Josh McDowell and The Evidence of Christ
By Julie Blim with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
When Josh McDowell speaks, young people listen – 10 million of them in 115 countries over his career. In fact, 2010 marks his 50th year of ministry and his 120th book.
Scott Ross: This [book is written] with Sean McDowell. Any relationship there?
Josh McDowell: My son.
Ross: Wow, you have to be proud as a dad, huh?
McDowell: I am. All four of my kids. This to me is the most significant book I’ve ever written. The first chapter is: What is That Truth? Second chapter is: Why Should I Believe In It? Third is: So What? How does it relate to my life? Fourth one is how I can live it or experience it in my daily life. Each truth is broken down into those four chapters.
He’s well known for writing Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Ironically, Josh tried his best to disprove Christianity as a college student. When his research led him to the truth of God’s existence and moreover, His love, Josh committed his life to sharing that truth with passion. He’s happily married to Dottie, and they’ve known a rich family life with their four children. His own youth was quite a different story .
Ross: Let’s backtrack a little bit. That was not your background.
McDowell: My dad was an alcoholic and then I was severely sexually abused.
Ross: With your dad being an alcoholic, so forth, how did that affect your view of life, of fatherhood?
McDowell: Well, when you have an alcoholic father, I always felt it was my fault. That I wasn’t worth having a relationship with. That’s how a lot of that comes out. It affects your self-image. That you’re not valuable as a son. Because he never once said, I love you, or kissed me or took me anywhere to be alone with me. Every time he took me somewhere it was to unload the truck or something like that, there was always a reason for it.
Ross: Where was your mother in all this?
McDowell: Well, my mom was sick quite a bit and couldn’t handle a lot of it. I’d go out in the barn, and I’d see my mother lying in the gutter in the manure behind the cows where my dad had just taken a milk hose and just beat her to a bloody pulp until she couldn’t stand up. I’d be kicking and beating on him at 9, 10 years old saying when I’m strong enough, I’ll kill you.
Josh’s father was just one source of pain.
McDowell: When I was six years old, my parents hired a man by the name of Wayne to work on the farm as a cook and a housekeeper. From that day on, whenever my mother’d go downtown, shopping, or my folks go away for the weekend or whatever, my mother would literally march me into Wayne and say now, you obey him. You do everything he tells you to do, and if you’re disobedient, you’ll get a thrashing when I get home. What do you do at six years old, you do what Wayne tells you.
The man took that opportunity to begin sexually abusing young Josh.
McDowell: At nine years old, I got up the courage and went to my mother and told her. She wouldn’t believe me. I can’t put into words how you feel at nine years old when that happens. You feel isolated. I don’t think I ever experienced so much fear in my whole life, because you feel you’re all alone. Here’s a man doing these things to you and there’s nothing you can do and those who are supposed to protect you would not believe you.
The abuse stopped a year later when Josh was finally big enough to push the man away. He made it through high school, but had heartbreak just around the corner.
McDowell: I heard my mother crying. It was a Saturday night. Just crying loudly. I ran through the house into her bedroom. She sat up in bed and I said, 'Mom, what’s wrong? What’s wrong?' She said, 'Your father has broken my heart. I’ve lost the will to live, son. All I want to do is live until you graduate, then I just want to die.' Two months later I graduated and the next Friday the 13th she up and died.
Ross: Where did the encounter with God come from? How did that happen for you?
McDowell: It came out of anger, bitterness and resentment. I met some students at the university and professors whose lives were really different.
So he made friends with them and asked one girl why they were so loving to everyone. Her answer: Jesus Christ.
McDowell: I blew up. I said, 'Don’t give me that garbage.' I’m sick and tired of that trash of religion and church and Bible and God and Christians. She said, 'I didn’t tell you the church or the Bible or Christians. I told you the person of Jesus Christ.' I apologized to her, because my mother hadn’t raised me to be rude. But then she challenged me to intellectually examine the Scriptures as the Word of God and Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God, which I thought was a joke. I really did. I truly believed Christians had two brains. One was lost and the other was out looking for it. I thought Christians were walking idiots.
So Josh accepted her challenge and travelled throughout Europe, hoping to gather evidence to disprove Christianity. But all he found did the opposite.
McDowell: What was written down was true. Jesus had actually done that, and He had actually said that. That led to a process of returning to the university where I couldn’t sleep. I leaned back in my chair, cupped my hands behind my head andsaid, 'It’s true.' That December 19th at 8:30 at night, I became a Christian.
McDowell wasted no time in telling others what he’d discovered. After five decades of talking to and with young adults, he’s an expert on youth culture. Josh understands the hurt today’s youth feel.
McDowell: Where does that hurt come from? Here’s the word I would use. Abandoned. Not just through divorce and everything, but feel abandoned emotionally, especially with their father.
Ross: Somebody’s going to write your obituary some day. What do you want it to say?
McDowell: He was known for loving his wife and spending time with his children.
Ross: Not writing books, not doing TV, not videos?
McDowell: No. If there’s any one phrase, it would be that God became man and His name was Jesus and He is passionate about a relationship with you.
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