Saturday, 24 December 2016

God-Breathed, by Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell, God-Breathed: The Undeniable Power and Reliability of Scripture, 2015 Shiloh Run Press

Josh McDowell wrote the magnificent Evidence that Demands a Verdict, which presented a rigorous and systematic case for the truth of Christianity. This is a rather different book. While it contains a lot of apologetic arguments for the reliability of Scripture, McDowell spends a lot of time talking about the personal impact of the Bible on his life. Along the way he offers a lot of anecdotes about his family and personal history.

On the whole this is edifying and McDowell presents good arguments for the reliability of Scripture. Importantly, he rejects the Documentary Hypothesis, which holds that Genesis was put together out of different documents and he instead upholds Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Sadly, most Catholic writers seem to buy the Documentary Hypothesis and treat it like gospel truth. The prevailing attitude to Biblical criticism among Catholic theologians, even from conservatives like the Pope Emeritus, seems to be "Yes, sir!" A more critical stance towards critical conclusions is one of the first things that Catholics can learn from Evangelical writers like Josh McDowell.

However, this book is not without fault. Our author emphasises the importance of a 'personal relationship with God.' A 'personal relationship with God' is something that Evangelicals like to talk about, but it is difficult to find this kind of individualistic concept in Scripture. Similarly, he puts a huge emphasis on the role of Scripture as a kind to one's personal life, while saying almost nothing about corporate uses of Scripture by the Church. Does Scripture have no place in our worship and in our churches? One would get the impression from McDowell that it does not.

McDowell's handling of the topic of the canon is not so good; his dismissal of the Deuterocanonical books is lousy. He points out that Jesus never quoted from the Apocrypha, but if Jude's quotation of Enoch does not prove the inspiration of that book, the issue of quotations proves little. Some writers have found allusions to Deuterocanonical texts in some of our Lord's statements. Importantly, the form of His quotations of Scripture mostly follow the Septuagint, which included the Apocrypha. Our author says the Catholic Church only included the Deuterocanonicals in the Old Testament in 1546; yet before this, there had been a consensus that these books were Scriptural.

I would also disagree with McDowell's contention that Allah is not the God of the Bible. This assertion is common among conservative Christians, both Evangelical and Catholic, but it is conceptually problematic. Our author says that the character of Allah is very different from that of Yahweh. Yet two people may have very different assessments of the character of the same person. One person might think that Donald Trump is a rapist and abuser of women, while another person may consider Trump to be a kind family man. They are still talking about the same person.

Despite its shortcomings, this book is a readable and enjoyable defence of the inspiration and authority of the Word of God.

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