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Christian Apologist Puffs Up Testimony

By Edward T. Babinski ~


A film came out in 2012 portraying Josh McDowell as having traveled the world in search of evidence to refute Christianity. Unable to do so, he reluctantly converted. The film was titled,

McDowell converted in 1959, so let’s start by comparing his earliest written testimonies of his conversion with the expanded multi-part series he composed 39 years later, and again, 48 years later.

In the first edition of Evidence That Demands a Verdict McDowell's testimony was titled, "I've Got a Satisfied Mind," while in the second edition he rewrote and lengthened it, and titled it, "He Changed My Life.”

Based on those two early versions of his testimony in two of his earliest apologetic works, and based on the date McDowell himself supplies for his conversion he converted when he was a mere sophomore at an unimpressive community college and he converted in a matter of months. Nor was he studying religion or philosophy, but courses in preparation for law school. He says that in college he met a girl at that college with a beautiful smile and he wanted that happiness. He adds, "My new friends challenged me intellectually to examine the claims that Jesus Christ is God's Son." But I wonder when McDowell ever found the time and mental composure to rise to that "intellectual challenge." His conversion took place by his own admission, "Dec. 19, 1959" at the end of the first semester of his college sophomore year. He did not spend years studying the evidence, JUST MONTHS.

Even worse, he admits repeatedly that he was easily distracted and/or had great difficulty concentrating prior to converting: "I hated to be alone... [was] frustrated... empty... circumstances [made me feel either] okay or bad... If my girl loved me, I was on cloud nine; if she broke up with me, I was really down... I had a bad temper... and still have the scars from almost killing a man during my first year in the university... had a lot of hatred... hated my father [who was a wife-beating alcoholic]... had a lot of restlessness in my mind, and I always had to be somewhere, or with someone. I just couldn't be alone with my own thoughts. My mind seemed like a maze... I used to be constantly on the go because of restlessness... I always had to be occupied. I had to be over my girl's place or somewhere else in a rap session. I'd walk across campus and my mind was like a whirlwind with conflicts bouncing off the walls. I'd sit down and try to study or cogitate and I couldn't." (Evidence That Demands A Verdict, 1st &2nd eds.)

How could Josh thread an intellectual needle if he was in such an unstable frame of mind?

THEN... 39 years after converting (in 1999) his testimony changed to a more intellectual sounding one in which he writes for the first time the following...

"I left the university and traveled throughout the United States and Europe to gather evidence to prove that Christianity is a sham. One day while I was sitting in a library in London, England, I sensed a voice within me saying, 'Josh, you don't have a leg to stand on.' I immediately suppressed
it. But just about every day after that I heard the same inner voice. The more I researched, the more I heard this voice. I returned to the United States and to the university, but I couldn't sleep at night."

"University?" He was taking legal prep courses at Kellogg Community College, and converted only a few months after bumping into a happy Christian girl there so he must be one heck of a traveler to
travel "throughout the United States and Europe" in a few months.

But things grow even less believable when Josh puffs up his story again, this time 48 years after converting. In Josh's newest retelling, published in 20 parts(!) on his website in 2008, he embellished his tale further by adding travels not just to the U.S. and Europe but to "the Middle East," and notes the exact time within a half hour when he heard "the voice in the library":

"The whole reason for writing my first book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, was to write a book to make an intellectual joke of Christianity – to refute those students and professors I had encountered in the university. I thought that would be easy. I left the university. I traveled throughout the United States, England, and the Middle East. I gathered evidence to write the book. I was sitting in a library in London, England. It was late on a Friday afternoon around 6:00 or 6:30, and something
happened that never happened to me before. It was like a voice spoke to me. Now I don’t normally hear voices, but it was like a voice spoke to me. It said, 'Josh, you don’t have a leg to stand on.' I immediately suppressed it. Do you know what was interesting? Almost every single day after that, I heard the voice."

Josh did spend time AFTER he had already converted studying Christianity, gathering together the most fundamentalist apologetic rejoinders he could stuff together between two covers, but he did that AFTER he converted.Josh is now portraying himself as a highly focused and well traveled intellectual researcher prior to converting, having traveled, "throughout the United States, England," and now he adds, "the Middle East." But that was absent from his testimonies from 1981-1992:

Judging by the way Josh's testimony has changed, I'd say he is living proof of how people change along with their memories. Memory experts also point out that each time we access a memory it undergoes changes.

Josh did spend time AFTER he had already converted studying Christianity, gathering together the most fundamentalist apologetic rejoinders he could stuff together between two covers, but he did that AFTER he converted. He spent 13 years going to libraries working on his earliest apologetic works. And I'm sure his ministry has taken him to places throughout the U.S. Europe, even the Middle East, but there is no evidence he did so BEFORE HE CONVERTED while still a Sophomore studying law in a community college and all in a mere matter of months prior to converting. And whatever work Josh did in libraries even after converting, he left a lot of his "research" to others whom he acknowledged in Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

In fact in Josh's book, Reasons Skeptics should Consider Christianity, Glenn Morton (an undergrad at the time) ghost wrote the young-earth creationist arguments featured in that volume, not Josh. Mr. Morton later gave up young-earth creationism. But Josh, unlike a Morton, seems to have never developed the brains or inclination to do so but still believed decades later and perhaps today in a young-earth, a literal Adam and Eve, dinosaurs existing besides humans, and probably a literal garden with magical fruit, Flood geology, a literal confusion of tongues at a literal Tower of Babel, and an inerrant Bible that he imagines he has harmonized beyond any difficulty. Just read his website today. Meanwhile the undergrad, Glenn Morton, who ghost wrote large portions of one of Josh's
books obtained a Ph.D. in geology and debunked young-earth creationist arguments, and came to defend with Michael Behe and Michael Denton (two Discovery Institute leaders) the evidence for common ancestry.

McDowell's conversion, based on his earliest tellings, appears to have been based far less on his "intellectual" rigor and honesty so much as on his lack of knowledge, lack of emotional stability, lack of concentration, and lack of well thought out convictions of his own. In such a state this flighty community college drop out was easily overwhelmed in a matter of months by a few pro-Christian, even pro-creationist arguments that he "never knew existed." It was only after his conversion that enrolled at two conservative Christian colleges, the second of which granted him a Master of Divinity Degree during which his thesis critiqued the theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Editor's note: Further reading that may be of interest...