Tuesday, April 6, 2010

William Lane Craig and His Internet Critics

William Lane Craig is without a doubt one of my favorite apologists.  Each week on his website, Reasonable Faith, he answers a question submitted online.  Sometimes he'll answer a couple of questions and on occasion he's done a "lightning round" where he'll answer several questions.  This week he was asked what he thought of his many "internet critics."  I've wondered this myself because there are plenty of them.  One of the common themes that I find from these critics is the complaint that Craig simply employs slick debating tricks.  Craig's response was appropriate.  Here's part of it:
"Boo hoo! Poor atheists! Big, bad Bill Craig has debate training, and that’s why they can’t even mount a decent response to the same five arguments I’ve been putting out there for 20 years!
Seriously, Cris, while debate training (especially knowing how to manage the clock) is undoubtedly a great help in winning a debate, that’s just not a sufficient explanation for the impotence of atheists to offer refutations of these arguments—or to present a case of their own for atheism. . . I read scholarly criticisms of my work, but I tend to ignore popular stuff on the internet, since I figure the internet critics are not likely to say anything of substance that the scholars have missed. (That impression has been borne out by the criticisms I have read.)"
A second questioner asked several questions two of which I found very interesting.  Who did Craig think was his "most difficult and challenging debate opponent" and what has he changed his mind about.  Here's how he answered:
"Several years ago I was becoming frustrated with the level of opponent I continually found myself facing, and I began to wonder, “How would I fare if I faced someone who was both a good philosopher and a good debater?” I was itching for a good opponent. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. I was invited to debate a philosophy professor named Doug Jesseph at the University of North Carolina on the question, “Does God Exist?” As he spoke, I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is really good!” It was an incredibly exciting debate. After each speech, it seemed as though the advantage had shifted from one side to the other. It wasn’t until late in the rebuttals that I felt I pulled ahead. After the debate, when we shook hands, I said to him, “You’re really a good debater!” Dr. Jesseph replied, “Thanks! I was on my college debate team.” Ha! It was the best debate I’ve had, and the transcript is on our website.
Several things. When I wrote The Kalam Cosmological Argument (1979) I thought that God was merely a factually necessary being (as Swinburne believes). I also thought the ontological argument had no value. Plantinga’s work convinced me otherwise. I also was unconvinced by Leibniz’s cosmological argument until I saw Stephen Davis’s formulation of it. I had never even heard of middle knowledge, and, once I became familiar with it, I was uncertain about it until David Basinger convinced me of its validity. More recently, I’ve become increasingly attracted, contrary to my earlier predisposition, to a nominalistic view of so-called abstract objects like numbers, propositions, properties, and so on. So one is always learning and, hopefully, improving."
I've seen three of Craig's debates in person and watched others from his website and he is a great debater.  But a huge part of what makes his debates so good is the evidence that he marshals for his position. 

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