Apologist Josh McDowell: Internet the Greatest Threat to Christians

This is old news, but cries out for a comment. According to The Christian Post, Josh McDowell has declared the Internet to be the greatest threat to Christians. As the editor of an Internet anthology rebutting McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, I naturally found this announcement to be of great interest. McDowell has steadfastly refused to even acknowledge our rebuttal, much less learn from it. Speaking at the “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” conference at the Billy Graham Center on July 15, McDowell stated:

The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.

Two comments:

1. Do we “like to destroy”? Ummm… no. While there are atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who do enjoy “destroying” what Christians believe, that is certainly not how I or many of us at Internet Infidels think or feel about it. One of the original goals for starting Internet Infidels and creating the Secular Web was defensive, to respond to apologists who seemed hell-bent on trying to prove the irrationality of non-believers (so-called “hard apologetics”). In fact, for years I used to say that the primary value of the Secular Web was that it provided a level playing field. (More on that in a moment.)

2. As Jerry Wilson pointed out:

“But his conclusion that this is somehow bad is laughable. Read what he is saying: Skeptical inquiry into the things we have always accepted without question is something to fight against. That shows the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. Never mind the fact, never mind that their beliefs might just be superstitious nonsense. We must protect our kids of learning anything they might use to work out the real solutions to life’s problems. We must keep them deluded with dogma. Facts and critical thinking skills are evil. And that’s what they are learning on the Internet!”

I’ve documented before how William Lane Craig and Norm Geisler are opposed to free thought; we may now add a third high-profile Christian apologist, Josh McDowell, to the list. Again, I do not want to be guilty of attacking a straw man version of Evangelical Christianity. If any Evangelical Christians reads this and disagrees with McDowell, Craig, and Geisler regarding free thought, freedom of inquiry, and so forth, I would love to hear from you.

Here’s more from McDowell:

“Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism.”

What? Hard apologetics does poorly when it is unable to control the entire message? What a shock!

And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”

Now that is something we can agree on: the Internet has leveled the playing field. In fact, I’ve been saying it for about 15 years. To which I can only add: get used to it, Josh, because we are not going anywhere.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    Does it matter that Christians now have access to sources of knowledge not controlled by their pastor?

    As we all know, nobody leaves Christianity because of getting better information. They only leave for emotional reasons.

    How does Josh think that increasing the amount of information Christians can access will increase the number of people who leave, as they never leave for intellectual reasons, solely for emotional ones?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12963476276106907984 Sabio Lantz

    It is unusual to hear Josh say something I can agree with! :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13074560270292195498 Robert

    I once said to Dr. Craig Blomberg,

    Dr. Blomberg,

    Ditto to Mike. Thank you for commenting. I'd like to say a little more about my story because I suspect my type of deconversion is becoming more common. I'd like to think that I am not too distant an outlier. ;-)

    I have been a Christian my entire life. Raised in the Churches of Christ, I learned about Jesus before I could tie my shoes.

    About 2 years ago, I searched for an Atheist-Christian debate I wanted to see. Instead of finding it, I stumbled upon the Christianity section at infidels.org. I started reading.

    As I was reading, I could not deny that the criticisms raised against the Bible were strong, and many of them were coming from former believers who had been deeply devoted to the cause of Christ — men like Ken Pulliman.

    When I started reading these articles, I fully expected to find good reasons to reject what they were saying. So I studied more to defend the faith and “then I would be a stronger Christian”, I told myself.

    Things didn’t turn out that way. After a few hundred hours of searching for answers, I no longer believed the Bible was true. It was a difficult and emotional decision, but I believe it was the right one.

    Now … why do I think I am part of a new trend? Because it only took a few searches — less than a minute — for me to land on the material that sparked this process, and as my doubts grew, the Internet provided a wealth of literature from sceptics to keep "leading me astray".

    I think that without Internet access, I would still be a believer today. I might have wondered why the Bible gives permission to beat slaves, and I might have asked my preacher about it, but I don't think I would have searched the local libraries to find atheist authors and see what they had to say! As the son of 2 conservative Christian parents and the husband of a conservative Christian wife, I would have been hesitant to purchase or borrow any books that try to debunk the Bible, but entering "Yahweh genocide" in a search engine (with the intent of finding a Christian response) can easily land us upon a site like this.

    Churches (at least in my part of the country) are on every corner, but the Internet is now on our mobile phones. That gives unbelievers a voice that they otherwise would not have, and it is bound to expand their audience to people like me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Robert,

    Did Blomberg reply to your comment? I think one of the main reasons I eventually became an atheist is that as a kid I actually read the Bible. All the smiting and vindictiveness puzzled me considerably, but I assumed it had a good explanation. When I did come across some attempted explanations, as in books on "Bible difficulties," they sounded so strained, far-fetched, and ad hoc to me that it pushed me farther away. Those like Paul Copan who attempt to justify the Biblical abominations may unwittingly only be creating more atheists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15375973697938997176 Michael

    You kids have it easy, you sit in a chair and read atheist and skeptic blogs. In my day we had to become atheists by going uphill, barefoot, in the snow. And we had to like it!

    Seriously, my struggles with goddism which eventually led to my atheism would have been much easier with the internet. I would have found answers to my questions instead of working most of them out from first principles. Also it would have been psychologically easier for me to know there were other people with the same questions who were finding the same or similar answers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Michael,

    Ha Ha!! Yeah we had it tough being an atheist back in our day with all the burnings at the stake and the Inquisition. Seriously, it has always amazed me what whiners fundamentalists tend to be. They have just as much access to the Internet to get their message out as we do, so what is their beef? For years, I have noticed that fundamentalist polemicists ladle out the vitriol. I used to enjoy watching Jimmy Swaggert before his ignominious fall when he would point at the TV camera and call out all of us seck-u-luh hoomanists and evil-lutionists and assure us that we were all bound for hay-ull. Breathe a word of criticism of those guys, however, and they whine that you "hate Christians." They really are masters at playing the victim card.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06137890891223067672 Morrison

    My own experience has been somewhat different. Christians used to tell me about all the "atrocities" that have been, and are being, committed in Officially atheistic states.

    "100 Million killed in the past century", etc. etc.

    I brushed it off as propaganda.

    Now I am finding that it is all true.

    Turns out it was my Atheistic Western Civ and Philosphy Professors who were lying.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Morrison: What lies were you told?

    You're not counting Hitler and Nazi Germany as atheist, are you?

    It's certainly true that Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Tung all committed mass murder, and were all atheists heading atheist states. I think most would attribute the cause to political rather than religious ideology, though their actions did include persecutions of religious believers. I don't know of any atheists who would balk at condemning those actions as immoral (in contrast to some religious believers' positions on biblical genocides, slavery, and the subjection of women).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I'm tempted to think Morrison's comment is a troll. I don't understand why he would think that the issue of atheist atrocities has any relevance to Josh McDowell or or other high-profile Evangelical Christian apologists who oppose freethought. (See here for Keith Parsons' post regarding atheist atrocities.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    =============
    Speaking at the "Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith" conference at the Billy Graham Center on July 15, McDowell stated:

    The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not.
    Two comments:

    1. Do we "like to destroy"? Ummm… no. While there are atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who do enjoy "destroying" what Christians believe, that is certainly not how I or many of us at Internet Infidels think or feel about it.
    =============
    Comments:
    Speaking for myself, I do enjoy destroying what Christians believe.

    More accurately, I don't enjoy trying to destroy EVERYTHING that Christians believe.

    I enjoy strongly attacking the most stupid and unreasonable beliefs held by some Christians, such as the belief that a perfectly good God would command people to enter into wars of agression against others, and command people to slaughter every man, woman, child, and infant in some cities in order to take over the city. Another unreasonable belief of some Christians is that a perfectly good God would punish some people for an eternity in hell for occaisionally failing to be perfectly good every second of a lifetime lasting just a few decades.

    Destroying such unreasonable beliefs gives me pleasure, because these are unreasonable beliefs that humankind would be much better off without.

    But I don't strongly attack or try to destroy the golden rule. I don't strongly attack Jesus's teaching that one should watch out for hypocrisy, and watch out for criticizing others for failing to follow a principle that I myself don't follow.

    There are some good ideas in Christianity that I have kept, but there are also some very bad ideas that I have rejected, and there are some ideas that are not-so-great but not completely absurd either. I reject belief in God, but I don't think belief in God is absurd. There are good reasons for doubting that God exists, but belief in God, by itself, is not particularly dangerous, like belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible is dangerous.

    So, I enjoy destroying some Christian beliefs that appear very unreasonable to me (e.g. innerancy of Bible), and I enjoy defending some Christian beliefs that appear reasonable to me (opposition to hypocrisy), and I enjoy challenging some Christian beliefs that I have rejected, but which I don't see as absurd (belief in God).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    Morrison is definitely a troll. He is remarkable in one sense, though: that he has •two• idees fixes instead of one. The first is the 'atheist atrocities' meme, demonstrated here, and the other is 'John Loftus is bad person/liar,' heavily documented at Dangerous Idea, Debunking Christianity, and other blogs that may mention Loftus. Rumor has that if you say Loftus's name three times in a mirror, Morrison will appear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04358183187665342690 The Fog Horn

    He's right! If it wasn't for the internet I wouldn't be able to let you know the good news….that God was a volcano!

    http://ohmyvolcano.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08112258030386255291 John Phillips, FCD

    Bernard, I don't think that belief in a deist god is harmful, for that only posits a something that triggered everything and then left us to it. I.e. no commandments to follow or teachings to interpret in ways beneficial to the interpreter and usually detrimental to those who aren't part of the in group. However, I believe that belief in a theist god, i.e. one who commands, is very definitely harmful and that is true even when the majority are moderate believers.

    For that acceptance of something through faith, i.e. without evidence, acts as cover for the extremist who also justify their interpretation through faith. Ironically, for anyone who has read the bible cover to cover, the reason I lost my xianity, it would appear that the extremist often more accurately conveys what god is about far more than the moderate does.

    Of course, by cherry picking, it is possible to make Jesus and xianity look like the ultimate proponents of the golden rule. Though anyone doing this is defintely misrepresenting the totality of the bible to us and deluding themselves in the process.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com/ blogforthelordjesus

    You said, "If any Evangelical Christians reads this and disagrees with McDowell, Craig, and Geisler regarding free thought, freedom of inquiry, and so forth, I would love to hear from you."

    I believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and that He reigns now and forever as God Almighty. I accept these truths based upon the testimony we have in the Old and New Testaments which was largely given in the face of intense persecution by honest and trustworthy men. (Given this, you might call me an evangelical Christian, although I try not to call myself anything.) I further believe that the kingdom of God came in just the time frame that Jesus promised, and thus displaced the church as God's instrument in the earth not long after the last New Testament book was written. Therefore, I celebrate the Internet and the freedom of communication it allows. No one who loves the truth wants to see it constrained. While I would agree with McDowell, Craig, and Geisler insofar as they affirm the truth of the Lord Jesus, I separate from them when they seek to keep people in churches and under pastors. That there are over 30,000 Christian denominations is ample evidence that they are not the kingdom of God for practically everyone knows the King took a dim view of divided kingdoms.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13074560270292195498 Robert

    Keith,

    Blomberg replied once on the thread. [link]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00053915240281421992 Mike Gantt

    The Internet is no threat to Christ. He is not threatened by anything.

    May truth prevail!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10509401627805923739 Logan Williams 12345

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10509401627805923739 SWBTSguy321

    I came across this post and I would like to comment as an Evangelical Christian.
    Mr. Lowder, I don't think you're necessarily straw-manning Christianity or Evangelicalism, but I think you have missed a major element of Mr. McDowell's point. His whole focus seems to be on the impact that the information age has on youth. The Bible clearly commands Christians to instruct their children, (Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs 22, Ephesians 6) part of that education is in fact information flow restriction.
    Just as we don't start a 1st grade math class with differential equations, advanced probability theory and highly debated mathematical principles, so also, as Christians, in teaching our children what we believe to be the realities of our faith, we regulate that information.
    Mr. McDowell's point is that the internet circumvents this process by allowing younger and younger children to encounter a mass of information.
    As we all know even from our own experience, children often are unable to distinguish facts and truth from sheer information and opinion. As such, a child reading Christian material may read of God as Creator of all things, humans as sinful creatures in need of forgiveness, and Jesus Christ as the only way to receive that forgiveness. He may then click to an atheistic or humanistic website denying all of those things which he just encountered. This type of information encounter is as difficult for a young one as it is for him to see his math book say that 2+2=4 and on the next page see that 2+2=7.
    I'd be really interested to see what you think about this aspect of his argument.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03040485938067728696 Daily Coffee

    The moral degradation of modern Christianity is not an effect solely by the rise of the Internet, but rather the loss of contemporary Christians’ sight of Christ. The Internet certainly has its flaws, but not be given the “honor” of being the sole reason for the moral comprise in Christendom. As Christians interact with the world, they must maintain the buffers and mental capacity provided for them through the Gospel to both adequately respond to any statements that counter their personal convictions.


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