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The Advocate



Undaunted by Josh McDowell

Reviewed by Marshall Hughes

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"Undaunted is a compelling book for anyone interesting in McDowell, in the horrors of child sexual abuse, in God’s redemptive love or in all of these. It would be an excellent choice as a gift to believers and non-believers alike, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse and think they can’t recover."

It is frequently entertaining and educational to learn about early life experiences of famous and/or extremely high-achieving people. Did they grow up in poverty, or with silver spoons in their mouths? Were their early lives interesting, or run of the mill?

“Undaunted” tells the early-life story of Josh McDowell, world-famous Christian author and speaker, who led a very interesting early life. Unfortunately, it was interesting in the sense that the Chinese are said to wish that their adversaries “live in interesting times.”

McDowell, who has gone on to speak to over 10 million young people in nearly 2/3 of the world’s 196 countries and write 115 books (ie “More Than a Carpenter” and “Evidence that Demands a Verdict”), came from an extremely dysfunctional family with a physically- and emotionally-abusive, rarely-sober father and a farm hand who sexually abused him for seven years.

McDowell could sense that his severely-obese mother loved him, but she spent much of her time trying to ward off beatings from her husband, and seemingly the rest of her time making excuses for the beatings. She kept her promise to live long enough to see Josh through high school, and then died, ostensibly of sadness.

“Undaunted” follows McDowell’s life only until his days at Talbot Seminary, and his various dismays, disappointments, and disasters of life prior to that. Although some readers may want to know how he got from seminary student to his place of world standing, the point of the book is his escape from his early quandries.

Of course, McDowell’s conversion story prior to seminary is the story of this story.

In his community college days, McDowell took on a group of Christians, trying to whip up other students’ ridicule towards the outspoken Christians, whom he considered weak and foolish.

One of these students challenged McDowell, saying “Disprove the resurrection and you will disprove the claims of Christianity.” If he could do that, said the student, McDowell could cause “all of Christianity to come tumbling down.”

So that’s what McDowell set out to do, going so far as to travel to various sites in Europe and looking at original documents pertaining to early Christian writings. In the end, in trying to disprove the resurrection and other Biblical claims, McDowell joined others such as Lord Lyttleton, Gilbert West and Thomas Arnold who similarly had set out to disprove Christianity on a logical basis, only to be be convinced of the Bible’s accuracy and truth.

“Undaunted” is a compelling book for anyone interesting in McDowell, in the horrors of child sexual abuse, in God’s redemptive love or in all of these. It would be an excellent choice as a gift to believers and non-believers alike, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse and think they can’t recover. It’s concise and well-written with no useless, tangential side stories.

The few sections where the abuses are dealt with are understated, and it’s hard to imaging anyone being offended by the passages as they are written. The abuse is briefly mentioned without any real details, but still it is clear enough as to what happened.

Marshall HughesMarshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.