Jan. 25, 2020
More than 10,000 watched as the acclaimed theist William Lane Craig, research professor of philosophy at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, and atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens debated the question of God’s existence in an unprecedented event Saturday evening, April 4, 2009. The question of the night’s debate, hosted by Biola University’s Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics and Associated Students, Does God exist? attracted a diverse audience of Christians, non-Christians and atheists alike.
Approximately 4,000 watched the debate on Biola University’s campus either in Chase Gymnasium where the debate took place or in one of the overflow sites. There were satellite sites in the surrounding community as well as more than 120 churches and other facilities in 30 states and 4 countries broadcasting the debate. The event began at 7:30 p.m. with host Craig Hazen, director of the M.A. program in Christian apologetics and professor of comparative religion and apologetics at Biola University, who greeted the audience and expressed his gratitude towards Hitchens and Craig. He also commented with a smile that if the debate did not go well, they could lower the basketball hoops in the gym where the debate was held, and the two could play one on one.
Craig gave his opening arguments first in which he presented five arguments for the existence of God. Craig remained focused on the issue at hand — the existence of God, rather than making a case for religion as a whole or whether or not religion is good. Hitchens argued that there is not a God or intelligent designer, however, humans evolved over time. He emphasized that a claim as large as that would need substantial evidence, stating that there is no plausible reason there is a God.
Craig used cosmological argument, teleological argument, moral argument and the resurrection of Jesus and the immediate experience of God as his main arguments. Craig noted in his closing argument that Hitchens failed to engage any of these arguments throughout the debate. Hitchens resolved back to the argument that morality is not dependant upon God throughout most of the night and that he saw a lack of evidence for a supernatural realm. At the end of the evening, he stated that unbelief will insure you against evil.
“In some ways, you could say that the debate went off with out a Hitch(ens),” said Hazen in his thoughts after the event. “Everything went incredibly smoothly and people seemed to really enjoy it. However, Chris Hitchens seemed a bit subdued. Perhaps the dominant (and very charitable) Christian audience put a little damper on his usual debate rhetoric. I thought it was a great showing for belief in God, the Christian intellectual tradition, and Biola University as a global center for Christian thought.”
Hitchens, a devoted atheist and author of the bestselling God is Not Great, is among the best known critics and controversial writers in today’s media. Debating frequently, he represents those hostile to religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Craig, one of the leading contemporary philosophers and Christian apologists in the world, is one of the most formidable debaters in the Christian world. Craig, an eminent scholar and debater, advocates for the Christian side on a wide range of topics.
Hugh Hewitt moderated the debate. Hewitt is a law professor, broadcast journalist and author. However, he is most well known for his nationally syndicated radio show heard in more than 120 cities across the United States with approximately two million listeners. He is also a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News Network and MSNBC.
After the event, it was obvious the debate had posed questions and was thought provoking as many groups of students and attendees stood in discussion after the event. Prior to the debate, members of the press interviewed Hitchens and Craig separately.
The debate attracted reporters, bloggers and even tweeters. Whittier Daily News’ article, “The Great Debate,” made the front page of their print edition. Baptist Press ran an article, “Atheist Hitchens, apologist Craig debate God’s existence.” Read Biola University’s student newspaper, The Chimes Online’ article, “Does God Exist?: Craig, Hitchens address issue in front of sold-out crowd.” Also, Christian Post published an article on Tuesday, April 7, “Renowned Apologist and Atheist Debate ‘Does God Exist?’” Blogger Doug TenNapel wrote his view of the debate on Big Hollywood blog, "Does God Exist? Hitchens vs. Craig." Nearly 40 blogs were posted during and after the event. Biola’s Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics Doug Geivett, Ph.D., summarized the debate on his blog as well: http://douggeivett.wordpress.com/.
Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. Jenna can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu