One of the books that changed me is More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell. I’ve read it and reread it over the years, but I really never thought about what sort of person the author might be. Someone sure of his faith, clearly. I probably would have guessed that he was someone with a strong Christian foundation since early childhood. And considering that he had also written Evidence That Demands a Verdict, probably a bookish person, more comfortable doing research than sitting around chatting.
I’d have been wrong on the latter two guesses. Undaunted: One Man’s Real-Life Journey from Unspeakable Memories to Unbelievable Grace is Josh McDowell’s story, from early childhood through college. He longed for love from his alcoholic father but received none; he detested the sexual attentions of a farmhand but could not avoid them. There was no spiritual foundation, and by age twelve he hated God almost as much as he hated his father.
The book refrains from describing the sexual abuse, and gives few details about the violence his mother endured during her husband’s drunken rages. But the deep hurt and bitterness that shaped Jos’ (only later did he come to be known as Josh) soul are achingly clear. It is no surprise that the idea that a God who was sovereign over his life was also a loving Father would have been difficult for him to swallow.
His research into evidence regarding the resurrection of Jesus, undertaken as a college student, began as an attempt to disprove it. The task proved more difficult than he expected, and he traveled to Europe to visit libraries where he hoped to get a better handle on the subject. Instead of ammunition for his fight against Christianity, however, he met serious scholars who were also serious Christians, and who patiently answered his many questions.
Once he gave in and admitted that all the evidence pointed toward the truth of Christianity, then turned his life over to Christ, he became an outspoken witness to the grace of God. He loved – and still loves today – talking with people about Jesus and He wants to have a relationship with them. Josh had always planned on being a lawyer, but discovered to his surprise that God wanted him to do ministry.
One thing I would have liked the book to go into somewhat more is showing how even in his early years, God was shaping in him the interests and abilities that he would later use in his ministry. The chapters on his childhood are all about his home life and the hurts that he never thought could be healed.
Those chapters were so uniformly negative that I found myself surprised when he ends his senior year of high school and turns out to have friends – including some he was wanted to be with badly enough that he enlisted in the Air Force so they could be stationed together. When he starts college, he speaks of always having wanted to be a lawyer, though that hadn’t been mentioned before that I could remember.
The bulk of the book, though, is first his search for answers about Christianity, and then his struggles to obey God after he becomes a Christian. He is frank about his poor judgment on certain occasions. But he also tells about wonderful answers to prayer, some of these very dramatic.
One reader comment at amazon.com complains that the book reads like a movie script (the book cover says it is the true story behind the movie; I don’t know which came first). I didn’t notice that as I read it myself, but afterward I wondered how much the written account was subtly shaped to make scenes as dramatic as possible.
An account on his website tells the story of an answer to prayer that is also in the last chapter of the book. The essential points are the same, but the version in the book is more dramatic; the version on his website strikes me as probably a more accurate description of the event. They make the same point, but I don’t like feeling that I am being emotionally manipulated.
One thing that impressed me from his website is learning that he received no money from the books he has written. From when he wrote his first book, he has signed over all royalties to Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ).
I’ve never read any of those books except More Than a Carpenter, and glancing over some pages of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. But I see that our library system has several; perhaps it’s time I check one of them out.