Josh McDowell

General Teachings/Activities

-  Once known for his apologetics (e.g., Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Answers to Tough Questions, and Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity -- three of the more than 30 books McDowell has authored or co-authored), McDowell years ago converted to a different gospel, one that "sells better": the humanistic gospel of self-love/self-esteem. Rather than his former message, i.e., that the evidence for Christianity demands that lost sinners repent and believe in Christ, his new message can best be summarized as: (a) poor self-image, rather than sin, is the cause of man's problems, and (b) improved self-image reduces or eliminates man's problems. (Confirmation of McDowell's adherence to this new gospel was evidenced on his television program on TBN ["Issue of Truth," 5/13/94]: "... self-image is one of the greatest crises we face in the 20th century," says McDowell.) [McDowell also has a 30-minute radio program, "Telling The Truth."]

McDowell's espousal of this false gospel has been massive. In his 35-plus years of "ministry," since graduating from Wheaton College and Talbot Theological Seminary (1964) (all of which has been affiliated with the ecumenical, psychologically-oriented Campus Crusade for Christ; he also heads the Josh McDowell Ministry International), McDowell claims to have given over 18,000 talks to over eight million high school and college students on over 900 campuses in 84 countries. And what was the primary message of these talks? -- On the 12/12/93 John Ankerberg Show, McDowell gave a testimony as to why the Scriptures are important to him -- Josh said the Scriptures have shown him "how to love myself in a Biblical way." [McDowell has apparently signed-on to the Jack Hyles' school of new math -- 18,000 talks in 35 years is three talks every two days for 35 years!]

-  McDowell's most popular book, Why Wait?, is a polemic for good self-image/high self-esteem as the primary motivating force for sexual abstinence before marriage. According to McDowell, why should teens wait until marriage? -- because sexual activity before marriage will cause one to have low self-esteem later in life. McDowell gives only brief lip-service to God's commands concerning sexual purity. Evidently, a desire to please God and to obey His commands is not a strong enough motivation for Christian teens, but instead, a dose of the world's "What's in it for me" philosophy (humanism) is required.

-  McDowell has devoted two other entire books to helping Christians develop their self-image, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth: Building Your Self-Image (Tyndale:1978) and His Image, My Image (Here's Life:1984).

In His Image, My Image, McDowell presents three psychological essentials for a normal person: (1) a sense of belonging (acceptance by others); (2) a sense of worthiness (feeling good about oneself); and (3) a sense of competence (confidence in oneself). He didn't learn these ideas from the Bible, but from humanistic psychology. In fact, most if not all of the heroes and heroines in the Bible lacked everything that McDowell says we need. [McDowell still promotes these teachings via an audiotape message he sells on his Internet web site (12/26/01).]

-  McDowell supports psychology's self-esteem, self-worth, self-acceptance teaching with a blasphemous paraphrase from the Living Bible: "I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ's have been given to Him" (Eph. 1:18, LB). Elaborating on McDowell's erroneous interpretation, he is clearly saying that we should feel good about ourselves because God was enriched through gaining us as His children! The context of Eph. 1:18, however, is all about the blessings we receive from God, not the blessings He receives from us. Clearly, the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" refers to what God has given the saints, not to an inheritance the saints have bequeathed Him. Nowhere in the Bible is God enriched by man. It is man who is always benefited by God. Common sense makes that clear. God, being infinitely rich and needing nothing, cannot be enriched by anyone or anything. (Adapted from the 9/93, Berean Call.)

-  Regardless of which of the Bible versions a true Bible-believer might choose to use, all can agree that The Living Bible is not an acceptable "translation." In July 1996, the New Living Translation (NLT) by Tyndale House Publishers came out as a remake of Kenneth Taylor's The Living Bible, which first appeared in a complete Bible in 1971 and which has sold more than 40 million copies. The advertisements tell us that "The New Living Translation provides a wonderful balance of readability and authority. ... due to the careful work of 90 leading Bible scholars, it is accurate to the original Greek and Hebrew text." The cover jacket of the NLT contains enthusiastic recommendations by Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, and Josh McDowell, and was featured positively in the 10/28/96 edition of Christianity Today in an article, "The Living Bible Reborn."

In truth, the NLT is a more worthless version than The Living Bible ever was. It is, again, a paraphrase, like The Living Bible, but its updating of the language and phrase additions make a mockery of the Word of God. Nevertheless, McDowell says, "Nothing illuminates the way God wants us to live more than the Bible. The New Living Translation is an excellent way to communicate God's truth to people of all ages and spiritual backgrounds."

-  Referring to Building Your Self-Image, psychologizers David and Karen Mains say, "... author Josh McDowell uses this book to describe his own battles with self-esteem and to provide practical and powerful answers to others who lack self-confidence" (2/93, The Chapel Newsletter). The following excerpts are from Chapter one of this book:

(a) "Yet each of us also carries another portrait with us, a picture far more important than any in our wallet. Psychologists have a name for it. They call that mental picture of ourselves, our self-image. ... there's always the person whose self-image is bent all out of shape, like a photo carried too long in a wallet."

(b) "The person with a healthy, positive self-image tends to be out in front in the race of life. Whether we like it or not, our mental self-portrait, that self-image, has a tremendous bearing on our emotional and spiritual well-being."

(c) "Research has shown that we tend to act in harmony with our mental self-portrait. If we don't like the kind of person we are, we think no one else likes us either. And that influences our social life, our job performance, our relationships with others. ... That is why one writer styled the new insights about self-image 'the most important psychological discovery of this century.'"

(d) "When did you get your mental portrait of yourself? How was it shaped? ... For all of us the foundation begins to be laid the moment the doctor places us in our mother's arms. ... By the age of five or six our self-concept, the person we think we are in relationship to others, is so firmly established that we will resist efforts to change it."

(e) "... your self-portrait ... You can change it. You can develop a more accurate and healthy view of yourself. ... The good news of the tremendous worth we have in God's eyes can light up our inner self-portrait."

(f) "Those of you who know me or who have read my biography, A Skeptic's Quest, know what a pitiful foundation for a good self-image was laid in my life. If I let those experiences shape my view of myself, I would be overflowing with rage. ... I now see myself more as Jesus sees me. More and more I like what I see in my self-portrait."

(g) "You can have your self-image reprogrammed through understanding and applying Biblical principles. I want to help you see yourself as God sees you. I want to help you discover who you are, the special individual you have been created to be in the eyes of God (Rom. 12:3)."

(h) "The good news of the tremendous worth we have in God's eyes can light up our inner self-portrait."

-  Another McDowell book, The Secret of Loving, perhaps best details his philosophy of self-love/self-esteem; Chapter 3, "A Proper Self-Portrait," contains the following key humanistic teachings (All emphases added):

(a) "This image (what psychologists call our self-image) alone daily determines how you and I perceive ourselves before other people ... the opinions we hold of ourselves affect everything we do ... It's the way you think of yourself deep down inside ... that motivates your actions" (pp. 21-22).

(b) A clear presentation of McDowell's "shopping mall" theology -- "You are special also because you are of great value and worth to God. ... The value or worth of an object is usually determined by the price one is willing to pay to purchase or redeem it. It couldn't be more true for you and me ... I am worth the price God paid for me, which was 'Jesus' ... the real basis for a healthy self-image is to understand and accept the value God has placed on you. ... Christ's loving actions on your behalf have demonstrated and documented forever the great value you have to God" (pp. 24-25). (First emphasis in original.) [This "shopping mall" theology -- that the value of an object is equal to the price paid for it -- has become quite a popular concept among the psychologizers in today's professing church. This "theology" goes something like this: "The death of Christ on the cross is God's price tag on the human soul; it means we really are somebodies, that we are of great value to God. After all, why would God pay such a great price if we're not worth it?" On the contrary, the Bible teaches that Christ didn't die for somebodies but for sinners. The price He paid on the cross does not establish my personal worth, but instead was required to meet the claims of divine justice. In fact, the greater the price, the costlier my sin, not the greater my worth! That the sinless Son of God had to die upon the cross to redeem me is not anything that should make me feel good about myself, but instead humbled and ashamed, for it was my sins that nailed Him there. How could that fact possibly build up my self-esteem? (Adapted from Beyond Seduction.)]

(c) According to McDowell, unconditional love and acceptance by others is essential to the development of a good self-image, but even more important is to accept yourself because, after all, "God can accept me just the way I am." (p. 27) "God's love, you see, is unconditional and His acceptance is unconditional" (p. 30). (See Brownback, The Danger of Self-Love, pp. 109-116, and Bobgan, Prophets of PsychoHeresy II, pp. 91-96 (reissued as James Dobson's Gospel of Self-Esteem & Psychology), for a proper, Biblical analysis of so-called unconditional love and acceptance.)

(d) McDowell's teaching on self-appreciation seems to epitomize what Paul was warning against in 2 Timothy 3:2 -- In the last days, men will be lovers of themselves. -- "I can go back to the motel room, look in the mirror and say, 'McDowell, you're cool! I like you. ...' When one has a healthy self-image, you can do that" (p. 31).

(e) It's okay for a Christian to buy flowers for himself or herself just, "Because I like myself ..." McDowell then relates the story of being away from home, buying himself five dozen flowers, placing the flowers all over his room, "And every time I look at a dozen flowers, it's going to be God saying to me, 'Josh, I love you. Josh, I accept you. Josh, I forgive you. Josh, as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Josh, you're special!' I'll look at each dozen flowers and hear God saying, 'Josh, you're of great value. I created you in My image. Josh, you're unique'" (p. 34).

(f) McDowell recommends two books as "further helpful resources," both of which teach a self-love gospel: Bruce Narramore, You're Someone Special and Verna Birkey, You Are Very Special (p. 34).

[These gross heresies in The Secret of Loving (some would say blasphemies) make an utter mockery of the doctrines of grace and redemption! "The old rugged cross" has been robbed of both its shame and its glory. The cross is now viewed from the selfish prospective of what it did for me and what I get out of it. McDowell's teaching on self-love/self-worth/self-esteem/self-ad nausea does epitomize what Paul was warning believers against in 2 Timothy 3:2 -- "In the last days, men will be lovers of themselves." This certainly does give new emphasis to the concept of narcissism! (See The Danger of Self-Love; The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image; and Beyond Seduction, pp. 146-189; for a Biblical analysis of the so-called "self-worth" issue.]

-  On 3/6/93, the First Baptist Church of Stanton, Michigan (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) sponsored a massive "Christian rock" party. It was attended by more than 1,300 teens, and included sensuous dancing and lewd behavior during the party activities. The party was part of a national teen evangelism project (called "Operation Powerlink" --  billed as "the world's largest pizza party") sponsored by Sonlife Ministries and Josh McDowell Ministries. An estimated one million teens participated in the nationwide event connecting thousands of youth groups through a live, one-hour cable presentation. The presentation, called See You at the Party, aired on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). McDowell's organization was expecting 150,000 "conversions" from among the nearly one million teenagers attending three-hour pizza parties at locations across the continent.

The "party" had a definite ecumenical and charismatic flavor, with 60 participating denominations. TBN, a hyper-charismatic, predominately blasphemous "Christian" TV network, "aired a one hour special in connection with the party [which] included a simultaneous broadcast via satellite linking teens from across the country," including the Stanton party. The special featured CCM artists Petra, Michael W. Smith, and Carmen, "along with dramatic vignettes and the testimony of Josh McDowell."

One observer at the Stanton "party" reported that the live band's "music was so loud that it hurt to breathe," and that it "was just like any other rock concert" with rising smoke, an elevated rotating drum section, and an incredible light show. [The female vocalist in the band even taught the crowd "dance moves to make with God"!] The associate pastor at the Stanton GARBC-affiliated church defended the "party" on the basis that (a) the church youth group had grown from 25 to over 100 in two months since the church "began playing Christian rock at their youth activities"; (b) there were "decisions" for Christ at the party [15 out of 1,300 in attendance]; (c) the GARBC seminary nearby had supported and commended the "party" by sending 50 students as counselors; and (d) the church was experiencing the beginnings of a mighty revival. (Reported in the July-August 1993, Fundamentalist Digest.) [On a number of occasions socialist radical Tony Campolo has also been a speaker with McDowell at "Christian" rock concerts around the country (1/25/94, A Christian View of the News).]

-  McDowell is also into "Christian" rap music for winning teens to Christ. On his 10/28/94 "Issue of Truth" program on TBN, McDowell had as guests three "Christian" gangster-rapper kids, who redefined their "music" as "hip-hop." They said they were previously bad guys, but now they "hip-hop for God." They also said that they let their clothes identify them with other hip-hoppers, not their Christian walk -- "That's the beauty of it. No one knows we're Christians, until they hear our music." McDowell also boasted that his 13 year-old daughter's favorite music group is DC Talk, another "Christian" rap group (6/10/94, TBN -- "Issue of Truth").

This should not be surprising when one considers whom McDowell has employed as his publicist/public relations man -- Fred Baye. Baye also represents the following people and/or groups: Jake "the snake" Roberts, a professional wrestler; Rebecca St. James, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Michael W. Smith, pop/contemporary "Christian" singers; John Schlitt, "Christian" rock soloist for the band Petra; Petra; Wellington Boone, writer/charismatic evangelist/reconstructionist/Promise Keepers conference speaker; DC Talk and the Newsboys, "Christian" rappers; and neo-evangelical psychologizers Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Pat Robertson, Jack Hayford, and Bill Bright. (Documented from the 12/26/01 Fred Baye & Company Internet web site.)

-  The co-host of McDowell's "Issue of Truth" 30-minute television show aired on TBN is Steve Arterburn, a codependency guru and co-author of Toxic Faith. Arterburn is the CEO of New Life Treatment Centers (codependency treatment centers now affiliated with the Minirth/Meier Clinics), and teaches many of the same concepts as non-religious codependency guru John Bradshaw, only dressed up in Christian terminology. [Bradshaw is an unbeliever who defines codependency as the internalization of shame, and blames it in part on Christians who teach doctrines of original sin, total depravity, and eternal punishment, adding that a Christian's problem results from "toxic shame" rather than sin. This theory holds that virtually everyone in the country is a product of a "dysfunctional family," a whopping 96% of us, and that we have all experienced some form of traumatic abuse as children. In turn, this childhood "abuse" inevitably results in some form of adult dysfunctional behavior -- often some form of addiction -- the solution for which is a concerted effort to "heal the inner child" through 12-Step programs. This is the same John Bradshaw who "heartily recommends" Love is a Choice: Recovery for Codependent Relationships, a best-selling "Christian" recovery book which Frank Minirth and Paul Meier co-author with Robert Hemfelt (of Serenity Bible fame).]

-  An excerpt from McDowell's 1994 book, Right From Wrong -- What You Need To Know To Help Youth Make Right Choices, was featured in a cover story in Dr. James Dobson's 11/94 Focus On The Family magazine. In his 2-page article, McDowell mentions sin only twice. And he mentions not at all either the Lord Jesus Christ or the necessity for repentance. McDowell does mention a 1994 survey he took of 3,795 kids (ages 11-18), from 13 denominations, in which they were asked 193 questions. More than 80% said they attended an "evangelical church" weekly, and 86% said they had made "a commitment to trust Christ as their Savior and Lord." Citing a number of worldly activities these young people engage in, McDowell says this reveals "that many of our kids are not adopting our value system at all." He asks: "What is happening to our kids?" Well, the answer here is painfully obvious, yet it seems not to have dawned on McDowell. The so-called "evangelical churches" are not producing real Christians! These kids are lying.

McDowell is also big on "honesty" --  which he never defines. He says we have to teach our kids that being "honest" gives them "unbroken fellowship with God." But, it doesn't! Sin is what broke this fellowship, and only faith and repentance will restore it. McDowell says nothing about being born-again. What Josh McDowell and his ilk must face is a very unpleasant truth: Their kind of preachy, feel-good-about-yourself moralizing is not working, has not worked, and never will work, because it is not the Gospel. (Excerpted and/or adapted from the Lofton Letter, as reprinted in the 11/14/94, Christian News.) [McDowell then appeared on Dobson's 11/15/94 FOTF radio program to promote the book and his latest youth campaign -- "Right from Wrong."] [McDowell continues to be a regular on Dobson's radio program, his latest area of expertise being how to "rescue the next generation" from the "cultural gap" between parents and youth (10/1-10/2, 2001, FOTF radio).]

-  McDowell is also very ecumenically-minded. He was a speaker at the 55th annual NAE convention in 1997. He gave 12 keys to networking. He said that he is now working with 50 denominations in order "to resource families and reinforce the crumbling foundation of our young people." He added, "We are all in the same boat. Unless we start rowing together we will all sink separately." (Source: Ralph Colas NAE convention report.)

In 1996, Campus Crusade invited Russian Orthodox theologians and Russian doctors and professors to participate at a cult seminar, along with Josh McDowell and Ron Enroth. McDowell told Christianity Today that opportunities exist for Protestant and Orthodox Christians to work together on right-to-life, youth, and family-related issues. (Source: What in the World, Vol.16, No.7.)

In 2000, McDowell was part of the ecumenical Billy Graham Amsterdam 2000 extravaganza, where he taught a workshop on family relationships.

McDowell is a member of COR (Coalition on Revival), a Reconstructionist/Dominionist organization dedicated to a social gospel/activism agenda that proposes to impose Biblical standards (e.g., Old Testament law) on unbelieving peoples and institutions. Though McDowell is no longer a Steering Committee member of COR, he has signed its Manifesto. COR has stated that "Unity of the Body of Christ in any city as non-optional," thereby making it necessary to "rebuild [a] city's entire society upon the Bible." COR says that its founding documents (see below) were created "to give the Church a proper foundation," and that "no denomination, church, organization, or mission can completely fulfill its God-assigned tasks unless it stands firmly on the biblical truths represented in these documents ... the Church must stand on these truths or remain ineffective" (July 1997, "The Vision for the Coalition on Revival").

As an indication of what the people affiliated with COR believe, the following is from a brochure announcing the 12th Annual Northwest Conference for Christian Reconstruction. Does this not sound like a different gospel? (All emphases added):

"The Christian Reconstruction movement believes that the Bible contains not only a message of personal salvation through the blood of Christ shed on the cross, but also a comprehensive law structure which is alone able to provide a just basis for society. It is committed to the view that sovereignty and thus government belong to God, and that all delegated government, whether to family, church or state (civil government), is to be exercised in obedience to the law of God's covenant. Furthermore, salvation involves every aspect of man's life and thus also the relationship she sustains to the world around him. The exercise of dominion in accordance with the terms of God's covenant is therefore basic and vital to the Christian faith. To neglect this is to deprecate the extent of Christ's victory at Calvary."

That McDowell has no problem identifying with this movement is a bit disconcerting to say the least. (For details of COR's unbiblical strategy for "taking the world for Christ," see COR' documents titled A Manifesto for the Christian Church, Forty-two Articles of the Essentials of a Christian World View, and Twenty-five Articles of Affirmation and Denial on the Kingdom of God. These three documents, along with COR's 17 Sphere/World View Documents, make up what COR calls its "20 COR World View Documents.")

-  McDowell appears to have also thrown-in with the charismatic fasting and revival crowd. Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright fasted 40 days during the summer of 1994, during which he claims to have received a "prophecy from God" that a mighty revival is coming. He then issued a call for hundreds of liberals, charismatics, and new-evangelicals to gather in Orlando 12/5/94-12/7/94 to fast and pray for revival. An Invitation Committee made up of a hodgepodge of 72 liberals, new evangelicals, and charismatics was formed. Included were: Robert Schuller, Charles Colson, E.V. Hill, Jack Hayford, James Dobson, W.A. Criswell, Charles Stanley, Paul Crouch, Luis Palau, Bill Gothard, Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, and Larry Burkett. CCC's Bill Bright cites "a great sense of urgency to link arms and unitedly call upon God for help in the spirit of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20)." This ecumenical "linking" is in the "spirit of Jehoshaphat" indeed, but the Jehoshaphat of 2 Chr. 18 (instead of 2 Chr. 20) where he "linked" with wicked King Ahab and incurred the wrath of God. (Reported in the 11/15/94, Calvary Contender.) [Another three-day "Fasting & Prayer" conference was held in 11/95 in Los Angeles; it attracted 3,500 "evangelicals" and charismatics. The Invitation/Host Committee for this event included most of those listed above, plus Dick Eastman, Chuck Smith, Bill McCartney (Promise Keepers), Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Shirley Dobson, Paul Cedar (E-Free), Ted Engstrom (World Vision), Joseph Stowell (Moody), and Joseph Aldrich (Multnomah). A third conference was held 11/14/96-11/16/96 in St. Louis. New additions to the Host Committee included Max Lucado, Henry Blackaby, Loren Cunningham (YWAM), Greg Laurie, Dennis Rainey, Randy Phillips (Promise Keepers), Josh McDowell, D. James Kennedy, Howard Hendricks, and Neil Anderson. (Conferences have been held every year now, but there is an uncertain future with Bill Bright's August 2001 retirement from Campus Crusade, and his 2003 death.)]

-  Promise Keepers is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, Josh McDowell is a promoter of this ecumenical, charismatic, psychologized men's movement as evidenced by his speaking at PK events and by his writing numerous daily "devotionals" for publication in PK's bi-monthly Men of Integrity ("your daily guide to the Bible and prayer").

Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 1/2002