A Ph.D. student from the Czech Republic was baptized in my church on Sunday. This young lady shared that in her country Christianity was nothing more than an ancient religion, and the Bible nothing more than a well-crafted but irrelevant relic. Upon moving to the US for graduate school, she began to interact with a small number of true believers in Jesus Christ. She said of them,
Through their love for me and showing me the evidence for the historicity of Jesus, God opened my eyes and saved me.
I was reminded of the timeless relevance of love and truth—truth that can be tested against evidence. We Christians need to be armed with the evidence of the veracity of the Christian faith, ever ready to share it in love with anyone who inquires. For countless souls now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, God uses the evidence of the truth to open the blind eyes of the lost. I know it was so for myself, for that young woman and for Josh McDowell.
Summary of Evidence That Demands A Verdict
In the fall of 2017, Josh and Sean McDowell published an updated and revised edition of Josh’s classic Evidence That Demands A Verdict. As I read the opening pages about the influence of Evidence, originally published in 1972, on millions of people from across the globe, I grew in excitement to read this updated classic on apologetics. For 40 years it has been a staple text in apologetic classrooms and conversations alike. Now, the authors have revamped the book to equip the 21st century believer and to convince the 21st century skeptic.
The book itself is a massive text. There are more than 50 pages in the preface alone, more than 700 pages in all, with a font size that will challenge the strongest of eyes. A larger font would have driven the page number above 1000. The authors acknowledge that it is not a book that needs to be read cover to cover, but as someone who did, I can attest that it is an edifying and helpful undertaking. The largeness of the book even proved beneficial in having apologetic conversations. It sat on my desk at work for weeks as I read it, and students and colleagues would ask, “What’s Evidence?” Or “Evidence for what?” These questions provided me with an easy segue into the gospel and reasons for believing it.
Evidence That Demands a Verdict is designed as a reference tool. The authors divide it into 4 parts, each containing chapters that are broken down into smaller sections with helpful chapter outlines at the start of each one. A major strength of the book was the sequencing the authors implemented.
Part 1 covers Evidence for the Bible. They provide ample research and sound arguments for the historicity and reliability of the canon of Scripture.
The McDowells fittingly spend the most time, 217 pages, on evidence for Jesus. They devote whole chapters to His resurrection, His claims and His deity.
Part 3 provides evidence for the Old Testament. Not only do they cover its historicity, but they also wrestle with a few hotly debated issues like faithful interpretation of the Genesis creation account, and how to answer those who claim the Old Testament contains contradictions.
The final section, part 4, covers evidence for truth. Truth, its knowability and even its existence are being questioned now more than ever. I’ve heard the phrase, “that might be true for you, but it’s not true for me” countless times, as though what is or is not true is optional, subjective and relative to the individual. The McDowells present an extensive overview and history of post-modern thought and the relativism of our age, and they offer numerous logical arguments for a knowable Christ-centered understanding of truth.
Science is based on evidence, and so is Christianity.
Reflection of Evidence That Demands A Verdict
The authors began with a thoughtful request of the reader—not to use this book to win arguments. I’ve made the mistake of trying to argue someone into salvation. The work of an apologist is indeed to argue well for the gospel and truth claims of Scripture, but Scripture ought to dictate our approach. God tells us to present our case with humility and compassion. Consider Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We approach gospel conversations with graciousness. Our aim is not to win an argument, but to display the love of Christ. Otherwise, our message might be rendered ineffective not due to any lack of truth, but solely based on our lack of love.
Evidence That Demands a Verdict is a daunting book that requires thought, patience and perseverance to work through in its totality. You can use as the tool it was meant to be, to help you find the proper response to that coworker who thinks the Bible is just an irrelevant relic of the past. Use it as a conversation piece on your desk to move people toward asking, “Who is Jesus?” Use it to strengthen your faith and learn how robust the evidence is for the Christian faith. It proved helpful in each of those instances for me.
Daily, I’m faced with a wave of students who have no interest or belief in Jesus or the Christian faith. They, like the woman from the Czech Republic, believe it all to be irrelevant, and that science has done away with a need for God. The beauty of science is that it is based on evidence, and so is Christianity. In fact science flourished because of the Christian worldview and the novel idea that we can observe an event and learn the truth.
There is a mountain of evidence that God is and that He came to Earth in the man Jesus Christ in space-time, He died in space-time and rose from the dead in space-time as an atonement for the sin of the world. God made it plain. He called each of us to share it, and to point out what is plain and written already on the hearts of men to the praise of His glory. Evidence That Demands a Verdict will help you to do that. I encourage you to read it, share the hope of Jesus and trust God to perform the work of turning unbelief into belief.