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Final comments on the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate

Information about how to get the audio and video of the debate will be posted here, later.

My written summary of the debate is here. It’s really a play-by-play of every statement made.

Doug Geivett’s review of the debate

Doug Geivett’s excellent summary of the debate is here. This is a comprehensive summary!

The Pugnacious Irishman

The Pugnacious Irishman has a super summary of the debate. (He attended it) In addition, he has some very welcome comments about the general task of apologetics.

Excerpt:

As I’ve said before (third part of a three part series.  To get the whole of my presentation, you need to read the first two parts as well.), this is a gigantic red herring, and confuses epistemology with metaphysics/ontology.  Craig was asking, “how can an atheist ground his moral beliefs?” not “how can an atheist behave morally without believing in God?”  Those are two totally different questions.  In the absence of a good God that grounds morality, well, the atheist might think he’s behaving morally, but he’s just attaching words without meaning to his actions..actually, the same goes for the theist!  Without God, all anyone ever does is act in ways we call morality, but our words are meaningless.  The moral sense that we have (that Hitchens claims develops via evolution) is merely an illusion that aids our survival…that’s what you get if you follow the atheistic premises where they lead.

And towards the end of the post:

The highlight of the debate for me was when Craig made an evangelistic appeal to both Hitchens and the non believers in the audience.  Of course, Hitchens wasn’t just gonna bow the knee right there, but this underscores a proper view of apologetics: it is an evangelistic, missionary enterprise.

I frequently hear Christians dismiss apologetical ventures because “its all just arguing about words.  You can’t win anyone to Christ with an argument.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that.  It’s all head and no heart and is totally irrelevant to my life.”

First, I think anyone  watching tonight could see Craig’s character and fervent love for the Lord.  I’ve seen the same for many Christian philosophers and apologists on the intellectual front lines.  They are winsome and attractive ambassadors, as Koukl says.  This puts that last objection (it’s all head and no heart) in it’s place.

Secondly, *nothing* in isolation can win someone to Christ without the Spirit, not even love or acts of service.  But people are won over to Christ with arguments all the  time when they are used by the Holy Spirit.  With the Holy Spirit’s help, they are quite potent.

Third, it’s not just arguing about words.  It is rooted in care for the lost.  Paul did it.  Jesus did it.  The early church fathers did it.  Craig showed it tonight.

Of course, if someone doesn’t care for the lost, he won’t care about any of this either…but that’s another discussion.

I would like to see TPI post something about that “other discussion”!

Further study

Check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens, Lee Strobel and some other people. Biola also officially live-blogged the debate here.

Some book reviews of Hitchens’ book by Melinda Penner and Doug Groothuis are here.

For more on the arguments used in the debate, see my index of arguments here.

UPDATE: Looks like this has been picked up by Breitbart here.

BY THE WAY: If you enjoyed Bill Craig’s performance in his debate, why not stop by his Reasonable Faith web site and leave him a donation? He won that debate through months and months of preparation. So, when you fund his research, you really are helping him to go out there and do his job well. Won’t you consider helping Bill in his work?

Summary of the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate: Does God Exist?

UPDATE: The video of the debate has been posted:

TOPIC: DOES GOD EXIST?

MY NOTES ON THE DEBATE: (WC = William Lane Craig, CH = Christopher Hitchens)

WC opening speech:

Introduction:

WC makes two contentions:
– there are no good arguments for atheism
– there are good arguments for theism

These topics are IRRELEVANT tonight:
– social impact of christianity
– morality of Old Testament passages
– biblical inerrancy
– the debate is whether god (a creator and designer of the universe) exists

1. cosmological argument
– an actually infinite number of past events is impossible
– number of past events must be finite
– therefore universe has a beginning
– the beginning of the universe is confirmed by science –  universe began to exist from nothing
– space, time, matter, energy began at the big bang
– the creation of the universe requires a cause
– the cause is uncaused, timeless, spaceless, powerful
– the cause must be beyond space and time, because it created space and time
– the cause is not physical, because it created all matter and energy
– but there are only two kinds of non-physical cause: abstract objects or minds
– abstract objects don’t cause effects
– therefore must be mind

2. teleological argument
– fine-tuned constants and ratios
– constants not determined by laws of nature
– also, there are arbitrary quantities
– constants and quantities are in narrow range of life-permitting values
– an example: if the weak force were different by 1 in 10 to the 100, then no life
– there are 3 explanations: physical law or chance or design
– not due to law: because constants and quantities are independent of the laws
– not due to chance: the odds are too high for chance
– therefore, due to design
– the atheist response is the world ensemble (multiverse)
– but world ensemble has unobservable universes, no evidence that they exist
– and world ensemble contradicts scientific observations we have today

3. moral argument
– objective moral values are values that exist regardless of what humans think
– objective values are not personal preferences
– objective values are not evolved standards that cultures have depending on time and place
– objective moral values and duties exist
– objective moral values and duties require a moral lawgiver

4. argument from resurrection miracle
– resurrection implies miracle
– miracle implies God
– 3 minimal facts pass the historical tests (early attestation, eyewitness testimony, multiple attestation, etc.)
– minimal fact 1: empty tomb
– minimal fact 2: appearances
– minimal fact 3: early belief in the resurrection
– jewish theology prohibits a dying messiah – messiah is not supposed to die
– jewish theology has a general resurrection of everybody, there is not supposed to be a resurrection of one person
– jewish theology certainly does not predict a single resurrection of the messiah after he dies
– therefore, the belief in the resurrection is unlikely to have been invented
– disciples were willing to die for that belief in the resurrection
– naturalistic explanations don’t work for the 3 minimal facts

5. properly basic belief in god
– religious experience is properly basic
– it’s just like the belief in the external world, grounded in experience
– in the absence of defeaters, those experiences are valid

Conclusion: What CH must do:
– destroy all 5 of WC’s arguments
– erect his own case in its place

CH opening speech:

1. evolution disproves biological design argument
– evolution disproves paley’s argument for a watchmaker

2. god wouldn’t have done it that way
– god wouldn’t have waited that long before the incarnation
– mass extinction and death before Jesus
– god wouldn’t have allowed humans to have almost gone extinct a while back in africa
– why insist that this wasteful and incompetent history of life is for us, that’s a bad design
– the universe is so vast, why would god need so much space, that’s a bad design
– there is too much destruction in the universe, like exploding stars – that’s a bad design
– the heat death of the universe is a bad design
– too many of the other planets don’t support life, that’s a bad design
– the sun is going to become a red giant and incinerate us, that’s a bad design

3. hitchens’ burden of proof
– there is no good reason that supports the existence of god
– all arguments for god can be explained without god
– atheists can’t prove there is no god
– but they can prove there is no good argument for god

4. craig’s scientific arguments don’t go far enough, they only prove deism, not theism
– the scientific arguments don’t prove prayer works
– the scientific arguments don’t prove specific moral teachings of christianity

5. if the laws of physics are so great then miracles shouldn’t be allowed
– good laws and miracles seem to be in contradiction

6. extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence
– none of craig’s evidence was extraordinary

7. science can change, so craig can’t use the progress of science
– it’s too early for craig to use the big bang and fine-tuning
– the big bang and fine-tuning evidences are too new
– they could be overturned by the progress of science

8. craig wrote in his book that the internal conviction of god’s existence should trump contradicting evidence
– but then he isn’t forming his view based on evidence
– he refuses to let evidence disprove his view
– but then how can atheists be to blame if they don’t believe
– so evidence is not really relevant to accepting theism

9. the progress of science has disproved religion
– christianity taught that earth was center of the universe
– but then cosmology disproved that

Response to the big bang and fine-tuning arguments:
– was there pre-existing material?
– who designed the designer?

Continue reading Summary of the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate: Does God Exist?

Tough Questions Answered has first report of Licona/Ehrman debate!

Here is their commentary on the recent Licona vs. Ehrman debate at SES. And they didn’t even tell me about it, I had to find it myself. Those meanies!

Excerpt from their awesome post-debate report:

Here is my summary of the arguments that each of them presented.

Licona opened the debate with a historical argument that goes like this.  First, he argued, virtually all historians (close to 100%) agree on three key facts about Jesus:

  1. He died by crucifixion.
  2. His disciples believed they saw Jesus appear several times after he died.
  3. The apostle Paul believed he saw Jesus appear after he died.

Then, Licona explained that the historian’s job was to figure out the best explanation of these three facts.  There are four criteria that the professional historian should use to judge possible explanations of the facts:

  1. explanatory scope
  2. explanatory power
  3. plausibility
  4. less ad hoc

I read their post, and it sounds like Bart Ehrman made his standard discredited case based on 1) manuscript variants and 2) David Hume’s argument against miracles. He doesn’t even care that he lost his debate against Craig with these exact same arguments.

As I reported before:

In Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show, and in Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace, Ehrman lists the 4 worst problems caused by the invariants:

  1. the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  2. the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  3. Jesus was angry and not compassionate when he healed the leper (Mark 1:41)
  4. that Jesus died apart from God, and not by the grace of God (Hebrews 2:9)

Now I have to tell you, these disputes are irrelevant to standard Christian doctrine. Also, I personally prefer the woman at the well story being left out, and I prefer angry Jesus in 3). Why? Because I am snarky. The only variant that bugs me is the ending in Mark, because I liked the long ending. But none of these “worst cases” affects anything that Mike Licona might say on behalf of the resurrection, which is what the debate is supposed to be about, right?

That post also had some links to other debates on the resurrection. Furthermore, in previous debates, Ehrman’s argument against miracles is really just David Hume’s argument against miracles, which even non-Christian scholars, like John Earman, have defeated at the highest level here:

Here is an another interesting part of part one of TQA’s report (part two is forthcoming, they say!):

Interestingly, Ehrman did fully accept Licona’s three facts about Jesus as historically true.  He just didn’t accept the explanation of Jesus rising from the dead to explain those facts.  His favorite explanation seemed to be hallucinations, so the two debaters spent a lot time discussing hallucinations.

UPDATE: Part 2 of their evaluation has been posted!

Further Reading

Here are some resources related to this debate.