Mormon Scriptures Revealed

Mormonism is everywhere. A leading Republican candidate for president is a Mormon, there is a play on Broadway about The Book of Mormon, and the LDS Church has launched a multi-million dollar ad-campaign about Mormons called “I’m a Mormon.” Even though I have been teaching a class on comparative religion for years, taking students on trips to Salt Lake City, and interacting with my Mormon friends, I had never read Mormon scriptures in their entirety.

Recently I asked some Mormon missionaries to show me that their religion is true. They said if I read The Book of Mormon with an open heart then God would impress its truthfulness upon me (they quoted Moroni 10:4). So, I earnestly prayed that God would impress upon my heart the truthfulness of the Mormon scriptures, and then I determined to read as many of their books as I could, including The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), and The Pearl of Great Price.

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Ten Verses to Defend Your Faith

For the past few days I have been trying to think of the top ten verses that would be most helpful to apologists and evangelists. I have reflected on my own experience and also gotten feedback from many of you on Facebook and Twitter. So, here are my top ten verses to defend your faith (in no particular order):

1 Peter 3:15: “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;”   As an apologist you may find yourself having to defend the purpose of apologetics. This is the classic verse indicating that everyone is to be prepared to give an answer with gentleness and respect.

John 1:1-3: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”  This is one of the most compelling and clear articulations of the deity of Christ. It shows that Christ is the eternal creator and is one with (although distinct from) the Father.

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Is the GOP Anti-Science?

The GOP is dogmatically anti-science. They reject the conclusions of manmade global warming, which has been accepted by virtually all scientists. And they deny the overwhelming evidence of evolution. They are anti-science, anti-knowledge, and anti-progress.  The possibility of an anti-science candidate getting elected to the White House is a terrifying prospect for it would put our economic, environmental, and political state into potential disaster. For the sake of the next generation, please don’t elect such a candidate!

If you believe this rendition, it’s likely you’ve been following the incessant portrayal of the GOP in the media. Consider a few recent headlines:  “Republicans Against Science,” “Why Republicans Deny Science: The Quest for a Scientific Explanation,” and “Rick Santorum is King of the GOP’s Anti-Science Presidential Candidates.” The list could go on. But the message is clear: the Republican Party is full of ignorant science-deniers who are a threat to the future of America (of course, exception is made for John Huntsman, who has tried to cast himself as the pro-science Republican alternative by accepting evolution and manmade global warming).

Who Made God?

Shortly before Christmas I received an email from Edgar Andrews, Emeritus professor from the University of London. He asked if I would be willing to review his book Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. While I’ve read many books presenting the scientific evidence for God, I thought it may be interesting to get the perspective of someone outside the traditional apologetics community. I was right!

If you enjoy the contemporary debate about the existence of God, then Who Made God? is a book you will want to have in your library. Andrews provides fresh and strong critiques of Dawkins, Victor Stenger, and other prominent atheists. He even debated Richard Dawkins a few years ago.

Probably the most controversial thing Andrews claims is that there are four scientifically inexplicable things: (1) the origin of the universe; (2) the origin of the laws of nature; (3) the origin of life; and (4) the origin of mind and thought.

A Hurting Generation

In 2004 I read an eye-opening book called Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, by Chap Clark. Dr. Clark is a youth ministry veteran who is currently the editor for YouthWorker Journal. In preparation for the book, he not only researched widely about adolescents, but he decided to be a substitute teacher for a year in a public high school to get inside the minds of midadolescents (14-20 year olds).

After studying this generation carefully, Clark concluded: “In this study I found a far wider relational and social chasm exists between adults and adolescents than I had previously considered.” In other words, the defining characteristic of midadolescents today is their abandonment by adults. Students spend only 4.8 percent of their time with parents and 2 percent of their time with adults who are not their parents. Now wonder between 14 and 15 percent of teens in North America report engaging in some form of self-injury (Chapter 9).

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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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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.