Book Review: “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” 2017 edition

“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15). 

Apologetics has nothing to do with apologizing.  The Greek word apologia in the New Testament means to reply or make a defense as to why we believe such a thing as the gospel of Jesus Christ, the integrity of Scriptures, or the existence of God. 

In the early 1970s, the publication of Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” caused a sensation.  The thick book was eagerly devoured by pastors and laity, college students and campus ministers, housewives and college professors, seekers and skeptics, all searching to know more about the logical and historical basis of the Christian faith.

In 1972, I was 32 years old when that book appeared on the scene, and was ministering to college students by the hundreds.  The book was a Godsend. Heaven alone knows its full impact.

Eventually, this outstanding reference book would be translated into 44 languages, and has (probably) never been out of print since.  It filled a void in the lives and libraries of thoughtful Christians who sought to give an answer to skeptics and inquirers concerning the truth and truthfulness of our message.

Eventually, other authors would join Josh McDowell in turning out books on the authenticity of the Christian faith.  But no one who ever stumbled across this 1972 “treasure in the field” (I’m thinking of Matthew 13:44) ever got over that initial rush in realizing, “There are answers!”

What a relief! And what a blessing to have this treasure at our fingertips.

That was the 1970s. This is now.

So, now, an updated and expanded edition of “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” has arrived.  Author Josh McDowell has been joined by his son Dr. Sean McDowell, a professor of apologetics at Biola University.  In revising the book, they drew on “a team of researchers, writers, and editors.”

The book is nearly 800 pages, costs around 30 bucks, and was built to last. Mine came in a strong box, just right for mailing it to a friend.  And I intend to do just that.  I have family members who are going to love this book!

Why a new edition?  The authors have an answer for that.

–More and more discoveries are confirming the historicity of the Christian faith. “Often, writes Craig Evans in the section on “The Historical Existence of Jesus,” “what archaeologists uncover is not so much proof, but clarification” concerning the historical accuracy of the Scriptures.

–Postmoderns question why evidence is even important, why it matters. This material will show why.

–Skepticism has produced a new generation of atheists, and these are aggressive.  They have read the Bible and are knowledgeable.  Shallow Sunday-School answers won’t get the job done any more.

–The internet.  It spreads skepticism instantly. Likewise, if a believer has a good answer for the question of a seeker or the slander of an opponent, he can accomplish a great deal quickly.

–The rise of agnostic, skeptical or atheistic stars like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Bart Ehrman, and many others.

This is not a book you’ll want to take to the beach and read for fun. This is a reference book, containing articles on a vast array of subjects and questions God’s people encounter as they interact with the world.

The book is sectioned into four parts: Evidence for the Bible, for Jesus, for the Old Testament, and for Truth.  Each section is sub-divided into chapters on various aspects. For instance, “Evidence for the Bible” includes chapters on the uniqueness of the Bible, how we got our Bible, is the New Testament historically reliable, have the Old Testament manuscripts been accurately transmitted, and Gnostic gospels and other nonbiblical texts.

The section “Evidence for Jesus” includes chapters on the historical evidence of Jesus, the lofty claims of Jesus, the trilemma: Lord, liar, or lunatic; OT prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the resurrection: hoax or history, is Christianity a copycat religion, the deity of Jesus: an investigation, and the martyrdom of the apostles.

This is an amazing compilation of a rich assortment of evidence, testimonies and reasonings.  Interestingly, the book ends with an 18-page analysis of the teachings of Bart Ehrman, a professor at the University of North Carolina.  Ehrman grew up a fundamentalist Christian, by his own testimony, and eventually became what he calls “a happy agnostic.”  His five books dealing with the Christian faith have all made the New York Times best-sellers list.  In his writings, he debunks “widely held religious beliefs as based on a mixture of bad history, deception, and myth.” The McDowells say wherever they go, they encounter people who have been influenced by Erhman’s writings, which necessitated a response in this book to some of his more popular slanders.

I’ll not be tossing out my books by Lee Strobel and others which address many of the same issues as “Evidence.” There will always be room for committed, deep-thinking believers–apologists, if you will–to rise up and take a strong stand on the burning issues of the day and show us how to give reason for the hope we have found in Jesus Christ.

But “Evidence” will always have the central place on my apologetics bookshelf.



3 thoughts on “Book Review: “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” 2017 edition

  1. Loved your review, Joe. Wally and I along with our daughter, Jodi had you for our pastor in Columbus MS, where we all three became Christians at your church. You baptized Wally and me on an Easter Sunday in 1985. I found you on Facebook and started following you. We love you dear friend and still think you are the best preacher we have ever had. We now live in Tampa Florida because Jodi and her 2 wonderful children live here. If I send you a request on Facebook, please accept my friend request. Thanks. Phyllis Frazer

    • How wonderful, Phyllis. I’d love to be able to say I remember you, but it’s been a long time. (I found out recently that the young pastor of a church near where I’m now living (Ridgeland MS) is someone I baptized at Columbus too. So wonderful.) Thank you!!!

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