In the 45 years since its first publication, what new historical documentation, archaeological discoveries, and scholarship evidence would lead to the updating and extensive expansion of this one million-copy Christian apologetic bestseller?
Bible Gateway interviewed Josh McDowell (@josh_mcdowell) and his son Dr. Sean McDowell (@Sean_McDowell) about their book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World (Thomas Nelson, 2017).
Why is a new edition needed for today? How has our culture changed—and how have the questions changed—since Evidence That Demands a Verdict was first published?
Josh McDowell: Great question! When I began speaking on college campuses in the 1960s there was a general commitment that truth could be found. But now people question the very existence and knowability of truth. There’s also an assumption in the minds of many people that Christianity itself is bad and that Christians are bigots. Thus, before we can persuade people with the evidence that Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), we need to first address some of these misconceptions, which we do in the introductory chapter of the book.
Why is this book still important and relevant?
Josh McDowell: Two main reasons come to mind. First, young Christians are getting barraged with tough questions about the faith at earlier rates than previous generations. As a result, many either compartmentalize their faith or abandon it entirely. If we want young people to hold firm to their faith in our increasingly secular culture, they need solid reasons. Second, non-believers have genuine questions about God, the Bible, and Jesus. It’s critical in our evangelism that we be ready with an answer “for the hope within” (1 Peter 3:15).
What are some of the new questions you answer in your book?
Sean McDowell: The updated version of Evidence That Demands a Verdict still has some of the classic chapters on evidence for the resurrection, the deity of Christ, and the reliability of the Bible. But we’ve included responses to some of the most common objections against these claims that have arisen over the past couple decades. For instance, there’s a new chapter on the claim that Christianity is a copycat religion. We have also added a chapter responding to the claim that there are “lost” Gospels that should be in the Bible. We also included chapters on the evidence for the historical Adam, the exodus, and much more. And given his worldwide influence, we included an appendix responding to the claims of Bart Ehrman.
How is the Bible unique from other religious literature and how is Christianity unique from other religions?
Josh McDowell: The Bible is unmistakably the most unique book ever written. For instance, it was written by 40 authors over a span of roughly 1,500-years in diverse places, times, and languages. It has unique teachings that include the Trinity and salvation by grace (for example, Ephesians 2:8-9). And the Bible has had more impact on individual people, governments, and civilizations than any book ever written. The historical and cultural impact of the Bible is simply unparalleled. And what’s most amazing is that even among these various factors, the Bible has an overarching focus on Jesus Christ and his offer of salvation.
What are the Gnostic Gospels and why aren’t they included in the Bible?
Sean McDowell: The Gnostic Gospels are 2nd century (and later) gnostic texts that claim to be written by close followers of Jesus such as Mary, Peter, Thomas, and Judas. Although they’re called “Gospels,” they’re actually quite dissimilar than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in both style and content. The Gospel of Thomas, for instance, is not a narrative, but 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. The reason these so-called “Gospels” are not in the Bible is because they’re dated much later than the canonical Gospels, and they also contain teachings that fail to match up with what we know about the historical Jesus from the earliest sources (see Luke 1:1-4).
Explain new evidence on the historical reliability of the Bible.
Josh McDowell: Despite common claims in the media, the evidence for the Bible continues to grow. In the chapters of the updated Evidence That Demands a Verdict we have the most in-depth and accurate manuscript count to date. Remarkably, we can now document nearly 24,000 hand-written manuscripts (or portions of manuscripts) of the New Testament.
If we stacked the manuscripts of the average classical author, of whom most scholars accept, it would be about four feet high. In contrast, stacking the manuscripts for the New Testament would result in a pile over a mile high. Along with the number of manuscripts for the New Testament, there has also been discovery of earlier manuscripts and new archaeological finds over the past few years. Simply put, the evidence for the reliability of the New Testament has never been stronger.
Briefly explain how the martyrdom of the apostles contributes to the veracity of Christianity.
Sean McDowell: The apostles were the first eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:6-8). They were not passing on secondhand testimony, but saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes and proclaimed his resurrection consistently in the earliest sermons (for example, Acts 2:23-24).
These very same apostles were all willing to suffer and die for their faith. We can’t prove they all died as martyrs, but we know with confidence that Peter, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, and James the son of Zebedee died as martyrs. And a good case can be made for Thomas and Andrew. This doesn’t prove Christianity is true, but it does show that the apostles were not liars. They didn’t invent the Christian faith. And it wasn’t a conspiracy. They sincerely believed Jesus rose from the grave, and they were willing to die for that conviction (Acts 5:29).
What do you mean that people should have an intelligent faith?
Josh McDowell: The Bible never calls us to a blind faith. Rather, Jesus said to love God with your mind (Mark 12:30). Jesus did miracles to give people confidence in his identity (for example, Mark 2:1-10). In fact, the entire book of John was written to testify to the truth about the identity of Jesus so that people could experience eternal life (John 20:30-31). Faith goes beyond reason, but it’s not blind. In fact, faith is best understood as trusting what we have reason to believe is true.
How should a Christian answer the skepticism of a friend?
Josh and Sean McDowell: Listen! The first step in talking to a skeptic is simply to listen and do your best to understand where he or she is coming from. We love getting to know skeptics, and when the time is right, asking questions such as: What do you believe? Why do you believe that? If you don’t believe in God, can you tell us why? Have you considered the evidence for Jesus? If not, are you open to hearing it?
How do you want people to use Evidence That Demands a Verdict?
Josh and Sean McDowell: Our hope is that students will use it to write papers in defense of the faith, pastors will use it to preach from, parents will use it to teach truth to their kids, teens will use it to have answers to tough questions raised by their friends, and skeptics will read it and consider trusting Christ. We have high hopes!
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Josh and Sean McDowell: It’s remarkable. There’s a lot of genuine concern about the Internet being used for bad. But the remarkable success of the Bible Gateway App and website shows that many people today still hunger for truth.
Bio: Josh McDowell has been at the forefront of cultural trends and ground-breaking ministry for over five decades. He shares the essentials of the Christian faith in everyday language so that youth, families, churches, leaders, and individuals of all ages are prepared for the life of faith and the work of the ministry. This includes leveraging resources based on years of experiences, new technologies, and strategic partnerships. Since 1961, Josh has delivered more than 27,000 talks to over 25,000,000 people in 125 countries. He’s the author or coauthor of 142 books, including More Than a Carpenter and The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, recognized by World Magazine as one of the top 40 books of the 20th century. Josh’s books are available in over 100 different languages. Josh and his wife, Dottie, have been married for 43 years and have four children and ten grandchildren. For more information, visit www.josh.org. Also see the Publishers Weekly article: Christian Bookseller Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award-Winner Reflects on Five Decades of Writing.
Dr. Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, especially young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. He connects with audiences through humor and stories while imparting hard evidence and logical support of a biblical worldview. Sean is an assistant professor in Biola University’s Christian Apologetics program and the resident scholar for Summit California. A regular speaker for organizations like Focus on the Family, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and Youth Specialties, among others, Sean is the author, co-author, or editor of over 18 books, including A New Kind of Apologist, Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World, and GodQuest Guidebook for Teens, and is a frequent guest on radio shows like Family Life Today and Point of View.
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