mercredi 9 novembre 2011

William Lane Craig - Reasonable Faith U.K Tour 2011

The year was 2003 and i was struggling with some form of skepticism. I then tried to figure out some answers by perusing the web, that's when i found a series of written debates - transcripts - between an eminent Christian philosopher and a prolific Atheist philosopher - namely Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Quentin Smith respectively. The discussion was a bit high level for me to follow with any degree of mental ease, but i could nevertheless notice that the Christian Philosopher - Dr. William Lane Craig was making more sense to me. Forward few years in the future, Dr. Craig became a household name in my apologetic learning. I was even honored to have received from him a free copy of his Textbook on apologetic for a review - Reasonable Faith 3rd edition in 2008.

Early this year, Dr. Craig had announced an apologetic tour in UK. The event was extremely publicized, especially given that he would have cross sword metaphorically with high profile atheists at academic settings. Today, i am here to report that the Reasonable Faith U.K Tour have been successful. God has heard our prayers. Dr. Craig has been sustained by the Lord once again as he went from place to place defending the Glorious Hope that is within him. In his November newsletter he gave quite an extensive detail of what happened in his trip to U.K. I am going to share with you only one of those amazing events where divine provision did not disappoint.

Thursday, was the second debate of the tour and a very unusual one! This was a British parliamentary style debate at the Cambridge Union Society, the oldest debating society in the world. I was partnered with Peter S. Williams, a very capable British apologist who works for the Damaris Trust. Our opponents were Andrew Copson, whom I mentioned previously, and Arif Ahmed, a philosopher at Cambridge University whom I had debated on a previous trip to the U.K. Peter and I were “the House,” and Copson and Ahmed were “the Opposition.” The proposition for debate was “This House believes that God is not a Delusion.” In a parliamentary style debate, people in the chamber can shout out, “Point of order!” during your speech, and you are expected to recognize at least some of them and answer their objections. Peter and Copson were to open the debate with 15 minute speeches. After that anyone in the audience can get up and speak either for or against the proposition. Finally, I and Ahmed would present the closing arguments for each side.

During the afternoon we visited the chamber to get a feel of the setting. It was pretty awe-inspiring. The chamber was divided in two halves, with maroon leather benches facing each other along a central aisle and rising toward the walls. At one end of the central aisle was a raised dais where the President of the Society sat and in front of him a desk with two lecterns where the secretary of the Society was seated. At the other end of the aisle were two doorways marked “AYES” and “NOES,” along with a central, unmarked doorway. Students registered their votes by exiting the chamber through the appropriate doorway, the unmarked door being for abstentions.

Seeing this situation, I realized that Peter and I were really up against it. The format gave opportunity for anyone to get up and speak, no matter how uninformed, and we would have little chance to respond. One could expect the atheist students to be vocal and aggressive, and the Christian students to sit on their hands and say nothing. Our opponents would have the last word and would probably wait until their closing speech to address our arguments. I said to Peter, “We’ve got to expect to lose the vote, so don’t be discouraged by it. We’ve got to just do our best in addressing the arguments and let the chips fall where they may.” Well, that night things began to unfold just as I expected. Peter gave a fine opening speech. Copson then followed with a speech which, though thin on substance and largely unresponsive to Peter’s arguments, was emotionally engaging, funny, and winsome. His speech was punctuated numerous times by applause. The open debate from the floor which followed was disastrous, a dreadful display of ignorance and hostility. One student, for example, refuted Peter’s ontological argument by observing that if the argument were correct, then it would prove the existence of the stupidest conceivable being. Another raised the old chestnut, “If God created everything, then what created God?,” which was followed by great applause, as though he had actually said something significant. You could just feel the emotional tide turning against us.

When the time for my closing statement finally came, I thought, “I’ve got to do something to right this ship.” Prior to the debate, the bursar of the debating society Bill Bailey had advised me that the speakers who do best are those that have a sense of theater, use the whole floor for their speech, and make eye contact with the audience. Jan then said to me, “Remember: ‘All the world’s a stage!’” So when I rose to present the closing arguments for the House, I tried to keep in mind their advice. I strode back and forth along the central aisle, turning to speak to the audience on every side. I emphasized that Peter’s arguments had gone unaddressed by the Opposition and that by reserving their replies to Dr. Ahmed’s closing speech, they had precluded our responding to any objections they would raise, contrary to the rules of debate. Walking directly over to Ahmed and standing before him, I emphasized all that he needed to do in his closing speech if the Opposition were to defeat the proposition. I closed with these words, which I had committed to memory:
In a few minutes we shall walk through one of two doorways to register our view on tonight’s question. Which door you choose is really a profound statement about yourself personally. Through the one door will walk not only theists of various sorts—Christians, Muslims, Jews, others—but also agnostics, who think it’s an open question whether God exists, as well as many, if not most, atheists, who may disagree with their theistic friends but aren’t prepared to judge them as deluded. They recognize that the question of God’s existence is a difficult one on which rational people can, and do, disagree. By voting with the House you show yourself to be open-minded, tolerant of differences of opinion on hard questions, and respectful of the views of others. By voting for the Opposition you, in effect, declare all your believing friends and professors to be literally deluded and irrational. Are you really that judgmental? Are you so cocksure of yourself? I hope not. I hope that you will instead join with your believing friends in agreeing that belief in God, whether true or false, is not a delusion.
The speech was greeted with loud applause! In my life as a public speaker, I think I have never enjoyed giving a speech more than I did this one. But was it enough? Ahmed was yet to follow. Would he undo us? To my surprise, Ahmed’s final speech was dull, uninspired, and not at all substantive in his responses to Peter’s opening arguments. I don’t think he even understood the ontological argument, having no apparent grasp of the difference between broad and strict logical necessity. It was striking that in contrast to Copson’s opening speech, Ahmed’s closing speech was not once interrupted by applause. The debate thus came to a close, and students began exiting though the two doors. We were told that the vote would be announced later upstairs in the student bar. We made our way into the bar area and began interacting with students about the issues raised in the debate. After some time the secretary of the Society came in and, loudly ringing a hand bell, proclaimed at the top of her voice, “We have a house divided!” I held my breath. “Ayes: 243; Noes: 229; abstaining: 129. The House wins by 14 votes!” A narrow victory! We’ll take it! In one sense it didn’t mean much; but if the other side had won, we’d have never heard the end of it.

I have mixed pictures of the Reasonable Faith U.K Tour from different locations, to help capture what could have been the real mood at that venue.

Check here to know more about the tour.

Yours in the Master's service,

Gatera I. Eric

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