Half-finished Book Review: “More than a Carpenter”, by Josh and Sean Mcdowell

I’m quite often asked by believers to “read this material”, in an attempt to convince me that God exists, and that the God of the Christian bible is the one I should worship. Often that material is the bible itself (which I have read several times), but sometimes I’m asked to read apologist literature. Normally my policy is to ignore the request – If there were some convincing argument for God, I would expect that he would vouchsafe it to all of his believers in such a way that hardly any atheist would be able to ignore it.

That said, this past May I tabled an event in York, PA for Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, and I was challenged once again to read some apologist literature, this time “More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh and Sean McDowell. The gentleman who asked me to do it sent it to me in the mail, so since he took the time to do it I thought I might record my thoughts here in this blog post.

The book itself is copyright 1977. ISBN: 978-1-4143-3380-9. The version in my hand is a small paperback, 179 pages. Without further ado, off I go!

Chapter 1.

“My Story”

The author (I presume Josh, as there are two authors but the preface refers to Josh McDowell personally, so unless otherwise indicated, I will refer to him as JM as he does.) claims that at one point he was lost, that he made fun of Christians. He ran into “a good looking woman” (he indicated he thought all Christians were ugly), and she told him Jesus Christ makes her happy. His “new friends” then convinced him to study the bible to see the truth of it. Then he read the Bible and (unreferenced here) history books and thus was convinced the Bible was real and became a Christian. And he’s convinced he can convince others, by the end of the book.

Chapter 2

What Makes Jesus So Different?

First he asks why Jesus is different – He asks the question why the name Jesus Christ offends people the way that Buddha, Muhammad, or Confucius do not?!?!?! (Apparently he doesn’t get out much – And that’s not to mention the loaded assumption that the name Jesus Christ offends anyone in this majority Christian dominated society – It’s not the name Jesus that offends, it’s what many of his followers do.)

After making his assumption that people are offended, he then presumes that the answer is because they did not claim to be God (Although, Jesus never claimed to be God). He spends the rest of the chapter trying to rest his argument on the bible itself that Jesus claimed to be God (Although all of the writings we have about Jesus are not in the first person, and are also not written by contemporaries of Jesus – If he existed, we have no idea what he claimed to be). Nor does Jesus’s supposed claim to be God actually speak to whether God exists or Jesus is God.

Chapter 3

Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?

Before I delve into this chapter, I want to comment that Lord, Liar or Lunatic is a false trilemma first offered by C.S. Lewis. It neglects the option of “Legend”. It presumes that Jesus existed, and said and did everything attributed to him. Back to the book.

OK, so in this chapter, JM presents each option in turn, and offers reasoning based on the bible and what people say about Jesus. Let’s begin:

Liar: Much of this section is an argument from personal incredulity – The author cannot believe that he’s a liar, and quotes other people who cannot believe it.

Lunatic: He talks pretty. And sounds smart. So Jesus can’t be a lunatic.

Lord: People believed that Jesus was the Lord throughout history. So he is.

We’re left with the last, unstated option in the book – Legend. This is the option that neither JM, nor C.S. Lewis considered.

Chapter 4

What about Science?

Jesus isn’t a question for science because science needs to be repeatable and you can’t repeat his miracles. Therefore science has nothing to say about it.

That’s really all there is to this chapter.

Chapter 5

The Challenge of New Atheism

JM indicates that this chapter was written by his son, Sean, so I will refer to the chapter author as SM.

SM indicates that atheists have existed throughout history, because of Psalms 14:1, which he quotes as referencing someone saying “There is no God”. However, to be clear, this is what Psalms 14:1 actually says:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

I just want to make that for point of clarification – Of course, what the bible says about atheists I do not believe, as I know many atheists that do wonderful, great things.

The author claims that old atheists realized that the universe is a cold dark place, and so if you tell everyone you might experience the collapse of western culture. I’m barely paraphrasing that sentence, all of the phrases are used in the book, and I’ve kept the intent intact.

SM also poses the question that if the mind evolved, how can we trust it. He ignores objective instrumentation and measurement as a possibility at all, as well as the verification and replication of scientific studies.

He also questions whether science and religion have warred with each other, because many scientists were Christian. He seems to ignore the fact that Religion has fought to contradict any scientific advancement that contradicts its teachings – He also ignores that in every such conflict, religion has lost and has had to adjust to the truth of the world around it. Science has not lost any ground because of “religious truth”.

Anthony Flew thinks that God exists, so science must prove God.

DNA is too complex, it must be intelligently designed. So says Anthony Flew, and atheists because they don’t claim to know how life originated (a tentative proposition at best), can’t be right about there not being a God.

A whole two pages devoted to the “Fine-Tuning” argument, which I’m not going to waste everyone’s time with. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe.

Is Atheism More Moral (subchapter).

SM offers this argument, without any justification for any of his premises:

1) If objective moral values exist, God must exist (Untrue – Things can be objectively moral without God, and even more specifically without the Christian God).
2) Objective Moral Values exist (Well, that’s debatable.)
3) God must exist (Still up for question)

Part of the chapter is spent addressing the fact that many new Atheists refer to Religion as evil, and offers some defense for religion. Of course, whether religion is good or evil is irrelevant to the question of whether Jesus was God or God exists, but there are some pointed errors as to including Nazis as an “Atheist” evil. Hitler was Catholic, but even still neither Hitler or Stalin did what they did in the /name/ of Atheism. Millions have died in the name of Christianity and other religions, and this chapter either minimizes that or flat out lies about it.

We finish the chapter with Atheists being declared to have an ‘attitude’.

Chapter 6

Are the Bible Records Reliable?

We are back to JM again.

Much of this chapter directly contradicts modern, accepted biblical scholarship. He claims that the bible books were written in the MID-FIRST-CENTURY! That’s just bloody insane. For more information on this, I strongly recommend reading more accepted scholars such as Bart Ehrman.

OK – I’m done. I’m about halfway through the book. And I am just wasting my time here. There’s no reason for me to finish the book.