Atheists run from William Lane Craig, but why won’t Craig debate James White?

As much fun as it would be to see William Lane Craig expose the horribly flawed atheistic philosophy of Richard Dawkins, I’d prefer to see Craig debate James White.  It would be a much more balanced debate between two very well prepared, extremely articulate and intelligent Christians.

I’d also like to see Norman Geisler debate White.  I’m part way through The Potter’s Freedom by White, where he defends Reformed theology and critiques Geisler’s Chosen But Free.  I’ve always found White to be exceptionally well researched, and so far his rebuttal of Geisler (whom I have a lot of respect for) is very convincing.

See Atheists on the Run from William Lane Craig.

There are many atheists who refuse to debate William Lane Craig. He is definitely skilled at self-control, remaining on-target, etc. But, I wonder if those who are so excited about Craig’s prowess realize that he has been challenged to debate a number of issues by men with just as much experience as he has in debate, but he has declined?

I have often commented on how useful a debate between myself and Dr. Craig would be on many issues. I have often played portions of Craig’s studies, talks, and debates, and have challenged his statements. I have challenged his evidentialism, and a debate on whether we are called to proclaim the “greater probability of the existence of a god” or to proclaim the certainty of the existence of the God that men know exists would be very useful to our generation. I have challenged his Molinism, even lecturing on the topic at a Reformed Baptist Church right next to the Talbot/Biola campus in Southern California. I do not believe Molinism is at all consistent with biblical truth, and would love to challenge him to demonstrate that the God of the Bible is the same God he describes as having “actuated” this world on the basis of middle knowledge, etc. And, of course, in light of his response to Christopher Hitchens, wherein the only “false” Christian faith he could come up with was not Romanism or any of the fundamentally sub- and anti-Christian movements of our day, but Calvinism, would not the students at Biola/Talbot find a full-orbed series of debates, right there on campus, on the doctrines of grace, to be an exceptionally useful addition to their education?

Dr. Craig is well aware of our desire to engage these subjects. Though we have never met, we know many of the same people, and I have been told, “through channels,” that “Dr. Craig does not debate Christians.” This is the same response you will get from Norman Geisler as well, when the topic comes up as to why he has declined a dozen such challenges over the past decade. I have never been given an explanation of why this is. We are both debaters. We have both debated many of the same people. We have just done so in very different ways, and it would be greatly edifying for the Christian community as a whole to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of those differences. We have both shown that we can debate fairly, fully, and respectfully. So I see absolutely no reason why Dr. Craig will not accept our challenge to engage these topics. We certainly stand ready, and given that the atheists are running for the hills with their hair on fire, it seems Dr. Craig would have plenty of extra time to join us in exploring, via debate, these important apologetic issues.

23 thoughts on “Atheists run from William Lane Craig, but why won’t Craig debate James White?”

  1. I think James white is not convincing at all. I think Calvinism – or shall I more accurately say “Augustinianism” – is one of the worst things that happened to the faith. (and, no, I’m not an Arminian) I suggest a better book for you would be Dave Hunt’s “What Love is This?” or perhaps Robert Picirilli’s book, “Grace, Faith, Free Will,” or even “Why I Am Not A Calvinist” by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell.

    And that is ALL I am going to say on the topic because all it does it upset everyone.


    1. “What love is this?” probably ranks as one of the best examples of NOT to do exegesis in the entire history of Christian literature. It makes Geisler’s “Chosen But Free” look like a Pauline epistle. A better book would be “Debating Calvinism” where Dave Hunt directly debates James White. Although it’s not pretty.


      1. Typical response from an Augustinian. I have the other book, also, and the new edition of “What Love is This?” fully responds to the issues brought up by White that Hunt was not able to respond to in that book. In my opinion, Augustinianism is the best example of how “NOT to do exegesis in the entire history of Christian literature.”


      2. Glenn,
        You do know that Hunt’s book had an enormous amount of historical inaccuracies, right? Once this was exposed, Multnomah Press (the original publisher) refused to print a second edition. This is what led (forced) him to release a second (self-published) edition that didn’t change the historical inaccuracies. Both editions were poorly researched and made more straw men than nearly any other book I’ve ever read.

        For examples, read this review:

        Click to access hunt_review.pdf

        This doesn’t mean that Calvinism is true, but it does mean that Hunt’s book shouldn’t be recommended.


      3. If you think misrepresenting the positions of others and historical revisionism is “minor”, then I’m not sure what to say. And they most certainly do affect the argument.


      4. I said I have read only of minor issues – I didn’t say they were the only ones there. I don’t know – haven’t read – of others. I just printed out the review in your link and will be reading it so then, if there are major errors I can then say I have read of major errors.


      5. Glenn,

        “Typical response from an Augustinian.”

        Oh, I didn’t know I was Augustinian. Apparently anyone who disagrees with you = Augustinian, lol. Sorry if I made observations about factual errors within a book you obviously esteem highly. I tend to not recommend books riddled with error. You are welcome to do so, to each his own.

        Regardless of one’s view of salvation it doesn’t change the fact that, “What Love is This” 1st edition remains a *colossal* exegetical failure and is an embarrassment.


        You are exactly correct.


      6. No, people who don’t agree with me aren’t Augustinian. They could be anything. Those who proclaim themselves to be Calvinists are really Augustinians because all Calvin did was regurgitate Augustine.

        I did not agree with all of the exegetical discussions of Hunt in his book, but I didn’t see them as any worse than the gymnastics needed to support Augustinianism. As for the historical inaccuracies, I wouldn’t know. Most of the stuff I read in that book in regards to history I read elsewhere – you know, the stuff that demonstrates what sort of person Calvin was. I really wasn’t interested in the book for the history lesson.


  2. I currently attend a reformed baptist church, though I am not fully reformed in my theology (as in I am willing to affirm 1.5 of the 5 points, but am fully open to being convinced in either direction with solid argumentation). It’s either a reformed baptist or presbyterian, or a Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, or some other hyper-liberal “christian” church. Being in New England it’s hard to find good churches.

    I would love to see a debate between Craig and White. When ever issues like this are lectured on or debated, it’s almost always by people who argue poorly for their side, which is why I am not firmly in either camp, but hold a blended theology.

    I’m waiting to pick up Michael Horton’s new Systematic Theology figuring that would be a well reasoned reformed approach.

    Another funny note, save WL Craig, every religious podcast I listen to is by a Calvinist. Matt Slick, White Horse Inn, STR, Ken Samples, and Please Convince Me — and have been listening to them for years even before being at the church I am at now.


  3. I have shifted from mostly Arminian to mostly Reformed theology over the years but I don’t get snippy about it, because it does seem to lead to petty intramural squabbles. I’ve only belonged to Arminian churches but have listened to the many of the same folks John has. I was firmly anti-Reformed for a long time so it wasn’t like I haven’t given both sides a fair hearing. That doesn’t mean I’m right, but it does mean that I chuckle if people think I haven’t thought this through carefully.

    Having watched from the fence for many years my experience is that the nastiest comments come from Arminians towards the Reformed side. Maybe it just the Reformed folks I happen to follow (Koukl, MacArthur, Slick, White) and how they focus on the text and not the name-calling.

    I didn’t realize Please Convince Me was Reformed. I guess Wallace does such a good job of staying focused on the apologetics angle that it isn’t obvious where he stands on this topic.

    Again, I’m all for good debates and would love to see Craig and White have a go. The debates I’ve heard have resulted in the Reformed guy running rings around the Arminian. I always assumed they just had a weak guy on the Arminian side . . .

    Side note about White: He is amazingly thorough in his preparations and has done a great job in refuting Mormonism, pro-gay theology, Catholicism and Islam. That doesn’t mean he’s right on Reformed theology, but I wouldn’t take anyone seriously on this topic who thinks White is sloppy.


  4. People who are usually good in their theology, etc, tend to get sloppy or biased when supporting their prized position. I like White, I just don’t think his arguments for Calvinism are convincing.

    As for the term “Arminian,” that is used by Augustinians for anyone who isn’t one of them. Which is why I specify that I am NOT Arminian. I don’t follow the teachings of that guy – follow what the Bible says and how I understood it long before I heard of either of those guys!

    Some of my favorite authors/theologians happen to be Calvinists, but I just pass over the Calvinist stuff when I read them.


  5. I don’t see why people think that Craig is so convincing. I’ve watched a handful of his debates, and I still can’t figure out what he actually believes. I mean, ya, he believes in Jesus. Beyond that, he uses all of the empirical data from science to prove that the universe had a grand mover. So does he really believe what those scientists say? Does he believe that the universe has been expanding for 13.7 billion years? Does he think the Earth formed from nebula dust around a new star 4.5 billion years ago? Does he think all life started from self replicating chemicals? At what point does he divorce his love for the arguments of science, and stand up for what he actually believes?

    Watching his debates, it seems less of a search for truth, and more of a word game. Scoring points is more important than trying to discern reality.


    1. Does he think all life started from self replicating chemicals?

      Hopefully not — unless you mean that God created it all from scratch. If you think that happened without God then you should know that there is no evidence for that, just atheistic presuppositions and fairy tales.


  6. Hello Neil, William Lane Craig here. You do realise, of course, that having made the positive assertion that I “won’t debate James White”. the burden of proof now rests with you. You will have to prove that there is no possible future circumstance in which I will not debate James White, and also that there was no legitimate reason, at any time in the past, why I had to decline. You will need to demonstrate, using your “middle knowledge” that there is no conceivable situation, even in some other universe, that James White and I have not debated, or will not debate. It’s a Bayesian problem, you understand.


  7. First off Im not an intellectual I leave people like William Lane Craig to fight that corner for me but I do believe in free will because of one event in the bible the crucifixion.Jesus is on the cross..his disciples have fled ..soldiers mock Him and cast lots for His garments.. even the Father has left Him.Up on the cross beaten to within an inch of His life and certainly not looking like the King of Kings a thief turns to Him and asks Him to remember him when He enters His kingdom.Now if we take the Calvanist approach here the thief had no option but to say the things he said he was after all predestined to say it.if this was true it completely robs this wonderful event of the love a man had for his Lord even at the lowest point in his life.I can imagine the lift Jesus had when He heard this.Complete joy that someone recognised Him as his Saviour and he assured the man that he would from that instant be saved from the jaws of hell and would be with Him in Paradise.He saw in Jesus not a man surrounded by thousands of people proclaiming Him King laying palms at His feet and being worshipped but as the crucified Saviour of the world.But Calvanism would say he had no choice he was predestined to say the words not from his heart but because he had no option but to say it. This is not the God I know and as far as Im concerned isnt the God the thief knew.


  8. 1Co 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
    1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
    1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
    I am not of Armenian or Calvinist nor molinism, I am of CHRIST,I was not baptize in the name of James white, or William Craig, but I was baptize in the name of the father the son and the holy spirit
    I see no reason why Dr Craig should debate a fellow Christian if he chooses not to , Dr Craig is a very humble an respectable person, and I have nothing against Mr white, but he loves to think that he is the only one with sound doctrine, once Mr chuck from Calvary chapel spoke something about Calvinist, in which Mr white had no part of, and he came out on YouTube challenging Mr chuck on a debated ,you know thas so not cool and humble ,I think he should control his temper, I think that if someone decided to go mano a mano with him then fine ,just like he did with Dr Michael Brown, I so much enjoyed their debate, but it was something agreed upon both parties, let’s not give reason to unbelievers that would enjoy the devil hand working among Christians


  9. What Dr. James White apparently does not seem to understand is that Atheists are not “running to the hills with their hair on fire”. Atheism is a sleeping giant slowly awakening and represents the greatest threat Christianity has ever known. I’m sorry to break it to you Dr. White, but just because Dawkins is a joke, does not mean that Atheism is. I would invite Dr. White to have a written exchange with someone like Dr. Graham Oppy of Monash University and see how well his Theism does. I would say the same for Dr. J. Howard Sobel, but unfortunately he passed away in recent years. Heck, if he wants to debate so bad and thinks Atheism is on the run, why doesn’t he give Dr. Doug Jessef a whirl? The upshot is this–Dr. Craig recognizes the great, looming threat of Atheism and focuses his (much bigger than White’s) intellectual big guns there. He wants to win the war, not some little in-house skirmish with a fellow Christian which is only apt to be twisted by those outside the Christian community for the purpose of attacking the coherence of Theism. Dr. White needs to stop attempting to ride the coattails of Dr. Craig who actually is a first class Philosopher as well as Theologian, by throwing his name around and challenging him to these pathetic “debates”. Dr. Craig has much more serious matters to attend to.

    Finally, as a personal note to James White–You could learn a lot from Dr. Craig’s speaking style. The way you articulate yourself in public debates and lectures grinds as very condescending and flippant. These issues are the deepest and most serious that human beings can ask and while I understand that you may think you know all the answers–you should try to show a modicum of humility.


    1. Randomly came across this article and read the various responses given over the past couple years. This is by far the best one. As soon as I read this supposed “challenge” by James White, I immediately thought it came across as prideful and vain. The second thing I thought was, gee, Dr. Craig is attempting to defend Christianity from *outside* and typically does not go out of his way to attack other theological systems, unlike James White, who, I couldn’t agree more, often comes across as “condescending and flippant” toward anyone who disagrees with him.


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