Man I love Josh McDowell. Or maybe I should say I love his writings -- I've never met him in person. Needless to say though, I'm a fan.
Dusted off my copy of More Than A Carpenter today and ready about the first half. Powerful stuff. I would recommend this book to EVERYONE. If you've never read it, put it on your calendar, book list, etc.
It's a quick read, basically just a summary of a lot of points he goes into in WAY more detail in his Evidence That Demands a Verdict books. But man it is good.
Let me summarize the main points so far:
Chapter 1: What Makes Jesus So Different?
Jesus claimed He was God!
For Christians, this seems like a no-brainer, but think about it. Other religious figures have claimed to be a messenger from God, but none other have claimed to be God (let alone predicted their own death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven). Jesus clearly throughout the gospels declares that He and God the Father are One.
Chapter 2: Lord, Liar, or Lunatic
Jesus claimed He was God. From a logical standpoint, that claim can be either true (He is Lord) or false. If false, there are two sub-options. Either He knew He was not God (Liar) or He sincerely thought He was God but wasn't (Lunatic). Thus the trilemma -- Lord, Liar, or Lunatic.
Think about this in today's terms. What if a plumber from Newport showed up and started claiming he was God. What would you think?
What if Jesus was a Liar? Jesus not only claimed He was God, but He instructed others to sacrifice their lives to Him for their eternal destiny. If He knew this was not true, this would make Him a very hypocritical and evil man, and a fool for getting Himself crucified. This goes against everything we know about Him.
What if Jesus sincerely thought He was God, but wasn't. This would make him a Lunatic of the highest order. Yet nothing we know about Him shows the abnormalities of a madman. Instead He was a great teacher with an even temperment.
Most everyone agrees Jesus was not a Liar or a Lunatic. This only leaves one option. Jesus is Lord, exactly who he said he was (with supernatural abilities like rising from the dead, walking on water, controlling the weather, healing the sick, changing water to wine, and predicting the future, among others).
This chapter really shoots down the idea that Jesus was just a great moral teacher. He was a man on a mission, displaying supernatural powers, claiming He was God, and that He was THE ONLY WAY to eternal life. This was the primary focus of His teaching. If it was not true, he would not be a great moral teacher. Most of what He taught would have been false.
Chapter 3: What about science?
"You can't prove it scientifically, so I can't believe in it," is what many people today say. But this is based on a seriously flawed standard. By this standard, you can't "prove" you ate breakfast this morning.
The realm of science only includes what can be repeated in a controlled environment where observations can be made, data drawn, and hypotheses empirically verified.
For example, I can prove that gravity works. I can repeat experiments and measure gravity's force. I can come up with formulas that predict its behavior. Indeed, others have done so to the point that the one-time theory of gravity has become the universally excepted Law of Gravity.
But I can't prove I ate breakfast this morning. Science has nothing to say about history. I can't go back and repeat this morning and scientifically prove anything about this morning.
What I can do is what McDowell calls a legal-historical proof. I can bear witness to the fact myself, call forward other witnesses who saw me eat breakfast, present evidence (less eggs in the fridge, a dirty plate). I would probably have plenty of evidence/testimony to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I ate breakfast.
The question of whether Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be is outside the realm of science. It is instead in the realm of legal/historical proof, where we must rely on the best evidence/testimony we have.
The next few chapters deal with what we know about Christ's life and his impact in History. I haven't read them yet (this time through), but may summarize them in another post when I do.