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.


Shawn White said...

Fantastic post, L.

Letitia (The Damsel) said...

Shawn, if I didn't know better, I'd say Michael Mitchell hacked into your account. ROFL!

Alive Through Faith said...

Wow, amazing and entertaining post. I would love to hear his debate with Richard Dawkins before I go to heaven :-)

Alive Through Faith said...

Wow, amazing and entertaining post. I would love to hear his debate with Richard Dawkins before I go to heaven :-)

Letitia (The Damsel) said...

Alive, it would be a miracle if Dawkins would agree to debate WLC. Without one, there's a good chance we will all be in heaven before that happens. LOL!