Josh McDowell - Atheist Convert to Christianity?
Questions have been raised whether or not indeed Josh McDowell was an Atheist. Some on the web have reported McDowell was an atheist before accepting Christianity. A representative of McDowell's Ministries claims that was never so, and Ed Babinski quotes McDowell on what appears to be a testimonial of a former atheist.
Sent: Sunday, December 21, 2003 6:53 PM
To: Josh Web
Subject: Review on a Book by Josh McDowell from Amazon
I'm writing because something has troubled me for years about Josh McDowell.
Josh McDowell claims he was an atheist, and I don't see how he possibly could have been one. It is impossible in my reasoning, to be an atheist (like Farrel Till and Dan Barker and the like) and becoming a Christian. I can only believe that Josh McDowell was a "backslider"... a Christian deep down at heart, and later began to take his faith seriously and following it. (Prv:22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (KJV)
Is there anything on the web which goes indepth on Mr. McDowell's former "atheist" beliefs? Because I sure would like to read them, and compare them with what I know from other atheists' beliefs. Thanks in advance!
I can see how a person raised in a foreign land, and taught non-Christian, non-Hindu, non-Muslim beliefs could be an atheist (lacking a substantial teaching about a god, although most places on earth teach of some kind of god(s) --- then convert to Christianity, but not due to "biblical knowledge". Rather their neighbors are doing it, it offers social opportunities, so they become like their neighbors, without even the need to read the Bible.
The group of atheists I speak of are those like Professor Till, a former preacher, whom with much knowledge about the Bible, loses faith, after years of study and research... one group of atheists are atheists for lack of exposure to Biblical knowledge. The second group of atheists, become atheists, due to exposure to Biblical knowledge.
I'm not very clear on how or why Josh McDowell claims often he is a former atheist. What were his beliefs, while he was an atheist?
Thank you sincerely, very much,
The Response from Josh McDowell's ministry went something as thus:
Josh says in his tract, "Skeptic's Quest," that he was looking for meaning and purpose in life. He had tried religion when he was young but could not find the answers he was searching for. What he did not know until he was in college was that it is a relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than religion, which gives meaning and purpose to life.
He does not use the word atheist in the tract, but set out to prove Christianity false. Instead of being able to do that, he came to the following three conclusions: Jesus Christ was who He said He was, there is historic evidence for the reliability of Scripture, and the Resurrection of Christ took place.
In His service,
Josh McDowell Ministry
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2003 3:55 PM
To: Penny Woods
Subject: Re: Review on a Book by Josh McDowell from Amazon
Thank you for responding.
Many people have it so written on the internet, and I've heard it spoken on K-Love Radio and elsewhere, that Josh McDowell said he was an atheist, and from my limited knowledge about what Josh McDowell teaches, and his personal testimony, I simply cannot find an atheist in the picture of Mr. McDowell's account on his life. I could and can only find a "backsliding Christian", not an atheist.
He does not use the word atheist in the tract, but set out to prove Christianity false.
And I was an unbeliever who set out to prove Christianity true...About 3 years ago, I was a confirmed Deist, and had rejected the Bible utterly, after leaving a cult from 10 years before (raised from about age 5, in the legalistic Worldwide Church of God... my parents were baptised around 1975 and I finally left the WWCG in 1991) ... the Church had fallen apart, so I spent years wandering in confusion, with no where to turn, but maintaining my belief in a God. It had taught us well, not to trust in any other religion, and then itself became untrustworthy, as Joseph Tkach reformed doctrines... I was one that could not accept these radical changes, and instead of joining like others had, in one of the splinter groups, I struck out on my own in much confusion to find God on my own.
What happened, was losing faith in the Bible... ( for instance, when Peter denies Jesus, the cock crows one time in Matthew, Luke and John, but is recorded to crow twice in Mark --- this contradiction devastated me when I saw it in the Bible... I was sick to my stomach, I could not sleep, or eat... I felt as if the world had caved in on me all over again .. first our reliable church had crumbled, and now the Bible... I was devastated... it was traumatizing to learn about discrepancies in the Bible, after years of being told it was without error or contradiction ) when I recovered from some of this grief, I gained an indifference for the Bible.
Three years ago that changed. I believe it was indeed God himself that was at work in my mind, and spirit, and forced me to pick up the Bible (after years of indifference and deism), and to accept it on blind faith. I did after weeks/months of spiritual warfare.. to believe in a book which a lifetime had taught me to not believe in, it was an impossible leap of faith, but I made it. Very fervent search that I had never experienced. Easter morning at 3 a.m., in my home I was awake and pacing the floor, and I prayed a fervent prayer --- holding the Bible toward heaven, shaking that book, and demanding if indeed that were the true Word of God, "GIVE ME PROOF GOD". Shortly after, I felt compelled to leave the church which did not have my answers, one Sunday School teacher could not even tell me where the Bible came from, because he himself had not ever bothered to take the time to read it, or research it, and yet defended it as "The Inerrant Word of God"... I left the church because of such people, and put my faith in God to guide me, and seek the truth about the Bible/Spiritualism. My journey lead me into buying several thousand dollars worth of books, and for the first time, to actually read the Bible from end to end, hearing every word, and if indeed I felt that I had not captured the context of a chapter I'd repeat the process 6 or 7 times if necessary... until I felt comfortable to move on to the next chapter. When all was said and done, including studying in reference books that I had purchased from Christian Book Distributors - - - I found myself back where I was years before, rejecting the Bible all over again - - - except without indifference this time around. That's where I am today. I take the Bible very seriously, but I do not revere it as the inerrant word of God. I tried like the devil, to make Genesis and Science reconcile, I made many people peaved with my enthusiasm --- I wanted so badly for the Bible to be inerrant and giving me the peace and hope that it was the Word of God... for the first time in my life, I had began to take a serious look at what science actually teaches. From my understanding now, many of the concepts found in Genesis, came from Babylonian mythology. My search for truth continues, a search which I believe that God put me on... in that alone, I find peace. I believe God exists, beyond any doubt in my mind.
For instance... after reading the Bible, for what it says.... it was the Bible itself, that lead me to conclude there is no Satan at work in this world, but rather as Gandhi said "The only devils we need fear are the ones running around in our own hearts." I came away from the Bible and these many reference books with a new found lack of fear of the spirit realm. (Years before, for lack of study, I had carried varied spiritual beliefs into my Deism, when I lost faith in religion and the Bible. I had great fears of demons and devils --- today, I have no fear of such beings, I do not have that old fear of God's wrath either, a fear which the WwCG put in to its flock, and the Protestant Church I was attending, helped to exaserbate three years ago. Some study in theologian books, and encyclopedias, and reading the Bible helped me to unlearn those grim evil fears... demons attacking... the Baptist church had me so afraid to pray out loud -- one minister said "you must be careful about prayer, because there are demons about and they can take what you say to Satan, and he use your weaknesses against you"... I was terrified to pray out loud, but my study brought me to the understanding there is no Satan. There are no demons. The early books of the Bible, are absent of such concepts being the main reason I thought to reject a belief in them... further study confirmed the suspicion. I can pray out loud, without fear of a Devil either hearing me, or using the information against me, to hurt me... as if part of the spiritual journey with God taught me, "just calm down and trust me... things are better than the Church has taught you about me..." I have peace in that regard today. No fears of devils or demons attacking... The God I know, set me on a path to seek knowledge... and is not that God of Wrath I was raised to dread in the WwCG's legalistic Old Testament, not even the Protestant's New Testament which speaks of hell and its eternal death and damnation... I have no fear of eternal torment from the God that is my God.)
It appears to me, that myself and Mr. McDowell started out on the same spiritual path, but ended up on 2 very different outcomes.... my journey still continues, and in many ways, is just beginning. (The Search for truth and knowledge.)
Yet another reply came back something as thus:
Sharon, as believers, we need to be wise to the work of the enemy (1 Peter 5:8) but we do not need to fear him, because if we resist him he flees (James 4:7). The Lord has given us authority over Satan. Jesus was present when Satan was thrown out of heaven because of his rebellion against God. That is what Jesus is referring to in Luke 10:18, 19 when he says, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you." The Bible assures us that He who is in us is greater than the enemy (1 John 4:4).
You mentioned that the early books of the Bible do not mention Satan. Actually, he makes his appearance early on, as the crafty serpent in Genesis 3:1.
It is unfortunate that some people are taught an unhealthy fear about the enemy in church, because correct biblical teaching will teach that though Satan is present and active in today's world, believers, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, need not fear what Satan can do. He was defeated at the cross. A good way to present Satan's position today is to say that he is condemned but not yet totally destroyed, almost like a person sitting on death row who is alive and can cause problems but is facing certain execution. Satan was condemned at the cross and one day he will be totally destroyed when he is thrown in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
We know that Satan was condemned at the cross because Paul is referring to what Jesus did to Satan and his demons in Colossians 2:15 when he says, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
1 John 3:8--"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."
Hebrews 2:14--"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil. . ."
Jesus told us in John 10:10 that Satan came to steal, kill, and destroy, but He came to give us an abundant life. For those who do not give their lives to Jesus or do not properly understand their power and authority over Satan, he will do all he can to destroy lives, but believers who stand on the Word, are obedient to the Lord's teachings, and practice spiritual warfare according to Ephesians 6:10-18, have nothing to fear. If the enemy should attack, it will only be because the Lord allowed it, as He did in the case of righteous Job (see Job 1 and 2). For a person who is living in God's will, nothing comes into his life without first passing through the hands of God.
I encourage you to take these verses before the Lord, Sharon, and ask Him to give you His wisdom, insight, discernment and understanding. He never wants any of us to miss any point of truth He wants to show us because Jesus came to set us free from bondage, and any time we aren't walking in truth we are, to some degree, in bondage.
In His service,
Josh McDowell Ministry
From: Edward T. Babinski
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 9:36 PM
Subject: McDowell's "atheism"
She apparently has not even read Genesis, which does NOT mention "Satan," instead it says that the serpent was "the wisest beast of the field that God had made." And it was cursed as a serpent would be cursed, not as Satan. I mean, was "Satan" cursed to go on his belly and eat dust all the days of his life? Was "Satan" cursed "more than all cattle?" Yes, she knows the later Christian theological interpretations of the tale about Eden, but she ignores the plain words of the text in favor of later theological interpretations.
I wrote about McDowell's alleged "atheism" at length. I sent McDowell ministries a paper copy too, and a copy online, sent to someone a bit higher up than Penny at his ministry. They never responded.
From: Edward T. Babinski
Sent: Thursday, January 01, 2004 10:46 PM
Subject: Josh McDowell claimed he had "chucked religion."
I do not know what you have been reading about McDowell's testimony, but he claimed to have been more than simply a backsliding Christian. McDowell wrote that he had "chucked religion." He said he was not a "Christian." That's more than just "backsliding."
In the first edition of Evidence that Demands a Verdict his testimony was titled, "I've Got a Satisfied Mind" (referred to hereafter as "MT1" for "McDowell Testimony #1"). The second edition of ETDAV featured a longer rewritten version of MT1, titled, "He Changed My Life" (referred to hereafter as "MT2" for "McDowell Testimony #2").
"I chucked religion...it didn't work" (MT1&2).
"I thought most Christians were walking idiots... I imagined that if a Christian had a brain cell, it would die of loneliness" (MT2)."
"I figured every Christian had two brains; one was lost and the other was out looking for it" (MT1).
"I used to listen to professors in supercilious humanities classes, and if they didn't believe Christianity, you weren't going to catch me believing it." (MT1).
His "testimony" is unimpressive and expected, given the description he supplies of the state he was in at the time.
Best, Edward T. Babinski (author of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, Prometheus Books, 1995, now in paperback)