Deeper Waters Podcast 6/4/2016: Sean McDowell

What’s coming up this Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the defenses of the resurrection is that all of the apostles died for their claim that they had seen the risen Christ, save perhaps John the Revelator who died in exile. The problem is many of us are caught flat-footed when it comes to defending this claim. Is it a true claim? Do we really have the evidence for it? Has someone looked into it?

Yes. Yes they have. That’s Sean McDowell. He’ll be talking to us about his book The Fate of the Apostles. Who is he?


According to his bio:

Dr. Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences in a tangible way through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support for viewing all areas of life through a Biblical worldview. Sean is an Assistant Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University. And he is the Resident Scholar for Summit California.

Sean still teaches one high school Bible class, which helps give him exceptional insight into the prevailing culture so he can impart his observations poignantly to fellow educators, pastors, and parents alike. In 2008 he received the Educator of the Year award for San Juan Capistrano, California. The Association of Christian Schools International awarded Exemplary Status to his apologetics training. Sean is listed among the top 100 apologists. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He earned a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2014.

Traveling throughout the United States and abroad, Sean speaks at camps, churches, schools, universities, and conferences. He has spoken for organizations including Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Backyard Skeptics, Cru, Youth Specialties, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Association of Christian Schools International. Sean has also appeared as a guest on radio shows such as Family Life Today, Point of View, Stand to Reason, Common Sense Atheism, and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Sean has been quoted in many publications, including the New York Times.

Sean is the author, co-author, or editor of over eighteen books including The Fate of the Apostles (Routledge, 2015), A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016), The Beauty of Intolerance (Barbour 2016), Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage, with John Stonestreet (Baker, 2014), Is God Just a Human Invention? with Jonathan Morrow, and Understanding Intelligent Design along with William A. Dembski.Sean has also written multiple books with his father, Josh McDowell, including The Unshakable Truth, More Than A Carpenter, and an update for Evidence that Demands a Verdict (2017). Sean is the General Editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. He has also written for YouthWorker Journal, Decision Magazine, and the Christian Research Journal. Follow the dialogue with Sean as he blogs regularly at

In April, 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano, California. Sean played college basketball at Biola University and was the captain his senior year on a team that went 30-7.

If you want to know what happened to the apostles, this is the book to read right now. We’ll be discussing the questions related to the events on the show. I hope you’ll listen and consider leaving a favorable review of the podcast on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Fate of the Apostles

What do I think of Sean McDowell’s book published by Routledge? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“No one would die for a lie!”

So begins an apologetic for the resurrection. The apostles were all willing to die. (Most leave out John, the son of Zebedee, thinking he died in exile) Why would they all die for what they knew to be false? Now let’s state something at the start. The apostles would die for what they had firsthand knowledge of. Martyrdoms today would not make the same statement, even all Christian matryrdoms. All we can conclude is that they really think that their belief is true.

Still, could we be using this claim too flippantly? There is a great danger that when we make this claim someone could say “Okay. Prove it.” Then, we are caught in a bind. After all, what are our sources? Is this a legend that we have heard and just repeated without studying it? For too many of us, the latter part is definitely true.

This book is McDowell’s Ph.D. dissertation on the topic. In it, he looks at the accounts that come after the apostles to see what we can demonstrate. I find it interesting that McDowell doesn’t just go with the party line. There are some cases that frankly, we don’t really have the evidence for that we’d like. Some are incredibly strong and we could say easily that the persons were martyred for their faith. Others are not so clear.

McDowell also seeks to get the sources closes to what he calls living memory of the events. This is a time frame of about 200 years or so. After that, matters get less reliable. He also looks at each in terms of historical probability indicating many times where a belief in something is possible.

This is also a fascinating look at church history as you get to see wondrous stories and how they were told. You’ll probably read about writings that you had no idea even existed. Some aspects will leave a lot to wonder about, such as the idea of Thomas making it all the way to India. You can get historical tidbits from that about the relationship of the Roman Empire to India.

In the end, McDowell states that for all of the apostles, we don’t have clear accounts of martyrdom. They are still possible, but we just don’t have the evidence that we would like to have. I find this to be a wonderful statement to make seeing as no one can look at this and say McDowell just got the conclusions he wanted to get. No doubt, he would have loved to have found clear martyrdom accounts of all the apostles, but they just weren’t there.

I do have one contention about how this could be used. At times, McDowell points to Biblical statements about what the apostles saw and what they were told. These work fine for a person who accepts Biblical authority. For someone who doesn’t, appeals to these passages could be seen as spurious. (Skeptics would not accept the Great Commission account for instance.) Apologists wanting to use such an argument will need to be careful about how much they rely on the Bible for these points.

Still, McDowell’s book is an enjoyable read. Most sections on an apostle are brief and can be read in a one-time sitting. If you want to read about a particular apostle, it is not necessary that you read the other chapters. If all you care about is Matthew, just go to the Matthew chapter. Hopefully further research will come along to expand McDowell’s findings.

In Christ,
Nick Peters