In this episode, Kurt talks with Dr. Sean McDowell, co-author and editor of the newly revised and expanded edition of his father’s apologetic classic work.
Listen to “Episode 76: Evidence that Demands a Verdict” on Spreaker.
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and I hope that through this holiday season and advent season, that you’ve been able to afford yourself a little bit of margin in your life to think and reflect upon the incarnation and what it means to have Immanuel, God with us. I hope that you’ve had that chance, and if not, it’s not too late to think about what all of that means, and the ideas and the values that flow from understanding that deep truth during this season. I know that for some people, they might be skeptical of that truth, that Jesus really was God with us in the flesh here on Earth and who remains, of course, to be that divine figure for us. Perhaps during this holiday time you have an opportunity to meet with a loved one and to share the gospel with them, to present that true reality that what the Scripture talks about reflects what we see in the world and I hope and pray that as you have these sorts of conversations with people, that you can do so in a loving, respectful, and gentle way, a winsome way if you will. If we want to be winsome to others, we have to be appealing to them, of course, without forsaking or neglecting the morals and values that we hold dear to us, but the apostle Paul talked about being all things to all people so that I might win some, and we should strive to do the same and being prepared to defend the faith is one of the ways to do that, so I hope that this program has been so beneficial for you over the past year and a half and that it will continue to do so as we bring you a variety of episodes, a variety of topics to you, areas all touching upon the Christian worldview in some way or another.
Before we get into today’s interview with Dr. Sean McDowell, I want to give you an update on the program, the podcast program, hopefully a future radio program. Part of our long-term goal has been to make this podcast program into a radio ministry, and unexpectedly an opportunity has been presented to me, there’s been a chance to get Veracity Hill on the radio here in Chicago on WYLL AM 1160, which is a very well-known Christian radio station owned by the Salem radio network which is the largest radio network in the country. Up until this point, we’ve been raising funds to produce the podcast and this past autumn season, we’ve raised the funds to be able to afford and show our gratitude to Chris, our technical producer, and to have a formal advertising budget, and even to increase my pay a little bit, because of a hiring our organization did our past summer to play a little catch-up there. Nevertheless, it wasn’t exactly on my radar, but an opportunity has presented itself and the cost to get Veracity Hill on the radio is $200 a week. In different conversations I’ve had over the past two weeks really, 75% of that support has already found its way to Veracity Hill. 75% has been pledged, so $150 per week has already been pledged, so we basically need to raise another $200 a month, $50 per week, so if you would like to get Veracity Hill on the radio here in Chicagoland on a station that also reaches up into Milwaukee, the Milwaukee metro area, we would love to get your support to make this happen and to really give a jumpstart to making Veracity Hill a radio ministry. Some great opportunities that might find themselves there through that ministry to people. The current time slot we’re looking at is Saturday mornings at 8 A.M. so we would love to get your support to get Veracity Hill on the radio and if you’ve got any questions about how you can help out, you can just send me an email, Kurt@veracityhill.com. You can use our contact form at the website. You can even send us a Facebook message if you are curious to help out and to bring this podcast into a growing radio ministry, so I’m very thankful for the support that you’ve given over the last year and a half and if you’d like to make any year-end donations, I do want to be noted that Defenders Media, the organization that oversees Veracity Hill, has a $12,000 matching grant opportunity right now, so any money that you give right now will be doubled up to $12,000, so we’d love to get your support.
That’s the big news coming to you here at the end of the year, 2017, I think 2018 is very much looking up and we’ve got some other things coming your way, a special announcement soon, possibly already being made over at Defenders Media regarding an individual that’s going to be moving to West Chicago and working for us who’s going to be doing some fundraising, so very much looking forward to how this individual will help with the podcast as well, and so I think 2018’s going to be a great year for our ministry and I want to thank you for your support in this endeavor.
With that said, I want to get into our interview today. We’re going to be talking to Dr. Sean McDowell about his book Evidence That Demands A Verdict. He teaches at BIOLA University, my Alma Mater, and so I’m very pleased to be joined with him on the program today. Sean. Thanks so much for joining us on the show today. We are going to be talking about your recent publication this fall, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, and for those unfamiliar with that book and its rich history, please tell me more about its origin and what got you interested in putting forth an updated and revised edition.
Sean: Sure, Kurt. Thanks for having me and more importantly, for wearing a BIOLA sweatshirt. You’re looking good if people on the podcast can’t see it.
Kurt: Thanks. The red goes with the Christmas spirit as well.
Sean: Well planned out. So Evidence That Demands A Verdict is a book that came out of my father’s research going back to the 50’s where he set out to disprove Christianity and show that it was false. You hear about a lot of people doing that today because the information is available on the internet, but this was a time where he actually as a college student had a business he sold, made enough money to travel to Europe, to the Middle East, to go to universities, to go to libraries, and see some resources and books and manuscripts that you could only see there actually trying to disprove Christianity. That was his point and he wanted to make a lot of money doing it. Clearly wasn’t a Christian at that point. Well, to make a long story short, the evidence really got his attention and then when he understood the gospel, the love of God, he ended up becoming a believer. Fast forward in his ministry, he started speaking on this really in the 60’s when nobody else was talking about evidence for the faith and everywhere he went he told me, he goes, “Son. People were asking me for my notes, so I thought I’ll just print them out and I’ll just sell them for a dollar,” and they sold out like gangbusters and he thought, “I’ve got something here. I’m going to make a book.” The irony is nobody wanted, none of the publishers wanted the book. Now 4 million…[NP1] I’m sure they’re all shooting themselves because Evidence is unique in having long quotes and context and it really documents the evidence. Wrote it first in ’72, updated a bunch of times. The last update was 1999 and that’s almost two decades, so my father and I started speaking recently, he invited me to join him as a co-author, really head up this team that would update the book and so all I can say is that it’s such a privilege because World magazine called it one of the top 100 books of the century and everywhere I go, I hear one of two things. Even this morning I was meeting with a bunch of lawyers and university presidents and two of them came up said to me “That book Evidence, when I was doubting my faith or I was a skeptic it helped bring me to the faith,” so it’s really humbling to be a part of this project.
Kurt: I know for at least my experience, I’m 30 years old and I grew up in high school is when I got interested in apologetics and a lot of people said, “Have you read Josh McDowell’s book?” and for me, I hadn’t, and it was, I think because your father’s book was so integral for many people’s faith, but it was of a different generation and so it didn’t, for me I was reading Ravi Zacharias, I was reading Paul Copan, and it didn’t quite fit. You don’t read books whose covers are thirty years old, they’re not hip, they’re not cool. Was that some of your thinking into updating and revising, bringing forth this edition?
Sean: Yes. A little context is, Greg Koukl, well-known apologist with Stand To Reason, I know you’re familiar with him. He did an article awhile ago talking about the movement in apologetics ad he said when you go back to the sixties and seventies, there’s Francis Schaeffer and Norm Geisler, Warwick Montgomery, and basically my Dad, not many people were doing it. Then the second wave of people you mentioned, Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl would be that, Frank Beckwith, and now there’s a ton of people doing apologetics on the ground. This is really a book. I interviewed Mike Licona and he said this is the first apologetics book that I ever asked my parents for. William Lane Craig said it was the first apologetics book that got his interest in the historical Jesus studies, now he’s one of the world’s experts on the resurrection, so it has been around for a long time shaping all these thinkers that have shaped me and have shaped you, so part of it was let’s take this brand that has been so influential and let’s relaunch it, a cooler cover that’s more attractive, clearly changed the content, put my name, there it is. You’ve got it. There’s a lot of thought that went into that cover with my name on it bringing a new generation that hopefully will relaunch it and the last thing I’ll say is before I throw it back is, here’s one of the reasons we did this. When it was first written, the information was not available. It was a lack of information. Now there’s an abundance of information so who cares about a book like Evidence when the information’s out there? Well, two things. #1. I think in our age where everybody has endless information, trust is one of the most important commodities. You’re wearing a BIOLA sweatshirt. That carries a sense of trust with it, an identity, it’s been around a long time. Evidence is the same way. There’s a trust of somebody who’s been doing this for five decades and brings a quality you can trust and then, second, there’s so much work to it we just flat out save people the time.
Kurt: Right. I’m glad you brought that up. For our viewers watching the video here, it’s a big book, especially the revised edition. It was a bigger book before, but it’s now an even bigger book. This might appear daunting to some people so why should they be willing to get a big volume like this? Is it because that brand, because of the notoriety?
Sean: I would say a few things. #1, and to be honest, it’s going to sound, it’s going to sound like name dropping, but it’s not my point. Let me just make an example. The former Dallas Cowboys coach, Tom Landry, he was a Christian, and my dad met him years ago doing a chapel and he was having a conversation, realized that Tom Landry understood a lot about apologetics, what he said he goes, “Every night before bed, fifteen minutes, even the night before the Super Bowl, I read my Bible and I would break out and I would read Evidence and over a couple of years it took me to get through this whole thing, but just fifteen minutes a day as a discipline really built in his mind and his life a profound sense of confidence to articulate and share his faith.” You don’t have to be a scholar to work through this. Yes, it’s big, but we are taking the scholarly work, sorry, fighting that cold, we are taking the scholarly work and making it accessible to the non-specialist. You don’t have to be an expert to go through and understand this book.
Kurt: That was going to be my next question. Big books like this, typically they’re geared towards economics, but you guys have tailor-made the material to be understood in short bits, short articles, sometimes not even articles, just a page or two devoted to some area that gives you that quick and yet scholarly answer to that question that someone might be asking.
Sean: Essentially this book, a lot of people get it to just to have on their shelf as a resource book. When a tough question comes out, they have an answer that they can trust. I hope you don’t just do that. I mean a surprising number of people, I’m telling you Kurt, who read the whole thing multiple times, people tell me that all the time, but even just minimally to have it as a resource, and kids in school read something online, a question comes up in church, you can bring it out. You can go “Wait a minute. Let’s go back to the scholarly source.” Just to have that honestly, does give a lot of people a sense of comfort and value in their life from that perspective.
Kurt: When I’m trying to google some question, you get a lot of those good apologetic internet ministries like GotQuestions or you’ve got CARM, but nevertheless, they don’t necessarily provide that academic expert perspective from someone who’s spent years studying these issues and so to have that confidence built into the resource, I think is a huge asset.
Sean: I can just tell you, we very very carefully checked the resources and the quotes. I worked with a team of twelve world-class scholars, people like Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Mike Licona, and about three dozen grad students and one thing I told the students is every single quote, I want you to check it three, four, five times. We absolutely have to get this right. Check the source multiple times. We had so many editors go through it. Blogging the internet’s going to have some value, but let’s face it, there’s a lot of fake news intentionally and unintentionally and just mistakes that go into a blog that don’t happen in a careful researched book of this caliber.
Kurt: I know working on my doctoral dissertation right now, just got over a year ago, I know the quote checking is going to be, after I finish the rough draft, what’s one of the next things you do, you make sure every citation you’ve made is accurate. I know how laborious that process is.
Sean: Yeah. It’s absolutely critical and especially the thing that hit me is so many people rely upon evidence as a trusted source. In fact, some famous quotes in there when I would google them, what would come up is the page in Evidence itself, not the original itself. I thought, “Oh my goodness. People are really trusting this source. Let’s get it back. Let’s go back. Double, triple, check. It’s already in its fourth printing six weeks in, which is amazing, and we found sixteen small changes, like take the word “at” out, change this one small name, and I mention that in a book of 800 pages, we are still finding the smallest little things and making sure that we get it right, because it’s important.
Kurt: Unlike the ancient Jewish rabbis, we don’t necessarily care to make sure every jot and tittle is…[NP2] that’s the perk of the printing press. You can bring forth these multiple editions and have those things corrected so that’s a good aspect to it. Alright. So, we talked about how this is a revised edition here, so what sort of content has been updated. Give us some examples. I imagine your father dealt with apologetic issues forty years ago that aren’t necessarily as popular. What might some of those examples be?
Sean: Yeah. Thanks for asking that question. We essentially did a few things. Number one is we took out dated material that just has become not as relevant for today. For example, in the Old Testament in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, some of the big questions are what’s called the Documentary Hypothesis. Almost the entire Old Testament section was committed to that, now it’s one chapter. We took out some of the dated material and then second thing we do is we add new material based on the questions people are asking. We went back and looked at the evidence for the historical Adam, the evidence for the patriarchs, evidence for the Exodus.
Kurt: That’s a big one.
Sean: All the way through the Old Testament, so that’s new material that we added. The third thing is we actually spent a lot of time researching online the most common objections raised against, say, the resurrection, deity of Christ, and in particular Evidence That Demands A Verdict. There’s web sites dedicated to debunking this book so we went through those and we took the ones that we thought were the most popular, common, and probably hardest ones to answer and we addressed those in the book itself, and then we just add some completely fresh questions that didn’t exist twenty years ago. Things like, the idea that Christianity has pagan, mythical roots and is borrowed from these ancient deities. We have an appendix committed to responding to some of the big objections of Bart Ehrman. We’ve built up the section on the existence of Jesus itself. That wasn’t much of a question two decades ago and now it’s big. Took out old stuff, added new things, respond to objections, and I would guess we did our best to estimate probably about 70% new material in this updated book.
Kurt: Wow. That’s impressive. You talked about a section on the existence of Jesus. Why do you think that’s become such an important and hot issue in our society today?
Sean: I would say the main reason is because of the internet. People have a voice to proclaim scholarly rejected ideas that sound compelling to the non-trained mind, through the internet or through movies like or books like The Da Vinci Code, through Bill Maher’s movie Religulous, ideas that have virtually no historical merit, but are for some reason appealing to the non-expert mind. I actually in college, I grew up, it’s kind of funny to look back. I thought someone wasn’t a Christian because they hadn’t read More Than A Carpenter or Evidence That Demands A Verdict. How hard is it? Here’s the evidence. Just believe. And then in college, even though I went to BIOLA, I started meeting people in my larger circles through playing basketballs or online, whatever, who had very different worldviews and I became unsettled and read a lot of these blogs committed, in fact, I didn’t even know this Kurt, a lot of the skeptical secular web began, responding to Evidence That Demands A Verdict. That’s how it started.
Kurt: That’s fascinating.
Sean: It really caught me by surprise and I remember reading this idea that Jesus is this pagan mythical god and there’s other gods born on December 25 who were virgin born and twelve disciples, worked miracles, resurrected. I read that and was like, “Oh my gosh. Is this true? Did Jesus not exist?” Now I look back, and especially this chapter, partly because that rocked my faith at my time. I was like, “This is going to be the single best chapter anywhere responding to this,” and I know I’m biased, but I think it is, but that’s why issues like this have become so popular. People are being exposed to this that never were before, that they’re just not trained in critical thinking and apologetics so it throws them for a loop.
Kurt: I’m glad you brought that up cause that’s something I’ve faced here in the western suburbs of Chicago. What would you say are some reasons why apologetics is important for today?
Sean: In the introduction to the book, we do two things. We list out, well a few things, number one, what apologetics is. Number two, we take the ten biggest objections people have and try to respond to them. Number three, we explain why apologetics is important. Then number four is say why apologetics has a bad name. This is an entirely new introduction that people are now questioning the role of apologetics, theologically, philosophically, in ways they didn’t as much in the past so we thought we gotta clear this before we even get to the evidence itself. As far as to answer your question, why is apologetics important, number one because the Bible commands it. That’s a simple answer. It’s not a spiritual gift. It’s not like you have in 1 Corinthians 12, you hear about, teaching, evangelism, and apologist. Some people are more inclined to it than others like you and me, but everyone is called to be an apologist. C.S. Lewis said the question’s not whether or not you’re an apologist. It’s how good of an apologist are you. The Scripture’s filled with commands to be ready with an answer. Second, I found that apologetics gives people confidence. It’s true for students. I take students on trips to places like Berkeley, to bring in atheists. We take trips to Salt Lake City to interact with friends from the LDS Church and when I came back, some of my students text me on a Saturday. They’re like “Hey McDowell. How do you answer this question?” I’m like, “Okay. Why are you asking me this?” “Well, we came back from the trip and we invited some Mormon missionaries over. We want to talk to them.” How many high school kids are doing that and the answer is not many. They were trained in apologetics so it gave them confidence to have conversations with others and to share their faith. Third I would say, apologetics is important because people have real questions today. People do. Often times these questions about is Christianity a white man’s religion? Why does God allow evil? What about Hell? Genocide in the Old Testament? How can Jesus be the only way? LGBT questions. Whatever it may be. People have these questions that are like barriers in front of them understanding the gospel. Apologetics is just a ministry of clearing away these obstacles so people can see Jesus for who He is.
Kurt: And these questions people might have, it’s not just even non-Christians. There might be Christians that are dealing with these questions.
Sean: Apologetics is just a ministry of clearing away these obstacles so people can see Jesus for who He is.
Kurt: And these questions that people might have, it’s not just even non-Christians. There might be Christians that are dealing with these questions. In order to help them remain in the faith, they want to have these resources available to them.
Sean: Interestingly enough since you mentioned that, my Dad first wrote Evidence not for skeptics. He wrote More Than A Carpenter as an evangelistic tool. Evidence was first for believers to build up their faith so they’re ready with an answer when they conversations with non-believers. A ton of skeptics and non-believers have read it and I’ve lost track of the number of people who said God used this book as a part of their journey to bring them to faith, but it was first written like you said for Christians and so is this update.
Kurt: Nice. So what’s been the reception as far as you’ve perceived from the new publication?
Sean: It’s been out six weeks and I imagine there’s a lot of people still reading it. It’s going to take them some time, so I think on an Amazon in the first few weeks we had about eighty reviews and it was at five stars which is great, but I’m pretty confident those are our friends that like it going into it.
Kurt: Just wait till the Skeptics Annotated Bible gets a hold of it.
Sean: That’s fine, nevertheless, even people on our side, if it wasn’t good, I trust they would have written an honest review and rated it lower so the reception is positive. There’s been a number of people who have reviewed their blogs I found online or they sent it to me, very positive. Sales. Actually, we already sold more in the first six or eight weeks than the publisher projected in the entire year.
Sean: To me, that’s like, Wow, it’s hit a nerve. People value it. It’s important. It’s timely. There’s criticism that’s going online, but I want skeptics to read it. I want them to push back. I want them to challenge it. That’s a part of it, and then we’ll respond again, either on our blogs or in the next version.
Kurt: I’m glad you brought up the next version. I don’t know if any other viewers have asked you this question. Of course, you’re fresh off of what this is. Are you already thinking about what you would add into the next edition and if so, what topics?
Sean: You know what? There’s a very little that I would say I would add because some of what we take away and add only happens over time, over the next decade, decade and a half, when new archaeological finds come out, when new manuscripts are discovered, when there’s new lines of argument either for or against that we address, so some of this, and it’s also where culture changes to and what questions we have to address, so fortunately, there’s not any big things that I would change this quickly out. I feel pretty good about it, but I’m anxious to see. I want skeptics to write their reviews and their critiques and challenge the ideas. We live in a conversational culture, and I love people, and they’re grown right now, I expect more over the next few weeks, to write their thoughts, bring it on in a good way. Let’s have some conversation.
Kurt: Who knows? Maybe in twenty or thirty years, there might be new issues that the culture’s dealing with that would be relevant to respond to.
Sean: The thing that I’ll add that it’s important for people to realize. There’s different kinds of apologetics and worldview books. Some are in response to the issues of the day. Right now you see people, I know two books coming out by Nancy Pearcey and Ryan Anderson in the next month and a half on the issue of transgender ideology, because that’s hot right now. Those books are important. Evidence is not that book. Evidence is essentially about the reliability of Scriptures, deity of Christ, and the resurrection. Whether or not culture is focused particularly on those questions, those are vital questions Christians of any age have to understand and be able to defend.
Kurt: So there’s a specific target market here. There’s a specific purpose. It’s not necessarily your general end-all be-all book, but that’s not its goal. The goal is to just train Christians in those core beliefs to be ready to answer those objections. You brought up manuscript evidence and from what I’ve read online and such, your father, I don’t know if you have been interested in research of manuscripts. Could you tell us a little bit about that and sort of those sorts of adventures that maybe you guys have gone on?
Sean: So this is probably my Dad’s favorite chapter, chapter three, because a lot of what originally brought him to Christ was obviously through the Holy Spirit, through the church, but what brought him to Christ was seeing some of these early manuscripts, understanding how the Biblical books, in particular, the New Testament, was copied down, and how it was preserved over time. I asked him recently, I said, “You started researching this in the fifties. You wrote Evidence in 72. Now into the 21st century, 2017, almost 2018, how would you compare the evidence now to when you first wrote this?” My Dad’s not one for understatements. If you know him personally, he’s excited about everything he does and the word he used, he said there’s a tsunami of evidence. The amount of manuscripts we’ve uncovered in all sorts of languages, including Greek, the archaeological finds, the new arguments that have been mustered for the reliability of Scriptures, he says I was convinced in the 70’s. Now there’s a tsunami of evidence that’s so much stronger, now the objections are more sophisticated, of course, as we would expect, but for him to use that word and have that perspective that neither you or I have I think is pretty powerful. We actually went through in that chapter on the manuscripts and now have the most up-to-date careful manuscript count comparing the New Testament in all of its different languages with other books like Plato and Herodotus and Thucydides and can I tell you, that took an enormous amount of work to contact these scholars, to follow up, to really check because people have been quoting Evidence for the past two decades so now we have an update. In many ways that book is worth just the price, that chapter’s worth the price of the whole book, because it gives the most up-to-date argument for and manuscript accounts showing that the New Testament just stands in a category of its own compared to any other ancient book.
Kurt: I know online I had seen in, I think it was a Facebook group, the Christian Apologetics Alliance, in the past people have asked, are those numbers updated, cause whether they’ve worked with Clay Jones or Mike Licona, they’ve written papers on the transmission of the text. It’s definitely great to have the most up-to-date numbers in that field on the manuscript evidence, what’s the best evidence that we’ve got, so that’s definitely a wonderful thing. Alright. Sean. Before we let you go here, I want you to pitch to me, people, long-time listeners know that I’ve already got my M.A. in apologetics, but tell me why do you love teaching at BIOLA University in the Christian apologetics department?
Sean: Oh my goodness. It’s a dream come true for me. I would say probably seven or eight years ago I said to my Dad, I said, “I’m thinking about getting a Ph.D. and maybe teaching at the higher level.” I did high school for ten years and I still do it part time. He said, “Why don’t you contact the folks at BIOLA and tell them you want to teach.” My first thought was “Why would they want me? That’s like the dream place for apologetics.” That was my first thought. Fortunately, by God’s grace and opportunities, I have a chance to teach there. I pinch myself every day and I’m grateful because there’s not a lot of apologetics positions out there.
Kurt; You don’t say.
Sean: As you well know, and our students, you graduated before I was there, but our students come hungry and eager. They want to learn. They want to apply it. They want to make a difference. They are, and I love our team, Craig Hazen, my boss. He’s flexible. He gives us appropriate boundaries and just says go for it. It enables me. As soon as we’re done I’m going to coach my son’s junior high basketball game against his rival this afternoon, so I got my teacher’s stuff done this morning, going to coach over there. I don’t know if it sounds like I’m bragging, but you asked why I love it, and I love it and I don’t plan on going anywhere else.
Kurt: Great job. Nice. You brought up your Ph.D. work and I think this is something that has interested some people. You wrote your doctoral dissertation on the evidence for the martyrdom of the disciples. Is that right?
Sean: Yes. That’s right.
Kurt: Tell me, why did you get interested in that? Is it because there’s sort of this legendary material out there that all of the disciples were martyred and so what got you interested and then what did you find through your years of studying that?
Sean: Yeah. I’d always heard the argument and my dad was one of the people, Lee Strobel and others, who popularized the idea that the apostles dying and their willingness is one piece of the argument for the resurrection. It’s always made sense to me. Fast forward to about 2010 it must have been, maybe 2011. I was in my doctoral program and I was going to write on theistic evolution, and I began to realize, man there’s science and philosophy and theology, this is too much for one person. I was looking for a topic and I had a group of students with me bringing in some atheists to speak up at Berkeley, and a friend of mine who’s a mythicist was arguing of course that Jesus didn’t exist, and one of my students goes, “If He didn’t exist, why did all the apostles die as a martyr?” and he looks at him and goes, “Give me evidence that any of them died. That’s a myth!” The students look at me like I’m supposed to have the answer. I don’t know the answer. I could point you to More Than A Carpenter which is fine on a popular level, but I started thinking “I’m going to have to do better than this. How do we actually know?” J. Warner Wallace, the apologist, was there. I said to him “You think this is a good doctoral dissertation?” He said, “Not only is it a good doctoral dissertation. I just bought two boxes of books and was going to read all of them myself. You can have the books for free.” I was like…[NP3] The timing was awesome and also on a topic that I could make a genuine contribution to the field of apologetics. It would actually help people out, something I could publish, and it interested me. I spent three-four years in total, researching, writing this thing, and essentially I would say here’s what we know. We know all the apostles believed because they had seen the risen Jesus. They were eyewitnesses or claimed to be eyewitnesses that Jesus rose from the grave. Second, we know they were all willing to suffer and die for this belief. Just read the beginning of Acts, chapters four and five. They’re persecuted. They’re beaten. They’re thrown in prison. They’re threatened. We also know that some of them we have good reason to believe historically, some of them died as martyrs. I would say Peter and Paul and both James and it’s possible, maybe more than possible, for Thomas and Andrew, and there’s no record that any of them recanted, so they didn’t make this up. They’re not lying. Liars make poor martyrs. This doesn’t show in itself the resurrection is true. It just shows that the apostles really believed it and they were sincere. They’re not lying. It’s not a conspiracy theory I think this overturns. That book is, apologies to your listeners, it’s an academic book with Rutledge and it’s 300 and some pages, but it’s like $120. What I did is I actually, I require for my class because I want them to work through it, but I actually took and added a chapter, this is one of the new things in updated Evidence that wasn’t in the other one, I added maybe 12 pages what’s the core evidence….
Sean: So someone who wants to investigate it themselves, that chapter’s there, and that’s really fresh material you won’t find anywhere else.
Kurt: So your conclusion was humbly that we don’t have enough solid evidence to think all of the twelve disciples were martyred, nevertheless, we have pretty darn good evidence, historically speaking, for some of them, and even still in terms of the apologetic purpose, that’s good enough because they were not lying. They genuinely believed what they saw and went to their grave thinking that. Not just believing, but knowing.
Sean: This doesn’t prove the resurrection is true. It doesn’t. All it proves is the depth of their sincerity, and by the way, when I say there’s no record that any of them recanted, what makes this interesting is, can you imagine if there were even traditions of say Andrew or Matthias or Matthew recanting, why would this be important? Number one skeptics in the second and third century would jump on that to undermine the faith. Second when there was debates among Christians about what would happen to Christians who at the point of martyrdom compromised their faith? Someone would say, “Wait a minute. It happened to Matthias, if it can happen to him….” Nobody says that, but yes it’s a point of silence, but I’d say it’s some silence with some teeth.
Kurt: Cool. I’m so glad that you agreed to come on the show today. I definitely wanted to ask you about that because no one’s really studied the academic evidence for it so I’m glad that you’ve done that and have made this contribution to the apologetic enterprise so thank you for your years and study and writing on that. I know how laborious that can be.
Sean: Let me just say since you’re working on your dissertation. This too shall end. Take it one day at a time. Just literally, it was like every day I’m going to advance the ball today. Read an article, write part of a chapter, even if it’s one footnote. Eventually, you’ll get there if you stick with it.
Kurt: Yeah. Dr. Licona has told me inch by inch it’s a cinch.
Sean: That’s good advice.
Kurt: Sometimes I told him it’s more like week by week. It adds up. Slow and steady, you can’t procrastinate on these sort of things, and I’ve got just about a year to go. I’m hoping to have my rough draft done by this spring and I’m hoping then it’ll be a little bit easier revising and footnoting than building it all up. It’s a big long process though. Dr. Sean McDowell. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and for telling us more about your newly published book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, the revised edition I should say of the book. The long history there, and I want to encourage the listeners to check out the book. We’re going to put a link at our website so you can purchase it. It’s a great resource. It’s one of those things that you want to have on your shelf given those times when all of a sudden you’ve got that question and you want to know what the quick concise, but scholarly and academic position is on some of these important questions. Thanks again for joining us on the show today.
Sean: Kurt. Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure.
Kurt: Of course. God bless. That does it for our program today. I hope that this interview with Dr. Sean McDowell has been beneficial for you and want to encourage you to check out that book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict and we will place a link of course on the website so you can check that out for your ease. I want to say again once more how much I am grateful for the support that you have given over the last year and a half, whether it be moral support by liking us on our facebook page, or if you are one of our financial supporters, our patrons if you will, very grateful for the support that you have to making this a reality, making this podcast production something we can continue to bring to you. I’m also grateful for the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer, Chris, for his devotedness to our program, and also to our guest today, Dr. Sean McDowell, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]8:30. Can’t hear over Kurt
[NP3]Again at 38:20
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