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Posted on Aug 20, 2012 in debate, epistemology, free will, morality, my appearances, NEPA Freethought Society podcast, philosophy, problem of evil, responding to arguments, youtube | 9 comments

My “Does God Exist?” debate with Dr. Ronda Chervin – now available on Youtube!

My recent recorded “Does God Exist?” debate (held on August 19, 2012 vs. Dr. Ronda Chervin) which was recorded for a special episode of the NEPA Freethought Society Podcast is now available on Youtube. A remastered high-quality downloadable and streamable audio-only file is scheduled to be released as a podcast on the first Wednesday of September. This was my second recorded debate of this kind.

Dr. Chervin presented variations of Aquinas’ third and fifth ways in her opening statement.
I presented the evidential problem of natural evil, Stephen Law‘s ‘Evil God Challenge,’ and the problem of theological fatalism.

Thanks to all who supported, promoted, and watched the debate. Jason Gogola (behind the camera) and Karla Porter (the debate’s moderator) helped with the organization and worked hard to make this happen. An extra special thanks goes out to my opponent, Dr. Chervin, for providing a good debate.

Comments, questions, and feedback — always encouraged — can be posted here. I will be participating in events like this in the future, so constructive criticism will help improve the quality of debates like this. Consider also sending e-mail and thanks to Dr. Chervin at ChervinRonda (at) gmail (dot) com. Feel free, also, to sound off on the event’s Facebook page which still has ongoing discussion!

I will be dedicating some upcoming blog posts concerning this debate in which I will further develop the arguments I presented, restate and expand my objections to my opponent, and comment on some issues which were raised in the question and answer session. Stay tuned by following the blog label ‘NEPAGodDebate’ and keeping watch on my blog.

An interesting note which should be known…
At a point in the question and answer session, moderator Karla Porter was asking questions which were not delivered by persons in the live chat. For whatever reason, the chatroom crashed and — while it was still open — questions were not easy to read considering the blinding speed of the chat. In the future, we will ask that questions be sent via another medium instead. I appreciate, though, that so many people viewed! Crashing the chatroom is a good sign of interest :)

Information on participants:

Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. She is a widow, mother, and grandmother. Ronda converted to the Catholic Faith from a Jewish, though atheistic, background and has been a Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola Marymount University, the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is an international speaker and author of some fifty books about Catholic thought, practice and spirituality. Ronda is currently a Dedicated Widow of the Holy Eucharist forming a small community of dedicated widows. Dr. Ronda is currently teaching philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Her website can be found at

Justin Vacula received bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King’s College. Justin Vacula is an outspoken atheist, activist for the separation of church and state, a speaker, writer/reporter, blogger, and host of the NEPA Freethought Society Podcast. He is currently enrolled in Marywood University’s graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program. Vacula holds leadership roles as the co-organizer, spokesperson, and a board member of the NEPA Freethought Society. Justin has appeared on various radio shows, television networks, and podcasts. Vacula will be speaking at the upcoming September 28-30 Atheist/Humanist conference in Harrisburg. His website can be found at

Karla Porter works with organizations that want to achieve employer of choice status, are interested in attracting candidates who will develop into employee brand advocates that drive growth and continued success, embrace diversity, desire a culture of innovation and excellence, want to enrich the community, and reward superior performance with celebrity. Porter is one of four organizers behind the upcoming NEPA BlogCon 2012 conference at Luzerne County Community College taking place on September 29. Her website can be found at

3 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Yes, I agree. The chatroom was a mess. It served as a ‘venting’ platform in my opinion. I also thought that skype questions would be entertained. What happened there?I think people should submit questions via email during the debate. Each email should clearly state who the question is directed at. If I’m not mistaken, I don’t think Justin was asked a single direct question. Dr. Chervin, on the other hand, was asked all the questions in the Q&A. That didn’t seem right. Break it up for equality’s sake. Thanks.

  • Stephen Law’s Evil god “Challenge” can only be applied to a Theistic Personalist concept of God. It is worthless against a Classical Theistic Concept of God. bet dollars to donuts Mr. Vacula doesn’t understand the difference between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism. But I could be wrong.Law doesn’t even bother to define “evil” in his challenge. He doesn’t give it any type of metaphysical philosophical description. I’m not talking content wise (i.e. gay sex is evil, infanticide is evil but not if YHWH orders it etc) but in term of a philosophical description. Is evil a privation? Is it ontologically equal but opposite to good? If No he by his own admission QUOTE”My definitions of good and evil? I am (pretty obviously) working with our familiar, pre-theoretical concepts of good and evil, on which, for example, pain and suffering are evils, and agony inflicted for no good justifying reason is a gratuitous evil.”So he can move the goal posts whenever he wants to make “evil” or “good” mean whatever he wants.But then it’s not much of a challenge. He might as well run an Evil Form of the Good challenge to a Platonist it would be just as lame.

    • BenYachov

      When I posted the above last week I was distracted every five minutes while writing it off the cuff. I see I left a few dangling modifiers.

      My points are thus. Law doesn’t given any type of philosophical or metaphysical description of good and evil by his own admission he is using “pre-theoretical concepts” thus he has no precise philosophical description. He can make good and evil mean what he wants them to mean.

    • Law has defined ‘evil’ in his Religious Studies paper. He writes, “Under ‘ evil ’ I mean to include both suffering and morally blameworthy actions.”

      Anyway, Law has responded to Feser on his blog:

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  • BenYachov

    But Law has not given a metaphysical or philosophical description of evil which is the point. His definition is ambiguous to the point of being meaningless.

    I recommend you read the comments box discussions with Law over at both Feser’s blog and his own. He shifts his definitions around at the drop of a hat to try to make his challenge an omni-challenge against generic Theism to which it becomes an incoherent mess.

    BTW one can already read Law’s responses on his blog threw the links from Feser blog. So I don’t think Justin has read them yet.

    >I mean to include both suffering and morally blameworthy actions.

    When it is pointed out to Law that God in the Classic view is not a moral agent and cannot coherently be conceived as such he drops the moral angle like a hot potato.

    Taken at face value the EGC is an excellent polemic if you wish to challenge persons who hold Plantinga or Swimburne’s view of God as a being who exists alongside other beings and is unequivocally compared to creatures.

    But it can no more be applied to a Classic Conception of God then polemics against the Kalam Cosmological Argument can be used against a Pantheist.

    It’s called a category mistake.

  • BenYachov

    For readers especially Justin who wish to get up to speed on the differences between Classic Theism vs Theistic Personalism.

    Modern theodicy which envisions God as a Moral Agent unequivocally compared to a human moral agent is also pointless when applied to a Classic view of God. God is metaphysically and ontologically good but he can’t given His Nature be coherently called “morally good”. Thus you can’t find moral fault with Him.

    Moral goodness as applied to deity is a modern post Locke concept.


    God in Classic Theism needs a modern Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

    • spiral_stairs

      Ha ha ha…ha ha…ha…I see I forced you to completely delete your old Catholic James Scott account. But how will you embarrass yourself on the internet now?

  • The usual false claims made about me by Ben Yachov – betraying the fact he hasn’t grasped what I said – showing up here, I see.

    • BenYachov

      Grow up Prof Law. I have made no false claims about you & if I have had trouble “grasping” your “logic” the fault is with you since you seem dead set on being as ambiguous as possible.

      But what I find most immature is your childish tendency to deflect rather then argue.

      Your EGC can’t be run with a Classic Theist concept of God. You have been shown that time and again by both Atheists and Theists.

      Man up and get over it.

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