American Evangelical theologian William Lane Craig is ready to debate the rationality of faith during his U.K tour this fall, but it appears that some atheist philosophers are running shy of the challenge.
This month president of the British Humanist Association, Polly Toynbee, pulled out of an agreed debate at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, saying she “hadn’t realized the nature of Mr. Lane Craig’s debating style.”
By “debating style” I think she meant “annihilates bad atheistic philosophy.” Seriously, did she not realize who he was and how he debated before accepting the original terms? Could she be more specific about her objections? Does he yell, swear, make personal attacks, etc.?
Lane Craig, who is a professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif., and author of 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles, is no stranger to the art of debate and has taken on some of the great orators, such as famous atheists Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Harris once described Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists”.
Responding to Toynbee’s cancellation, Lane Craig commented: “These folks (atheists) can be very brave when they are alone at the podium and there’s no one there to challenge them. But one of the great things about these debates is that, it allows both sides to be heard on a level playing field, and for the students in the audience to make up their own minds about where they think the truth lies.”
They prefer classroom, media and government monopolies where others can’t have the microphone and/or are afraid to lose grades, funding or careers.
But David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, believes the reason behind the cancellation is much simpler.
“The fact is some people get tired of debating Christians because of the same arguments over and over again. And sometimes it’s a lot like arguing with a wall,” he said.
Hmmmm . . . isn’t that an argument that Craig could have made if he chickened out of a debate? Would atheists have accepted that excuse? And that wasn’t Toynbee’s published excuse, so why is he making up one for her?
Others have refused to challenge Lane Craig, too, including Richard Dawkins, one of the Four Horseman of the new Atheist movement, which include Hitchens, Harris and Daniel Dennett.
Dawkins, who has labeled the Roman Catholic Church “evil” and once called the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock,” refused four separate invitations, extended through religious and humanist organizations, to take part in debates with Lane Craig during his fall tour.
The controversy wafted into the British press after fellow atheist and philosophy lecturer, Daniel Came, accused Dawkins of simply being afraid, saying, “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.”
Dawkins responded by saying, “I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion.”
Ouch — even atheists are calling Dawkins a coward! And again, isn’t Dawkins’ excuse a one-size-fits-all that either side could use? What is his evidence that Craig’s debates are about selfish promotion and Dawkins’ books and interviews are all about helping mankind? Dawkins is a professional atheist and a debate with Craig would be exactly what you’d expect someone like him to participate in.
Dawkins’ problem is that he can’t go three sentences without contradicting his worldview, and people like Craig are really good at pointing that out. Example: Dawkins acts like the (falsely claimed) self-promotion angle would be a bad thing. But in a Darwinian world, what would be more logical than a drive for self-promotion? Shouldn’t Dawkins use that as evidence for his position?