desktop Mac in 1984, and I am now looking forward to the iPhone 5 (this September…please!). I have an iPhone, iPad, and a MacBook Pro. Yes, I’m a Mac-geek. But at least I’m cool!

And I am also an evangelical Christian. You might be thinking, “So what! What on earth does being a Christian have to do with Apple computers or Steve Jobs?” More than you may think. I write books, speak publicly, and teach classes on philosophy and theology, which means I love motivating people to think deeply about the important issues of life. And Steve Jobs, one of the most powerful people of our day, has offered a secular “gospel” to our culture. My goal in this post is not to criticize Jobs (that would be foolish!), or to promote Christianity, but to contrast their respective worldviews so you, the reader, can decide what you think is true.

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Why I Do Apologetics

I recently did this video interview on the role of Apologetics in our world, and how I approach this important discipline. Enjoy!

Love Your Neighbor, the Atheist

When Jesus was asked the most important commandment in the law he answered to “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor.” In other words, the most important thing for Christians to do is to love (Mark 12). And yet this summer I have been reminded how far we have to go in learning to love our neighbors. Let me explain.

One of my favorite ways to teach students is through role-playing. I take on the part of an atheist, Muslim, Mormon, or a member of some other non-Christian worldview and challenge students to articulate and defend their beliefs accordingly.  I have done this with groups of as few as twelve students or as many as 6,000.

One of the great values in role-playing is that it quickly reveals how little students actually understand their faith. Rarely have I encountered a student who was conversant about theology, science or philosophy. Most defend their views by quoting verses (even though my role-play persona typically does not believe in the Bible) or by pointing to some personal experience. As Barna studies reveal, few Christians understand or can articulate their faith.

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Lessons From My Father (Part 1)

A couple weeks ago I received word that the great apologist Ron Carlson, father of my friends Jason and Jared Carlson, had suddenly died. My heart broke for the Carlson family, but I also know how proud they are of the life their father lived.

Given that my father is also an apologist, and a few years older than Ron, it got me thinking more than ever about the lessons I have learned from my dad. Below are a few of the first lessons that came to my mind. My dad has taught me so much about relationships, God, economics, and more, so it was a challenge to know where to begin!  These are just some of the key lessons that first came to my mind.

  • THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY ISSUE. It’s human nature to believe the first account we hear of an event, especially if it fits our preconceived notions. When we hear views favorable to our opinions (whether political, religious, or other) we tend to believe them, and if we hear views unfavorable to our opinions we tend to doubt them, even before we consider the evidence. My dad has told me countless times to weigh all the evidence before making up my mind. And I have seen him model this. He often says, “Remember, son, there are two sides to every issue. Try to understand both sides, and consider all the evidence, before making up your mind.” This is essentially the same wisdom Solomon gave to his son in Proverbs 18:17: “The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins.” Do you consider both sides before making up your mind?
  • BELIEVE THE BEST IN OTHERS. Years ago my wife and I worked for a college funding company. Some of our co-workers spoke negatively of the president of our company who we held (and still hold) in high regard. Rather than believing the rumors I went straight to the president, as my dad taught me, to get his side of the story and believe the best in him unless we found reliable evidence to the contrary. It turned out that our co-workers were totally misinformed and spreading hurtful rumors. I wish I could say I have always done this, as I’m sure there are many times I have not believed the best in other people. But this is a principle I try to live by. Do you believe the best in others?
  • WORK HARD. My dad is one of the hardest workers I have ever known. In fact, I have never met someone who worked harder than my dad. I can remember many early mornings and late nights seeing my dad writing and researching to get ahead. My father is certainly brilliant, but much of his success is due to his sheer determination to work hard. He applied this work ethic not just to his job but to his family as well. Seeing this in his life has motivated me to work hard in sports, school, work, and in my relationships, as well. Again, Solomon gave this advice to his son, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6). How hard do you work?
  • ENJOY LIFE. If you hang around my father for five minutes you will realize that he thoroughly enjoys life. In fact, if you are ever within a few hundred feet of him (especially at movie theaters!) you are certain to hear his signature laugh. He loves to tell jokes, relive funny incidents, and find the humor in almost anything. He is as intense about life as anyone I have ever met, and yet he always finds the joy in life. Do you enjoy life?
  • YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM. Whenever I started feeling sorry for myself growing up my father often reminded me of this principle. You may think this is easy for him to say, but if anyone would have the right to be a victim it would be my dad. He was sexually abused as a child, had an older sister commit suicide, and grew up with an alcoholic father. And yet he takes responsibility for his own life and refuses to see himself as a victim. In an age where it is in vogue to claim victimhood because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or some other factor, my father has refused to let me see myself as a victim. I may not choose my circumstances, but I do choose how to respond. Are you a victim?
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An Open Letter to Graduates (Part 2)

In my last post I offered the biblical prophet Daniel as an example to graduates of how to stay strong in their faith during college. Even though Daniel was in a foreign culture, not unlike where college freshmen will soon find themselves, he stood strong because Daniel determined in his heart beforehand not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8). Daniel had his heart set on doing right before the pressure came and that made all the difference.

In this post I want to offer three practical ways you can purpose beforehand to do the right thing so you can thrive in college rather than crash. Following are three specific issues you will soon face as you move into university life.

First, have you determined in your heart how you will respond to peer pressure to drink alcohol? Most of you have already faced this to some degree, but the stakes change when no parents are there to check on you at night or wake you up in the morning.

An Open Letter to Graduates

Dear Graduates,

Excitement. Anticipation. Eagerness. Anxiety. Fear. My guess is that these emotions, and many more, are going through your heart and mind right now as you prepare to leave high school for the “real world.” Not too long ago I was in the same boat. I have since learned some powerful lessons I would like to share with you. Will you allow me to share some personal encouragement and insights to help you succeed in college? I want nothing more than to see my own students flourish as followers of Jesus in college. And I want the same for you. If you read this two-part series you will be miles ahead of many of your peers. Prayerfully take these words to heart and I believe they could make all the difference for you.

Yogi Berra is famous for creative one-liners. For example, he said, “You better go to other peoples’ funerals. Otherwise they won’t come to yours.” He also said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” And one of my personal favorites: “There is a restaurant in L.A. that is so busy no one goes there anymore.” He once quipped, “If you don’t know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else.” So true!

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About
Sean McDowell is a teacher, author, speaker, husband and father. He is an avid fan of college basketball, ping-pong, and his favorite superhero is the Amazing Spiderman.