This book is updated and expanded from the classic 1979 printing by Josh McDowell and is a must for any Christian apologist. Including any Christian who is willing to research the foundations of their faith and investigate the truth claims of Christianity should have this on their shelf. Any Christian who, even on rare occasions has conversations with unbelievers and wants to research what may have been said by the skeptic. Any Christian who wants to bolster their own faith, shore up areas of doubt or uncertainty. Finally, any Christian who has children at home from two’s to teens and want to provide answers to questions they may have, this book is a must-have.
It’s not a book that you would just sit down and start reading cover to cover, but if you enjoy reading in the apologetic circles then you will find an overwhelming plethora of material that will encourage, sustain, and solidify your faith.
This past month the men in our Sunday morning men’s group wrestled over some tough questions or claims about our faith. Each Sunday morning I would present two new questions, (in a sealed envelope to add some fun) and I would have the men pair off, each taking a turn in reading one of the two questions to his companion. Some laughter and teasing between the men took place, but everyone was engaged and discussing the questions.
I chose one question that was addressed directly in Evidence That Demands a Verdict and I will share it with you. One of the claims I shared in our Sunday morning group was ‘Christianity is simply a copycat religion from the Egyptian god Horus, and Jesus was never a real individual.’ For example, Jesus was…
- Born on Dec 25th of the Virgin Isis Meri.
- His birth was accompanied by a star in the east.
- Which in turn, three kings followed to locate and adore the new born savior.
- At the age of 12 he was a prodigal child teacher.
- At the age of 30 he was baptized by a figure known as Anup, and thus began his ministry.
- Horus had 12 disciples he traveled about with performing miracles, such as healing the sick and walking on water.
I addressed each of those claims in a previous post but wanted to share how Josh McDowell and his son Sean McDowell tackled this claim.
The ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, Iran) was the birthplace of numerous ‘mystery ‘religions and cults. Many of them were in practice during the rise of Christianity so to ask the question if Christianity is just a copycat of some of these ancient myths is understandable.
It was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that the claim of Christianity plagiarizing ancient middle east religions took hold and entered academia.
In 1890 James Fraser published The Golden Bough which was a study of these ancient middle east religions, in particular, their agricultural cycle with gods who would die and be reborn in each new year harvest. McDowell wrote, “Fraser’s book raised an outcry, for it included Christianity among the dyeing-and-rising-god religions…The publication dates reflect the new century’s confidence (in concert with Fraser) that science would eclipse religion, providing wonderful new inventions for comfort and mobility and entertainment.”1
For many in the early 1900’s Christianity just became a copycat religion and this was popularized by many of the artists, writers, and thinkers of that day. T.S. Eliot wrote a popular poem titled The Waste Land which included Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian ‘tails’.
McDowell goes on to point out three traits of these ancient religions. Many of these ancient religions were based on the yearly cycle of time. Life would renew each spring and die in the fall. McDowell writes, “The mystery deities were tightly bound up in and correlated to the annual vegetation cycle, so this was a repetitive, yearly process.”2 Secondly, they often had secret ceremonies, “Both the rites they participated in and the knowledge they passed to their initiates were closely guarded accessible only to those who were accepted into the group.”3 Finally, quoting Ronald Nash he points out many of those religions did not emphasize truth or intellect. Rather the eyes, ears, and emotions. “The immediate goal of the initiates was a mystical experience that led them to feel that they had achieved union with their god.”4
These observations are then contrasted with Christianity. None of these ancient religions had their foundation rooted in history. McDowell writes, “In contrast, Jesus is depicted in the Bible as a real historical person. The gospel accounts contain many anchors that hold in place, so to speak, vessels full of evidential treasures for anyone to examine, especially for those who wonder about the truth of Christianity.”5 He went on to point out several biblical passages that give evidence for this. Luke 3:1-3 is just one of many passages that dare you to investigate the claims yourself.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (NIV) Luke is dating events, giving you names and locations to check the facts for yourself. The New Testament is full of accounts that allow for that kind of historical fact-checking.
Christians were public about their faith. The practices they adopted were not held in secret. McDowell does point out that some actions such as prayers and baptism may have been more for insiders or the body of believers, outsiders were not excluded from such practices. The apostles were threatened, put in prison, and at times executed for their public proclamations of Christ which is encouraged in scripture. Matthew 10:32-33 is just one example.
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
McDowell also points out that Christianity was never intended to be a religion just raw emotion, but includes teaching, believing, and proclaiming which is backed up by evidence. Peter made this quite clear in Acts 2. The Apostle stood up and addressed the large crowd. He explained they were not drunk, quoted the prophet Joel concerning the events of that day and the life of Jesus, pointed to the evidence in the miracles, wonders, and signs that Jesus performed and said they themselves know of, not just hearsay or stories passed down. He was not just telling them tales, but reminding them of what they have heard and seen themselves. He boldly proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead and reminded them of the promise God gave David that one of his descendants on the throne.
Did Peter then say, “Israel, take a leap of faith…!” or “Israel, take a blind step in your faith…!”? Absolutely not! Peter said,
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. (NIV)
This bold, no holds barred proclamation that was supported by eyewitness and overwhelming evidence added about 3000 to their numbers that day. Billy Graham would have been impressed!
Finally, McDowell shares an account by author Humphrey Carpenter in his book The Inklings where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Hugo Dyson were discussing myths. Lewis who was not a Christian at the time felt myths were lies but necessary in cultures, language, and literature, but they should not be believed. Tolkien countered that myths which may be lies often reflect our Creator and His purpose in our lives. This conversation led to a discussion on Christianity, sacrifice, the Lamb and how some of these ancient religions reflect some of His eternal truths.6 Later Lewis shared that his conversation that night led him to a belief in Christ.
Sometime later C.S. Lewis wrote, “We should, therefore, expect to find in the imagination of the great Pagan teachers and myth makers some glimpse of that theme which we believe to be the very plot of the whole cosmic story-the theme of incarnation, death, and rebirth…The Christian story is about a historical personage, whose execution can be dated pretty accurately, under a Roman magistrate, and with whom the society that He founded is in a continuous relation down to the present day. It is not the difference between falsehood and truth. It is the difference between a real event on the one hand and dim dreams or premonitions of that same event on the other.”7
McDowell concludes, “The resurrection of Jesus, as we have seen, was a unique event in world history. There is no compelling reason to think the first Christians borrowed concepts from the mystery religions to concoct the Christian faith.8
If you are a Christian who will bother to look up answers to questions you may have, or questions you were asked by skeptics then this book is a must-have. The thirty-two chapters cover Evidence for the Bible, Evidence for Jesus, Evidence for the Old Testament, and finally Evidence for Truth.
A book review – Evidence That Demands A Verdict by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pgs 304-305
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pgs 305-306.
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pg 306
- Nash, Ronald H. The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? P&R Publishing, 2003, pg 114
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pg 307
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pgs 314-315
- Lewis, C.S. “Is Theology Poetry?” The Weight of Glory edited by Walter Hooper, HarperOne, 1980, pgs116-140
- McDowell, Josh. McDowell, Sean. “Is Christianity A Copycat Religion?” Evidence That Demands A Verdict Thomas Nelson, 2017, pg 314