April 6, 2009
Hitchens vs. Craig: Round Two
Christian philosopher, atheist pundit clash at Biola over the existence of God.
On March 21, William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens were part of a larger, CT-sponsored panel discussion on "Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?" After listing multiple argument's for God's existence that he said Hitchens failed to address, in his closing statement Craig, author of Reasonable Faith and a CT cover story on arguments for God's existence, warned Hitchens, author of God Is not Great, to come better prepared to deal with the arguments at their scheduled debate at Biola University on April 4, on the question, "Does God Exist?"
That Biola debate was indeed held this past weekend, drawing thousands of spectators (confirming a CT report on the popularity of such events). The Evangelical Philosophical Society provides a helpful roundup of the coverage.
[T]his debate exposed a difference in preparation on the part of these two debaters. This is far more significant than it might seem at first. William Lane Craig has debated this topic dozens of times, without wavering from the same basic pattern of argument. He presents the same arguments in the same form, and presses his opponents in the same way for arguments in defense of their own worldviews. He's consistent. He's predictable. One might think that this is a liability, that it's too risky to face a new opponent who has so much opportunity to review Craig's specific strategy. But tonight's debate proves otherwise. Hitchens can have no excuse for dropping arguments when he knows - or should know - exactly what to expect. Suppose one replies that William Craig is a more experienced debater and a trained philosopher, while Christopher Hitchens is a journalist working outside the Academy. That simply won't do as a defense of Hitchens. First, Hitchens is no stranger to debate. Second, he is clearly a skillful polemicist. Third - and most important - Hitchens published a book, god Is Not Great, in which he makes bold claims against religion in general and Christianity in particular. With his book, he threw down the challenge. To his credit, he rose to meet a skillful challenger. But did he rise to the occasion? Did he acquit himself well? At one point he acknowledged that some of his objections to the designer argument were "layman's" objections. His book, I believe, is also the work of a layman. It appears to have been written for popular consumption and without concern for accountability to Christians whose lives are dedicated to the defense of the Gospel.
UPDATE: CT plans to post podcasts of the five author panel discussions starting later this week.