COMMENTARY ON AUTHOR JOSH MCDOWELL
HIS PERSONAL SALVATION TESTIMONYMy Story: Josh McDowell
“I had to admit that Jesus Christ was more than a carpenter. He was all He claimed to be.”
Josh McDowell 13 Minute Read
• Education, College Life, Agnosticism, Atheism
Photo courtesy Tom Mills
I was a teenager, I wanted to be happy. I wanted my life to have
meaning. I became hounded by three basic questions: Who am I? Why am I
here? Where am I going? I started searching for answers.
Where I was
brought up, everyone seemed to be into religion, so I thought I might
find my answers in being religious. I got into church 150 percent. I
went every time the doors opened – morning, afternoon, or evening. But
I must have picked the wrong church, because I felt worse inside it
than I did outside. From my upbringing on a farm in Michigan I
inherited a rural practicality that says when something doesn’t work,
get rid of it. So I chucked religion.
Then I thought that education
might have the answers to my questions, so I enrolled in a university.
Faculty members and my fellow students had just as many problems,
frustrations and unanswered questions as I did. Education, I decided,
was not the answer.
searching for good feeling about oneself is his answer to having the
life - a lifestyle change that makes one happy in some temporal sense.
Can't seem to find that in the Bible as a true measure of whether
or not one is actually a born again Christian. How about 1 Jn 5:9-13
assurance because one knows one has been saved by faith????? ]
I began to think maybe I could find happiness
and meaning in prestige. But the thrill of prestige wore off like
everything else I had tried. I endured Monday through Friday, living
only for the partying nights of the weekend. Then, on Monday, the
meaningless cycle would begin all over again.
I didn’t let on that
my life was meaningless; I was too proud for that. Everyone thought I
was the happiest man on campus. They never suspected that my happiness
was a sham. It depended on my circumstances. If things were going great
for me, I felt great. When things were going lousy, I felt lousy. I
just didn’t let it show.
A Different Group
About that time, I
noticed a small group of people – eight students and two faculty
members – who seemed different from the others. They seemed to know who
they were and where they were going. And they had convictions. It is
refreshing to find people with convictions, and I like to be around
them. I admire people who believe in something and take a stand for it,
even if I don’t agree with their beliefs.
a minute. McDowell calls me a heretic for espousing saved by faith in
Christ and Him alone - His propitiation for my sins, Jn 3:16 et al]
It was clear to me that these people had something I didn’t have.
were disgustingly happy. And their happiness didn’t ride up and down
with the circumstances of university life; it was constant. They
appeared to possess an inner source of joy, and I wondered where it
I know I am not saved. I am certainly not disgustingly happy. Wonder
even whether I have an inner source of joy with all the contending for
the faith I have been doing, and all the sad negative responses I have
gotten over the years as people reject faith alone in Jesus Christ and
I am constantly mourning them. So where does my determination to defend
the faith come from. Certainly not from inside my stubborn sin nature
to keep on defending the faith and studying the Bible to make sure what
I am saying accurately represents what God has said in His Word]
It was clear to me that these people had something I didn’t have.
couple of weeks later I sat around a table in the student union talking
with some of the members of this group. The conversation turned to the
topic of God. I was pretty skeptical and insecure about this subject,
so I put on a big front. I leaned back in my chair, acting like I
couldn’t care less.
“Christianity, ha!” I blustered. “That’s for
unthinking weaklings, not for intellectuals.” Of course, under all the
bluster I really wanted what these people had, but my pride didn’t want
them to know the aching urgency of my need. The subject bothered me,
but I couldn’t let go of it. So I turned to one of the students and
said: “Tell me, why are you so different from all the other students
and faculty on this campus? What changed your life?”
hesitation or embarrassment she looked me straight in the eye, deadly
serious, and uttered two words I never expected to hear in an
intelligent discussion on a university campus: “Jesus Christ.”
“Jesus Christ?” I snapped. “I’m fed up with religion. I’m fed up with church. I’m fed up with the Bible.”
she shot back: “I didn’t say religion. I said Jesus Christ!” She
pointed out something I had never known: Christianity is not a
religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through
good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus
[Actually Christianity is
a religion. James 1:26-27 - the true religion. But why focus on this
subject anyway? The issue is the gospel: faith alone in Christ alone
for forgiveness of sins unto eternal life, religion or not. Some
religions are works oriented; but the one true religion, Christianity
works oriented at all in order that one should be saved unto
eternal life. On the other hand, the born again Christian better start
works for blessings and rewards]
Then my new friends issued a challenge I couldn’t believe.
They challenged me to make rigorous, intellectual examinations of the
claims of Jesus Christ – that He is God’s Son; that He inhabited a
human body and lived among real men and women; that He died on the
cross for the sins of humanity; that He was buried and was resurrected
three days later; and that He is still alive and can change a person’s
life even today.
issue is NOT a changed lifestyle, but whether or not you trusted alone
in Christ alone - His payment for your sins for forgiveness of all of
your sins unto eternal life. Some Christians do indeed evidence a
changed lifestyle but no so immature Christians and unbelievers would
be able to detect. I look to study God's Word and the more I do, the
more I become aware of my shortcomings, less my exciting changed
lifestyle, more my spending more time learning and sharing my faith
often with sadness and the negative response and terrible arguments
people throw at me like faith alone is a heresy]
Researching the Claims
I accepted my friends’
challenge, mostly out of spite and to prove them wrong. I was convinced
the Christian story would not stand up to evidence. I was a pre-law
student, and I knew something about evidence. I decided to start with
the Bible. I was sure that if I could uncover indisputable evidence
that the Bible is an unreliable record, the whole of Christianity would
all this research you must study the Bible yourself - an accurate
translation - to determine what it is saying via the proper approach:
normative rules of language, context and logic. This is so because you
discover how "reliable" it is on some points which others have made
are not even in the Bible, but not get what it is
saying on all points because of being misinterpreted by yourself or
others. Finding out how consistent it is by reading it honestly and
properly is one thing, forcing it to be reliable with your own personal
interpretation or upon what others say such as saved by grace and not
by faith is heresy is another. So first things first to Josh McDowell
is for him to reread
Eph 2:8-9 and not try to force the words "thru" and "by" to be
contradictory. Other passages and the dictionary say differently. I say
to him to pay extra carefukl attention to context, corroborate other
that deal with the same context, then consult what
dictionaries say about the relative meanings of "by" and "thru"]
I took the challenge seriously. I spent months in research.
I even dropped out of school for a time to study in the historically
rich libraries of Europe. And I found evidence – evidence in abundance;
evidence I could hardly believe with my own eyes.
Finally I could come to only one
conclusion: If I were to remain intellectually honest, I had to admit
that the Old and New Testament documents were some of the most reliable
writings in all of antiquity. And if they were reliable, what about
this man Jesus, whom I had dismissed as a mere carpenter?
used Evidence That Demands A Verdict and appreciate its great valuse.
However that must just be the beginning. Personal study verse by verse,
topic by topic are absolutely essential. via proper use of the
normative rules of language, context and logic which seems to be absent
from Josh McDowell's testimony]
I had to admit that Jesus Christ was more than a carpenter. He was all He claimed to be.
here would be a strategic place to insert the Gospel - for without
that, there is nothing. I see it is absent from this entire article. So
you have left the reader with nothing!]
only did my research turn me around intellectually, it also answered
the three questions that started me on my quest for happiness and
You would think that after examining the
evidence, I would have immediately jumped on board and become a
words. This statement seems to imply that you believed in the evidence
that you uncovered which if it contains the gospel that Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, paid for the sins of the whole world so that whoever
believes in Him [and that alone because that's what this verse (Jn 3:16
and Eph 2;8-9 say) in the sense of having made provision for salvation unto eternal
life] should never perish but have everlasting life, then you already
have become a Christian. Looks like what you have uncovered is flawed -
that you've added that an individual must do something more or
My mind was convinced of the truth. I had to admit that
Jesus Christ must be exactly who He claimed to be. But in spite of the
abundant evidence, I felt a strong reluctance to make the plunge.
were two reasons for my reluctance: pleasure and pride. I thought that
becoming a Christian meant giving up the good life and giving up
[It does when and if you follow through on being faithful, not for salvation but for blessing and rewards in eternity]
I couldn’t think of any faster way to ruin my good times. I
was really miserable. I was a walking battlefield. My mind was telling
me that Christianity was true, but my will was resisting it with all
the energy it could muster.
your mind was telling you that Christianity was true and your idea of
what Christianity was biblical then you are saved because believing in
something is defined as an activity of the mind, a mental assent, a
mental agreement. NOTHING MORE. But I suspect that you demand something
more. Get out your dictionary and find out what the verb believe means.]
Then there was the pride problem. At
that time the thought of becoming a Christian shattered my ego. I had
just proved that all my previous thinking had been wrong and my friends
had been right. But I couldn’t let go of the problem. I had to do
something before it drove me out of my mind.
During my second year at the university, I became a Christian.
offer no information as to how you think you became a Christian. Start
with Jn 3:16. Did you believe Christ died for your sins - that's what
God gave His one and only Son means? If you did, then you have present
tense possession of eternal life from the moment you started to believe
that Christ died for your sins and that alone, nothing else like
ongoing faithfulness and belief]
asked me, “How do you know you became a Christian?” There are several
answers, but one was simple: “It changed my life.”
I haven't met anyone yet who is that discerning as to what is and what
is not evidence in a person's life that can be a reliable proof that
one is a Christian. Scripture indicates that no Christian can claim to
have not sinned or has no sin. I am not omniscient so I cannot read
another's thoughts or know of every moment in another's life to see if
one is acting godly. Assurance comes from knowing that one has believed
in Jesus Christ for salvation Jn 20:31; 1 Jn 5:9-13).]
It is this
transformation that assures me of the validity of my conversion.
much transformation is necessary for validating ones conversion. How
long after ones conversion will this transformation be self-evident and
evident to others to admire? Answer: Not in this life. It takes years
for anything to transpire in the Christian life that one may look back
on and think that it might reflect a Christian from an outward
momentary appearance; but others by nature who are unbelievers
certainly can be found on the planet that do even better. Get over
yourself, and get more or Who Jesus is. I don't see any indication that
you actually know Him as your complete and total Savior Who need
nothing contributory from you to be saved. The more you study Scripture
the more you find you need 1 Jn 1:9, because of 1 Jn 1:8, 10]
night I prayed four things to establish a relationship with the
resurrected, living Christ, and I am grateful that those prayers have
I am pretty sure you did not get saved that night. You don't pray to be
saved. You believe that Jesus died for your sins, Scripture says so .
Salvation is not by works like praying, but by / through faith, not of
yourselves but a gift from God through His grace not your prayers (Eph
2:8-9; Jn 3:16; et al.]
Somebody asked me, “How do you know you became a
Christian?” There are several answers, but one was simple: “It changed
buy it. If you never believed alone in Jesus Christ alone, you are not
saved and don't know that you are saved, (1 Jn 5:9-13; Jn 20:31)]
First, I said, “Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me.”
[Not acceptable. This is a work and salvation is not by works, Eph 2:8-9]
I said, “I confess those things in my life that aren’t pleasing to you
and ask you to forgive and cleanse me.” God tells us, “No matter how
deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean
as freshly fallen snow” (Isaiah 1:18, paraphrased).
acceptable. This is a work and salvation is not by works, Eph 2:8-9.
You don't ask God for forgiveness for eternal life, you believe in His
Son for that.
Isaiah 1:18 and 1 Jn 1:9 is for believers for
temporal forgiveness of sins and consequent temporal blessings in the
believer's temporal life. Wrong context.]
Third, I said:
“Right now, in the best way I know how, I open the door of my heart and
life and trust you as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life.
Change me from the inside out. Make me the type of person you created
me to be.”
[Wrong. Work cancels God's grace basis salvation unto eternal life.
Ro 11:6 NASB "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
The last thing I prayed was, “Thank you for coming into
my life by faith.”
cannot pray your way into salvation unto eternal life, that's works.
Thanking God for something you did in order to be saved won't get you
saved twice over. According to Scripture, God did NOT come into your
life resulting in salvation unto eternal life by praying or doing
anything proactive toward that salvation. Believing is not proactive by
the way, it is simply accepting as true in your mind - a mental assent
- that God's one and only Son was given in payment your the sins of the
whole world resulting in immediate and forever possession of eternal
life. You thanked God for nothing but continued condemnation]
It was faith based not on ignorance but on evidence,
the facts of history, and God’s Word.
is NO credible evidence, no facts of your personal history, that you
have been saved based on your behavior 24/7, nor evidence that you have read the Bible properly. Many people behave better
than you do and are also
unbelievers. Your boast that you have behaved worthy of being saved
alone tells me that. God's Word declares that your only credible basis
in this life that you are saved is stipulated in 1 Jn 5:9-13 and Jn
20:31: your recollection that you at sometime expressed a moment of
faith alone in Christ alone PLUS NOTHING ELSE - a single mental
assent of the truth in His propitiation for your sins and the sins of
the whole world for forgiveness unto eternal life .
The change was not immediate,
but it was real. Over eighteen months, my life was changed.
was real to you, but not to Scripture. Too
soon an amount of time anyway. For full evidence try after your mortal
life is over and see what your
resurrection body is like and resultant behavior will be evidence of
salvation. Right now no mortal is reflecting the glory of God except
the Lord Jesus Christ to Whom we are to look, not to our own means and
accomplishments. Read 1 Jn 1:1-10 - you walk in Christ's light not
according to it which is not possible in this mortal life. Confess sins
daily and be forgiven of temporal sins and purified from all
unrighteousness because you acknowledge your sins, not your
was relief from my restlessness. Another was a cooling of my bad temper.
know some people who are unbelievers that are already not restless and
are even tempered. Noticing our own personal change is a bit
subjective. I can get relief from my restlessness by getting good
night's sleep after taking melatonin. My bad temper is still there
under the control of my sin nature and but for the grace / through the
grace / by the grace of God it does go out of control too often - keep
busy studying God's Word and confessing my sins. You need to do the
same. There is little evidence that you have thoroughly studied God's
my faith in Christ has been a process, beginning with hard-nosed
research and growing into the experience of a changed life.
don't find faith through a process, you simply accept the testimony of God about His Son
as true - a mental assent with no accompanying works or mental efforts
/ committments / prayers, that eternal life is in His Son - you believe
in His Son for eternal life:
[Compare 1 John 5:9-13 NASB]:
Jn 5:9 NASB) "If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God
is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified
concerning His Son.
(1 Jn 5:10 NASB) The
one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the
one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not
believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son.
(1 Jn 5:11 NASB) And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
(1 Jn 5:12 NASB) He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
(1 Jn 5:13 NASB) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."
Thereafter you believe comes the time to study God's Word in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic ]
spite of the firmness of the facts and the authenticity of the
experience, Christianity is not something you can shove down anyone’s
throat. You can’t force Christ on anyone. You’ve got to live your life,
and I’ve got to live mine. All of us are free to make our own
decisions. All I can do is tell you what I’ve learned. After that, what
you do is up to you.
facts are neither firm nor authentic nor Scriptural relative to the
Nevertheless your work to corroborate the reliability of the Bible is
very helpful but incomplete because you haven't married it with an
adequate and proper study of the words of God's Word so as to honor the
specific words that the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors to write
down and confirm the gospel message. What's the point of reading a book
you think is reliable and misinterpret it and not get the gospel right
and remaining under God's eternal condemnation?]
Would you like to know God personally?"
got to know God personally over 60 years ago by believing what Jn 3:16
says and understanding that I immediately settled my eternity in heaven
at that moment through expressing a moment of faith alone in Christ
alone for dying for my sins / paying for them so I may be forgiven unto
eternal life. Thereafter by / through / as a result of / following,
et. al - they all mean the same thing - careful study of God's Word I
have come more and more to know God personally. Here's what I have
learned so far: biblestudymanuals.net. I pray that you do the same]