One-on-One with Josh and Sean McDowell on the New Edition of “Evidence That Demands A Verdict”
First published in 1972, this classic was last updated nearly two decades ago. |
Ed: Why did you feel the need for an updated version of this classic?
Josh and Sean McDowell: Evidence has been updated three times since 1972, but the last version was 1999—nearly two decades ago! Over this time span, a number of new issues and challenges have arisen in both academic and popular circles that need addressing. And there has also been some pushback on the arguments that I (Josh) first advanced in Evidence that we felt needed responses.
Ed: So what does this new version contain that the previous version did not?
Josh and Sean: There are two main additions. First, we updated some of the arguments. There have been some remarkable manuscript and archaeological discoveries that strengthen the evidence. For instance, Evidence includes the most up-to-date list of the number of New Testament manuscripts. It was an enormous task to compile this, but Christians need to be aware of how strong the case is for the reliability of the Bible. Second, there are some entirely new issues that we tackle, such as the claim that Christianity is a copycat religion, historical evidence for the exodus, the martyrdom of the apostles, the challenges raised by Bart Ehrman, and more.
Ed: What is the role of apologetics in the Christian witness today?
Josh and Sean: The first task of apologetics is to help strengthen Christians in their faith. We both speak to thousands of young people today and can attest that this new generation has real questions about God and the Bible. When young people—and really anyone—discover evidence for their faith, it gives them tremendous confidence to live their faith with conviction. Apologetics also helps clear away objections that non-believers have about the faith. We regularly hear from new believers for whom apologetics played a critical role in their journey to Christ.
Ed: What are two or three of the main reasons you have found that non-Christians have a hard time accepting the Christian faith as their own?
Josh and Sean: In our experience, which is backed up by the new research about Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2010), people often believe there is a conflict between science and faith. Many non-Christians think they have to “check their brains at the door” if they are going to believe in the biblical account of creation.
Second, the problem of evil is—and always has been—a question that bothers non-Christians. Many don’t understand why God would allow so much suffering and evil in the world, and they have never considered the Christian response to evil.
Third, many in our society increasingly see Christians as intolerant bigots. We open Evidence with an introductory chapter that addresses each of these questions. Our hope is to clear away the fog so people will consider the evidence.
Ed: What advice would you give Christians today about how to begin faith conversations? To continue faith conversations?
Josh and Sean: Our first suggestion is to learn what you believe and why. We have found in our own lives that when we are prepared with an answer, as 1 Peter 3:15 commands, we have much more confidence to engage others in conversation. Second, just ask questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. Just be willing to ask questions and be a good listener. Here’s some of our favorite questions: What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What experiences have most shaped your belief in God? What would convince you to believe in God? If you don’t believe in God, can you tell me about the God you don’t believe in?
The best way to continue conversations is just to be persistent. Of course, it is important to keep balance in the relationship so we don’t overwhelm people and communicate that we only care about conversion. But we have found that if we are intentional in relationships, and treat people the way we would want them to treat us, then most people are willing to have continual spiritual conversations.
And remember to have a long-term perspective. Some people come to faith quickly, but others take years.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.