"The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1 ESV).
Josh McDowell's book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, is an impressive pop-level apologetical work. I've long appreciated the work, even though I find many of its underlying assumptions a bit flawed. Any attempt to express the truth of Christianity deserves praise.
Yet McDowell recently gave an interview where he made some troubling comments. They are troubling not so much for what they claim, but for what McDowell presupposes. The article states,
In his 50 years of ministry, McDowell has asked several thousand pastors and leaders how they could be certain Jesus Christ said "I am the truth" and not one of many truths or a truth.
"Not one person has ever given me an intelligent, bibilically-based answer," said the author of The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
During the past six years, he asked hundreds of Christians and leaders why they see themselves as Christians. Again, no one gave him an "intelligent" answer.
In the past 17 years, he has asked over 4,000 pastors, leaders, and parents why they believe the Bible is true.
A mere six "came close to giving an intelligent answer", McDowell noted.
There was much in the article that is praiseworthy on McDowell's part. What is troubling is the presupposition that Christians must acquire a reasonable argument for their faith. As a proponent of what is known as Evidentialist apologetics, McDowell in one swift stroke has undermined the biblical witness and placed biblical faith on the defensive. While there certainly is a place for apologetics and defenders of the faith, do we really believe we can give an "intelligent" answer to someone who is determined not to believe?
Scripture never seeks to defend the notion that God exists. It simply presupposes it. The very first words in the Bible say "In the beginning God...". It understands that belief in God is the logically starting point of any conversation. Nothing can exist, not even meaningful discourse, without a presupposition in God.
Even the ancient philosophers understood this (though in a pagan context). Aristotle was so throughly disgusted by atheists that he forbade his students from having discussions with them, believing that reasoned arguments would just be wasted upon their stubborn foolishness. Cicero, in his Reply to Aurusius, said "Who can be so blind as not to sense the existence of God?" Elsewhere he said "where can you find a race or nation so bas not to have, in not formal teachings and doctrines, yet at least an innate awareness of the divine. In other words, the barbarian is the one who denies God, not the one who has faith in Him. Seneca also wrote, "There never was a nation so dissolute and abandoned, so lawless and immoral, as to believe there is no God." Aelianus notes that "None of the barbarous nations ever fell into atheism, or doubted of the gods whether they were or not, or whether they took care of human affairs or not; not the Indians, nor the Gauls, nor the Egyptians." Plutarch remarks, "If you go over the earth, you find cities without walls, letters, kings, houses, wealth, and money, devoid of theatres and schoos; but a city without temples and gods...no man ever saw". In another work (The Nature of the Gods, Book 2) Cicero writes, "The beauty and the order of the heavens proclaim that there exists some supreme and eternal power, which is worthy of the respect and admiration of the human race." This is precisely Paul's point in Romans 1:20.
The majority of Christians are not scholars (it should therefore not surprise us that they don't give us scholarly answers), at least by McDowell's standards. Yet this beloved brother seems to have forgotten Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". Perhaps it is true that few Christians have ever given an "intelligent" answer. Not all are meant to author books and give lectures. But it is also true that the world has never heard an "intelligent" atheist challenge.
In the end, the council of Cyprian (an Early Church father) still holds today: "This is the epitome of sin, to refuse recognition to the One of whom it is impossible for us humans to be ignorant" (On the Vanity of Idols).
HT: Arthur Sido