The following is a guest post from our friend Jon Sturm, who attended a popular and important debate at Purdue last weekend.
On Friday, February 1st the Elliott Hall of Music on the campus of Purdue University played host to a well-attended and much-anticipated debate. The Symposium Christi is an annual event, hosted by multiple campus ministries and churches, with the purpose to explore and debate some of the most probing questions of about faith, reason, and life. The topic of this year’s main debate was, “The Foolishness of Faith: is Faith in God Reasonable?” Arguing for the affirmative was Dr. William Craig, Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Arguing for the negative was Dr. Alex Rosenberg, Professor and Department Head of Philosophy at Duke University. I had the pleasure of attending the debate with about twenty-five friends and acquaintances from central Indiana.
The debate featured excellent rhetoric, more Latin than I cared for, and a great deal else which went about a mile over my decidedly unintellectual head. I’ll not bore you with its exact details; rather I want to share three reflections which came from hearing brilliant men discuss an important topic.
Reflection # 1 – Where is the debater of this age?
I’m ashamed to say that as Dr. Rosenberg took the podium I was more than timid – I was terrified. It happened suddenly, but in a moment my mind was racing. I thought about how smart he is, and how stupid I am. I thought about the books he’s read which I have not. I thought about the science he understands, which the sub-par biology and chemistry student in me could never hope to comprehend. I thought about the arguments he’d soon make, which I would not have heard before. I thought, “What if he’s right?” I’m thankful to say those thoughts soon passed, as my mind was filled instead with a passage which, on three separate occasions within the past month, God has brought before me – I Corinthians 1:18-31. My fear was rebuked by this passage, but I was also so incredibly comforted. God does not fear the wisdom of men, nor should I.
Reflection #2 – Modernity’s god
Dr. Rosenberg spent much of his time explaining scientifically the impossibility of God. He claimed that God, as a being, was worthless to science, and therefore worthless to all human endeavors. He stated once that if God could do as much for science as the numeral 2, physicists would be much more receptive to his existence. I read recently in John 5. In that passage Jesus rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees, saying to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; yet it is they that bear witness about me.” It’s safe to say that Dr. Rosenberg, though familiar with the Bible, does not search it for life. Still it could be said of him, “You search out science because you think that in it you have eternal life…” If only Dr. Rosenberg could see that science, studied properly, testifies of Jesus!
Reflection #3 – Sola Scriptura
Dr. Craig is an excellent debater, and he showcased that talent very well during the course of the evening. However, after speaking a little more than an hour, with an audience of thousands interested in matters of faith, I noticed that something was sorely lacking from his talk – Scripture! Craig presented eight reasons why it is logical to believe in God. All eight were scientific, philosophical, or otherwise – yet, save his last point, they were completely Scripture-free. Calvin writes, “Yet they who strive to build up firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards…Even if anyone clears God’s Sacred Word from man’s evil speaking, he will not at once imprint upon their hearts that certainty which piety requires” (Institutes I.vii.4). Craig’s need to use Scripture was nowhere more clear than when Dr. Rosenberg, a child of Holocaust survivors, sincerely inquired about the problem of evil. Dr. Craig’s response was free of Scripture, free of grace and compassion, and more than a little obtuse. My friend Joel Hart commented that Dr. Craig came off well overall, yet lacked a measure of Christ-centered grace required to tear down strongholds (II Corinthians 10:3-5). Dr. Craig may have scored debate points, but even given his answer, Dr. Rosenberg is in no way more near a saving knowledge of Christ our Lord.
Senior, Purdue University College of Liberal Arts