Joslin "Josh" McDowell is a Christian apologist, evangelist, and writer.
He is within the Evangelical tradition of Protestant Christianity, and is the author or co-author of some 77 books, of which his best known titles include More Than A Carpenter, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, and Right from Wrong.
Family and education
McDowell was born in Union City, Michigan
in 1939 with the given name Joslin. He was one of five children born to Wilmot McDowell, Sr. Biographer Joe Musser indicates that McDowell struggled with low self-esteem in his youth, as his father was an alcoholic and abusive. He enlisted in the Air National Guard, received basic training and assumed duties in mechanical maintenance of aircraft. After sustaining a head injury he was discharged from the service.
He initially intended to pursue legal studies culminating in a political career, and began preparatory studies at Kellogg College in Michigan. According to McDowell, he was as an agnostic at college when he decided to prepare a paper that would examine the historical evidence of the Christian faith in order to disprove it. However, he converted to Christianity, after, as he says, he found evidence for it, not against it. He subsequently enrolled at Wheaton College, Illinois, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. He then studied at Talbot Theological Seminary of Biola University, La Mirada, California. He completed an exit paper examining the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses, and was awarded the Master of Divinity degree graduating Magna Cum Laude.
In 1982 McDowell was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the unacreddited Simon Greenleaf School of Law, in recognition of his ministry and writings. McDowell was also a visiting lecturer at that school in the 1980s.
Josh McDowell married Dottie Youd, with whom he has four children; they live in Dallas, Texas.
Career and ministry
In 1964, he became a traveling representative of Campus Crusade for Christ
International. Campus Crusade for Christ is a para-church ministry that operates student chapters on university and college campuses, and was established by the late Bill Bright
in the 1950s. To this day, his close affiliation with the organization continues.
McDowell's full-time ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ began with his appointment as a campus speaker in Latin America, where he interacted with both Marxist and Fascist student groups. He subsequently returned to North America where he became known as an itinerant speaker addressing campus groups about the Christian faith.
Part of his speaking ministry has focused on youth issues in relationships and sexual mores, and is reflected in seminars such as "Maximum Sex" and the "Why Wait?" campaign that encourages sexual abstinence before marriage. Other facets of his speaking ministry and writing have focused on issues of self-esteem (His Image, My Image), and developing faith and character (Evidence for Joy). In the 1980s he also co-ordinated a three month residential discipleship program in a retreat center called The Julian Center, near San Diego.
McDowell is best known for his many seminars, debates and books in Christian apologetics. In his role as a popular apologist McDowell has spoken across the United States, and in many other nations including the Republic of South Africa and Australia.
In 1983, the Josh McDowell Ministry headquarters moved to its current location in Richardson, TX. The ministry employs a staff of 75 people with affiliate offices located throughout the country. Josh McDowell is the founder of the Christian ministries Josh.org and Operation Carelift. Operation Carelift is an international humanitarian aid ministry that is run by the Global Aid Network (GAiN) in Dallas, Texas which is a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ. The ministry began in 1991 in the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Method of apologetics
As a practitioner of Christian apologetics
, McDowell's writings have concentrated on addressing challenges to belief, questions posed by non-Christians, doubts about faith, and non-Christian religions. He has not written about apologetic theory and method. However, his apologetic methodology can be deduced from his writings and it is clear that McDowell stands within the evidentialist tradition of Christian apologetics. In that tradition apologists tend to present positive arguments to commend belief in Christ by emphasising historical and legal proofs to establish the authenticity of the biblical texts and the divinity of Christ.
In books such as Evidence That Demands A Verdict, The Resurrection Factor, and He Walked Among Us, McDowell has arranged his arguments by pleading for a cumulative case of evidences, such as archaeological discoveries, the extant manuscripts of the biblical texts, fulfilled prophecies, and the miracle of the resurrection. In More Than A Carpenter he blended historical argument with legal arguments concerning the direct witness and circumstantial evidences for Jesus' life and resurrection. He employed a similar line of argument in his debate titled 'Was Christ crucified?' with the South African Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat in Durban during August, 1981.
Much of his evidentialist work reflects the views of apologists such as John Warwick Montgomery, Norman Geisler, Gleason Archer, and Gary Habermas.
Other foci of his apologetics have included challenging the methodology, assumptions and conclusions drawn in higher criticism of the Old Testament and form and redaction criticism of the gospels. His work in this area has consisted of a popular summarisation of scholarly debate, particularly from Evangelical discussions about higher critical theories. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s his apologetic writings interacted with challenges expressed in popular books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Lost Years of Jesus, and the writings of the humanist George A. Wells.
He has also collated apologetic arguments concerning the doctrine of Christ's deity as in Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity. In two companion volumes he and his colleague Don Stewart have addressed popular questions and objections to faith concerning biblical inerrancy and Bible discrepancies, Noah's Flood, and creation versus evolution.
McDowell and Stewart have also popularised the arguments of other apologists in the Christian countercult movement, particularly the work of Walter Martin, in the Handbook of Today's Religions. In their criticisms of cults and occult beliefs McDowell and Stewart concentrate on doctrinal apologetic questions, especially pertaining to the deity of Christ, and pointing out heretical beliefs in the non-orthodox religious groups they profile.
Objections have centered on the cogency of the argument for miracles and the death and resurrection of Jesus
, and the inferences drawn from the biblical text about Jesus' deity. Others have complained that McDowell does not give equal space to airing the views of non-Christian skeptics
religious scholars, as he does to the apologists he relies on. Some consider this view erroneous on the basis that McDowell is openly advancing the case for the veracity of Christian historical claims.
- ''The Occult", with Don Stewart assisted by Kurt Van Gorden, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, CA, 1992
- A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 1972.
- More Than A Carpenter, Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1977.
- Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Revised Edition, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1979.
- Daniel in the Critics' Den, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1979.
- Answers to Tough Questions, with Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1980.
- Givers, Takers and Other Kinds of Lovers, with Paul Lewis, Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1980.
- Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, with Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981.
- More Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Revised edition, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981.
- The Resurrection Factor, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981.
- Prophecy: Fact or Fiction, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981.
- Guide To Understanding Your Bible, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1982.
- Understanding Secular Religions, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1982.
- Understanding Non-Christian Religions, with Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1982.
- The Islam Debate, with John Gilchrist, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1983.
- Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, with Bart Larson, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1983.
- Handbook of Today's Religions, with Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1983.
- Evidence Growth Guide, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1983.
- Evidence for Joy, with Dale Bellis, Word, Waco, 1984.
- His Image, My Image, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1984.
- The Secret of Loving, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1985.
- Why Wait? with Dick Day, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1987.
- He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus, with Bill Wilson, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1988.
- Don't Check You Brain at the Door, Concordia Publishing House, 1992.
- Skeptics Who Demanded a Verdict, Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1989.
- The Dad Difference, with Norm Wakefield, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1989.
- The Myths of Sex Education, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981.
- Right From Wrong, with Bob Hostetler, Word, Dallas, 1994.
- The One Year Book of Josh McDowell's Youth Devotions, with Bob Hostetler, Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1997.
- New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Word, Nashville, 1999.
- Disconnected Generation: Saving Our Youth From Self-Destruction, Word, Nashville, 2000.
- Beyond Belief to Convictions, with Bob Hostetler, Tyndale House, Wheaton, 2002.
- The Last Christian Generation, Green Key Books, Holiday, Florida, 2006.
- Josh: The Excitement of the Unexpected, by Joe Musser, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernadino, California, 1981. Also released under the title A Skeptic's Quest.