Marshall/Buckner Debate Thoughts

What did I think of a theism/atheism debate last night? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, I had been invited to attend a debate put on by an apologetics group called Why Should I Believe?. The debate was between the Christian Wallace Marshall, a Christian apologist with Reasonable Faith, and between Ed Buckner. My friend Cody who I went with told me he had seen Buckner debate some on a Ratio Christi panel and had heard him put forward “Who created God?” as if this was the great stumper of our times. I was preparing myself for something similar and hoping that he would say something about the historical Jesus, like mythicism, that I could speak about in the Q&A.

When Buckner got up to speak as the first speaker, it was pretty much entirely an appeal to pragmatism. The life he described as the way Christians live I can say did not resonate with me at all. I do not live in constant fear that I will be severely judged for my actions and thoughts and I do not have to go to the Bible to know right from wrong. Buckner also started off talking about his own experience, to which I was amazed once again how many atheists seem to start with a personal testimony in their evangelism.

When Marshall got up, it was a much better presentation as he was quoting philosophers, scientists, and others. He had done his homework. Buckner left me thinking that all he had done was read popular objections on the internet and put them all together. I did not really see any detailed refutation from Buckner and unfortunately he did not respond to anything Marshall said about the historical Jesus.

There was a Q&A which unfortunately was all too short, but afterwards when I was speaking with Marshall about doing some work with Reasonable Faith, I managed to get myself engaged in some debates including many of the usual claims. For instance, there was the idea that Christianity copied from Egypt. Some questions were obviously points of concern, such as the young black woman who wanted to know what the Bible was really talking about with slavery.

Of course, most memorable for me was engaging with someone who was advocating the Jesus myth theory and saying that scholars don’t even know if Jesus existed. When I asked for the scholars who doubt this, well we all know who came up. None other than polyamorous Richard Carrier. I asked what accredited university he was teaching at now to get the reply of “Well he teaches at…” and then leaning over to ask his friend “Where is he teaching at?” Carrier isn’t teaching anywhere except online to internet atheists. There’s a reason for that. (It’s also a reason why I think polyamorous Richard Carrier is a great gift to the church.)

Unfortunately, trying to talk to mythicists about anything in history is incredibly difficult since the standards change for Jesus and Carrier’s words are treated like Gospel. When asked if any of us had ever read his works, I was able to reply that I had in fact read his latest book already on the historicity of Jesus. Do I think Carrier has made a serious case there? No. Not really. Perhaps those who hold him up as the cream of the crop with NT scholarship might think so, but no one else does.

If there was one critique I’d have of the Christian case, it would be that too often I think we are marrying our apologetic to the modern science. Consider how so many are building their apologetic on Big Bang cosmology. Well what if that ever changes? What about those who are building their apologetic on problems with abiogenesis. What happens if that question is answered one day? (I know there are hypotheses, but at this point I know of no clear accepted answer in the scientific community.) This is one reason I think it’s best to go with metaphysical arguments, especially since the science is incomplete without metaphysics. Why not just go straight to the main force? Could we be inadvertently feeding into the scientism of our day?

Still, I try to be fair and objective, but I have to say that Marshall carried the day in this one. He had a better grasp of the subject matter and had more than just pet sayings that you can find on an internet search. I was hoping for a more impressive show from the atheist to get a real debate going, but I was disappointed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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