Evidence that Demands A Verdict - A Review

Evidence that Demands a Verdict is a title well known to many Christians. The book was originally published in the early 1970’s by Josh McDowell as a source book for Christian apologetics. It both presents arguments and points readers toward more in-depth arguments for the truthfulness of Christianity.

Given the four decades since the book’s original publication, many of the sources in the first edition are outdated. Over time, arguments change, new evidence for or against positions is considered, and scholars on all sides of the debate reframe their thoughts.

It was high time for this book to be updated. This year, Josh McDowell and his son, Sean, have released an expanded and updated version of this classic work on apologetics. This volume adds the credentials of the younger McDowell to the senior's extensive apologetic experience. The younger McDowell is an apologist, serving on the faculty of Biola University.

About the Book

Evidence that Demands a Verdict is the sort of book that defies concise summary. At over 700 pages, it makes a satisfying thunk when set on the table. That alone may be enough to add gravity to the claims of a budding apologist. It has a helpful table of contents with chapter abstracts, as well as subject and author indices, which keep this tome from being unwieldy.


The arguments are laid out in logical chunks in outline format. This makes the book suitable for research, though it might make cover-to-cover reading more difficult.

The McDowells have covered the major questions of Christian apologetics. They invest five chapters discussing the historical reliability of Scripture. Eight chapters help demonstrate the historicity of Christ and his resurrection. There are thirteen chapters dedicated to the reliability of the Old Testament. The last major section includes six chapters arguing that truth is possible, with an attempt to counter certain claims of postmodernism.

The beauty of this book is that it has been well seasoned over decades and targeted to engage ongoing discussions charitably and at the point of contention. This enables the arguments in this volume to cover a great deal of territory in relatively brief space, which may seem amazing, given the length of the book.

That the authors have covered such broad ranging topics in such a short space is a gift to Christians seeking to understand the major points of the plurality of debates about the truthfulness of Christianity and, hopefully, engage their skeptical friends with the truth of Scripture, especially the gospel. This really is a good, first stop for a number of excellent arguments.

At the same time, the target audience (regular Christians) and the brevity of some of the discussions sets the volume up for its likely criticisms. There is no doubt the war drums of some Christian philosophers will be beaten as they line up to critique some of the interpretations of the volume. For example, the section on postmodernism is an easy target since the subject matter has more publicized versions than the number of scholars that have argued for it. This makes every generalization about the subject a target for critique, and, since many postmodernisms conflict with one another, there is no safe ground to argue against the general drift of thought. (Part of the joy of being postmodern seems to be the ability to say your critics don’t get it as you smile smugly.)  If readers accept that the chapters in this volume are introductory and not exhaustive, this book stands up to reasonable scrutiny.

Uses for the Book

It is unlikely that most people will read this volume cover to cover. It is constructed like a reference book and will serve that purpose well.

At the same time, the length of the chapters would make it useful for study with a group of young Christians. It is unlikely any group would make their way through the entirety of the volume. However, it would be a helpful resource to introduce someone to some of the credible arguments for Christianity.

The book might serve well as a secondary volume in an apologetics course at the college or seminary level, with some assigned readings chosen to introduce particular topics. Again, it would be difficult to get through the whole volume in a semester or year.

The most important use of this volume is as a way to self-equip for the ministry of evangelism in a skeptical age. The chapters are useful for buttressing the faith once delivered to all the saints. They are also helpful in showing how to frame an argument against the common objections to Christianity. This is a handy resource for a Christian engaged in the Great Commission.


Evidence that Demands a Verdict is a classic work. The updated edition has done exactly what it should do: added new arguments, updated sources, and retained the positive qualities of the original.

This is a book that should be in church libraries, on the shelves of pastors, in the homes of Christian parents, and among the recommended resources for new believers.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.

The Printer and the Preacher - A Review

The recently released book, The Printer and the Preacher, promises to explain how the friendship between Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield helped to “invent America.” The author, Randy Petersen, has an extensive list of publications including a number of co-authored volumes. He has written on sports, psychology, history, various Christian topics, and more. Petersen appears to have an eclectic appetite for writing projects and the ability to finish them.

The book is readable and there are some interesting anecdotes, but I found it to be a disappointment overall. There are pointers along the way that indicate that both Franklin and Whitefield influenced the founding of the United States, but Petersen never really explains why their friendship was pivotal. I walked away with a better understanding of the long-term correspondence that existed between these two men, but without seeing how it really matters in the grand scope of history.

Analysis and Critique

Petersen’s writing style is light. The book uses endnotes, so it is not encumbered by the distractions (welcomed by many) that footnotes often provide. He tells the story well. There are points, however, where Petersen is excessively informal, in ways that may be deemed disrespectful by those who engage in academic pursuits. He consistently refers to people by their first names (George and Ben), which is atypical for serious historical work.

There is a connection between the two men. Franklin and Whitefield corresponded for decades and met several times, particularly while Whitefield was preaching through America. Franklin printed news about Whitefield and many of his sermons. Whitefield attempted to convert Franklin from his self-created Deism to a Calvinistic Christianity. He was unsuccessful. There is a story worth hearing here.

However, after reading The Printer and the Preacher, it isn’t clear that there is enough of a story to make a book length treatment. At times Petersen lapses into conjecture, trying to describe conversations they were likely to have or occasions they might have met while both were in London. This has the dangerous potential to present as surmise as fact, if the reader is not careful. The concept of a surprising friendship that is essential to the formation of America is intriguing, but in my mind at least, there needs to be a better case made.

This is a popular level historical book, but at times the history gets jumbled because Petersen tries to organize the parallels by topic instead of by chronology. He also jumps back and forth between accounts of the lives of two men born eight years apart on different continents. There are certainly some parallels between the two, but at times the presentation seems strained.

 The greatest benefit of the book is Petersen’s demonstration that two men with vastly different foundational beliefs could get along, work together, and have meaningful dialog for a number of years. Whatever other weaknesses the book may present, this is a good thing to understand and I appreciate Petersen’s efforts to tell the story well.


The Printer and the Preacher is a quick read. It would be worth taking to the beach or on an airplane. It is has weaknesses, but it is an entertaining book that some history buffs may enjoy.

Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More

Who is Hannah More?

Unless you have read Karen Swallow Prior’s recent book Fierce Convictions, or you are a careful student of late 18th century British history, you probably don’t know.

I have studied some history from that era. Until I picked up this book, I did not know who Hannah More is nor why I should care. I’ve been missing out.

William Wilberforce is the political figure that is recognized as the leader of the British abolitionist movement. He is the subject of multiple biographies, including the popular book by Eric Metaxas and the recent biographical film, Amazing Grace.

Like any significant political or social figure, Wilberforce did not act alone. Wilberforce was heavily influenced by John Newton’s personal accounts of slavery and his emotional and theological plea to end the barbarity. Wilberforce also relied on a circle known as the Clapham Sect for encouragement and support.

The list of individuals involved in the Clapham Sect includes authors, businessmen, and Members of Parliament. It also includes Hannah More.

Think about this: One of the most historically influential social reformers had a woman in his inner circle in the late 18th century in England. This is so socially abnormal that it speaks to the value More must have brought to the group, as a writer, thinker, organizer, and financial supporter.

Prior’s book fills in a gap in evangelical history by providing a well-written and well-researched biography of a significant player in the reformation of British society. More was instrumental in ending slavery, popularizing the Sunday School movement, legitimizing the role of women as writers, and ending popular support for a variety of social vices.

More wrote a novel, many poems, several plays, and hundreds of pamphlets–the blog posts of the late 18th century. Her literary product was well received and popular, which raises the question why Jane Austen’s moralistic volumes have superseded More’s in the canon of Western Literature. Although I took a course in British literature for my undergraduate degree that emphasized that period of literature (and had us read more than one of Austen’s books), More made nary an appearance.

In fact, it is More’s emphasis on manners and propriety that have largely led her to be marginalized and included only as a footnote to the lives of Wilberforce and Newton. Also, as Prior notes, More made the tragic mistake of rebuking the biographer of Samuel Johnson for drunkenly accosting her. Though she was a close and longtime friend of the popular and influential British author, Samuel Johnson, her rebuke led the offended James Boswell to largely write Hannah More out of Johnson’s biography. The small appearances More makes in that biography present her negatively, which has likely contributed to her disappearance from the pages of histories.

Prior portrays More sympathetically, though not without flaws. While More was adamant to teach the poor to read, she resisted teaching them to write since that was viewed as above their station. More was kind and considerate, but sometimes too subject to the opinions of others. Public criticism and theological debate would cause her to be physically ill.

In the balance, though, Prior’s depiction of More is overwhelmingly positive. Much like Dorothy Sayers, More points toward ontological egalitarianism while recognizing functional complementarianism between the genders. By her example, Hannah More helped to begin the movement evangelicalism from an unhealthy patriarchalism to a more appropriate view of gender. Through all this More clung to her distinct feminine identity and was most injured by accusations of theologically improper gender roles. This biography presents an intellectually brilliant woman who managed to be a major social influencer in a largely patriarchal society without devolving into the shrill protests common among feminists in our day. This facet of More’s life alone makes this biography a worthwhile read.

If you enjoy biographies, this book is a must read. Prior does an excellent job in presenting the facts of Hannah More’s life in engaging prose. The front of the biography may seem to drag a bit for some, as Prior carefully explains why the reader should be interested in More’s life, sets the social stage, and explains why More has been previously neglected. However, the information Prior provides in the first few chapters is essential to the narrative. Once the reader plows through of the details of the back story, which are extremely important to academics like me, into the action in More’s life story, the book is a page-turner.

By the end of the book I was encouraged as a believer living in a time of social turmoil that is similar to More’s epoch. I was instructed by the methods used by More and others to change society. I was delighted by an artful account of the life of a full life. I was blessed by the biography of a godly woman engaged in living her life according to her fierce convictions, which were shaped more by the content of Scripture than the cultural needs.

This is a book that belongs on your shelf. More importantly, it deserves to be read.

Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided by the publisher. There was no expectation of a positive review. All thoughts and ideas expressed above are my own.