Christian apologist Sean McDowell (M.A. in Philosophy ’03, M.A. in Theology ’03) wants people to become more confident in their faith — and he’s using just about every communication tool available to help. In addition to teaching on the faculty at Talbot School of Theology since 2014, and lecturing frequently at churches and conferences, he is also constantly producing media to help people wrestle with important questions facing Christianity. His YouTube channel has attracted more than 194,000 subscribers, who tune in for his discussions with scholars, skeptics and seekers alike. He also co-hosts Talbot’s podcast, Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, which draws more than 1 million downloads per year. And he’s authored hundreds of articles and dozens of books — with more soon on the way. Talbot Magazine recently caught up with him to ask about his relentless drive.
Q: Briefly, can you share your faith journey to Christ? Also please tell us how and when did you come to Talbot?
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were missionaries with Cru for six decades. My parents lived a life of authenticity and meaning and they loved me, so Christianity just always made sense. I didn’t really have significant doubts until ironically in the mid-’90s when I was at Biola. This is when people were just getting email addresses and searching the internet, and I came across all these websites responding to a lot of apologetics that my father [apologist, author and Talbot alumnus Josh McDowell] had put forward. And, I have since learned that a lot of the atheist web was built upon just taking his material chapter by chapter and having doctors, lawyers, historians respond to it. Seeing that was really unsettling.
That was the first time I thought “I wonder if I’m wrong about this.” But I had two things. I had a spiritual mentor, Rob Loane, who really helped me spiritually walk through doubts. And I also had people like JP Moreland and William Lane Craig who were able to answer some of those tougher questions. I would go to JP during office hours and bug him with tough questions and he helped me out on a number of occasions. Over time, I decided to do the M.A. in Philosophy program with JP, William Lane Craig, and Scott Rae, whose class on ethics was formative for me. And so, I took two years off and worked in the inner city for a year, traveled with my dad for a year, and then came back to Talbot.
Q: What classes do you teach?
Two core classes in the apologetics program: One is on the problem of evil and the second class is called “In Defense of the Resurrection.” I also teach an undergrad class every semester called “Gospel, Kingdom and Culture.” It’s about apologetics, evangelism and thorny cultural issues. I also teach weekend classes every year, like “Reaching Gen Z” and “Biblical Sexuality.” I have a class next fall 2024 on Apologetics and Communication.
Q: Are you working on any new research or writing projects?
I’m helping my dad update his classic book, More than a Carpenter. That book has sold millions of copies. It is amazing how God has used it. I’m also updating my book on the deaths of the apostles (my Ph.D. dissertation). Next fall 2024, around the time of the election, I’m releasing a book with Tim Muehlhoff called End the Stalemate, a practical guide for perspective taking and entering into the worldview of others with an aim to understand.
Q: What do you enjoy the most in your ministry as a Christian apologist?
One is in-class time when I can see students face to face. I’m a teacher and I love to see students get ideas, so I love the face-to-face interaction. Honestly, writing is the hardest for me. I enjoy it when it’s done, but don’t enjoy the process. It does not come as naturally as speaking and YouTube. Of all the things I do, and where I receive more positive feedback than anything else: I like having conversations on YouTube with people who see the world differently, interviewing people with unique stories. It’s an international platform and anybody has access to it. This morning I got an email from someone in Australia, yesterday someone from Europe. People all around the world watch this and it really humbles me.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your family? What types of activities do you enjoy doing when not teaching or researching?
My first memory of my wife, Stephanie, was in third grade! We grew up in a small town in the mountains of San Diego called Julian and started dating in high school. She went to Vanguard when I was at Biola and now we’ve been married 23 years! We enjoy going on walks together, exercising together and traveling together. She’s a high school teacher, and we have three kids.
– Interview by Ashish J. Naidu