UCCF has a national roadshow underway – Prof William Lane Craig, philosopher of religion AND disciple of Jesus, is being ferried around university settings in the hope that people might stop to listen and think. The tour launch was a debate last Tuesday between him and renowned atheist Prof Lewis Wolpert. I couldn’t make it to that one, but i did hear him the following night when he came to us All Souls. It was a fascinating evening, where he gave evidence of his vast range of knowledge (2 PhDs, the ability to discuss everything from the anthropic principle to the need to be forgiven etc) and his ability to pitch his content in a humourous and down-to-earth way. For more details of other events check out the Be Thinking site.
I had heard, however, that the previous evening had been something of a one-sided debate (and this is only hearsay of course) to such an extent that Prof Wolpert didn’t really engage as much as simply reasserted his position. Depressing really – not because of the power of knockdown arguments leading to sudden conversions – you wouldn’t expect that necessarily (oh me of little faith). But because it seems all too often that there is a lack of willingness actually to engage with what is being said (which is sadly as true of Christians as much as of non-Christians). Here was a Christian who really engages at a phenomenally deep and complex level – but is still greeted by a complete lack of acknowledgment of the reasonableness of his arguments. Of course there are moral as well as intellectual dimensions to faith – but it is sad nevertheless. This was perfectly exemplified by Richard Dawkins’ dismissive and haughty rejection of an invitation to debate with Lane Craig. ‘I’ve never heard of Prof Lane Craig and while a debate would look good on his CV, i don’t think that it would add anything to mine’ (as quoted in answer to a question at All Souls on Wednesday about whether Craig was willing to debate with Dawkins).
But i write all this now because of BBC journalist John Humphrys’ rather depressing article in today’s paper. Humphreys actually chaired the debate at Westminster Central Hall last Tuesday – and by all accounts did anexcellent and fair job. But he has not followed this up in the same spirit with his article. He hasn’t really engaged at all where Craig has. And the parting shot of the article feels like a journalistic trick to claim the moral high ground rather than portray what Craig is really saying. For all this, though, it does illustrate one thing very clearly: the complete bemusement of the largely secularist and modernist establishment in this country at the resurgence of theistic belief. Humphrys couldn’t quite believe that Central Hall (seating 2000) was both full AND that 90+% of the audience already believed in God! While this made for an unbalanced audience perhaps, it certainly didn’t provide any excuse for the lack of real engagement and debate. It is time i think for the powers that be, who traditionally ‘don’t do God’, to sit up and start recognising what is going on all around them.