My 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
When 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.

[Notice searching for good feeling about oneself is his answer to having the Christian 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.

[Wait 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.

They 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 came from.

[Now 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.
A 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?”

Without 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.”

Immediately 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 Christ.

[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 is not works oriented at all in order that one should be saved unto eternal life. On the other hand, the born again Christian better start doing 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.

[The primary 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 crumble.

[After 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 may discover how "reliable" it is on some points which others have made which 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 different or contradictory. Other passages and the dictionary say differently. I say to him to pay extra carefukl attention to context, corroborate other passages 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?

[Have 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.

[Right 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!]

Not only did my research turn me around intellectually, it also answered the three questions that started me on my quest for happiness and meaning.

Still Reluctant

You would think that after examining the evidence, I would have immediately jumped on board and become a Christian.

[Strange 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 different]

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.

There were two reasons for my reluctance: pleasure and pride. I thought that becoming a Christian meant giving up the good life and giving up control.

[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.

[If 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.

[You 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]

Somebody asked me, “How do you know you became a Christian?” There are several answers, but one was simple: “It changed my life.”

[Wrong. 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.

[How 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]

That night I prayed four things to establish a relationship with the resurrected, living Christ, and I am grateful that those prayers have been answered.

[Now 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 my life.”

[Don't 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]

Second, 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).

[Not 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.”

[You 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.

[There 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.

[It 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 your 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 faithfulness]

 One change was relief from my restlessness. Another was a cooling of my bad temper.

[I 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 Word]

Finding my faith in Christ has been a process, beginning with hard-nosed research and growing into the experience of a changed life.

[You 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]:

(1 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 ]

But in 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.

[The facts are neither firm nor authentic nor Scriptural relative to the Gospel. 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?"

[I 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: I pray that you do the same]