demanding conclusions

October 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm 7 comments


Shroud of Turin

In discussing what makes the bible special, Josh McDowell makes the claim that “although [the bible] was composed by men, its unity reveals the hand of the Almighty.” He writes about how the bible was composed across millennia, continents, and cultures by people of diverse backgrounds.

To make his point that this is a sign of the miraculous, he suggests this challenge:

“Find ten people from your local area having similar backgrounds, who speak the same language, and all are from basically the same culture. Then separate them and ask them to write their opinion on only one controversial subject, such as the meaning of life.”

When they have finished, compare the conclusions of these ten writers. Do they agree with each other? Of course not. But the Bible did not consist of merely ten authors, but forty. It was not written in one generation, but over a period of 1,500 years; not by authors with the same education, culture and language, but with vastly different education, many different cultures, from three continents and three different languages, and finally not just one subject but hundreds.”

I suggest this alternate scenario:

Find ten people who speak the same language and are all from basically the same culture. Ensure they all grew up in the same local church and assent to its basic creeds. Ask them to write their opinion on a particular controversial subject.

When you read these compositions, compare them to your own opinion about that subject. If a paper does not reflect your opinion, throw it in the trash. Then study the remaining documents . If you find any inconsistencies that can be changed with simple modifications to the text, go ahead and do so. Also feel free to make slight revisions for clarity if the writer’s opinion could potentially be construed as disagreeing with your belief.

Do they agree with each other? Of course they do! Do all four validate the initially held premise? Could it be said that the core message of the documents is unchanged despite any minor variations between the papers?

Now let’s see what McDowell concludes about the unity of the biblical texts:

“There is complete harmony, which cannot be explained by coincidence or collusion. The unity of the Bible is a strong argument in favor of its divine inspiration. The unity of the Scriptures is only one reason among many which supports the Bible’s claim to be the divine Word of God.”

McDowell is creating a false dilemma in claiming this type of unity for the bible. The only reason a skeptic would reject this view of biblical unity in the first place is because there are apologists making the claim. Is the evidence as strong as McDowell would make it out to be? And if the evidence is not that strong, should it be held onto so tightly as incontrovertible truth? Or can it be held to simply as humble faith, something a person believes while admitting the evidence for the belief is incomplete?

There are many Christians who view the bible as inspired and essential without accepting the assumptions that go into McDowell’s defense of scripture. The evidence he presents does not demand the verdict he wants it to, rather it is the apologist himself asserting the verdict while expecting people to accept his evidence at face value. People who find faith from the words of the bible should be working to get people to dig deeper than that, not to persuade them to accept evidence which has been tailored to fit the author’s initial assumptions.


Entry filed under: apologetics.

saving darwin are literary motifs true?

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike AKA MonolithTMA  |  October 28, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I used to love McDowell’s work, but now the holes seem so obvious I’m ashamed I didn’t see them before.

  • 2. Sabio Lantz  |  October 29, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Like Mike, in my Wheaton College days I bought into McDowell. Funny to read him now with a little more sophisticated mind. Funny how I look back on much I have thought.
    Ouch !
    But actually, I don’t mind, for most of the time, I had fun.

  • 3. tysdaddy  |  October 29, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Me and a group of guys I once hung with spent the better part of a summer going through “Evidence That Demands A Verdict.” At the time, we were so convinced by his arguments that we took to learning them verbatim, so we would be prepared “in and out of season” to give a defense of the gospel.

    This sort of evangelism is akin to the telemarketers who call up and have an answer for every objection. I wish more people had been willing to challenge those assumptions we dished out. But few do, which makes this approach work I guess.

  • 4. Sabio Lantz  |  October 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    @ tysdaddy — wow, that is intense — got to admire the intensity !

  • 5. The Rambling Taoist  |  October 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I think your explanation is spot on!!

  • 6. mmmarty  |  November 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Ahh wow Perfect timing for me to read this!!! I just got preached at today by an old church friend of mine. Sigh, biblical inerrancy fail.

    What a great post! I think you’ve definitely got a point.

  • 7. the chaplain  |  November 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    There is complete harmony

    That is hilarious. How can McDowell write or say something like that with a straight face?

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