Josh McDowell on Defending the Bible
- Wednesday, April 07, 2010
"The best defense of Christianity is a clear, simple presentation of the gospel that is culturally relevant, in the power of the Holy Spirit, backed up by a lifestyle and calling for a decision."
McDowell attributes this, at least in part, to a unique approach that combines the logical with the relational. "I present evidential, concrete truth, but I do two things with it. First, I do it in the context of relationships. Truth without relationships leads to rebellion. Second, I always take the truth and relate it to people's lives. I tell them how it affects their relationship with the Truth Giver, and in their own lives. And when you do that with young people, they are very interested."
"Here's the problem," he says. "Everyone's going around saying, ‘This generation responds to stories. You just need to tell stories. They're not interested in evidence, nothing concrete, nothing with substance.' And the people saying that always quote Jesus, but I don't think Jesus would have taught the way he did if he didn't know that the epistles were going to be right around the corner. Jesus gave the story; the epistles gave the content of the story. Without the epistles, much of the teachings of Jesus would not have had the impact they do today. The epistles help us understand what Jesus was saying through the parables, whether it's the kingdom of God or salvation. People are running around today saying, ‘Just tell the story, tell the story.' Well, I'll tell you what: If I were a Mormon, I could come up with a story about Mormonism as powerful as Christianity. If I was a Muslim, I could come up with a story that would win over many Christians to Islam."
"But what determines whether each story is true or not? It's substance. The evidence. And without that, then you've given up the truth of Christianity. When it comes to story, it comes down to this: Is the person a good storyteller? If they're good storytellers, good communicators, then they must have the truth. If they're not good storytellers, then people don't respond."
"First of all, our faith is an intelligent faith," says McDowell, quoting several Scripture passages to prove his point. "Be ready always to give an answer for the hope that is in you. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. A saving faith is a studied and intelligent faith. Not a blind faith, not something without evidence."
"Second, you can't argue anyone into the kingdom of God. Only God can convince someone that something is true, I don't care how much evidence you have. Third, for some people, apologetics, which is setting forth reasons to believe, comes before they exercise faith. For others, it comes after they exercise faith. They get saved through a story, but then they get out in the world and start reading some of the books by Richard Dawkins and others, and they start thinking: ‘Wow is this really true?' It is then that apologetics becomes meaningful to them."
McDowell believes that when it comes to effectively communicating the claims of Christianity, the best defense is a good offense—a twist on a popular sports analogy. McDowell tells a story about how he drew this conclusion. "I did a graduate paper for Dr. Clarence Bass at Talbot Seminary. It was a fifteen-page paper, and it was 80% of our grade and due ten days before the end of the course." The assignment, according to McDowell, was to give the best defense of Christianity he could. "Well, I kept putting it off … and putting it off, and finally, the night before it was due, I figured, ‘I better start this paper!' So I sat down and I started writing, and I said, ‘Many people say, the best offense is a good defense. But I say to you that with Christianity, the best defense is a good offense. The best defense of Christianity is a clear, simple presentation of the gospel that is culturally relevant, in the power of the Holy Spirit, backed up by a Christ-like lifestyle and calling for a decision.' " In his paper, McDowell wrote out the Four Spiritual Laws and supplied some evidence for the resurrection of Christ and the reliability of the Bible. He finished his paper by giving his own personal testimony of his conversion experience. "I got the only A in the class, and until he died, for years, when he assigned the paper, he would always quote me, saying, ‘By far, the greatest defense of Christianity is a clear simple presentation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, backed up by a lifestyle.' " McDowell still holds this conviction today.
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