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Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell
Born Joslin McDowell
(1939-08-17) August 17, 1939 [1]
Union City, Michigan
Occupation Writer, public speaker
Nationality American
Genre Christian literature
Subject Christian apologetics

Joslin "Josh" McDowell (born August 17, 1939) 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 115 books. His best-known book is Evidence That Demands a Verdict, which was ranked 13th in Christianity Today‍ '​s list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II.[2] Other well-known titles are More Than a Carpenter, A Ready Defense and Right from Wrong.


  • Biography 1
    • Family and education 1.1
    • Career and ministry 1.2
  • Method of apologetics 2
  • Works by McDowell 3
    • Biography 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Family and education

McDowell was born in Union City, Michigan in 1939 with the given name Joslin.[3] 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.[4] McDowell also revealed he was sexually abused repeatedly as a child by farm hand Wayne Bailey from the age of 6 to 13.[5] 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 Community College, a two-year junior college in Battle Creek, Michigan. According to McDowell, he was 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 Simon Greenleaf School of Law, now Trinity Law School, 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 and eight grandchildren; they live in California.[6]

Career and ministry

In 1964, he became a traveling representative of Campus Crusade for Christ International, a parachurch ministry that operates student chapters on university and college campuses 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.

He gained wide fame as a Christian apologist with the publication of Evidence that Demands a Verdict in 1972.

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 Richardson, TX, and in October 2009 moved to nearby Plano, 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 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.[7]

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. McDowell tends to present positive arguments to commend belief in Jesus Christ by emphasizing 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 laying out a cumulative case of evidence, 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 Ahmed Deedat in Durban during August 1981.[8] McDowell claims that the "evidence for Christianity in the Scriptures is not exhaustive, but it is sufficient."[9]

Much of his evidentialist work is similar to 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 summary 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 religious groups they profile which they consider to be unorthodox.

McDowell's approach to apologetics falls under what Protestant theologians classify as "classical" and "evidential." In either of these approaches to Christian apologetics, it is assumed that arguments defending the Christian faith can legitimately be directed to both believers and unbelievers because the human mind is viewed as able to comprehend certain truths about God. Presuppositional apologetics, on the other hand, questions this methodology by arguing that since unbelievers partially suppress and resist the truth about God (as Paul states in Romans 1:18–20), the problem of unbelief is also an ethical choice and not simply a lack of evidence.[10]

Works by McDowell

  • Evidence That Demands A Verdict, First published 1972. Revised Edition, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1979.
  • More Than A Carpenter, Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1977.
  • 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 Publrs, 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.
  • The Myths of Sex Education, 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 Bernardino, California, 1983.
  • Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, with Bart Larson, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1983.
  • Handbook of Today's Religions, with Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 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 Bernardino, California, 1984.
  • The Secret of Loving, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1985.
  • Why Wait? with Dick Day, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1987.
  • How to Help Your Child Say "No" to Sexual Pressure, Word Books, 1987.
  • He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus, with Bill Wilson, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1988.
  • Skeptics Who Demanded a Verdict, Tyndale House, Wheaton, 1989.
  • The Dad Difference, with Norm Wakefield, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1989.
  • A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990.
  • The Occult, with Don Stewart and Kurt Van Gorden, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, CA, 1992.
  • Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, Concordia Publishing House, 1992.
  • Right From Wrong, with Bob Hostetler, Word, Dallas, 1994.
  • The Father Connection: 10 Qualities of the heart that empower your children to make right choices, B&H Books, Nashville Tennessee 1996.
  • 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.
  • See yourself as God sees you, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 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.
  • The Da Vinci Code: A Quest For Answers by Josh McDowell (free pdf book, 2006, 112 pp, ISBN 1-932587-80-2)
  • Evidence for the Resurrection, Regal Books, Ventura, California, 2009.
  • The Unshakable Truth: How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith, Harvest House Publishers, 2010
  • Evidence for the Historical Jesus: A Compelling Case for His Life and His Claims, Harvest House Publishers, 2011.


  • Josh: The Excitement of the Unexpected, by Joe Musser, Here's Life Publishers, San Bernardino, California, 1981. Also released under the title A Skeptic's Quest.

See also


  1. ^ Josh McDowell Quotes –
  2. ^ The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals, Christianity Today, October 6, 2006
  3. ^ "". Youth Devotions With Josh McDowell. Retrieved September 19, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Josh McDowell interview on The 700 Club". 
  5. ^ "Evidence That Changed A Life by Josh McDowell". 
  6. ^ "" (PDF). Who is Josh McDowell?. Retrieved June 12, 2005. 
  7. ^ "GAiN USA". Operation Carelift Becomes Global Aid Network (GAiN) USA. Archived from the original on December 10, 2005. Retrieved June 16, 2005. 
  8. ^ Was Christ Crucified? – transcript of debate between Ahmed Deedat and Josh McDowell, 1981
  9. ^ Tennant, Christy, "Josh McDowell on Defending the Bible," Bible Study Magazine, Nov–Dec 2008, pg. 13.
  10. ^ Frame, John M. Five Views on Apologetics, edited by Steven B. Cowan. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-310-22476-1, p. 211.

External links

  • The Official Website of the Josh McDowell Ministry
  • Interview with Josh McDowell
  • Josh McDowell's Story
  • Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh McDowell
  • Josh McDowell's channel on YouTube
  • The Da Vinci Code: A Quest For Answers by Josh McDowell (free pdf ebook, 2006, 112 pp, ISBN 1-932587-80-2)
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