Israel Wayne: Josh, you’ve become known as someone who promotes the concept of absolute truth, and many of our readers would already be familiar with many of your materials devoted to that subject. However, you’ve brought out a different dynamic in some of your newer materials, and that is the aspect of relationship. Can you explain to us why it is important to cultivate a relationship in the transmission of truth?
Josh McDowell: Well, there are many reasons. First of all, that’s how God created us. Science now shows (see Josh’s executive summary of the study by Dartmouth Medical School) that a baby’s brain from the time they are born, and this is amazing, is physically, biologically hard-wired to connect in relationships. I thought, come on, how can science…but then I thought, wait a minute, God created us. God says in Exodus 34:14 (NLT), “You shall worship no other gods, but only the LORD, for he is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you.” Then it makes sense that God would create us to desire to have a relationship and need a relationship with Him and others. So God created us for relationship. Second, God’s dimension, God’s program for truth is in the context of relationships. All truth is relational. Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Most people have no idea what that meant.
What is truth? Webster defined it, “Truth is that which has fidelity to the original.” Fidelity means the same as “equal to.” So truth is that which is the “same as” or “equal to” the original. What does that mean? Let’s suppose that I say have a liter of water. You say, “No you don’t.” I say, “I do too.” You say, “You do not!” Now is my statement true and yours false, or is your statement true and mine false? We would catch a flight and fly to Paris, France. We’d go to the far out suburb where there’s the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, where they have all the original measurements in metrics. Linear, liquid, solids, everything. We would like my bottle, my liter of water, and we would compare it with the original. Remember, truth is that which has fidelity to the original, same as, equal to. If the water in my bottle equaled the original measurement of a liter then my statement is true. Why, there was fidelity to the original. But if there is a little more or less water then my statement was false. Why, because there was no fidelity to the original. Now, picture this, Jesus said, “I am the truth” in John 14. What did He mean by that? He meant that he had fidelity to the original, or Jesus said, “I am the same as, equal to, the original.” Who is the original? God the Father. It’s probably the boldest claim to deity that Jesus ever made. You see, Mohammed could never say that, Buddha couldn’t say that, no one. Only Jesus. Others say I have the truth, I teach the truth, I believe in truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Why? Because “I am the same as the original, God the Father.”
Do you know why in that context he said, “Why do you say you do not know the Father, when you know me? For if you know me, you know the Father.” Why? Because “I am the same as, equal to the original.” He said, “Why do you say you believe in the Father, but you don’t believe in me? If you believe in me you’ll believe in the Father.” Why? Because “I am the same as, equal to, the Father, the Creator.” And it says there, “Why do you say you haven’t seen the Father?” Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.” Why? Because “I am the Truth.” This is why he said, “I am the visible representation of the invisible God.” Why? Because “I am the truth.” Christ is the truth. Why? Because he is the same as, equal to, the Father. Now that becomes our standard for everything. Why is lying wrong? Because God is truth. Why is hatred wrong? Because God is love. Let’s put it this way, why is lying wrong? Because there is no fidelity to the original. God is truth.
Jesus intended truth to be relational. He became man. God became man, as truth, and he related to people. So He has created us to understand truth in relationships. That if it is true, it will work. This is why I think the scripture is so dogmatic about relationships. For example, “I have been constantly aware of your unfailing love, and therefore I have lived according to the truth.” I’ll tell you this with homeschooling, just like everything else, but especially more in homeschooling, because they become the source of the very truth they teach, if those kids do not believe, in their hearts of hearts, “My dad and my mom loves me,” they will walk away. It’s the relationship that engenders the belief. I believe part of a Biblical worldview is relationships. If you don’t have relationships incorporated in there it’s not a Biblical worldview. It’s isolated, it separated. We’ve got to teach that all truth is relational. Therefore, no matter what part of our worldview, we’ve got to show that it’s relational. Like with the deity of Christ: what do I learn about the incarnation? Who I am. What do I learn about the resurrection? Where God wants to take me. What do I learn from the Scriptures? What God wants me to be like. All these scriptures are relational. God wants to show us what we need to be like, to relate to Him. Anyone who says, “I believe in a Biblical worldview” has to incorporate relationships in it. Where we are falling down today, and often in homeschooling, is where there is not that loving, intimate relationship. Now, I admire homeschooling. I think homeschooling and Christian schooling is the future of the Church. I don’t know how any kid can come up through all school: elementary, junior high, high school, going to a secular university and in the future really become a Christian leader, unless they had the most phenomenal parents and church. They won’t be able to. It’s too anti-Christian and secular oriented. It’s not public education, it’s secular education, it’s anti-Christian education. But so many of your homeschooling families come from a very narrow, fundamentalist perspective. Now I’m a fundamentalist, if by fundamentalist you mean you believe in the fundamentals of the faith. Yeah, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the holy life, etc. Oh, I’m a hard-core fundamentalist when it comes to that, but not when it comes to the rules and regulations.
Here’s the principle, rules without relationships leads to rebellion. Truth, the truth of God’s word that we are so sold on in homeschooling…we want our kids to know truth, to be embedded in truth, truth to change their life. Truth without relationships leads to rejection. Relationships is part of God’s plan.
Israel Wayne: So just as Jesus modeled truth, as he discipled his followers, parents have the same responsibility. The children are to imitate them as they imitate Christ.
Josh McDowell: In John 13, Jesus says, “Imitate me, follow my example.” In 1 Thess. 1, it says, “Many of you are following our example,” and “Follow the example of those who follow Christ.” Oh yes! Especially today, if we don’t model that truth, they will reject it. There are two cultures now for the first time ever, and homeschoolers had better realize that. Kids do not process truth the way their parents do. Parents process truth through their minds and flow them through the scriptures. Kids process truth through their feelings, their emotions or relationships…called their experience. That’s why when a parent hears a true statement whether it’s the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the resurrection, or whatever, their mind is, “Well, if it’s true it will work.” For the kids, “If it works, it is true.” It’s totally different. For kids you create truth, for adults you discover truth. You can’t communicate the same way to them.
Adults see hypocrisy and say, “They’re not living the truth.” Kids see hypocrisy in their parents and say, “It’s not true.” That’s how the process. Wow! That’s devastating if parents don’t model that very truth. It’s very interesting that Dartmouth Medical School came out and said, you want to pass you values on, and you talk about homeschooling, then model that very truth.
Israel Wayne: What is the difference between belief and conviction?
Josh McDowell: It would be better to ask, “What is the difference between belief and faith?” You can believe something, and I think in the scriptures belief is the same as faith. In the scriptural belief, pisteuo, means not just to adhere to something intellectually, to know it. It means to adhere to it, to grab on, rely in. Probably the best description of that is the Amplified Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…that he who believes (adhered, relied in, grasped a-hold of). So true Biblical belief is what we see as faith. It is committing to that truth. I would say that when you commit to it, that’s when it becomes faith. It’s like, there could be a big gully here with a rickety bridge going across it, and I could say, “I believe that bridge will hold me. In fact, I know that bridge will hold me.” But that’s only belief. It becomes faith when I commit and walk across that bridge. Then I’m living by faith. It’s taking the belief and committing your life to it and living it out. The difference between belief and conviction is that belief basically in our mode, in our culture, not eastern culture, but in our culture, is to adhere to a set of cognitive facts or something. Conviction is to not only adhere to those facts but to know why you hold on to those facts, and to experience it. Faith is experiential. Faith means to live out what you believe. We need to lead our kids to a life of faith, not a life of belief. Because it goes one step further to experiencing that very faith. But here again, the parent can say all they want to the child, and it’s even more devastating in homeschooling if they don’t do it because they’re around that parent more, if that parent isn’t living by faith, with their money, everything, then those kids are going to walk away. That’s the downside of homeschooling.
Israel Wayne: Do you a message for homeschooling leaders?
Josh McDowell: If there is any hope (and this is just apart from spiritual things), if there is any hope for any morality in this country, the leaders are going to have to be homeschoolers. It’s going to have to be. They are not going to get it in public school. It’s going to be difficult in Christian schools. Now Christian schools are getting better and better. Thank God. They really are. If my son (Sean McDowell) has anything to do about it they’re going to get a lot better!
But I’m just thrilled that homeschoolers win the spelling bees and everything else…what a testimony. But there has got to be those relationships, or ultimately homeschooling will fail.
Visit Josh McDowell at www.Josh.org