This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in theology, philosophy, and apologetics. My hope is that these brief introductions to important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers to, as St. Augustine put it, “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these classic books.
This week’s book, More Than a Carpenter by evangelical speaker and author Josh McDowell, is a contemporary classic of Christian apologetics. Translated into dozens of languages, this popular introduction to the defense of the Christian faith has sold more than 15 million copies. This book is one the most read Christian apologetics works ever written. (In 2009, the book was significantly revised and expanded when Josh’s son Sean, himself a noted Christian speaker and author, became a coauthor.)
Why Is This Author Notable?
A former atheist, Josh McDowell was educated at Wheaton College and Biola University. For many years he was staff evangelist and apologist with the parachurch organization Campus Crusade for Christ through which he spoke to millions of college students about the truth of historic Christianity. McDowell’s many apologetics works have deeply influenced his American evangelical Christian readers.1 Along with being a professor at Biola University, Sean currently heads the Bible department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools in California. He is a popular speaker and author, particularly with younger audiences.
What Is This Book About?
More Than a Carpenter is a popular apologetics text written primarily for those who are considering Christianity for the first time. A brief book at 128 pages, it focuses especially upon the critical question—who is Jesus? McDowell marshals the argument (initially popularized by C. S. Lewis) that since Jesus was a historical person who made divine claims, then the reasonable options as to his identity are either Lord, liar, or lunatic. McDowell presents a basic evidentialist case for Christianity by defending the reliability of the Gospels and providing evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
More Than a Carpenter combines biography and apologetics by telling the story of how Josh McDowell’s life changed dramatically through his encounter with Jesus Christ. Here is a brief statement where McDowell discusses Jesus’s identity:
It amazes me to hear so many people say that Jesus was simply a good moral teacher. Let’s be realistic. How could he be a great moral teacher and knowingly mislead people at the most important point of his teaching—his own identity?2
Why Is This Book Worth Reading?
More Than a Carpenter presents a clear and simple evidential case for accepting Jesus Christ as the divine-human Messiah. The work is ideal for a person who is thinking through the claims of Jesus Christ for the very first time. McDowell’s book was one of the first apologetics books that I read almost 40 years ago. I then went on to read all of his books and many of the ones he recommended in his writings.
There is an important need for apologetics content that introduces people to Jesus in a clear and readable way. McDowell’s work succeeds in doing just that.
- “The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, October 6, 2006, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/october/23.51.html?paging=off.
- Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, More Than a Carpenter, rev. and exp. ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2009), 30.