NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 2nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. It’s time now to talk with book reviewer Emily Whitten for this month’s Classic Book of the Month.
Emily, thanks for joining us today.
EMILY WHITTEN, BOOK REVIEWER: Happy to be here.
REICHARD: Sometimes summer offers a little more time to read—with kids out of school and families on vacation. What’s on your reading list for July?
WHITTEN: I hold in my hands a nice, thick book here, Mary. It runs about 800 pages long if I’m not mistaken. But before I get to that, I need to ask you a couple of questions. First, do you believe the Bible is true?
REICHARD: I do.
WHITTEN: Do you believe it’s historically accurate?
REICHARD: How much time do we have? Haha.
WHITTEN: I didn’t actually want to put you on the spot. But if today’s author were here, he would not mind doing that at all. Here’s a 2011 clip that shows how apologist Josh McDowell often began his speaking engagements over the last 50 years. In this one, he calls a young woman out of the audience and shares a mic with her:
MCDOWELL: Let me ask you, do you believe this is the Word of God? Yes. Do you believe it’s true? Yes. Do you believe it’s historically accurate and reliable? Yes. Why? I don’t know. I always did but then, like, later the Bible Codes seem to prove it’s pretty reliable. Trust me, don’t depend upon the Bible Codes. Thank you. In the last five years, about a thousand, 400 people, all believers, all born again Christians, only one person has answered the question. Only one person. Something’s wrong.
REICHARD: He threw down the gauntlet, didn’t he?
WHITTEN: He sure did! Although, McDowell didn’t always have such a deep knowledge of Scripture. In fact, he grew up in a non-Christian home. He was born in 1939 to a violent, alcoholic father. He suffered sexual assault over many years by someone who worked on his family farm.
By the time he got to college, McDowell hated the idea of God. Thankfully, a group of students and professors challenged him to look into Christianity. That’s how he began to write his first book. He wanted to disprove their faith.
MCDOWELL: I left the university. I traveled throughout the United States, England, Germany, France, Switzerland, gathering the evidence to write this book. And I’d returned to London, England.
It was about 6:30 on a Friday night in a small museum library. And I remember I leaned by back in my chair and right in front of everyone, which was like three people, I said. It’s true. It’s true. It’s true. What I meant by that was the New Testament.
So, McDowell shocked himself by uncovering evidence that the Bible was really true. A few months later, that truth moved from his head to his heart, and he became a Christian. In 1972, he published that evidence he found supporting Christianity in Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
Since then, McDowell has published more than 140 other books. He’s spoken on more than 1,000 college campuses and done as many as 250 debates.
But he may still be best-known for his early books like Evidence that Demands a Verdict, which sold more than a million copies. Christianity Today called it one of the “top 50 books that have shaped evangelicalism.”
REICHARD: He approached this like a trial lawyer in some ways. I like it. Sounds like it changed people’s minds, too.
WHITTEN: For sure. And it’s not done yet. McDowell and his son, Sean, rewrote about 70 percent of the book for a new edition which came out in 2017. In it, they update a lot of the archeological and historical evidence, and they try to answer the questions of a new generation.
SEAN AND JOSH MCDOWELL: For example, questions like what is truth? That wasn’t an issue 35, 40 years ago. Today, it’s a huge. Can you know truth? Intellectual skepticism. Can you know history? Is there objective history? I felt that all these things had to be answered or the evidence would not have the impact it should have without that context.
REICHARD: What makes this book different from other apologetic books?
WHITTEN: The book focuses on historical and textual evidence. You won’t find evidence from biology or astronomy here. You will find plenty of quotes from archeologists, textual critics, early church fathers—that sort of thing.
As for format, the book feels like a reference book. Let’s say you want to know why the Bible is trustworthy. You can flip to a chapter like, “Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?” The first thing you’ll see at the beginning of each chapter is a detailed outline of subjects within that chapter. That way you can flip right to the section you’re interested in.
REICHARD: A handy resource. Before we close, I’m curious what he would say to the question you asked at the beginning. How do we know the Bible is accurate and reliable?
WHITTEN: In a way, McDowell took about 800 pages to answer that question in this book! So don’t feel bad if you didn’t have a 10-second sound bite ready. But I think his basic argument comes down to two things.
First, the Bible we have reflects what the original authors wrote down. It hasn’t been corrupted.
And second, what the Biblical authors wrote down accurately reflects what happened. These are the twin pillars that make Christianity historically true. And because it’s true, he says we can bet our lives on it.
MCDOWELL: Not only do we have what was written down. What was written down was true. What Jesus said and what Jesus did. Oh, men and women, we don’t have all the answers. Oh, there’s so many questions that I have. So many things that can’t be answered historically yet. But I know one thing: what we have in the Bible is what was written down, and what was written down was true.
REICHARD: Another thoughtful book pic today, Emily. Thanks so much.
WHITTEN: You’re very welcome, Mary. Happy reading.
REICHARD: Today, Emily recommended Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. If you visit worldandeverything.org and look up this particular segment, you’ll find links to some of the resources we mentioned today.