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Atheists and skeptics now have equal access to our children as we have, which is why the number of Christian youth who believe in the fundamentals of Christianity is decreasing and sexual immorality is growing, apologist Josh McDowell said.
“What has changed everything?” asked the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.
“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell, who is author of two books on Christian apologetics, More than a Carpenter and New Evidence that Demands Verdict.
The belief or worldview, McDowell said, forms values, which in turn drive one’s behavior. The worldview “is where we are falling down the most anywhere in the world.” So what is the prevalent worldview in America today? “There is no truth apart from myself,” that’s what even many young “evangelical, fundamental, born-again Christians” believe, he said.
While 51 percent of evangelical Christians did not believe in absolute truth in an earlier survey, the percentage escalated to 62 in 1994. In 1999, it jumped to 78 percent. “You know what it is now?” asked McDowell. “One of the most staggering statistics in history of the church… 91 percent said there is no absolute truth apart from myself.”
Another study, added McDowell, showed that only six percent of all teenagers in America, including Christians, said there isn’t any truth apart from myself. There was a difference of only five percent between believers and non-believers, he noted. Moreover, less than four percent of evangelical born-again Christians believed the Bible was infallible in every situation, and 63 percent of them believed He is “a” Son of God and not “the” Son of God, he added.
“Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”
McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.
Around 15 years ago, the apologist added, when Christian youth ministries were raising money for youth projects, the big phrase was, “If you don’t reach your child by their 18th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.” What is it now? “If you do not reach your child by their 12th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.”
The Internet is weakening Christian witness and “we better wake up to it because it’s just beginning.” McDowell added that his greatest asset, value-wise, used to be his time until a year and a half ago. “My greatest asset now is my focus. There is so much out there just one click away, what am I going to focus on?”
McDowell, who considered himself an agnostic before accepting Christ, warned that the sexual immorality through the Internet was “marginalizing the maturity of the witness of Christ…all over the world.” It’s an “invasive, intruding immorality… that is all just one click away.” He said the majority of questions young people ask him are about sex, mainly “oral sex.”
The majority of all the 2.2 billion people who go to the Internet daily are between 15 to 25 years of age, he said. And there are 4.2 million pornographic sites. “Do you know how many pornographic emails would be circulated just today? 2.5 billion…just one click away.”
The Campus Crusade staff also said around 90 percent of the 16-year-olds, according to the latest statistics, had viewed pornography. And 80 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds had had exposure to hardcore pornography. In a recent study, teenagers were asked if pornography was acceptable, and 67 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women said “yes,” he added. “For 47 percent of Christian families, pornography is a major problem. Association of Divorce Lawyers came out and said that over 50 percent of divorces were directly related to pornography.”
How can this be checked? You can use the content control on a computer, but what about their cellphone, and their friends’ computers? “Folks, you can’t isolate your kids.”
McDowell proposed three ways to deal with the problem. “First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.
However, McDowell said, as many as 85 to 90 percent of the evangelical Christian parents in America are not equipped to handle their kids. Christians, he urged, needed to understand the time, quoting 1 Chronicles 12:32: “Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…”