Saturday, 12 November 2011

W.L.Craig's tour on the existence of God

In October 2011 William Lane Craig, an American professor of the philosophy of religion, toured England to debate, discuss and lecture on the existence of God with various scholars and philosophers in Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, London and St Andrews.

Click here for links to the podcasts.

Here are some highlights drawn from his account of the tour:

  • Central Hall Westminster, London, with Dr Stephen Law who had kindly and bravely stepped in when Polly Toynbee backed out of a debate entitled Does God exist? This was attended by 1700 people.
  •  A filmed interview with Peter Vardy from Heythrop College revealed that the fastest growing subject among older school children in the UK, equivalent to high school level in the USA, was the philosophy of religion.

  • Radio interviews revealed that some atheists were reluctant to take on Dr Craig because his logic was too difficult to refute in a debate format. Fortunately not all academics were so deterred.

  • At Imperial College his lecture to science and engineering students on the existence of God was live-streamed over the internet and will already have been seen by several thousand web users.

  • On the train on his way to St Andrews the Great Church he encountered Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, an agnostic. They discussed the subject that Dr Craig was billed to talk on, ‘Has Hawking eliminated God?’ and appeared to be in  agreement that the answer was ‘no’. Dr Craig was joined by Dr Rodney Holder.

  • ‘This house believes that God is not a delusion’ was the subject of the Cambridge Union Debate. Normally, around 200 people attend this traditional event but this time there were 750, with the audience spilling over into the gallery, two overflow rooms and the bar area. The vote was won despite a hostile reception from many unbelievers in the audience: yes 243, no 229, abstentions 129.  Craig said the applause after his closing speech was the greatest he had ever received.

  • The debate with Peter Millican, an Oxford philosopher, in the Great Hall of Birmingham University was organised by the Philosophy Society and attracted nearly 1000 people. This was a  good natured event, with much mutual respect and no animosity by speakers or audience.

  • At the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford University Craig gave the ‘empty chair’ address, ‘Is God a delusion?’, so called because Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, refused an invitation to defend his arguments in the book. (He has repeatedly declined such invitations and made a venomous attack on Craig in the Guardian newspaper a few days before.) In the absence of an opposing speaker there was a productive panel discussion.

Overall the tour was encouraging to those who believe the universe was created by a personal God and revealed a growing interest in this question by young thinkers.

(If you feel drawn towards God but feel reluctant to take a step in that direction because you are afraid of being irrational these discourses and dialogues, and ones like them at may give you food for thought.)

Author, 2077 AD