Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Why Dr. White Dominated the Barker-White Debate
05/07/2009 - Tur8infanIntroduction
I have listened to the Barker-White debate of last Thursday twice (an mp3 of the debate can be obtained here). Many things could be said about the debate. I have a few quick thoughts on why Dr. White dominated the debate:
1) Dr. White presented a Biblical case.
This is the primary reason that Dr. White dominated. Dr. White properly identified God as the God who has revealed himself in Scripture, the God who created the visible world (with a cellular energy transfer process as an example), and the God through whom alone knowledge is possible.
Dr. White did not rely on an evidentialist approach or a philosophically rationalist approach that tries to borrow a secular platform to argue for God's existence. In this, in my opinion, Dr. White was dramatically superior to many of those who have tried to argue from probabilities or from clever philosophical syllogisms.
2) Dr. White was Prepared
Dr. White had done his homework on Barker. In fact, those of us who had listened to the Dividing Line webcast for the past few weeks were not surprised by anything that Barker said in his opening speech, and there really wasn't much more that he said in other parts of his speech that were surprising.
This preparedness gave Dr. White a clear edge, since he was able to anticipate several of Barker's arguments in his own opening statement. Additionally, Dr. White was even able to anticipate Barker's follow-up questions during the cross-examination section.
Barker did not appear to be similarly prepared. Barker ended up having to waste time during the cross-examination section finding out preliminary facts about Dr. White, such as whether Dr. White accepts the hypothesis of evolution and whether God could be said to be behind the swine flu outbreak.
Likewise, because Barker was not familiar with Dr. White's background, he confused evidence of God with evidence for God. Dr. White noted evidence of God in the evidence, but did not try to prove the God of Scripture from the evidence.
3) Dr. White Avoided Landmines
Dr. White avoided ad hominem arguments, except where the matter was relevant. For example, Dr. White did not argue that atheists were statistically more immoral than theists, did not try to make the argument that being an atheist makes you a Stalin, or any similar argument. Instead, Dr. White wisely stuck to pointing out the fact that atheistic morality is simply an unwarranted borrowing by atheists from the Christian worldview.
Dr. White did, at one point, note that Barker's education to be a pastor was (to quote Barker's own words) little more than a "glorified Sunday school," but he did this only because it had become relevant in view of Barker's suggestion that as a preacher he had been unaware of the most notorious textual critical issue that exists in the Bible. Although Barker may not have known about it, it wasn't because Christians hide this issue, but only because Barker's familiarity with Christianity wasn't very deep. Dr. White was quick to point out that Barker is an exceptionally intelligent man (in the top few tenths of a percent of the population), and Dr. White made it clear that he was not arguing that Barker was lacking intelligence.
4) Dr. White Linked To Other Debates/Discussions
Dr. White provided a significant numbers of connections to other debates and discussions, both to debates that Barker had done and debates that Dr. White has done. These connections demonstrated the fact that Dr. White was aiming for consistency: not only in his own presentation, but in insisting that his opponent be consistent as well. These connections permitted Dr. White to focus on the important issues that had been raised in other contexts, even when Barker may not have raised them as clearly in this particular debate.
On the whole, I think Dr. White did a great job. Obviously, being a Christian and a member of his blogging team, I'm liable to bias. Nevertheless, I trust that the listener will agree with me and that has been the case with many of those with whom I have chatted about this debate. He presented the consistent message of the Bible and contrasted it with the inconsistent message of atheism.
James White vs. Dan Barker: The Triune God of Scripture Lives
05/05/2009 - James WhiteThe mp3 recordings of the debate at the University of Illinois are now available here. It is our sincere hope that this encounter will be encouraging to the people of God, and will be used to His glory.
Please keep the preparations for the next debate, which we are trying to set up for June, in prayer.
Reflections on the UofI Debate
05/03/2009 - James White
I wanted to take a few moments to write down some thoughts on the debate with Dan Barker at the University of Illinois on Thursday evening, April 30th, 2009.
When I first began involvement in apologetics in my early 20s I had the opportunity of engaging many atheists on our local talk station, KFYI. Dan Barker was one of them. This was before I had become consciously Reformed or had encountered any meaningful apologetics materials. When the ministry began, we were focused upon Mormonism, and from that point onward my emphasis was primarily upon "religious" apologetics, not upon atheism. Though I had to deal with basic worldview issues in debates with men like Barry Lynn and John Dominic Crossan, most of my debates have been with theists of one sort or another.
I am committed to the idea that debates are meant to glorify God through the proclamation of His truth. I am seeking to edify the saints, and evangelize the lost, and hence I must "do my homework" as best I can. I have to show respect for the audience and for those who have brought me in (in this case, that was pretty much myself, as A&O provided my transportation, hotel room, rental car, etc.). So, for this debate, I spent many hours listening carefully to Dan Barker's debates, often listening to them multiple times. I purchased and marked up his books. I knew my opponent's arguments and could have made his opening presentation myself. Indeed, I had responded to the vast majority of his argumentation on the Dividing Line in the weeks prior to the debate.
Mr. Barker did not read any of my books, listen to any of my debates, etc. Indeed, I do not believe he even Googled my name. Like so many before him, Mr. Barker believes his arguments unassailable, and hence does not believe it necessary to prepare for debates. He can just repeat his last debate notes and all will be well. In fact, the debate notes he used were the ones he used with Kyle Butts. With all due respect to Mr. Butts, he and I are not exactly on the same theological or epistemological page. Evidently, for Mr. Barker, it is a "one size fits all" proposition.
Now don't get me wrong: I have debated folks when I only had a general idea where they would be coming from. Sometimes you debate folks who have not published in the field, and have not produced audio or video presentations. But that was not the situation here. Anyone who wants to know what I believe, thanks be, can find out very, very easily. I haven't been quiet about it.
In any case, I attempted to craft an opening statement that would lay a solid foundation for a consistent, biblical defense of the Creator's rights in His creation. I used a KeyNote presentation. I felt that was most appropriate given the venue. The younger generation is very much visually oriented. I laid out the issue of worldviews and made the argument that by simply walking into the debate this evening Mr. Barker had lost, for his worldview is incapable of justifying his expectation that we would use laws of logic and reasoning, given his dogmatic materialism and his functionalism.
Where some may fault me (based, I believe, upon a misunderstanding of presuppositionalism) is in my presentation of "evidence" in my opening. I presented information that, given a meaningful worldview, is clear indication of the existence of an intelligent, purposeful Creator. I placed this information in the proper context: I did not claim that this was a neutral fact from which we could reason to the Creator. I presented it as a fact utterly incompatible with Barker's materialism, and one which would help us to see how his worldview would preclude him from dealing with the facts honestly. I used an animation of the F1 ATPase structure in the mitochondria. Here is a video of this tremendous structure:
I did not have time to go into detail, obviously, but I gave the highlights of the enzyme and its structure. It is so obvious, so clear, that a structure that has purpose, and is designed to accomplish that purpose, is by the very definition of the issue beyond the mere random actions of atoms banging into each other. The herculean effort of the materialist to deny the plain design of such miracles of nature is a fulfillment of Romans 1:18-20 to be sure.
I was also intent on guarding biblical truth, at the risk of offense, for I included the following statement:
Let me be very clear tonight on one thing. While our debate places you, the audience, in the position of judging, I would be remiss in a most severe way if I did not reject in the strongest possible terms the idea that we as creatures have the right to judge the existence of our Creator. The verdict of this debate was given when God said “Let there be light.” The issue tonight is whether we will live in accord with that verdict or not.
The fact that Dan Barker pressed on with the very same opening statement he used in his previous debates after hearing my opening is telling. While he surely senses the "differences" between debating Reformed men like Manata and Wilson, he really doesn't get the point they are making. He thinks his arguments remain valid, despite the epistemological chasm that separates the consistent Reformed apologist and the standard Arminian.
Rich tells me that he intends upon getting the video of this debate out very quickly, and I will be discussing it on the DL on Tuesday morning. I will go over some other last minute additions I made to my presentation thanks to the providential input of my good brother from London, Roger Brazier.
First Cross-Ex and Rebuttals, White vs. Barker, "The Triune God of Scripture Lives"
05/01/2009 - James White