Sunday, October 4, 2009

My First Debate

I've recently been challenged by an atheist to defend Christianity. While this is nothing new, this time, it's going to be recorded before a live audience of 500. It's a 3-on-3 panel debate on the topic "Does the God of the Bible Exist?" at the Costa Mesa civic center on the evening of December 9th.

As some of you know, I'm coordinating a debate between Sean McDowell and Dr. Jim Corbett for February 26th, 2010. It wasn't my intention to get involved in another one, let alone as a debater, but I'm excited about putting my training to the test. I am blessed to report that Christian brothers Clay Jones and Hugh Ross will be seated on the panel with me.

CLAY JONES, M.Div - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Prior to teaching at Biola, Dr. Jones was host of a weekly, call-in nationally syndicated talk radio program. Dr. Jones was the executive director of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law School), which offered degrees in law, Christian apologetics, and international human rights. Dr. Jones authored Prepared Defense, an interactive apologetics software program, encyclopedia articles on theodicy, evil, and suffering; journal articles on why God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites, and has a forthcoming book, Why God Allows Evil. Dr. Jones has been on the pastoral staff of two large churches and speaks widely on why God allows evil; Crusades, Inquisitions, Witch-hunts, etc.; the glory that awaits the Christian in heaven; and related topics. Here are a few examples of groups Clay has debated:

  • a Buddhism professor
  • the head of the Islamic Information Institute
  • a Muslim cleric
  • a Church of Scientology minister
  • Mormon leaders
  • Jehovah’s Witness leaders
  • representatives of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
  • the Council for democratic and Secular Humanism
  • KFI’s Bill Handle
  • a UCI professor on evil
  • Gay rights activists
  • a pastor who helps people form their own religions

HUGH ROSS, founder and president of Reasons to Believe, completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. He and his colleagues at Reasons To Believe keep tabs on the frontiers of research and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, The Genesis Question, A Matter of Days, Creation As Science, and Why the Universe Is the Way It Is. Between writing books and articles and hosting Creation Update, a weekly live webcast, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Hugh has debated some of the sharpest atheist minds including a recent debate on the existence of God with Dr. Victor Stenger.

And then there's me, M.A. Christian Apologetics - Biola University. I'm the amateur apologist of the group and a federal criminal investigator by profession. I also teach apologetics at Mount of Olives Church in Mission Viejo and blog on this site. My area of specific interest is with epistemology and the argument for God based on the reality of objective moral values.

The atheists on the other side of the panel include Mark Smith, Alex Uzdavines, and Bruce Goings. Mark Smith runs the anti-Christian website Alex Uzdavines is a leader of the atheist club at UCI. Bruce Goings from the Inland Empire Atheist & Agnostics group and has over 1,200 blog posts on the IEAA message board.

This event is hosted by Freethought Alliance which is a network of local atheist groups from the greater LA metro area so we certainly won't be on our home turf. The debate will be moderated by Brian Dunning, a skeptic blogger who runs the site Opening and closing statements will be much shorter than usual to allow more time for a lively conversation. Five questions will be submitted in advance by each panel to the other side. At the debate, each side will alternate asking the questions of the opposing panel who will give their prepared response followed by closely moderated discussion. The remaining time will be spent addressing questions submitted online. Being an atheist site, most questions are likely to be slanted against us. Email to submit your question today!

We hope you can join us for an exciting night. If you have any skeptical friends, this would be a tremendous opportunity to bring your conversation to a much deeper level. Let us do the dirty work in bringing up the uncomfortable questions and then you can follow-up over coffee the next day with a simple, "So, what did you think?" Unfortunately, the event isn't free, but costs just $10 if you buy through Paypal in advance (otherwise it's $20 at the door). DVDs will be available for purchase too. At the risk of sounding like a salesman, there really is limited space in the auditorium (500) so if you're interested, you might want to reserve your seat soon. Visit the Freethought Alliance website for more info.

Clay, Hugh, and I are asking for your prayers during our preparation and that ears are opened for those who need to hear the truth.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Sounds like an excellent debate. I look forward to it and wish you all the best.