Today’s culture touts tolerance as its god. Christians must be prepared to explain the truth in a manner that is understood by a relativistic culture. But where do we begin?
Josh McDowell, an internationally known speaker, author, and staff member with Cru, is recognized as one of today’s foremost apologists. In this interview, he explains how to build a solid defense for Christianity in our culturally-relative world.
cru.org: Josh, you once said that today’s culture greatly resembles the culture of the New Testament. What do you mean by that?
Josh: In the New Testament, we had the pantheon. Many religions were made public and people believed that all roads led to God. People were exposed to many different, challenging, contradictory faiths.
With the Internet, we now live in a small world. For example, Islam used to be on another continent. Now, it is next door.
We, too, live in a day of a pantheon. The belief that all roads lead to God is prevalent. In New Testament times, someone who stated that any one religion was true was considered a heretic. Today you are called intolerant.
cru.org: How do we live for Jesus in the midst of that?
Josh: We must raise up our young people to not just know what they believe, which is critical, but to know why they believe it. If we don’t, they will go into the pantheon of life and be led astray by whatever comes along.
cru.org: I want to represent Christ well, but I often fumble when it comes to explaining the whys.
Josh: Well, you are probably a lot like me in that you have a photographic mind but no film.
cru.org: Maybe! Where would you suggest that I start?
Josh: Well, you start with the fact that it is easier to remember and share something when you are living it, when you are experiencing it in your life. Second, I review constantly. Once I share a truth 7 or 8 times, then it becomes easier for me to remember.
Take notes. Write out why you believe.
Write out an outline and then use it.
If you don’t know the answer to a question then just say so: “I don’t know what the answer is to that, but I will do my best to find out.”
That is how you become a wiser person.
cru.org: You once referenced the apostle Thomas as a good example of a believer who wanted to know the why’s behind his faith. Would you expound on that a bit?
Josh: Today people are jumping all over the place to believe anything that comes along. Thomas said, I just need a little truth, I don’t want to get into error. It’s like the young man who came to Jesus and said, “I do believe! Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
For example, my son came to me, I think it was his first year at Biola University. He said, “Dad, I’m not really sure what I believe. I have lived so long on your faith, and it’s got to be my faith.”
He thought I would be upset at that. But I said “Son, that is wonderful. I’ve been waiting for you to come to that situation.”
Josh: Yes, I told him, “It has to become your faith. If you are sincerely seeking the truth, then you will find it. But, don’t reject something because it is the faith of your parents. Reject something because it is not true.”
I was saying, Be a Thomas. Ask for some evidence. My son later told me that that was the greatest counsel I could have given him.
We asked Josh McDowell: “What are 5 things to keep in mind when engaging others in conversations about Christ in our present culture?”
If there is not a relationship with the person with whom you are sharing, then it doesn’t matter what you know or how much you know.
Truth without relationships leads to rejection. Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 Paul said, “We felt so strongly about you that we were determined to share with you not only the Good News of God but also our lives. That’s how dear you were to us!”(GOD'S WORD Translation). In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul says, “You know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you” (New Living Translation).
2. Demonstrate Both Reality and Truth.
If they don’t see it in our lives, then they won’t believe it. This is very culturally relevant for today and very biblical. “Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” (John 13:35, GW).
There was a scientific study titled Hardwired to Connect, which was issued by Dartmouth Medical School. The results of the study said that, if you want to pass truth and values on to your children or young people, you must do 2 things:
You must establish or develop a loving, intimate relationship with the child.
You must model that very truth in the presence of the child or they will walk away.
This is science speaking!
Ask yourself what kind of relationship you have built with that young person. Have you been living that truth in a non-hypocritical way before them?
Before you speak, listen. Listen without being judgmental. Because if a young person believes, “I have been heard,” I tell you, it is a different ballgame.
4. Express Yourself.
After you have listened to them, you might say something like, “Well, could I share something with you?” or “Let me share with you how the Bible talks about this.” Then, express the truth that you want to talk about with that person.
Now, the next step is very critical:
5. Explain Why.
We live in a culture of contagious skepticism. In today’s culture, people want to know why as much as they want to know what. When you are sharing with someone about how they must trust Christ as their saving Lord, they may ask “Why?” Or say, “So what?” What they need to hear is how you know that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God. This takes some homework!
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