Evangelism Through Debate: A Profile of Christian Apologist William Lane Craig

You know, if I were going to write a profile of a Christian apologist, I probably wouldn’t bring it up in front of Richard Dawkins… but that’s what Nathan Schneider did:

When, during a conversation in a swank hotel lobby in Manhattan, I mentioned to Richard Dawkins that I was working on a story about William Lane Craig, the muscles in his face clenched.

“Why are you publicizing him?” Dawkins demanded, twice. The best-selling “New Atheist” professor went on to assure me that I shouldn’t bother, that he’d met Craig in Mexico — they opposed each other in a prime-time, three-on-three debate staged in a boxing ring—and found him “very unimpressive.”

“I mean, whose side are you on?” Dawkins said. “Are you religious?”

That’s quintessential Dawkins for you right there :)

William Lane Craig

It’s actually a very interesting article about Craig, if for no other reason than it explains his usual debate game plan, which amounts to little more than a Gish Gallop:

In the opening statement [Craig] pummels the opponent with five or so concise arguments — for instance, the origins of the universe, the basis of morality, the testimony of religious experience, and perhaps an addendum of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Over the course of the rebuttals he makes sure to respond to every point that the opponent has brought up, which usually sends the opponent off on a series of tangents. Then, at the end, he reminds the audience how many of his arguments stated at the outset the opponent couldn’t manage to address, much less refute. He declares himself and his message the winner. Onlookers can’t help agreeing.

The biggest surprise: Craig doesn’t even give his email address to his students — they have to contact him through his ministry’s website just like everybody else.

None of it points to Craig being right about what he believes, only that he’s had an impact through his debates. I agree with him on one thing, though: It’s much more powerful to spread one’s beliefs on theoretically neutral turf (like a debate) where you’re guaranteed to be heard by people who disagree with you. It’s better than preaching to the choir, anyway.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.