Every day it becomes more evident that our culture is actively and aggressively promoting ideas and agendas that go against God’s Word.
Whether it is abortion, gender issues, drugs, or other hot-button topics, those who hold to a biblical worldview are facing increasing pressure to compromise their beliefs to avoid being ostracized from society.
With the news media, movies, music, sports, and just about everything else pushing an agenda that goes against Scripture, it is time for Christians to view themselves as rebels — rebels who stand for truth in a world gone mad.
Listen as Sean McDowell shares why Christians must make bold stands for Jesus on controversial issues and how we can do so in a loving way.
Sean is an author, speaker, and associate professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He’s authored or edited more than 18 books, including his latest book A Rebel’s Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice, and Love amid the Noise of Today’s World.
On This Episode We’ll Discuss:
- Why standing for Christ makes us rebels in today’s culture
- Why Christians need to speak into controversial issues
- How our view of God and His Word impacts how we engage with our culture
- Ways parents can prepare their kids to withstand the onslaught of anti-biblical views
- How we can be both bold and loving as we make a stand for truth
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About Our Guest
Sean McDowell is an author, speaker, and associate professor at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He’s authored or edited more than 18 books, including So the Next Generation Will Know, which we talked about with him back on episode 16 of the podcast. His latest book is A Rebel’s Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice, and Love amid the Noise of Today’s World. You can learn more about Sean’s ministry at his website, SeanMcDowell.org.
- Purchase a copy of A Rebel’s Manifesto
- Check out Sean’s videos on YouTube
- Listen to my interview with Sean about Reaching the Next Generation | Podcast #16
Watch our Conversation
Clay Kraby: Well, thanks for joining us. We are talking with Sean McDowell again, and he’s an author, he’s a speaker. He’s actually an associate professor at Talbot School of Theology. And that’s at Biola University. He’s authored and he’s edited more than 18 books, including So the Next Generation Will Know. We actually had a chance to talk with Sean on the podcast back when that came out. I think that was Episode 16. We’ll link to that so you can check it out.
His latest book, though, is A Rebels Manifesto, Choosing Truth, Real Justice And Love Amid The Noise Of Today’s World. You can learn more about Sean’s Ministry and his writing and everything else at his website Seanmcdowell.org. Sean, thanks so much for joining me again.
Sean McDowell: Honored to be back. Thanks for having me.
Clay Kraby: Now, to begin with, I think most people that will be listening and watching are familiar with some of your ministry, particularly on the apologetic side. But could you share a little bit about yourself and your ministry and what that looks like?
Sean McDowell: Sure. First and foremost, obviously, I’m a Christian. After that, I am a husband and a father. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart 22 years, have three kids, a son who’s just graduating from high school, a daughter who’s 15, and a son who’s nine wrapping up third grade. And like you said, teach at Biola and get to speak. Just do a ton on social media that I actually really enjoy for the most part and get to write books. So I’m really a communicator at heart.
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Clay Kraby: People can check you out. Obviously, your website, they can see you on YouTube. I mean, you’re really kind of in all the different places someone might want to connect and learn about what you are teaching people about scripture and about theology and about apologetics and all those things.
Sean McDowell: Well, there’s a strategy behind that because I’ve been silenced on Tik Tok, and I literally made an argument that life begins at conception and it was pulled down and told that was hate speech. Interestingly enough, I haven’t been blocked on YouTube, but demonetized on a couple. So I think a wise strategy is to not put all your eggs in one basket, to use different platforms. That’s a part of why I use so many different platforms.
Clay Kraby: That makes sense, I think, for anybody, but particularly Christian teachers and communicators and pastors and theologians. You have to remember we’re building the house on rented land. So you got to expect that someday the rug might get pulled out from under you. So good strategy.
Now, as we mentioned, your latest book is A Rebels Manifesto, and you’re really making the case that in order to be a rebel in today’s world that needs to stand up for biblical truth. So if you think of someone who I’m a rebel and you’re thinking of maybe like a 1960s kind of culture where they’re pushing back against traditional values and what scripture has to say in the Church and really any organizational authority, it’s pretty much the opposite today. Isn’t that right?
Sean McDowell: Yeah. One of the things that people who maybe are familiar with me and my work, if they hear the term rebel, probably are not going to think of me, they’re not going to go, yes, Sean, that guy is just a rebel. Partly that’s because I think we have an antiquated understanding of what it means to be a rebel.
So you can understand a rebel through the history of rock music. I was reading a professional Journal article about this recently, and they talked about how some rock music in the 50s was pushing back against racial injustice in the 60s against the family, against the establishment at that time, in the 70s, against war in the have punk rock. The history of rock and roll is kind of the history of being a contrarian, against fighting for what was injustices or in some cases perceived to be injustices.
Well, it’s interesting to ask the question, what does it mean to be a contrarian today? Because everybody is fighting against something. Everybody now because of these things called smartphones and social media, has a platform to speak. And so much of our just the tone of our conversation is this angry vitriolic cancel somebody who doesn’t see the world as I do. So given that now everybody has the tone of rock music, and that’s not an insult. I love rock music. That’s not the point. But everybody can fight against the system.
What does it actually mean to be a contrarian? And I would say it’s actually someone who says, you know what? I’m going to lead with understanding. I’m going to try to be charitable. I’m going to build bridges instead of walls. I want to reach across the aisle in terms of religion and politically and socially and just try to stand for truth and not compromise, but do that in a way that’s gracious and humanizing and non-trivalistic. That’s actually the rebel today. There’s not a lot of people doing that now. We see some of that in the life of Jesus, that he was uncompromisingly committed to truth. He died for it. But he also dined with sinners. He also talked about charity. He talked about judging yourself before you judge others. There’s a lot in the example of Jesus, who in some ways is the ultimate rebel that we’ve lost in our culture today. That’s what I’m calling Christians in particular, too.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And it really is just that cultural shift. So if you imagine someone, particularly the younger generation, college or younger, and I think the mindset is often that we’re rebels and we’re sticking it to the man, and we’re up against authority.
But then if you can get them to stop and realize you agree with all of your teachers, every celebrity, every music group, every social media platform, every corporation, who are you rebelling against when the ideology has shifted so much that they’re in agreement with all the authority figures, which is what you typically think of when someone is rebellious.
But now, I think you make a great case here in this book. Exactly what you said is if you are kind, loving, stand firm for truth, particularly as we’re talking about biblical truth, that is extremely countercultural right now, isn’t it?
Sean McDowell: There was this Babylon Bee post I don’t know how many weeks ago, and they described how I think it was a teenage girl comes out as pansexual and they didn’t use this word, but in rebellion against the system like all her friends did. And I just laughed. I’m like, wait a minute, this is what everybody’s doing.
And I tell students all the time, I’m like, you’re actually just going with the script of what the media and what the culture tells you and you think you’re rebelling, but you’re really not. It’s actually rebellious today. Like you said, just say, you know what, I’m going to actually be gracious towards you. I’m going to try to understand you. I had a conversation on my YouTube channel recently. He described himself this way somewhat tongue in cheek, is a New York atheist media elite. He writes for The New Yorker, MSNBC, Slate magazine. Basically, on every social and political issue, we are probably on the opposite side.
But he reached out to me, super gracious, super thoughtful. And we just had a conversation. And it was so interesting, Clay, one of the things he said to me, he said, you know, so many times I feel like the Christian community just hates us and they’re against us now. Why would they care about the message we stand for in the love of Jesus if they’re not feeling that from Christians?
So I’m not telling Christians to fight less for life or the natural family or against racial injustice. We should care about all of those things. I’m concerned with the approach and the strategy we take in doing it so often that approach doesn’t reflect the love of Christ. And this atheist said to me, he goes, you know, it’s interesting that you have these conversations with people.
I’ve had LGBTQ activists on my show and agnostics and other atheists. He said, the fact that you’re just willing to have this conversation to listen tells me you’re confident in your position. Isn’t that interesting? It’s a willingness to listen and understand first shows confidence that we’re not threatened by other ideas. But the reality is, Clay, you and I both know this. We could build bigger platforms if we took the shock and awe and insult and demonize and cancel approach. I can make a ton more money, a bigger platform.
And you know what’s so interesting is somebody criticized my atheist friend who writes for the New Yorker, and they’re like, why are you platforming McDowell? And on Twitter, he defended me, which surprised me. I’m like, I have this atheist media lead defending me. I didn’t expect that. And he said if Sean was about money, he would be doing a shock and awe and attack approach. But he’s not. And I thought, wow, that’s a different tone, especially when I read things like, First Peter written to Christians who are experienced in a hostile culture. He’s like, love your neighbor, do good, live quiet lives, judge ourselves and success by a different metric of the world. That’s actually, in part, what it means to be a rebel.
Clay Kraby: Yes. And to be clear, for the folks that haven’t had the opportunity to look at the book yet, you’re not calling Christians to match the other world viewed side in terms of vitriol and anger and all caps tweets and all those things. You’re calling people to stand firm in biblical truth and all of those things which by nature is countercultural and rebellious, but to do so in a way that is kind and gracious and patient and loving. And I’m afraid that some Christians, particularly in the social media world, aren’t maybe seeing the value in that. I think they rightly recognize the danger that exists in a culture that’s increasingly hostile towards God and his people, but they’re responding with the exact same methodology and the exact same demeanor that is itself inappropriate and not honoring the God. And that’s a huge problem, I think, these days.
Sean McDowell: So what I’m not saying is that there’s no place for satire. I think there is. I’m not saying we don’t need a prophetic, bold voice. We need that. But I’m saying what we need more of is a revolutionary, Grace filled kind of communication. So let’s give an example of this. When there was a shooting at the church in the south a while ago, a black church. Honestly, I just get goosebumps thinking about this one by one. I don’t remember how many people were shot. I mean, just harrowing to go into a church one by one.
Many of the members of this church just said, you know what? Jesus loves you, and we hope you will repent from your sins because we forgive you. And God is willing to forgive you as well. Holy cow, right? That is a revolutionary type of action that tells me they have a Kingdom focus. It would be understandable if they stood there and just spewed vitriol at him and attacked him. All of us would be like, yes, we get it. But they understood that God had forgiven them and they have a higher calling to show to the world what it means to be forgiven and love others.
When I see stuff like that, Clay, I am humbled by the example of these people in this black church in the south, thousands of miles away from where I live. They take seriously a missed, unspeakable and unimaginable tragedy to show a kindness and Grace to the world. That’s what our world who’s so quick to cancel for the slightest indiscretion somebody wrote on a paper in college two decades ago, this kind of action where we kind of say, yeah, you’re justified in canceling this guy. They don’t. That voice is powerful, and I wish the church was more marked by that kindness then it is sadly in the eyes of many today.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And the unbelieving world sees that. You see articles and secular commentary and all over social media. When those things happen, it is a shock to the system to see someone show Grace and kindness. And it’s kind of the worse the situation, the more shocking it is when someone does say, you know what? I forgive this person and I want them to know Jesus, I want them to know forgiveness. That’s a shock to the system. And the unbelieving world takes notice of those things. And what a testimony that is to the gospel.
Sean McDowell: There was a cover story of US News and World Report. This might be 2012, maybe 15 years ago when this shooter went into a schoolhouse and killed some just Amish children. And what was amazing is the Amish community because they believe in the sovereignty of God, was not only reached out in love to the wife of the killer and showed grace to her and if I remember correctly, donated a lot of the money that had been given to their community to help the wife and other causes rather than take it themselves.
I just remember it’s been following this US News and World Report was stunned and surprised and taken back that a community could lead with such love and forgiveness. It’s like our culture doesn’t get that. It’s counter intuitive. That’s what gets people’s attention for the gospel. How do we step outside of this angry, cancel culture and show love to people? The only way we do that is if we have a different end game than our culture does. Andy Stanley has a recent book. It’s called Not In it to win It. And he’s like, usually we’re in this to win politics, get social media followers. We play by the wrong metric and the wrong guide. I think if we remember that, it’s about building the Kingdom of God, loving our neighbors first and foremost, love God, love our neighbor.
I just think we would react very differently and carry ourselves very differently on social media in the world. And again, I’m not saying there’s not a prophetic voice. There’s a lot of things that make us angry. And I speak out many times on life. I’m amazed how callous people are and we need to speak boldly on it. But gosh, it’s your kindness that leads to repentance. As Paul in Romans Two and in Proverbs it says a soft word breaks a bone. That voice. We need to have more and more of today.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, because you are not saying that, hey, just be nice. And that’s the other I think that Christians fall into is “just be kind, be polite, be nice, be a good neighbor.” That’s the apex of Christianity. You’re saying have these conversations. So your book, you have chapters on abortion, racial tension, transgenderism, even artificial intelligence, drugs. We should have these conversations. Why is it important that Christians don’t just sit on the sidelines and not enter into these difficult, controversial topics?
Sean McDowell: Well, one my concern actually primarily is for the church that we are the bride of Christ and that we pass on our faith to the next generation. So all the studies show Clay, I’ve been studying and tracking this since the 70s.
All the studies I found and Christian Smith, sociologist, backed this up as well, is that the primary influence on the life of a young person is the relationship with the parents. Their example, the relationship and beliefs are passed down through relationships in meaningful conversation with parents. So it’s not Netflix, it’s not TikTok, it’s not the educational system that are the primary influence. It’s actually primarily the parents.
So a book like Rebels Manifesto is just a tool for parents to talk with their kids in relationship, because when we don’t intentionally pass on our faith, then our kids will unintentionally or unconsciously adopt the ideas of the world that we live in. So given that all these ideas, my kids are on TikTok and all these videos are coming up all the time with ideas how to think about this or Instagram or Netflix.
We’ve got to give them a Christian funnel to approach this so they can stay in the faith and live out their faith boldly. That’s number one. But number two is Christianity is an all-encompassing world view. It’s so interesting.
I think it’s Matthew 22, where Jesus the coin, should we pay taxes to Caesar? And the response is, Give the Caesar. What is Caesars? Give the gods. What is God? He’s like whose images on that coin? Caesars. Give it to Caesar. Well, a lot of people miss the larger question. If that coin has Caesar’s image on it, where is God’s image? God’s image is on all of us. So Caesar may have a realm, but that is underneath the larger umbrella of God’s realm. So we need to think Christianly about everything. And some of my non Christian friends would not agree with this, which is fine. They might be unhappy that I’m saying it, but it’s actually if Christianity is true, then it is for the good and love of our neighbor that we think Christianly about these ideas and apply larger Christian principles. I’m not saying a theocracy. That’s absolutely not what I’m arguing for. But basic Christian principles, like all life has value. Every human being has dignity, ideas of justice, ideas of loving our neighbor. These are Christian ideas. Even care for creation is a Christian idea. So I actually think we should engage in these ideas to love our neighbors. We just have to do it in a way that actually represents scripture and in a manner that’s loving towards our neighbors.
Clay Kraby: And I was pleased when I got a copy of this to look at ahead of our conversation. Of course, I flip to the most controversial chapters to make sure you haven’t gone off the rails, which I need to see. You never know. These days, people put out books like their fourth book, a switch flips in their mind, and they go down weird paths. But you don’t shy away from giving biblical truth, standing on things that are not popular, increasingly unpopular in our culture. And I think that’s so important for Christians to recognize that you have to have a priority given to the authority of God’s Word.
How much does our view of Scripture impact the way we approach these issues, the way we think through these issues, and the way we decide to speak not to speak, how to speak about these issues?
Sean McDowell: Well, it’s two things. At the heart of it is the question of biblical authority. Do we really think the Bible is authoritative? So am I going to try to change my opinions and views and values to what scripture says or scriptural values to my experience or culture or something else? Now the word “progressive Christianity” is very fluid and can represent a lot of different people. But many progressive Christians take their experience, take a cultural value and find scriptures to support it.
Now, by the way, there’s a lot of conservatives that do this as well on different issues, so we could talk about that as well. But I think there’s a lack of biblical authority within the progressive Christian movement that concerns me. The first question is, do we try to live according to the scriptures, believe that they’re inspired, hold them up as authoritative? Second is, how do we interpret the scriptures? And I found a lot of Christians on the left and the right don’t know how to read the scriptures within context. We don’t know how to take genre into consideration. We don’t know how to separate what is cultural versus what is historical. Rather, we approach the scriptures and find passages that support the political position that we want rather than letting Scripture speak to us.
So the hard thing about writing this book is like, I think there are some things that Scripture is very clear on. Scripture is very clear from Genesis to Revelation that marriage is intended to be one man, one woman who become one flesh for one lifetime, and that any sexual activity outside of that is wrong. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours I spent studying this, and Scripture is clear on that. But when it comes to gun control, it’s not as black and white when it comes to that.
Of course, the Bible doesn’t address gun control, but it gives principles we can apply to it. Climate change, right? The Bible doesn’t talk explicitly about climate change, but it talks about creation care. So how do we approach these through a biblical lens while staying faithful on the core issues but showing charity to Christians who maybe have a different view of gun control? That’s a difficult topic.
And I want to say a couple of things. Number one, we have to stay faithful to Scripture. We have to make sure we’re dying on the right issues. I see a lot of Christians dying on secondary issues, and then when we differ on important issues, we’ve got to try to do it in a way with other believers that doesn’t sacrifice unity and shows charity to fellow believers. And I just don’t see a lot of Christians being as thoughtful about that as I’m trying to encourage Christians to do in a rebels manifesto.
Clay Kraby: Right. I think that’s where we need to land. We need to have the authority of Scripture first and foremost, because otherwise, like you mentioned, we’re just floating in the wind by our feelings and our ideas and our opinions. And so we need to stand firm in that. We need to be willing to defend that. But at the same time, recognize that it can be difficult to discern always clearly black and white. What is the right answer on this?
So you mentioned some of those examples. You search all day for artificial intelligence in your Bibles. You’re not going to find that phrase or really anything akin to it. But we’re tasked with navigating a culture that has some pretty interesting developments, just articles that are going around right now about people basically having virtual reality babies instead of kids. Now, I don’t have to flip through my Bible to tell you that ain’t going to work out well. But there’s odd things like that you have to navigate in life. There’s things where you have to weigh what the Bible does say about a particular topic and say, okay, how does that apply in this somewhat parallel situation? But if you don’t have scripture as an authority above your own thoughts, your own ideas, that all just goes by the wayside. So it’s so important to maintain that be willing to take a stand for Scripture. But Scripture also says when we do that, we need to do so in a winsome, kind, loving fashion.
So I really think that what you’ve attempted to do with this book. I really see that come out in the individual chapters of saying, no, this is wrong or this is right, or this is confusing, depending on which chapter it’s talking about giving some principles from Scripture for people to consider and really kind of ending each one on that encouragement on how do you approach this conversation and not be a jerk? I think that’s so important for all of us to remember.
Sean McDowell: Well, I appreciate the way you frame this. You said what I’ve attempted to do in the book, and I completely accept that because this book is not meant to be the end all of how Christians think about politics, the end all of how we approach gun control.
These are four to five page short chapters. But what they are is if you’re picking up this book saying, “Well, Sean is going to tell me why, as a Christian, I need to be a Democrat or Republican.” You’re going to be disappointed if you want to pick this up and say, what does the Bible say that intersects with the question of politics? What are the worldview issues at play when we vote? What are some mistakes to make when we approach politics, such as putting our faith in a political candidate instead of Christ believing that there’s a political solution to something when at its core it’s a spiritual or a moral problem.
If you’re looking for principles, how to approach and think about politics, this is the book for you. But the problem is most people just want to tribalize. They want to read something that tells them what to believe rather than be asked questions and driven back to Scripture to think what it means. I was doing my atheist role play recently, and this girl asked a question and she said, “Are you Mr. Atheist, (knowing I was role playing) willing to change your mind if we could prove that the Bible is true?” I said, sure, I’ll follow the truth. I said, “Would you change your mind if I could show that your views are wrong?” She goes, no, I’m right. I got it all figured out. And I said, you’re 18 years old and you’re not even open to possibly being wrong. But you expect me to take a posture that I could be wrong. I said, how is that fair?
Now she’s 18 years old, so she’s figuring things out like, I have Grace for that, but that’s oftentimes our posture towards a nonbelieving world. They’re looking at us saying, you’ve got it all figured out and you expect us to be open, but you’re not. Why should we engage you in conversation? These are the kinds of things I’m just pushing back on Christian.
So I opened with the story of Daniel, who stood boldly for truth and was willing to die for it. But with the King in Daniel chapter one, he’s like, I’m going to come up with a creative way to try to get the King what he wants. It really wasn’t about the food in a way that honors my conscience before the Lord. That’s a brilliant model for Christians today that says, we’ve got to be faithful what Scripture says and not compromise. Be willing to die on the right Hills, but use wisdom as we interact, engage in the wider culture. I just don’t see a lot of Christians doing that.
Clay Kraby: Yes. And part of your subtitle is about how you’re choosing truth and real justice and love amid the noise of today’s world. And it seems like you can be an all around great guy. You can nail all of these conversations. Perfectly biblically, perfectly correct, just the wisdom of Solomon. But it is a noisy world. And for every sane, biblical balanced voice out there, there’s 10,000 people just screaming at each other. So it seems like the deck is stacked against particularly young people with these issues. so what can families do? What can parents do to really set them up to succeed and to navigate all these challenges that they’re facing first?
Sean McDowell: Perhaps the most important thing parents can do if they can only do one thing, is to build loving, meaningful relationships with their kids, studies show. And again, this is a study from Verne Bengtson in his Oxford University Press book. I think it’s about 2013 if it came out so a few years ago. But it was based on 35 years, 3500 people, four generations of faith transmission. And in his book Faith and Families, he says the number one statistical factor in faith transmission is a, quote, warm relationship with the father. Now that doesn’t mean the mother is unimportant. The reality is the father tends to be more of a wild card. But if you care about pass on the safe with your kids, you’ve got to build a relationship with your kids.
My dad said to me, it’s one of the best things I think he’s ever said; he said, “rules without relationships leads to rebellion.” Rules about relationships leads to rebellion.
So step one is build a relationship with your kids. Number two, take a hard look inside and ask yourself, how am I living my life? Is my life captivating? Do my kids want the kind of life that I have? Do I prioritize money, my profession, something else over the Kingdom of God? Then guess what? Our kids are going to listen to what we do, not what we say.
So build a relationship with our kids. Look in the mirror first and then third, just have intentional conversations with kids. I do this to my kids all the time about movies. Look, I’ll give you a couple of examples. When the movie Bohemian Rhapsody came out a few years ago, my son was like, I think he was 13 or 14 and it was PG 13. So I was a little concerned, looked into it. I was like, I’ll take my son. He was really interested in it. I said, Buddy, I’ll take you and a friend. I’ll pay for everything. And when we’re done, we just come back and talk about it. I just want to know what you think. We go to the movie, come back, sit down at dinner table probably half an hour, and we just talked about it. Hey, what do you enjoy as Christians? What can we affirm? Are there any things in the movie that give you pause, you felt you’re being preached at. We just talked about it.
That’s how you pass on a faith to kids. My last book, not this one I gave to my daughter, but it’s the same 30 chapters on a cultural issue that was on sexuality. I told my daughter, who is now 15, I said, if you read this and just give me feedback and go to coffee with me and we talk about it, I’ll buy you a pair of shoes. In my family, we like shoes. Maybe too much. And she goes, dad, there’s an outlet down the mall. I can get two for the price of one. I was like, I can get three for the price of one. So she reads the book. We went to coffee, I don’t know, an hour, hour and a half. And I just asked her, hey, what was your favorite chapter? Did you learn anything different about your dad? Is there anything you differed with me on? What do you think about this chapter? How far do you think is too far? And my daughter and I had this conversation, went and bought her, I don’t know, pair of Vans and maybe a pair of Converse. I don’t even remember.
The point is, build relationships with their kids, model in your life and intentionally have meaningful spiritual conversations with your kids. And statistically, you put yourself in the best position to pass on your faith to them.
Clay Kraby: Really helpful guidance on how we can go about doing that. It’s not easy, but it’s not overly complicated. The way in which that we go about those things. And shocker of all, shockers, read the Bible with your kids, pray with them, take them to church, build relationships, loving relationships. It’s almost like those things were written for us a long, long time ago, and we just have to be faithful in doing them.
So there’s the possibility and really the likelihood of facing extreme pressure for going against the grain of the culture. One of the things I’ve seen a lot, I even saw someone who is politically adjacent. I can’t remember if they were in the current administration or just a commentator or whatever, but they were saying how faith is great, religious views are great, and they should be kept in the heart, in the home and in the pews. How would you respond to that view of, hey, Christian, be Christian all you want. Just don’t do it publicly. And I think that gets thrown at us a lot when we get into these controversial, contested topics.
Sean McDowell: I guess I would ask a few questions. I would say, do you have beliefs about the nature of the universe? Sure. Do they inform the way that you live? Of course. Well, if you have views about the nature of the universe and they inform how you vote and how you live your life, then why doesn’t the same charity apply to me? I have views about the nature of the universe, and I’m not trying to force people to follow the Bible. I make secular arguments. When it comes to the political realm, such as marriage, I don’t say, well, Genesis says this, therefore it should be in the law.
I actually make an argument from natural law when making a case for marriage. But if all of us have a worldview, why is it that those who are secular get to bring their world view to the table but those who are Christian don’t? That doesn’t strike me as open minded. I was having a conversation with a guy who’s an atheist, and he goes, look, we’re not in favor of keeping religion out of. We’re not trying to just make the secular voice the only one. And then five minutes later, he’s like, when it comes to marriage, it must be the secular voice. Everybody else needs to be silent. And I said, Wait a minute, you are enforcing a secular idea. The state can’t be neutral on marriage. The state can’t be neutral on life.
So bottom line, I want everybody to see that we all have worldview considerations and we all bring them to the table. That should be true for an atheist, that can be true for a Muslim, and that can be true for a Christian. but we’re also going to I would push back to Christians and say, if you want your beliefs to be taken seriously, you’re going to actually have to make an extra biblical argument from natural law for life for how you approach the environment, for how you approach marriage, et cetera.
So bottom line is everybody has worldview commitments and can bring them to the table. But we’re all going to have to make arguments apart from a religious text to convince our neighbors that this policy is good. So it bothers me when some people say an abortion will keep your religious ideas to yourself, keep religion out of this. Well, first off, they never define what’s meant by religion.
The 9th Circuit Court years ago actually argued that atheism or secular humanism can be a kind of religion, which is an interesting argument to go down. But second, this is a way of dismissing prolife arguments that don’t take our philosophical and scientific case seriously.
Clay Kraby: That’s really helpful. I didn’t think I’d stump you with that question. It really helped me as you kind of navigate through that kind of mentality of, no, you just sit over there and don’t bring your worldview to the conversation, don’t bring your background, your belief, your faith.
But I’m going to do that even if I deny that that’s what’s going on. So we certainly should be in these conversations. And the fact of the matter is, if they’re not just bowing to the culture that says, oh, I don’t have an opinion, some people might not interject into these conversations out of just fear, not maybe feeling qualified to really navigate these issues well, or they think that it just might get heated and terrible and maybe put a bad taste in the other person’s mouth for Christianity.
How can someone approach a conversation about abortion, about gender issues, about, I mean, any number of hot button topics? How can they be both bold and loving as they make these stand for truths?
Sean McDowell: I got to tell you, the hardest topic for me to do this on is abortion. Because what is at stake and I found so many times when I speak with pro-choicers, they don’t understand the pro-life side. They write it off. And for me,
I’m going to ask a question. I’m going to say, given that what we’re talking about here is a matter of life and death, how can you just make this argument and have not even taken seriously prolife arguments? If you are wrong, you are supporting the direct. I don’t know if I just use the word murder, but the direct ending the life of the most vulnerable segment of society around us. How can you not take the most strong arguments from the pro life side and consider them?
I’ve had that conversation with pro-choicers a lot. And I said, look, if you’re right, I’d be pro choice. Okay? So if I’m wrong, I’ve prevented or been in favor of preventing a mom from getting an abortion. But if you’re wrong, you’ve actually supported the ending of the life of tens of millions of the most vulnerable human beings amongst us. are you willing to let that sink in and have you taken seriously what’s at stake if you’re wrong? Now, some people say, what about gun control? And I say, yeah, life and death is at play. This is very important. But nobody’s saying you should be able to use guns intentionally to kill people.
You’re comparing apples and oranges. Nobody’s saying you should destroy the environment. The question is, what policies best protect the environment? What policies protect life when it comes to gun control? When it comes to abortion, one side is saying a woman should be able to end this life.
The other side is saying, no, every life matters and should be protected. So a lot is at stake. I want to get to the heart of the issue in my conversation with pro-choicers. So I ask a lot of questions just strategically as I can second, in this conversation, I also make sure it’s the right setting. I’m not going to have this conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I’ve made that mistake and it just doesn’t go well. Like, you’ve got to have the right setting for any conversation, especially something like this.
But I also try to remember what my end game is. What’s my end game? I just want to make this person think. I want to push back, be loving but firm, and challenge the ideas that they hold. So I can’t say I perfectly do this. I feel like I’m a pretty patient person and I’m pretty understanding. It’s really hard for me to do this on abortion because I see so many pro-choicers who just adopt talking points and haven’t considered the gravity of the issue at stake. And frankly, that’s something I’m going to call people on because I think they need to take it seriously.
Clay Kraby: Absolutely. And even in doing that, you can be loving. The conversation might not go well, but if it’s going to get into an argument, let’s not have that be our fault. Let’s not be the ones getting nasty, mean, personal, but be bold, stand firm, ask really hard questions, point out errors and thinking all of those things. And don’t be afraid to have those conversations. We want to make sure that we’re not backing down from those cultural touch points that are so important for us to be speaking about our faith in. Just because those conversations might be hard or difficult or messy even.
Sean McDowell: I think that’s right. And we also have to be willing on tough issues like racial justice and racial injustice to follow the evidence where it leads to admit if we have fallen short of holding a biblical view and approaching this in a gracious manner. So a lot of this book is saying we got to speak boldly on issues. We also have to look in at our heart. We have to look in at our own worldview, look at how we treat people, and make sure we are in line with Scripture and that we are doing this ultimately in a way that’s loving towards our neighbor and love speaks the truth.
So there’s a time where we just let people know boldly, where we differ from them and why. So how you speak love is going to look differently on different topics. How you speak truth lovingly. I don’t pretend I have that all dialed in. I make mistakes and delete tweets all the time. I’m like, yeah, that was an angry tweet. I’ll delete it. All I’m calling people to say is, what is our end game? What’s our goal? It’s all said, done to love God, love other people. It’s not about niceness, but it is about kindness. Speak truth boldly, but with a heart of love and compassion towards people. Just approaching it that way helps solve a lot of the problems that I think we see in terms of the church communicating amongst each other and with the outside world.
Clay Kraby: And let’s not forget perspective. They might not think it’s loving. It’s not to do whatever they think. Oh, that was really loving and kind and warm, fuzzy conversation. They may think that you denied their existence or hated them or wanted them to just be erased from them. It’s recognizing that the most loving thing is to give them God’s truth in a Godly way. And that’s what we’re called to do, not make them feel like you love them. Because sometimes God willing, they go back, they reflect, they think on it and their minds are changed or they’re influenced for good in some way. They may never think that. They may hate your guts, but we’re not in control of that. And I think when we recognize that we’re talking to an individual person, it’s harder on the Internet. It’s messy on the internet. Twitter is not a great place for these conversations. No matter what. You can’t even talk about Star Wars online and have that not get out of hand.
But if you recognize that, yes, there are militant, mean, angry atheists or secularists or far leftist or whatever, but you’re probably not talking to that person. You’re probably talking to someone who is influenced by that person.
So talk to people as individual people, have conversations, ask good questions, and try to navigate, because it’s not unlikely they personally have not thought deeply about these things.
Sean McDowell: Bottom line, when I get insulted on social media, which is pretty much daily or hourly, if I would read all the comments I just asked myself, I say, Is it because I was jerk? Is it because I was impatient? Is it because I was unkind? Or is it actually because of the position that I take? And if it’s because of my attitude and approach, there’s times I’ve taken tweets down, times I’ve apologized, then that’s on me.
But when people say, you’re a bigot because my view of marriage, I’m like, no, I’m with Jesus on that one. That doesn’t bother me because my view of whatever the issue is, let’s just make sure that if people are angry with us, it’s because of the right issue that we’re on.
Second, I also found so many times, Clay, when people are angry at me, it’s not really me, it’s not really the tweet. There’s something deeper behind it. A bad experience with church, a bad experience with a Christian, a disappointment with God, and that’s driving it. And so there does come a point where people are so just patriotic, I block them. I’m like, I don’t have the emotional energy for this, right? There’s a point where I just do that because it’s creating a caustic environment.
But also, I know, gosh, beneath this there’s a lot of hurt. So sometimes I just tweet back and I’m like, hey, you know what? I understand where you’re coming from. And if I had that experience, I feel the same way. Thanks for weighing in. Just a kind word at times is unexpected and can make a greater difference.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, that’s a good word. Well, as we wrap up our conversation, what final encouragement would you give to someone to not only read the book, we’ll get to that in a second, but to be a rebel in today’s world, the way that you define being a rebel.
Sean McDowell: The bottom line is just to go back to what Jesus taught, ask yourself a question. What does it mean to love God? And what does it mean to love my neighbor? That’s the question. So instead of taking cues from our wider culture and oftentimes from Christians about canceling others, demonizing others, building walls between tribalization, say, you know what?
I’m going to be different. I’m going to try to show Grace to people. I’m going to try to show kindness without compromising truth. That’s the question I want people to wrestle with. I think there’s a lot of young people already who are tired of how divided our culture is on almost every issue and how divided the church is. We need voices who are going to die on the right issues, but show grace on the secondary issues. Be that kind of contrarian.
Clay Kraby: Absolutely. Well, where can folks go to learn more about your Ministry, follow you online and pick up a copy of A Rebels Manifesto?
Sean McDowell: So if you just go to seanmcdowell.org, I’ve got links to all the different buyers, whether it’s the publisher LifeWay or whether it’s Amazon.com, you can pretty much find the book anywhere. But I’m all over Instagram, Tik Tok Twitter, have a YouTube channel, try to use a lot of different mediums to get some of these ideas out there.
Clay Kraby: Excellent. And we’ll be sure to link to all that in the show notes. If you go to Reasonabletheology.org/Sean, it’ll take you right to the show notes to this conversation. We’ll link out to copies of the book other resources that were mentioned during the conversation.
Sean McDowell has been our guest talking about his new book, A Rebels Manifesto. Sean, I can’t thank you enough for joining me again on the podcast, so thank you so much and I really appreciate the work you’re doing.
Sean McDowell: Thanks for having me on for great questions.