I too was a skeptic too until I took a good hard look at the claims of
Jesus Christ. In college I met several students who challenged me to take a closer look, to study and examine the Christian faith.
I took the challenge, feeling certain I could prove Christianity to be false, a religion built on nice stories that couldn't stand up to the test of truth.
But as I dug deeper and deeper into the claims of Christianity, I was shocked. I found facts, not fiction. I found so much evidence that I could only come to one conclusion Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He was crucified, He died, and He was resurrected on the third day.
Soon after this discovery, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. That was 39 years ago. My life has been completely changed because I have a personal relationship with Christ.
Are you a skeptic? by Josh McDowell
Apparently, however, McDowell has also given accounts of his conversion that suggest that he was intially drawn to the gospel by encounters with certain Christians on his college campus who seemed to seemed to have some unique source of peace and happiness. By these accounts, when McDowell investigated Christ's claims, he did so as person with no fixed beliefs who was emotionally drawn to Christianity rather than as a confirmed atheist who was determined to refute Christianity. For discussions of these accounts, see The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience by Ed Babinski and What I Know About Josh Mcdowell by Chris Hallquist.
When an atheist picks apart a prominent Christian apologist's story, it is reasonable to question motives, but apparently Josh has admitted to other Christians the holes in his story of an atheist overwhelmed by the evidence. Commenting on the Hallquist post, self-identified Christian apologist Kevin H said that he had spoken with McDowell about the matter:
He's the kind of guy who is amused at all that is said about him. I noticed
he was quick to correct falsehoods. For example, he told me that the evidence
for Christianity was a "foot in the door" that kept him from immediately closing
it. But it was the love of God that drew him. It seems he knows, whether his
fault or the fault of the swirling influence of his books and speaking tours,
that people have the conception that he was forced into faith by irresistable
His reading made him realize he could not initially write off Christianity from an intellectual standpoint. But it was a verse in Jeremiah that got to him: "I have loved you with an everlasting love". (Jer. 31:3).
So why would McDowell post statements like he does on his website? There is a big difference between "finding so much evidence you can only come to one conclusion" and "realizing you can't initially write off Christianity from an intellectual standpoint." My answer would be that McDowell knows what sells. McDowell knows that the story of an atheist overwhelmed by the evidence sells books and books speaking engagements, and probably most importantly to McDowell, it persuades unbelievers to accept Christ. The story of an atheist who merely gets his foot in the door is not nearly as dramatic. Story tellers tell their stories in the way that produces the desired effect.
The problem with the stories of what Jesus said and did is that they were told and retold many times in the thirty years between the time Jesus died and the time they were written down. Out of three years of public ministry, only a small percentage of things that Jesus said and did made it into the gospels. I cannot help but think that the stories that made it were the ones that had been found to be most effective in converting pagans and keeping them in the faith. I also cannot help but think that the contents of the stories evolved in a (dare I say it?) Darwinian fashion. Mutations occurred as a result of faulty memories or faulty translations, and the mutations that survived were the ones that worked best in propagating the faith, i.e., the fittest.