Monday, August 29, 2011

The Future of Debating for William Lane Craig

Like a rock band touring the UK, Dr. William Lane Craig is trying to fill his calendar with concerts of head-pounding apologetics to audiences in London, Birmingham, Oxford, Cambridge, and Manchester. According to the official Reasonable Faith press release, the trouble is, he is having difficulty finding fresh new atheists to challenge his belief in theism and Christianity. Given Richard Dawkins' and A.C. Grayling's continual refusal to debate, the president of the British Humanist Society, Polly Toynbee, at first volunteered to meet Craig in a head-to-head, but then withdrew herself from the debate, citing something about a debate with Craig not being her cup of tea*. Craig is still debating two other atheists, however, Drs. Peter Atkins and Peter McMillan.

With 25 years of experience, he has pretty much debated every atheist in academia that cares to make an issue out of theism and Christianity. The last two recent debates this year put to shame two of atheism's top celebrities, Lawrence Krauss and Sam Harris, each giving Craig a win by disengaging from the debates' topic and failing to rebut during the time for rebuttals. I doubt either would like to try again. Atkins will be debating for the second time, just as several others have in the past. It is looking more and more like Dr. Craig is recycling opponents. At this point in William Lane Craig's debating career, I'm starting to wonder if he is at the top of the mountain, where it is a lonely place indeed. With more atheists refusing to engage, and fewer willing to speak his name out of spite, perhaps Craig's career in debates is over.

However, lest some of my colleauges gasp "may it never be!" this is not necessarily a bad thing (nor a fargone conclusion). If I were to guess at what may lie beyond posters of "Craig vs. ___," the future might be quite positive for Christian apologetics.

First, I would love to see Dr. Craig invest his time and experience to train and coach future Christian debaters--lots of them--to carry on the tradition and keep issues surrounding theism in the forefront. Atheists presently hiding from him may be willing to engage other Christians who don't have Dr. Craig's name recognition. The icing on the cake would be the opportunity for me his students to see and learn the wealth of debate materials he typically keeps on the table in those tantalizing manila folders.

Also, Dr. Craig may become an even bigger phenomenon. Up until now, his name recognition was by and large limited to the circles of philosophy and Christian apologetics. Last week, a major news source, Fox News, picked up on the issue of Dawkins' (and now Toynbee's), refusal to debate. The avenue of being a more public figure is possibly opening up for him, and media attention could drive more public speaking engagements, sans debating (although attention could bring a few more debates to fruition). In light of The Four Horsemen's strategy of appealing to popular audiences with their message, I say that a balance of viewpoints needs to be achieved. What if all these years of experience could be put into a weekly or monthly column in a more popular outlet offering his arguments for theism and Christianity? What could that kind of exposure do for Reasonable Faith? One has to admit there is potential here.

It is my confident prayer that, unlike a real rock band where one must have (ideally) a natural talent for music, the fun doesn't end when the tour ends. May Dr. Craig's efforts, even if he turns this page in his career, fuel the continued proliferation of apologetics and apologists through education and training. Debates will not cease, that's for sure, but even if atheism lacks for guts, let us not find ourselves similarly, ahem, understaffed for the challenge.

*UPDATE: Atheist Dr. Stephen Law of the University of London (Heythrop College) has accepted the opportunity to debate Dr. Craig.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Douglas Groothuis Agrees With Me! ;-)

In a total confirmation of my convictions, Dr. Doug Groothuis of Denver Seminary echoes a good portion of my sentiments in an article on about the comments on Rep. Michele Bachmann's so-called "Dominionism" view of the material world.  Just to be clear, Rep. Bachmann is only the means by which this topic is being trodded out, straw manned, and falsely attributed to people I deeply respect within the Christian faith, namely Nancy Pearcy and the late Francis Schaeffer.  The political hit-men responsible for their crazy-train-of-thought (Lizza and Knight) literally know nothing about which they are mocking and throwing up as "dangerous" in the attempt to pummel a respectable Presidential candidate with their near-libelous words.

From Dr. Groothuis' article:
Third, the key Christian influences on Bachman are not Rushdoony and his followers, but Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey. Schaeffer referred to Rushdoony's views on mandating biblical law as "insanity," and never sanctioned any form of theocracy. (The name "Rushdoony" does not even appear in the index of Schaeffer's five-volume collected works.) Schaeffer explicitly condemned theocracy in A Christian Manifesto (p. 120-1). Nor did he call for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe V. Wade were not overturned. Schaeffer rather explained various ways of resisting tyranny according to a Christian worldview and in light of church history. He saw "civil disobedience" (his phrase) as a last resort and did not stipulate any specific conditions under which it would be advisable in America. In fact, Schaeffer worried (on p. 126) that speaking of civil disobedience is "frightening because there are so many kooky people around." Further, "anarchy is never appropriate."
Schaeffer condemned theocracy and found civil disobedience frightening?  OMG, that's crazy!!  Lizza and Knight need to realize that they are the ones on the crazy train, not Michele Bachmann.  It certainly is crazy what drinking that liberal Kool-aid does to the human mind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hate the Idiocy, Not the Idiot

Last week, a truly worthless hit piece on Rep. Michele Bachmann was published in the LA Times.  The average American newsreader is probably used to a certain amount of libertinism (yes, I do mean that) in order to inject sensationalism into their stories, but never have I read something so atrociously wrong as this, which made me feel as if it infected me with aliens that were about to bust through my chest. 

Calling himself a "Culture Monster," Christopher Knight takes on the arrogant task of characterizing Bachmann in a way too obvious attempt to smear her in the public eye, but it is as if he protests too much.  From the beginning, he accuses her of disliking the Renaissance and the art of the Renaissance greats.  His article is a travesty of honest-to-goodness honesty as he completely fabricates the animosity of Nancy Pearcy and Francis Schaeffer against figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci.  In what anyone can recognize as extreme self-imposed ignorance, Knight fails to see from the video that he himself embeds into the article that Schaeffer both admires the philosophical journey of artist/philosophers like Leonardo, yet sees the journey's end, just as Leonardo himself did:  life and philosophy eventually arrive at an empty void that humanity and the human mind alone cannot fill.

It's fairly obvious that Knight hasn't read even a page out of one of Schaeffer's or Pearcey's books.  Are we to believe that an author who cannot even get a solitary concept correct in those he criticizes actually knows anything substantive about the Renaissance?  Only with an agenda of evil would one dare to publish such naked vitriol against a woman who's simply running for the office of the President of the United States, for crying out loud.  Our society has been telling little girls they can be whatever they want and dream big, but only the Antichrist forbid that any girl ever actually reach that place of dreams when she grows up.  Journalists and authors should be praising Michele Bachmann for bucking the stereotypes of gritty, haughty women too coarse for prime time who must resort to screeching their way into political power for the substitution of affection they lack otherwise.  Talk about irony walking backwards in the Midieval direction, Mr. Knight.  Yeah, that would be you.

Knight repeatedly frames Bachmann's supposed views on a subject she's never talked about in public with words of his own choosing:

o "artistic spawn"
o "Renaissance ruin"
o "ungodly error"
o "Hate the art, in other words, not the artist."
o "drivel"
o "kooky"
o "wicked Renaissance humanism"
o "Schaeffer's crazy train"

Also, not content to simply project his own words into her thoughts, he quotes from another journo-assassin, Ryan Lizza from the New Yorker, that Schaeffer (and thus Pearcy onto Bachmann) thinks Renaissance philosophy was "dangerous" and "blasphemous."

The LA Times should be red-faced ashamed to have let this person publish such a mammoth-gagging piece with their name on it.  It has all the sense and sensibility of a drive-by shooting.  Not only does the author misunderstand everything that Francis Schaeffer stood for in his ministry, valuing art and teaching on the perspective of artists, but goes on to attribute the care and thoughtfulness of such a scholar like him to insanity.  The entire article is as if it is the result of what happens when garbage smokes dope and then vomits on a keyboard.  The earth would be greener indeed if such energy wasting dopehead garbage were never conceived to pollute the net with its inanity.  However, hate the idiocy, "in other words," not the idiot

The probability of a chimpanzee smashing its fists on a keyboard and pounding out a fairer article on Michele Bachmann is infinitely higher than Christopher Knight's inane and vacuous treatment of not one, two, but three intelligent and accomplished Americans of faith.  Has Christopher Knight even cracked one of the books he's bashed?  I think his response to recommended reading would be the phrase of the day:  resist we much.  Knight should go write about some wet t-shirt contest somewhere on a college campus.  That's the level of journalistic responsibility he appears capable of maintaining.

I join others like Doug Groothuis in calling for a Renaissance of reading.  Those who claim to love the Renaissance of history should avoid absolute hypocrisy by reading Francis Schaeffer themselves.  Some of Schaeffer's titles include:
The God Who Is There
He Is There and He Is Not Silent
Art and the Bible
True Spirituality

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


An article titled “Jesus, Reagan, and John Lennon” came out on recently that was as stunning as it was hopeful (if you’re a Christian apologist). According to the article’s author, John Lennon’s life near the end was one keenly interested in Christianity. In the book, The Gospel According to the Beatles, rock biographer Steve Turner claims that in his later years, Lennon at one point professed to be a born-again Christian. The point of the Fox News article, however, was to highlight that Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, might just have kept all this a secret after his death.

Although this article was news to me, the information gathered for it came from an excerpt from Turner’s book, which was published in in 2007. According to Turner, John Lennon’s interest in Christianity was both significant…and brief.
“Over the following months he baffled those close to him by constantly praising "the Lord," writing Christian songs with titles like "Talking with Jesus" and "Amen" (the Lord's Prayer set to music), and trying to convert nonbelievers. He also called the prayer line of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson's program. The change in his life perturbed Yoko, who tried to talk him out of it. She reminded him of what he'd said about his vulnerability to strong religious leaders because of his emotionally deprived background. She knew that if the press found out about it they would have a field day with another John and Jesus story. John became antagonistic toward her, blaming her for practicing the dark arts and telling her that she couldn't see the truth because her eyes had been blinded by Satan.”
Lennon’s story takes a turn, however.
"Those close to the couple sensed that the real reason she was concerned was that it threatened her control over John's life. If he became a follower of Jesus he would no longer depend on her and the occultists. During long, passionate arguments she attacked the key points of his fledgling faith. They met with a couple of Norwegian missionaries whom Yoko questioned fiercely about the divinity of Christ, knowing that this was the teaching that John had always found the most difficult to accept. Their answers didn't satisfy her, and John began to waver in his commitment."
As an apologist, this part of the story intrigues me the most. The author does not supply us with details about their interview with the Christian missionaries, but I am tempted to speculate that as eager as Lennon seemed to embrace Christianity, that the missionaries could not adequately explain to him, despite Ono’s skepticism, the most fundamental truth of the Bible was a great apologetics blunder. In my opinion, of all the essential Christian doctrines, the divinity of Jesus is the one that demands our greatest commitment to its defense by all believers. How might things have turned out differently for John Lennon if the missionaries could quote historians that affirmed that Christ was revered by His followers as Deity? What kind of impact could they have had if they couched Jesus in the Jewish monotheistic culture of that day, who put Himself in the very place of God to make the legal and moral pronouncements which the Jews recognized that only God had the right to make? How might Lennon’s perception of Christianity have been different if they could show that Jesus’ own identity claims were understood as claims to be the Creator God of Israel and Judge of the living and the dead? How might evidence for Jesus’ resurrection have kept his mind open to faith in Christ? As influential and introspective as John Lennon was, I can “Imagine” what a few good answers might have done for him.

The Gospel cannot be fully expressed without acknowledgment of Jesus’ divinity. It behooves us to know and be ready to affirm Jesus’ identity as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the universe, not just for devotional significance, but as an objective truth we publicly proclaim and defend. Sometimes the window to faith in others opens for us to recognize a divine appointment for the Gospel. Can a little apologetics make a difference? I believe it can.

(Look for this article on the International Society of Women in Apologetics website, August newsletter.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Arab Spring to Norwegian Summer

Last week, some Norwegian dude bombed a government building in Oslo and shot 87 people to death at a youth camp.  My interest in his story is only in part, as the reaction from the news articles regarding the motives for his actions comprise that added 'wow' (more like 'whoa') factor that only the mainstream media can dish out.

News media of all stripes, in their haste to publicize the fact that Anders Behring Breivik was not Muslim, crooned for two days about what the police described as Breivik's "right-wing Christian fundamentalism" with articles like
"Oslo Shooter Anti-Muslim Christian Fundamentalist"   From the post:  "Anders Behring Breivik, is a frequent poster of anti-Muslim screeds on Christian fundamentalist websites" which came from an article that said merely that Anders "posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies. He did not describe the websites in any more details." 

"Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist Charged Following Norway Attack"


"Oslo Suspect Wrote of Fear of Islam and Plan for War"
In particular, this article which was written by Steven Erlander is a toned-down version of one he wrote a day earlier outright labeling Breivik as a "Christian extremist."  This article, which no longer labels Breivik as a "Christian extremist" nevertheless quotes from Thomas Hegghammer who does remark that, “[Breivik's action] seems to be an attempt to mirror Al Qaeda, exactly in reverse.”  Such a statement easily conveys the idea that Breivik's actions are somehow religiously motivated similarly to Al Qaeda.


"Norway Terror Update: Suspect Detained Identified As ‘Christian Fundamentalist’" 
Of course, none of this news frenzy could go ignored by internet pop-skeptics.  Such a salacious story about a Christian shooting up people easily calls out the hounds, which prize expletives like John Loftus seized on to again mime (meme?) his knife-twisting hatred of Christianity.  And once the media let a domino fall, it predictably set off a chain reaction of anti-religious media personalities carving a collective "a ha!" gotcha notch on their digital bedposts.  /CoughBill Mahercough!

And, the last shred of human decency left in this world disintegrated with the publishing of another little piece of refuse like this:
"Pamela Geller and Co. Connected to Norway Bomber Anders Behring Breivik?"

The Golden Ticket, however, again came from the New York Times.  As I referenced above, in an article titled, “As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist – Manifesto Shows Plan of Attack, Fear of Islam," Steven Erlander supposedly gave stunning revelations from Brievik's online manifesto to the "fact" of Breivik's religiously-fueled terrorism.  However, despite my earnest attempts to find an online link or archive, it has mysteriously disappeared from the NYT online.  Think this was a small story?  Newsbusters reports that the NYT's article was actually in print on the front page of the July 23rd edition.

But is any of this true?  Nope.  Anders Behring Breivik himself thankfully provides the answer in what I call his "Treatise on how Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment Can be Crimeless Yet Full of Punishment."  In other words, how to rationalize killing the innocent in order to justify killing the perceived guilty.  I think that was also the the basic plot of Star Trek VI.  According to Brevik, his so-called Christian connection is no more substantive than that Norway is considered a "Christian"-dominant country having adopted Christianity as the state religion.  Well if that were the real criteria for being a Christian, then Breivik is certainly a Christian just as anyone else in Norway is a Christian just for living there and not claiming to be anything else.  Now, I think I know a little something about what being a Christian is, and I can safely say that your birthplace doesn't determine if you adopt a particular religion even if it is dominant.  I think any atheist would agree with that.

Just recently, David Wood from Answering Muslims put out a video discussing Anders Behring Breivik.  Wood specifically deals with the whole "Is Breivik a Christian?" question.  Not to be missed, here it is:

For the sake of competent reporting, I sure hope that the MSM will wake up soon and realize that the fascists they've been looking for are maybe the ones staring at themselves in the mirror. The thinly veiled hatred the media has for Christianity isn't all that sensational anymore. Just sayin'.