This is my first “formal” debate. An agnostic challenged me via Twitter to defend my position on Christianity. Any constructive criticism is appreciated.
We agreed beforehand to answer the question:
Does Christianity or Naturalism Better Account For Reality?
But right from the start, my opponent waffled on defending the position in an attempt not to be cornered. But as you can see, he really didn’t arrive with any position or defense.
The format of the debate was to have a 5 minute closing, but since there was a debate scheduled right after ours, the moderator chose to end our debate prematurely. This was my prepared closing:
“As we have heard hear tonight, naturalism is unable to account for reality. Because we have heard no consistent justification for the 8 necessities for explaining reality, it is a worldview that is insufficient for determining truth.
But my purpose for being involved in this debate is to share the gospel of Jesus the Messiah. All of mankind has rebelled against God’s holiness. God’s perfect creation is perverted by sin. We see the effects of the curse of sin all around us: Lying, stealing, adultery, murder are not just pragmatically wrong, socially wrong, or wrong because they cause harm…although they do harm. They are ultimately wrong because they lie about the character of Almighty God. God, who revealed himself through creation, the Bible, and in Jesus is truthful, content, faithful, and kind. His judgment for rebellion is based on righteousness. But God made a plan to redeem those who would repent of their rebellion. In fulfillment of prophecy God became man as Jesus and took on the punishment for sin that each one of us deserve. By his grace, those who repent of their rebellion, will be forgiven and live the abundant life that Jesus promised. He is worthy of all praise.”
Hi Matt! It was nice to be able to actually see and hear you! I’ve never been involved in a debate so in this particular case, your expertise would exceed mine. I do have a fair amount of instructional experience. I do think that your overall presence was more solid that Joseph’s who appeared to be a little on the haphazard side. The eight points you gave were probably a lot to cover in the time space allocated. I personally would have focused on three points maximum although in a debate you have to be able to react to weaknesses in the opponents case. The dialogue about math was interesting and I saw where you were going, the fact that there are reliable mathematical equations that define specific laws of physics would in my estimation have necessitated a recognition of the fact that they exist which demonstrates in my mind order. Joseph did not enter this debate very well equipped and I thought that you successfully challenged him on that, especially with regard to his statements about descriptive and prescriptive statements. The basis of carbon based life forms within our known universe necessitates the constants which we see, which in themselves demonstrate order and intelligence, not to mention the fine tuning prerequisites. With regard to evolution, I would have stated the difference between micro and macro evolution. I definitely would have challenged him on the “clear evidence” for linkage of a common ancestor aspect. Throughout the debate Joseph continually indicated that he was not very conversant with a good number of the scientific fields that he made generalized statements on. I would think that when you enter a debate you should come prepared with the ability to authenticate your statements other than just making generalized statements with no scientific backing. Your dialogue on the “truth anchor” was interesting, as was Joseph’s response to the “Laws of Logic” argument, which in fact he never really qualified. I think the best he qualified the “Laws of Logic” on was using the word “possibly”. Joseph came across as very disorganized in his thinking with little if any concrete stances on anything. His statement that God may have been involved in our universe but he really wasn’t worried about it, kind of was a showcase for his whole argument and I use the term “argument” very loosely. Considering my lack of expertise in debating I’m probably the last person who should be responding to you. Had I entered this debate I would have primed myself in detail on the primary arguments used by naturalists or agnostics and focused on about two particular arguments. If your purpose is to make a case or argument then you should be able to effectively do that. Because Joseph was basically all over the place with no substantial stances on anything other than unqualified generalizations, I think I would have actually pointed that out, nicely of course.. Even when Joseph stated his question to you about the possibility of God he used the words “couldn’t be” and “possibly” in the same sentence. Joseph stated his willingness to change his position from agnosticism to belief if He could see a demonstration of God changing reality. The word “resurrection” immediately came into my mind. I heard your arguments about “worldview” and I understand it but I would have stayed away from that because although I understood your answer, it seemed to me you weren’t really answering his question about reality. And then telling him that he would naturally suppress the truth, although understandable to me, would do very little to foster him looking at evidence. Jesus is evidence. His resurrection is evidence. And I would be relatively sure that you could make a good argument for His resurrection. It’s that person being exposed to Jesus that draws all the arguments together. Your “Category Error” reasoning was interesting,. Finally the resurrection was mentioned only to be followed with “Metric for Truth”. And as you know, we do have a good number of non-Christian historians who wrote about Jesus and his resurrection as evidence outside of the Bible source. I also think Joseph was trying to be honest in that he stated he was looking for answers and you seemed to basically slap him down for that, especially with regard to being in a debate and social media. The person is more important than the argument. I think you missed that Matt. Joseph mentioned a “personal journey”. I think I would have responded to that and moved away from the back end arguments. Joseph used the “if that makes sense” statement here and you indicated it didn’t make sense with regard to Hitler or Stalin and Joseph’s inference that a lot of us wouldn’t be here. It did make sense. It never hurts to give a guy a credit, identify with his logic and then swing it back to God’s love for humanity.
I attended some university credit courses many years ago. The professor was agnostic yet he was teaching religious courses. Day by day I sat in his classes wondering why I was putting myself through the mental gymnastics of attending his classes. I challenged him when ever he indicated something that wasn’t historically true. Yet God kept letting me know I was to be there. It was hard. One day I walked into his class and he gave me the class. I witnessed about Jesus. That night he called me on the phone and asked to come over. I said to come over. I prayed hard because I was intimidated by all his credentials. God told me to speak to him from my heart. He knelt in my living room that night and accepted Jesus as his Lord. He was an American draft dodger working in Newfoundland in Canada. We kept in touch for a number of years. The mind will follow the heart, focus on the heart.
I’m going to stop here Matt, as I indicated I have no experience debating so take my input with a grain of salt. I hope this helps. God bless.
Bruce, I could not be more happy with your response. THAT is exactly was I was looking for…constructive criticism. Your lucid and comprehensive analysis gives me a great deal of information to work with. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!
1) Focusing in on 2 or 3 points. Excellent advice. That makes perfect sense
2) Micro vs. macro evolution. You make a fair point that many Christians agree with, but I am not 1 of those Christians. In debates, I have found that the non-Christian always has a way of escape by saying, “Well, macro is simply micro over time.” When the Christian responds, “but there are boundaries”, the non Christian can always say, “What are the boundaries?” What we actually observe today is change over time in the opposite “direction” that evolution claims. Evolution claims that things were simple at the beginning and have gotten more complex with additional information. But we actually observe more and more things breaking, losing functionality, losing information, and becoming more specialized. The genetic code for the wolf has all of the variability for canines, but the poodle is in the shallow end of the gene pool.
3) Joseph said he would change his mind if someone came back from the dead. Of course I mentioned Jesus, and I felt that this was the defining moment of the debate. It truly exposed his unwillingness to worship Almighty God in the face of a direct contradiction on his part.
4) What do you think of Luke’s account of Jesus’ words that “even if someone should rise from the dead, if they reject Moses and the prophets, they would still not believe” ? I love evidence, and I think a powerful case can be made using evidence for Christianity, but the skeptic always has a way out by interpreting evidence according to their worldview. I kept trying to expose this (I’m not very good at it) by showing that unless you START with the Creator as your truth anchor, you cannot account for the necessary tools (logic, truth, morality) to evaluate evidence.
5) Grace – This was my biggest deficit in the debate. You’re so right that I lost sight of the MAIN THING. I did get lost in trying to make the case rather than trying to see Joseph as God sees him. Thankfully, I still have communication with Joseph on Twitter, and I hope to show better kindness/grace. Thank you for holding me accountable.
Hi Matt, considering this was your 1st shot, I’m thinking you did better than I probably would have. If you’re going to be doing more of this I’d be getting some advice from someone who has done it for a while. Don’t be too hard on yourself, baby steps. Glad that I was of help. Grace and blessings my friend.
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Wow I’m going to share this in our next round up
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You’re welcome keep up the good work!
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Hi Matt, I really enjoyed the debate, and it was great to see you tackle this as well as you did. You were well-prepared and covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, nailing home some important points. I like that you mentioned things like the firmi paradox, faint young sun paradox, out of place artefacts, bait-and-switch tactics, the philosophical assumptions behind evolution, that you believe in change over time, pointed out the necessity of a truth anchor, and recommended Lubenow’s Bones of Contention.
I thought Joseph did a good job too, but it was interesting to see him teetering between confidence in evolution and being uncertain of the details, saying it probably happened this way, or that’s just the way it happened, or that it was obviously evolution that caused it, or admitting he just didn’t know. It seemed like he was embracing a lot of inconsistencies.
I think it was hard to rebut all of his points due to the nature of the debate, but I would like to have seen you squeeze in details regarding the assumptions behind dating techniques. There was a point where Joseph denied faith in evolution because it makes predictions, and in an ideal situation you could have challenged him and provided examples of creationist predictions.
What stood out most to me, however, was your Biblical apologetics. You provided solid, consistent Biblical answers, mentioning that God has revealed himself; you gave the example of Lazarus and the rich man, and pointed out that God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen so that all are without excuse; and that our objective is to praise and honor God the creator.
I wouldn’t have done nearly as well, so it was a treat to watch, and I hope you do more in the future. I’ll even have to reblog this soon.
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Thank you, Jonathan! That was very encouraging to read.
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