The faith of most Christians, even that of many pastors, will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, according to renowned apologist Josh McDowell.
This is a concern because pastors’ inability to present biblical truth comprehensibly and relevantly has led to children from Christian families leaving the church, research has shown.
In the United States, the age at which nearly all such children leave church has decreased to 18 years.
Not even the children of many successful ministers are spared.
McDowell made his comments at a recent networking dinner among various men’s ministries organized recently by Men-in-Covenant. MiC is the men’s ministry of Covenant Evangelical Free Church.
He recalled speaking with the pastor of one of the largest U.S. churches, a man known for his expository preaching. Confiding in him, the pastor said their church was losing its youth right after high school graduation.
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, biblically-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.
“If anything is based upon truth, it’s the Christian faith,” he said. “Christians who do not know why they have faith or believe have a very difficult time expressing themselves to others.
“The saddest thing is people come to me and say, ‘What’s the answer?’”
“I say, ‘There’s no answer… There are hundreds of answers.’”
Most Christians, even some pastors, don’t even know one. On the other hand, the apologist said he could give 50 reasons for his belief that the Bible is true.
Ninety-five percent of Christians gave disappointing responses when asked why they believe Jesus is the Son of God.
Asked why the Bible is true and historically reliable, Christians replied that it was what they had been taught by their church or parents.
A common response that most Christians gave to both questions was that it is “what I believe.”
McDowell responded: “That’s voodoo thinking. Where did we ever get that crazy idea that something is true just because we believe it?
“If that is true, then there will never be heresy. Everybody would be right.”
On one occasion, 13 youth pastors at a large convention were unable to reasonably answer the apologist’s question.
Finally one young person stood up, walked toward him and told him he knew the answer.
The young man promptly held up his Bible and said, “Because I believe it.”
And to McDowell’s dismay, all the youth pastors applauded him.
McDowell said, “Young man, do you know the difference between you, me and the majority of Christians in the world?
“To you, it is true because you believe it. For me, I believe it because it is true.”
Another response the apologist received was: Because I have faith.
He commented, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that faith makes something true? That’s idiotic. That’s so unbiblical you can call it heresy.
“God doesn’t use faith to create truth. He uses truth through the Holy Spirit to create faith.”
Christians, the apologist stressed, are called to explain their faith when asked. They are set free by the faith in the truth, he expressed, referring to John 8:32.
Yet others say Christianity is true because Jesus changed their lives.
Even this will not stand up to intellectual scrutiny, McDowell argued.
“Lies change lives; cults change lives,” he said.
To make such an appeal is “not the essence of Christianity,” the author emphasized.
McDowell said: “We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our neighbors, we owe it to the lost, to tell them not just what we believe but why do we believe it.”