The Jury Is In
The Ruling on McDowell’s “Evidence”
Jeffery Jay Lowder (editor)
Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict (hereafter, “ETDAV“) is arguably one of the most influential Christian apologetic books today. The purpose of Jury shall be to evaluate how well it does.
In ETDAV, McDowell begins his defense of the Bible with the claim that it is unique. He parades before us an array of “scholars” to testify to various features of the Bible that qualify it to be considered “different from all others” [books], as if anyone would seriously try to deny that the Bible is unique, i.e., different from all others. At the very beginning of my analysis of this chapter of ETDAV, I will concede that the Bible is undeniably unique. Certainly, there is no other book like it, but this fact, as we will see, becomes more of an embarrassment to the Bible than proof of its divine origin.
A critical reply to chapter three of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
In this essay, the author reacts to Josh McDowell’s Chapter 4 entitled “Reliability of the Bible” in his book ETDAV. He first distinguishes between Pauline faith and McDowell’s insistence that the Bible reveals historically true propositions, which the author calls the “reliability doctrine.” McDowell’s reliability doctrine is then examined from three perspectives: biblical criticism, archaeology, and philosophy. The author concludes that the gospel narratives are not to be understood as factually true propositions of history, but rather they communicate the theological meaning of faith in Christ.
In the fifth chapter of ETDAV entitled, “Jesus–A Man of History,” Josh McDowell lists a series of “sources for the historicity of Jesus.” According to the table of contents of ETDAV, this chapter lists “documented sources of the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth apart from the Bible.” In this chapter I shall consider each of McDowell’s sources. Although I agree with McDowell that there was a historical Jesus, I shall argue that most of McDowell’s sources do not provide independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus.
Virtually all the rest of McDowell’s sixth chapter is taken up with defending what no one challenges: that various New Testament writers believed Jesus Christ was a heavenly being come to earth. That McDowell can for a moment imagine that such scripture prooftexting even begins to address the objections of nonbelievers shows once again that he really has no intention of engaging them. He is simply a cheer-leader for fundamentalism, preaching to the choir.
A critique of chapter seven of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
If anyone needed further proof that apologetics as practiced by Josh McDowell is merely an exercise in after-the-fact rationalization of beliefs held on prior emotional grounds, I welcome him to Chapter 8 of ETDAV. One can only say again that McDowell is the worst enemy of his own faith: with defenders like this, who needs attackers? The more seriously one takes him as a representative of his faith, the more seriously one will be tempted to thrust Christianity aside as a tissue of grotesque absurdities capable of commending itself only to fools and bigots.
As I will try to show in this article, defenders of the fundamentalist Christian faith, like Josh McDowell, have in fact lost the luxury of an easy appeal to fulfilled prophecy even if they remain stubbornly oblivious of the advances of modern biblical scholarship; this is because biblical scholarship has thrown their appeals to the “proof from prophecy” so seriously into question that their task is now to defend it, no longer to use it as a powerful defense for something else, i.e., the true messiahship of Jesus. Any appeal to “proof from prophecy” today only lengthens the line of defense rather than shortening it.
Chapter 10. Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story (2004) by Richard Carrier [ Index ]
As a historian with a good knowledge of Greek, Richard Carrier is finally qualified to make a professional judgement in the matter. Now the fifth edition of a project that began in 1998, this essay explains why he finds the Resurrection to be an unconvincing argument for becoming a Christian.
‘Sceptics’ are not interested in bashing the Bible as such. They use the Bible and contemporary documents which shed light on the Bible to try to find out what was really happening, what the Biblical writers really meant to say. If it turns out that they were divinely inspired prophets, then that would be accepted. It just so happens that they weren’t and the archeological evidence discovered this century and the Biblical texts themselves show that they weren’t.
In his chapter on “The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience” (a chapter that McDowell or his editorial staff chose to delete from the latest edition of ETDAV), he made a variety of sweeping claims about the “Christian Experience,” and also argued for the uniqueness of the Christian experience in history, but McDowell did not investigate history very deeply, nor the lives and writings of the Christians whom he cited, some of whom came to hold different views on a wide variety of theological subjects. Lastly, McDowell seems to have only examined superficially his own youthful conversion experience (any reasonable analysis of which would seem to confirm how young and emotionally unstable he was when he converted).
A review of McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
Feedback on Jury (1997?-1999)
Miscellaneous feedback we received on Jury between 1997? and 1999.
Other Critiques of Josh McDowell [ Index ]
Links to critiques of Josh McDowell’s other books.
Glenn R. Morton (Off Site)
The ghost author of the evolution section in Josh McDowell’s book, Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, Morton is now a theistic evolutionist on the basis of the scientific evidence for evolution.
Josh McDowell Ministries (Off Site)
The official website of Josh McDowell Ministries, which refuses to link to this critique.