An Update on Why William Lane Craig Refuses to Debate Me
Let me update the reasons why William Lane Craig refuses to debate me. So far none of his reasons make any sense at all. [Before commenting on this present post read that one]. When I was a student of his he told his class something I thought was odd at the time. This was back in 1985 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He said “the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine.” No one can speak for Craig, only he can. I’m not saying he fears me. He may fear my influence though, which is an extremely high recommendation given the atheist scholars he has debated over the years. My question is why he singles me out as the one person he refuses to debate who has a reasonable set of credentials? All I want is a reasonable answer. Again no one can answer this question but him.
So here’s the update. Yesterday I got an email from a Christian who comments here at DC. He said he was going to ask Craig after a talk why he won’t debate me. Later he emailed me back with Craig’s answer. It doesn’t make any sense either. Actually, I would really be pleased if after every talk of his someone asked him why he refuses to debate me. Listen, you would think that someone of Craig’s scholarly credentials and intellectual prowess would be able to give a reasonable answer to this question. Why can’t he? THAT’S MY QUESTION! And why is he offering so many different reasons? You would think he would stick to one story. But he changes his story so many times you know something is up. My honest guess is that he’s groping to find a consistent way to exclude me while at the same time not excluding others he has debated, or plans to debate. He’s having a hard time of it, that’s for sure. Left unstated is the real reason he refuses to debate me. What is that reason? So here is his most recent answer.
His answer, as I was told in the email:
I asked him, and he said he won’t debate you because the points you’ve brought up have been brought up already by other people. He didn’t mention the previous student thing, or not-qualified.
I invited him to check your website and examine it. He claims he isn’t too familiar with it, but might check it out.
I asked for further details and got none. As I said, that person is a Christian. He’s an M.A. student in Biblical studies at a respected seminary.
Let’s unpack Craig’s answer. He’s saying that I don’t have anything to say that others haven’t already said before me, so he doesn’t need to debate me. He only wants to debate people who have some claim to originality.
First off, Craig has not read my books. He told me this after his debate with Sam Harris, and given his false and potentially slanderous accusation about me being addicted to pornography not that long ago, I suspect he still has not done so. He also said he’s not too familiar with this blog of mine. So upon what basis does he claim I don’t say anything that others haven’t already said before me? How can he know this?
Have I argued for anything that others haven’t already said before me? No. But I guarantee I have packaged the available arguments in a way that others have not. This is what Christian professor Dan Lambert said about the cumulative case I present in my book WIBA. And although I didn’t originate the Outsider Test for Faith I have defended it better than anyone else. Richard Carrier wrote this concerning my new book on the OTF:
Though this idea has been voiced before, Loftus is the first to name it, rigorize it, and give it an extensive philosophical defense; moreover, by doing so, he is the first to cause a concerted apologetic to arise attempting to dodge it, to which he could then respond. The end result is one of the most effective and powerful arguments for atheism there is. It is, in effect, a covering argument that subsumes all other arguments for atheism into a common framework.
In this modern era where all of our ideas have already been stolen by the ancients, that’s not too bad, right? After all, not even Craig himself originated the Kalam argument to the existence of God. If originality becomes the new test for who he will debate then he needs to say what original ideas other debate opponents have had. Most skeptical philosophical arguments can be traced to David Hume, so all we’re doing is basically hitchhiking on them.
There is more. I was invited by Dr. Randal Rauser to co-write a book with him, this one: God or Godless?: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions.I would think Rauser thinks I’m a worthy foe. In fact, in a blurb for this book, Michael R. Licona, an associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University, wrote that I am “a worthy foe”–his exact words. Worthy for Rauser. Worthy for Licona. But not worthy for Craig. Okay, I guess.
Craig has arbitrarily and hypocritically set the standard for who he debates too high for me, in order to exclude me. He will only debate people who have something original to say from now on. Something else is up. What is it? Let’s hold him to this same standard from now on. Originality must be demonstrated, not merely coming up with a new way of packaging the arguments, not merely defending an unoriginal argument better than others have done, and not being a worthy enough foe for Rauser or Licona.
Finally, how many of his debate opponents have written and/or edited the number and quality of books that I have? Reasonable readers can decide for themselves whether I’m a worthy foe. To consider this let me end by sharing the blurbs for the two books I have written myself:
First, consider the blurbs for my book Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity:
“A thoughtful and intellectually challenging work presenting arguments that every honest theist and Christian should face.” –Dr. Norman L. Geisler, Christian apologist, author of The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
“Loftus’s book addresses almost every conceivable argument for Evangelical Christianity in extraordinary and sobering detail. I doubt any honest, rational, informed Evangelical can remain in the fold after reading this book. Even though any Christian could pick at bits, the overall force of his case is invincibly fatal.” –Richard Carrier, author of Sense and Goodness without God
“I have never read a book that presents such a massive and systematic refutation of the claims of Christianity, and I have seldom read a book that marshals evidence (from such a wide variety of disciplines) and documents its claims in such painstaking detail.” –Dr. John Beversluis, author of C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion
“Best atheist book of the decade [2000-2009]” –Luke Muehlhauser, author of the popular blog Common Sense Atheism
“Loftus presents a compendium of well-reasoned arguments (wrapped together nicely in a steadily developed ‘cumulative case’) against the central beliefs of Christianity…. Loftus’s arguments are not the easily refuted caricatures so often offered in Bible college textbooks and Sunday school materials. They are the genuine article—clear, well-articulated statements of plausible arguments by one who finds them overwhelmingly convincing. I dare say very few preachers, teachers, and Bible students have its likes on their shelves. And it should be there.” –Dr. James F. Sennett, Christian philosopher and author of Modality, Probability, and Rationality: A Critical Examination of Alvin Plantinga’s Philosophy
“Loftus is one of the few new atheists to actually address Christian scholars. I don’t think he succeeds, but at least he is doing so.” –Dr. Matthew Flannagan, Christian philosopher
“This is the best refutation of Evangelical Christianity that I have read. Most of [Loftus's] arguments are a one-two punch of philosophy and biblical analysis. The first hit shows how (insert doctrine of choice) is meaningless/contradictory/impossible and the second hit undercuts the support for the idea actually being true. His philosophical analysis is consistently stellar: he dismantles all the little things in theology that you are supposed to learn but not think about. His biblical arguments switch between the rifle and shotgun approach—he spends the better part of a chapter on a few individual problems, and with others issues he gives long lists of problems with little elaboration.” –Jeffery Amos, author of the blog Failing the Insider Test
“John Loftus is not only a former preacher, as the subtitle says, but also a trained theologian with advanced degrees. He spent enormous amounts of time learning and perfecting the philosophical arguments that he would later come to refute with this book. Loftus meticulously breaks the arguments down and shows why, when given careful consideration, they fall apart, ultimately leaving no God, no Jesus, and no Holy Spirit. The problem with many atheist vs. Christian debates is that the parties involved have drastically different training. But Loftus, on the other hand, is in a unique position, as he can see eye-to-eye with the Christian theologians. He knows and understands their arguments and can speak their language. This book will change minds. Already many people have let go of their beliefs as a result of this book, and surely many more will.” –Jeffrey Mark, author of Christian No More
“This book is the book I wish I could write. It is probably the best comprehensive book of the issues I’ve read. If you’re looking for an in-depth scholarly discussion of apologetic views, by all means, read [Loftus's] book.” –Jason Long, author of Biblical Nonsense and The Religious Condition
“As a former evangelical missionary who lost my faith nearly a decade ago… I believe the process could have been cut significantly shorter if [Loftus's] book had been available to me years before my crisis finally came to a head. The value of this volume lies…in its bringing together in a single accessible package most of the important criticisms that have been advanced against the Christian faith (and theism in general) since the Enlightenment. [Loftus's] book is an unremitting battery of helpfully organized arguments against orthodox Christianity.” –Ken W. Daniels, author of Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary.
Second, consider the blurbs for my newly released book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True.
“Over the past ten thousand years there have been tens of thousands of religions and thousands of gods. Which one is the right one? To believers in each one they all appear unique. To an anthropologist from Mars they all look the same… . This clever book gives you the intellectual firepower you need when engaging believers, pointing out, for example, that they are religious skeptics, too—of all those other faiths. Some of us go one faith further in our skepticism. You will, too, after reading this testament to the power of reason.” –MICHAEL SHERMER, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain
“A must-read for believers and any atheists who want to debate them. Superbly argued, airtight, and endlessly useful, this should be everyone’s first stop in the god debate.” –RICHARD CARRIER, author of Proving History
“Loftus makes a convincing case that believers who are willing to honestly apply the outsider test cannot but fail to see the irrationality of their faith.” –VICTOR J. STENGER, author of God and the Atom
“Without doubt one of the best books I’ve ever read on faith. A masterpiece.” –PETER BOGHOSSIAN, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists
“Because one’s religious faith is almost completely an accident of birth, believers should be highly skeptical about whether their own faith is correct. This eminently sensible principle, outlined in Loftus’s admirable book, is rarely followed in practice; but if it were, then the dominance of religion in our world, with all its bad effects, would be severely eroded.” –JERRY A. COYNE, author of Why Evolution Is True
“The Outsider Test for Faith is an ingenious way of helping the religious take a step back so that they can fairly and impartially examine what they believe, which can only be a good thing.” –STEPHEN LAW, author of Believing Bullshit
“John Loftus has done it again! He has produced a lucid and exhaustive explanation of the simple proposition that individuals should examine their own faith with the same skepticism they show toward the claims of other faiths. No significant objection is left unexamined and no major objector escapes unscathed. This is a potent antidote to those who elevate faith above reason, and superstition above science. It is a bravura performance.” –HECTOR AVALOS, author of The End of Biblical Studies
“John W. Loftus will be remembered a century from now for The Outsider Test for Faith.” –DR. FRANK ZINDLER, former president of American Atheists and editor of American Atheist Magazine
“Perhaps the most intractable argument against Loftus’s outsider test for faith is some version of ‘I can’t do it. I can’t get far enough outside of my emotions and beliefs to examine my own religion like I would any other.’ As a psychologist I find that credible. We all have a very imperfect and fragmentary ability to see ourselves as others see us. But this in no way undermines Loftus’s foundational argument that the outsider test should be the gold standard.” –DR. VALERIE TARICO, psychologist and author of Trusting Doubt
“John Loftus has written a bold book based on a simple premise: the unexamined faith is not worth believing… . He demands that believers examine their own faith with all the rigor and skepticism that they direct toward other faiths. To those who condemn the beliefs of others while elevating their own dogmas, Loftus’s message could come straight from the Gospel: remove the beam from your own eye before you seek to remove the speck from another’s.” –DR. KEITH PARSONS, professor of philosophy, University of Houston-Clear Lake, and author of God and the Burden of Proof.
But no! The points I’ve brought up have been brought up already by other people. Okay, if you say so Bill. I feel bad for you. This is getting embarrassing. I’m serious.
Now this isn’t to say I want to debate Craig. I used to want to. Now I don’t give a damn, really. I will if he wants to, that’s for sure. But I rather like doing what I’m doing, highlighting his inconsistency and watching him squirm. It’s kinda fun actually. If it happens it does. If it doesn’t I could care less. [Clarification: If in the future Craig misquotes me that I don't want to debate him, that would be a baldfaced lie. I just could care less. I'm still game. The ball is in his court. I just have to wait for him to play it. But I'm not sitting around hoping he will.]