Josh McDowell on Defending the Bible
- Wednesday, April 07, 2010
To say that Josh McDowell is passionate about the truths of Scripture is a gross understatement. Defending the Christian faith through an examination of "the evidence" has been the primary focus of his ministry for forty-plus years. From churches to universities, in the U.S.. and overseas, McDowell engages skeptics and seekers alike, ready with strong, researched responses to the most difficult questions. McDowell admits that he has entertained so many questions that he is not often surprised. "I can't think of a new question I've heard in ages. Probably one out of fifty questions takes a new or different slant. Most people have the same questions because they're influenced by the same people's opinions." Whether in a recent popular novel, or in a philosophy class, they often begin by saying, "I heard somebody say," or "I read in a book that," and a familiar dialogue ensues.
Perhaps the reason McDowell is so eager to engage with inquisitive young minds is that he is a former skeptic whose questions sent him on a truth-seeking mission resulting in conversion. As an undergraduate student, he was challenged by some fellow students and professors to investigate the claims of Christianity. He was sent on a life-altering trajectory toward becoming one of the twentieth century's most influential evangelicals. "Prior to that, I thought the Bible was strictly a compilation by men written after the time of Christ, so far removed that it could not accurately portray what Jesus said or did," he says.
"McDowell began his investigation with a strong bias against Christianity."
However, the more he studied and considered the historical and biblical evidence, the more convinced he became that the claims of Christianity were true. His conviction was so strong that he abandoned his plans for law school and went to seminary.
However, McDowell is quick to clarify that it was not the study of the historical evidence that finally convinced him to trust Jesus, but the tender love of the risen Savior to whom he prayed one night in his dorm room. "Most people don't understand that about me. All the evidence that I've collected for the resurrection and the deity of Christ—and the Scriptures—none of that brought me to Christ. All it did was get my attention. It was kind of like I slammed the door on God, and God put His foot in the door with the evidence. Once I was convinced the Bible was true, then, and only then, did I consider the message. In Jeremiah 31, God says ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, with tender kindness I have drawn you.' What brought me to Christ was the love of God, not the evidence. The evidence showed me what was true. What motivated my belief was the realization I had that Saturday night in my dorm room: If I were the only person alive, Jesus still would have died for me. That's what brought me to Christ."
McDowell asserts that while apologetics will not cause a person to come to Christ, it can bring someone to a point of seriously considering the validity of the biblical claims. He says, "If I hadn't considered whether the claims of Christianity were true, I would never have considered its message. So for me, apologetics had to come before I exercised faith." Yet, he acknowledges many Christians practice their faith for years before they are exposed to logical, evidential arguments. He goes on to say, "I know many people who came to Christ as children or teenagers, but it wasn't until they got to high school or university that their faith really started to be challenged; they didn't question it until then. That was when they needed apologetics."
Josh McDowell answers questions based on careful study of the historical evidence, extra-biblical first-century writings, archaeological findings, and the canonical Scriptures themselves. In forty years of ministry, McDowell has learned one very important lesson about how to approach a theological debate. "When I debate someone, the first thing I have to investigate is their presuppositions. What do they assume to be true? The majority of people I debate are motivated by one significant presupposition: naturalism. They assume that everything must be identified with a natural process or it cannot be true. That's not from examining the evidence. That's a philosophical assumption, and it goes along with the assumption that we live in a closed universe. They believe that in a closed universe, all things that happen within that universe must have a natural explanation from within that universe. So, even if there were a God, he could not intervene in the natural course of the universe. Well, if that were your assumption, then all the evidence we have for the resurrection, no matter how solid the evidence is historically, would have no significance."
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