Book Review: More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell

This is the second in a series of book reviews Cornerstone is publishing on our WordPress site. This week’s review is on More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell. The idea is to encourage our readers to soak themselves in Gospel-centered literature this summer. Let the break from school not be a break from our Father in Heaven.

What do C.S. Lewis, Anthony Flew and Josh McDowell have in common? All three of them were convinced of an atheistic worldview and sought hard to disprove the Christian one, be it through arguments, trying to write a book or finding historical evidence against the faith. Eventually, however, all three ended up accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior after their respective investigation in the faith, eventually becoming well-known apologetics who defend Christianity against common objections.

In More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell tries to present the faith as one which is born out of reason and evidence. In thirteen short chapters, each less than twenty pages long, McDowell examines Christianity from various angles. These include the attack of the New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, the historicity of the life and resurrection of Jesus as well as the effect that Christianity had on Biblical characters like the disciples and apostle Paul. Not boasting to be academic or scholarly in any way, McDowell’s succinct account gets straight to the point of the matter and presents the evidence that compelled him towards his view. Hence, More Than a Carpenter does not really add new arguments to apologetic academic circles; rather, it revisits common ones in an accessible fashion. For example, McDowell challenged readers to consider the famous Lewis’s Trilemma, where one is confronted with having to choose between three mutually exclusive conceptions of Jesus: Lord, Liar or Lunatic. McDowell quotes Lewis’s hard-hitting words,

Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about Jesus being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Beyond just presenting cold hard apologetic exposition, McDowell also sheds light on his faith journey on becoming a Christian. In his final chapter (“He Changed My Life”), McDowell recalls struggling at the crossroads of atheism and Christianity. He felt a “strong reluctance to make the plunge” and his “will pulling (him) in another direction” despite having been presented the evidence of the faith. In doing so, McDowell clearly showed the insufficiency of apologetics. I often tell my friends that if one knows God by reason alone devoid of faith, the god that person believes in is not the God of the Bible. Apologetics can only remove certain barriers people have towards accepting the faith, be it alleged conflicts with science, history and ethics. When push comes to shove, however, faith is what brings us to a have personal relationship with God. Thankfully, McDowell reveals certain elements of his testimony in his book, sharing about overcoming pride and his bad temper, as well as being a witness to the change he saw in his father. These anecdotal accounts appeals more to heart of the reader, complementing well with the logical explanations given above for the Holy Spirit to work.

In the introduction to his book (“My Story”), McDowell delineates between Christianity and other religions. He writes,

Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through good works. Christianity is God coming to men and women through Jesus Christ.

I am thankful that God has, through Jesus Christ, used McDowell to write a short, accessible and convincing defense of the Christian faith to undo mental barriers skeptics and even believers have. Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and read it with a pre-believing friend. It may just be the account of the faith necessary for your friend to see Christianity as a well-reasoned faith.

Editor-in-Chief,

Nicholas Chuan

More Than a Carpenter is available in most Christian bookstores and online at http://www.josh.org/easter-mtac/

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