"Does God Exist?" William Lane Craig verses Peter Millican

I found this debate embedded below between William Lane Craig and Peter Millican to be quite enjoyable for a few reasons. Primarily, I enjoyed the level of professionalism and civility that both men modeled. The debate was virtually devoid of the snarkiness that usually enters into such discourse. Both men carried themselves well and presented their sides without resorting to backhanded insults or rudeness. Secondly, I find the topic to amazingly important in the field of apologetics.

Too often, Christian apologists move quickly to establish the deity of Christ while forgetting that their opponents and/or audience may be struggling with the concept of deity in general. This debate centers around the question of deity, “Does God Exist?” When engaging with those who are struggling with the concept of God, it is often necessary for the Christian apologist to lay the groundwork and establish that the concept of God is acceptable prior to making the argument that Christianity best explains God. Following this approach, the apologist is free to use both evidential evidence and  presuppositions to win his case. It is a topic I explore in a brief paper found here.

I think Craig does an apt job in this debate of laying this important groundwork. In his book, Reasonable Faith, Craig makes the argument that the task of the apologist isn’t necessarily to convince his opponent. Rather, in a day and age where secularists try to monopolize reason and academia, the apologist is better served to simply claim intellectual ground in the name of faith. If the apologist can accomplish this task, he has successfully given his audience “intellectual permission” to consider God. I think Craig accomplishes this task rather well in this debate.

I also think Craig wins this particular debate. He seemed much more concerned with actively proving his case while Millican seemed more concerned with rebutting Craig rather than proving his own argument that God doesn’t exist.

I invite you to check out their debate and consider their arguments for yourself. I must warn you, however, the debate is rather long. You might want to watch it in segments or pour yourself a cup of coffee before you settle in.

I hope you enjoy!

The Relationship Between Faith and Reason

Within this debate Christopher Hitchens suggests that all religions are poisonous because their adherents replace reason with the idea that faith is a virtue. Hitchens is suggesting that reason and faith are unable to coexist in one person; rather, anyone who displays faith is doing so without the aid of reasoning. I find this proposition ludicrous in every conceivable fashion. I only need to flip through my mental Rolodex of favorite authors for concrete examples of faith and reason flourishing in the same mind; Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, William Lane Craig … I could fill this page with examples that dispute Hitchens’ notion. In his arrogance, Hitchens dismisses every religious person who has every lived as incapable of exhibiting reason – it is a point he has made repeatedly and I believe is based on a faulty interpretation of what faith is.

I would suggest that the tension between faith and reason is not designed in a way that limits a person to having only one or the other; rather, a person may display a great deal of faith, a great deal of reason, both, or neither. While faith and reason are attributes that aren’t necessarily dependent upon each other, they do have the natural tendency to influence one another. In fact, they are so closely related that they are almost intertwined. Let’s take a moment to explore this concept.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines faith as “something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs.”  A person who displays a strong conviction in their religious beliefs inevitably base their faith in reason. Their reasoning may be illogical, faulty, or surprisingly concrete; however, it is reasoning just the same. For instance, if you ask me why I believe in God and my response is that I read about Him on the back of a cereal box, you may think that I’m displaying faulty reasoning skills – but it is reasoning just the same.  When asked the same question, a person with no reasoning skills would only be able to answer, “I don’t know why I believe in God … I just do.” While this person may be displaying a great deal of faith, they are displaying a lack of reasoning.

Anyone who is able to articulate a reason for their faith, regardless of what that reason is, is displaying reason and faith at the same time; thus, discrediting Hitchens’ point. What Hitchens is really saying is that anyone who engages their reasoning and comes to a conclusion other than the one he has reached is a buffoon.

This brings me to my next thought. It is quite possible for two intelligent people to engage their faith and reason with tremendously different results. In my case, faith told me that God was real and reason helped me deduce that Jesus Christ was the means by which He intended to offer me salvation. Another person may deduce that God is real and that living the middle way of the Buddhist is what He prefers us all to do. There is no doubt that one person is right and the other wrong, but only arrogance would suggest that one or the other was incapable of using logic. Both individuals may be bright and faithful people; they just reached different conclusions. This is where the virtues of debate, investigation, reason, and gut instincts interact with our faith. Thankfully, it is never too late to change one’s mind.

Coming to a belief in Christ can almost be considered a two-step process. In the first step, a person engages their faith to understand there is something bigger than themselves in the universe. Perhaps it is Buddha, pantheism, Wicca, Islam, or Christ. Whatever it is – it is there. Then there is the second step where a person engages their logical reasoning skills and determines that Christ is their Savior. Unlike Hitchens, I believe that most people who confess a belief in Christ have engaged both faith and reason.

When we fail to engage both attributes we get ourselves out of whack. Faith that is devoid of reason can be used to justify anything. When you display reason without faith you begin to believe that skepticism is a virtue and the end result is a Hitchens-like arrogance that serves to benefit no one.

My God wants me to engage the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ – I can’t do that if I have written everyone who disagrees with me off as being stupid. Thankfully, most people are capable of displaying both faith and reason is some measure. They may disagree with me, but I thank God that He is giving us all the chance to change our minds!

Book Review of Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue

Title: Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue
Authors: Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega
Publisher: Lion UK, 2009

Review: This book was actually loaned to me by a Wiccan friend who knew I would enjoy it. The subject matter of the book echoed many of the debates and discussions my friend and I have had and the authors were obviously well informed and knowledgeable regarding their faiths. The book strives to create an atmosphere of “dialogue” rather than “debate,” and achieves that goal well. I thought Johnson represented the Christian viewpoints with love and respect towards his counterpart and that diZerega presented his [Wiccan] thoughts with a great deal of intelligence despite my disagreement with his views.

My biggest complaint regarding this book was in its layout. Each chapter covers a different topic and gives the floor first to diZerega to present the Wiccan vantage point and then to Johnson for a Christian response. In each chapter, Johnson was given the advantage of reading diZerega’s essay before writing while diZerega was never given the same opportunity. In my opinion, this gave Johnson an unfair advantage. However, even with this advantage, Johnson never really blows diZerega out of the water … even though he was given ample opportunity (and ammunition) to do so. Given the polite forum of this discussion, I suppose neither author’s goal was to destroy his counterpart; however,  I still think Johnson played it a little too nice. diZerega seemed far more pointed than Johnson in his critique of Christianity and it is my opinion that Johnson missed several opportunities to point out weaknesses in diZerega’s views.

I did find it interesting that, once again, the Wiccan in question seems to have formulated his opinions of Christianity as a result of a bad experience with Christianity in his younger years. I often find myself wondering if Christians who represent their faith poorly aren’t the chief cause of Wicca’s current popularity.

I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in the subject matter. Due to the flaws in the layout of the book, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is on the cusp of making a decision between the two faiths, but it is interesting and informative.