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Atheists decline to debate theologian Lane Craig

American Evangelical theologian William Lane Craig is ready to debate the rationality of faith during his tour of Great Britain this fall, but it appears that atheist philosophers are running shy of the challenge.

This month president of the British Humanist Association, Polly Toynbee, pulled out of an agreed debate at London’s Westminster Central Hall in October, saying she “hadn’t realized the nature of Mr. Lane Craig’s debating style.”

Lane Craig, who is a professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, Calif., and author of 30 books and hundreds of scholarly articles, is no stranger to the art of debate and has taken on some of the great orators, such as famous atheists Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Harris once described Craig as “the one Christian apologist who has put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”


Responding to Toynbee’s cancellation, Lane Craig commented: “These folks (atheists) can be very brave when they are alone at the podium and there’s no one there to challenge them. But one of the great things about these debates is that, it allows both sides to be heard on a level playing field, and for the students in the audience to make up their own minds about where they think the truth lies.”

According to Fox News:

Others have refused to challenge Lane Craig, too, including Richard Dawkins, one of the Four Horseman of the new Atheist movement, which include Hitchens, Harris and Daniel Dennett.

Dawkins, who has labeled the Roman Catholic Church “evil” and once called the Pope “a leering old villain in a frock,” refused four separate invitations, extended through religious and humanist organizations, to take part in debates with Lane Craig during his fall tour.


The controversy wafted into the British press after fellow atheist and philosophy lecturer, Daniel Came, accused Dawkins of simply being afraid, saying, “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part.”

Dawkins responded by saying, “I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion.”

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Desert lady

    Ask Dan Barker from the Freedom from Religion group in Madison, WI.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment James Hovland

    The most important question for me isn’t whether god exists or not, but why would anyone who has actually read the book for themselves chose to worship such a god.

  • Kestrel

    …And yet Craig refuses to debate atheists without a PhD, such as Matt Dillahunty. What’s your point?

  • Albert Darringdon

    Dawkins was afraid. I read his reason for refusing on his website. It was a bunch of lame feigned moral indignation. What a sissy! hahah

  • Neil Danz

    I LOVE THIS. I LOVE when people make a false idol out of people like Craig. I LOVE when people paint a demonstrably incomplete picture of a person and a situation. So lets illuminate this quarrel for exactly what it is. No bias, just objective analysis of the facts. For full the sake of full disclosure, why did this article not contain a list of the many Rabbinic Philosophers William refuses to debate on the o.t, a book he often sites and debates about? Oh…that got left out…funny. Why did they not mention what one must go through, to prove themselves oh so worthy of Craigs special time? They are trying to present Craig as a man who will quickly charge the field and take on all challengers but this is not the case. A scholar in moral philosophy has an interview on youtube, where he explains how hard it was for him to get a hold of Craig. Funny thing that. After going through channels to get to Craigs contact information, they engaged in a series of voicemails and emails. Not direct communication. This scholar laid out a wide variety of possible debate topics and a few different debate formats. William Lane Craig told this man he was only willing to debate on a couple of the debate topics and said that he REFUSED to debate, unless it was the exact debate format of his choosing, the one of Craigs preference. Funny. It almost seems like William Lane Craig hides behind channels, and will only come to the card table, if hes got a stacked hand, in advance…hmmm. Oh well. Perhaps his fans should watch how well he fares in debates like Cosmology vs Theism, where he faces Carol, or moral philosophy against Kegan, or the historicity of the ressurection against Erhman. I’m sure his fanboys are in for a real treat…who doesnt like watching their hero get utterly destroyed and exposed in debate? 😀

    “These folks are really brave when alone at the podium”~Says Craig. But he will only meet them at the podium, of the debate topic of his choosing, and the debate format of his choosing. Thats like two men meeting up, and one called William challenges the other. When the other man shows up William gets a little nervous and says that he wont engage in the duel unless he has a handicap. His opponent must have one of his eyes covered before they take their ten paces, turn and fire. But alas, when your source is FOX NEWS, details get left out, spin gets used and we are presented with a false image of the person they praise. As for Richard Dawkins compared to William Lane Craig, Dawkins is famous for his works and huge contributions to his field. He is a powerhouse scholar who isnt famous in academia for being an atheist, but a biologist. For decades he has turned out high quality work, real world contributions to science and it has reflected in the peer review literature record. Craig on the other hand has spent decades not understanding biology or physics. He has written many books, none good, about philosophical arguments that arent his. He’s a parrot. He has contributed nothing. Thus it is also reflected in his peer review literature. Dawkins has a very high citation total, and an H-index score that eclipses Craig’s ten fold. Craig has a lousy 2 citation average per paper, and for the last ten years where he has been preaching and debating the most, his writing has gotten worse. His last ten papers have a lousy sum, of 8 total citations combined. Hes not even batting 1 citation per paper anymore. Dawkins=Boot. Craig=Ant.

    The reason why Dawkins isnt going to debate Craig is simple and Craig buries himself here, providing evidence to support Dawkins reasoning behind his decision to not debate. First, Craig doesnt understand science, for Dawkins to sit down and explain to Craig why there never was a world wide flood, creationism is bullshit, Genesis is refuted by science, would be pointless for 2 reasons. Secondly, Craig doesnt understand science. Secondly Craig doesnt debate in good faith. He has made 3 statements, including a recent debate in Q and A, where he said “nothing” in response to a question asked of he and his opponent “what would change your mind?” Where Craig answered “nothing”, his opponent said “evidence”. That left a taste in many theists mouths who love philosophy. To see Craig say that.

    To do good philosophy and for philosophical discussion to have a point, both parties must be willing to change their mind and possibly be convinced that they are wrong. Craig isnt willing to do that. So what is Craigs source, of his 100% resolve towards Christianity, no matter what? He must have some powerful scientific evidence, or the master of all arguments siding with him! But no, and I quote “The way through which I know Christianity is true, is through the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. This feeling gives me self authentication of knowing the truth of Christianity wholly apart from the evidence.” Got that? He has a feeling. Craig, has, a feeling. It gets worse, he goes on to say that this feeling trumps all, even if the evidence lies against him.
    Craig even once responded to an interview where he was asked if he could see back through time, and see that Jesus never rose from the dead, would Craig still after seeing that, remain a Christian? Craig answered “Yes.” ….Let that stick in your brain for a minute.

    So to any scholar, be they atheist, theist of a different religion, deist, polytheist, buddhist etc…please know, that to debate WLC, assuming he doesnt hide behind channels and his voicemail, assuming you have to agree to do the exact debate topic and format he wants….is to be wasting your time. You face a man who is a devout fundamentalist, who refuses to debate in good faith. All you do, is give this 2 citations joke, more fame and more credibility than he deserves.

    Note Craigs quote in this article “the great thing about debate these debates is that, it allows both sides to be heard on a level playing field”. No Craig. The great thing about debate for is that it isnt a science lecture. For you that is beneficial. In debate honesty isnt required. Consistency isnt required, and Craig has demonstrated little of either in his debate career. Master of slight of hand, and cleverly hidden fallacies, Craig is one of the best, cleverly inconsistent rhetorists out there. In philosophical debate there is more wiggle room, allowing for a flip flop, or tweak of a claim or term, mid debate in case you hit a snag. In science thats not how things work. Scientific debate isnt just a discussion, its taking a persons experiment and model, and testing it again for accuracy. Its not word games, abstract concepts or untest claims. Its go back to the drawing board and see if you can repeat their experiment and get the same results. For Craig what this means is he can (if he so chooses to after all of his conditions are met otherwise he wont debate you), get on stage with top scholars, of which he is not among their ranks, and discuss things with them. Whether he does well in the debate, poorly in the debate, even understands their fields of which he often isnt educated in, relying on a deceptive brand of quantum sophistry when getting smoked by modern cosmology, it doesn’t matter. Craig getting on stage with them, gets him unjustified fame and credibility. He stands on stage with giants, and he the ant, looks bigger. So Dawkins recognizes this.

    He realizes Craig is a deceptive philosopher. He realizes Craig wont even understand most of what Dawkins say with regards to science refuting the book of Genesis as a literal work. He understands that Craig doesnt even debate in good faith. That all Dawkins getting on stage with Craig will do, is give Craig more undeserved attention. Dawkins is being logical and he won’t bite. While of the many atheist scholars dawkins is not the best at philosophy or logical reasoning, he seems to have figured out Craig a lot quicker than Hitchens or say Harris ever did. Even Kegan, Krauss and Carol who destroyed Craig in debate, gave Craig some more attention by getting on stage with him.

    “I have no intention of assisting Craig in his relentless drive for self-promotion”
    ~Richard Dawkins.

    Bingo. If Dawkins hadnt been a great scholar in biology I dare say he would have done well in the field of psychology. He’s figured out Craigs game and knows what Craig is all about…and as for reasons I have made overwhelmingly obvious, no matter who, no matter what evidence or argument, Craig cant be convinced otherwise. He cant and will not debate in good faith, rendering any debate with him pointless.

    Craig is poison to philosophy. He is a hypocrite as a philosopher and a Christian.
    He needs to take a good hard look the mirror, at all the money and fame he has amassed over the years and go back to his bible that says something about the chances of a camel passing through the eye of a needle, being equal to a man getting into heaven, and maybe Craig can reacquire his identity as a good Christian.

    He needs to stop saying things in one debate “We human beings of limited finite intelligence arent able to know gods plan, to be able to condemn him as immoral”…
    and then the opposite in other debates “Gods plan was to help them freely enter the kingdom of heaven”.

    So which is it Craig? I don’t know and you don’t either. Reacquire your consistency in argumentation to reacquire your identity as a good philosopher.

    Until you can acquire both of these identities and stop being a multi-level hypocrite, you are not the champion modern Christians deserve. They deserve far better, and Jesus would condemn you for your hypocrisy. I think there was also a verse about man not being able to serve to masters…money and god? Now I have to go and order an other WLC t-shirt, coffee mug, or any other crap with his face plastered on it for him to make a few more quick bucks, from his reasonablefaith website.

    But see…this is full disclosure. Why paint up a false, incomplete image of a man, unless you are championing him as something hes not? Craigs crappy apologetics has turned many of my former Christian ilk, into atheists. People are highly tuned to detect hypocrisy and deception from their elders and Craig has both in spades.

    But hey, if this is the best dishonest smeer job of Dawkins you can do, thats the best you can do. I can complete the picture, and Craig doesnt come out looking clean.

    If anyone accuses me of ad hominem, I will kindly point out that this is an objective analysis of Craigs own tactics, methods, statements, and peer review record. Nothing I said here, isnt a fact. So its not an ad hominem. So keep up the good work Craig. Keep making more atheists out there, keep messing up cosmology in your ignorance, keep trying to do things outside of your field, and keep up that hypocrisy!

    After all you said “Richard Dawkins may be a great scientist” First of all may??? You want to measure your peer review record vs his? People often point out “Craig has written over 2 dozen books”, the same people havent checked his citation score for those books. Craigs all quantity, no quality. Worse yet, his books are just him repeating what other philosophers came up with. He has nothing original. No actual contributions from him. But I digress “Richard Dawkins may be a great scientist, but when he begins to talk about theology and philosophy he is merely a laymen.”

    I am an ex-Catholic who is now an atheist, and I agree with this statement. Theology and philosophy are not Dawkins field, thus he shouldnt speak of them. The God Delusion should have just been the first third it was, which was an iron clad scientific refutation of Genesis, as a literal work. Craigs point is that Dawkins needs to stick to his field and not speak, write or debate outside of it. I couldn’t agree more.

    So then why doesn’t Craig practice what he preaches? His degrees are PHD Philosophy, PHD Theology. Yet he has written papers, books and done debates with regards to: Biology, Geology, Genetics, History and Cosmology. None of which are his fields and in debate he gets hammered (See Kegan, Carol, Krauss, Erhman) by professionals in those fields. So he does the very thing he condemns Dawkins for.

    I guess hes blind to his own refutations, ignorance and hypocrisy…Oh…it must be that feeling in his heart, which shuts down that part of his brain.

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