Josh McDowell on Defending the Bible
- Wednesday, April 07, 2010
To illustrate this, McDowell offers this example: "I was at Memphis State University speaking to the history department, and after I gave the evidence for the resurrection, during the question and answer period, the professor said, ‘Well, I know Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead.' I said, ‘Sir, do you know that because you have examined the evidence and the preponderance of the evidence shows that to be true? Or is it because your philosophical presupposition is that the supernatural does not exist?' He said, ‘It's because of my presupposition.' It didn't matter what evidence I had. So, I had to deal with his presupposition."
When McDowell approaches a dialogue with someone who has drawn conclusions opposite from his, he considers several angles on their perspective while engaging with them. When faced with the example of a person who does not believe that Abraham, the patriarch, was a real person, but rather a mythological character in ancient folklore, McDowell tries to get to the bottom of what has led them to that conclusion. "I always ask people, ‘What are you assuming to be true? What would convince you that Abraham was a real person? Or what has convinced you that he wasn't a real person?' "
"Second, I hold the view that the Bible should be taken literally, unless it indicates otherwise. There are plenty of places in the Bible where it says, ‘this is a parable' or ‘this is an allusion,' or ‘this is a story,' but when it comes to Abraham, there is not one single passage that would indicate that he was not a real person." McDowell clarifies that while archaeology often lends powerful support to the historical reliability of the Scriptures, it does not help determine whether the Scriptures are inspired by God. However, he says what archaeology can do is show that historically and culturally, the Old and New Testaments are accurate.
McDowell will continue to engage with skeptics and equip people for solid, rational arguments in favor of Christianity. But at the very heart of everything McDowell does is a passion to see people receive salvation by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. Following September 11, 2001 in New York City, over 1.5 million people were handed the special 9/11 New York City edition of More Than a Carpenter. In subways and on street corners, people who sought answers from God in the midst of tragedy found answers in McDowell's book.
The "evidence for Christianity in the Scriptures is not exhaustive, but it is sufficient."
Surprisingly, More Than a Carpenter was not premeditated. "For about six months, I had many professors, businessmen and students say to me, ‘I wish you had been with me in my office,' or ‘I wish you had been with me last week.' And I'd say, ‘Why?' And they'd say, ‘I was talking with someone who had so many questions about Jesus, the Bible and the resurrection, and I couldn't answer them, but I knew you could!' And so I was in Chicago, downtown at the Rock and Roll McDonalds, and I told my wife, ‘ I'm going to go across the street and get twelve legal pads, and then I'm going back to the room, and I'm not going to leave, or go to bed, until I write a book.' " Forty-eight hours later, More Than a Carpenter was scrawled on twelve legal pads.
Pointing people to truth and equipping them for studying Scripture has been fundamental to McDowell's writing and speaking. Because most of his speaking engagements are keynote addresses, his teaching is primarily topical rather than expository. His own approach to studying the Bible, especially in preparation for speaking or teaching, is labor intensive, in part because he rarely (if ever) delivers the same message twice. His preparation begins with a yellow legal pad, where he writes down everything he knows about the subject at hand. "I'll take a legal pad and start writing. Sometimes it will be one page, sometimes it will be twenty pages," he says. "I'll make up stories, illustrations, and think of Scriptures related to the topic. You might ask, ‘Why don't you start with the Bible, or good commentaries?' The reason is that I want my talk to be as personal and authentic as I can make it. The first thing I do is put down my thoughts, not a popular pastor's or somebody else's, not the ancient writers', but everything I can think of about the topic."
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