Facing Off

After the Rational Response Squad responded, rationally, the debating quartet in Nightline’s 2007 Face-Off (topic: “Does God Exist?”) sat on talk-show chairs and took shots from the host, Martin Bashir.

Ray Comfort, who debates by preaching, had said “God dwells in eternity where there’s neither beginning nor end.” Thus, to object — as atheists do — that the First Mover cosmological argument fails because any God must itself have been created is to misunderstand the nature of God. Comfort might have cited (but didn’t) evangelical apologist William Lane Craig’s recapitulation of the kalam argument, paraphrased: “Everything that exists in time needs a creator. God exists outside of time. God does not need a creator.”

Bashir quotes French philosopher Michel Onfray, author of “Atheist Manifesto,” to audible applause from the Manhattan gallery: “Claiming the existence of God is a mental delusion.”

Addressing the God-out-of-time response, which we find in Aristotle and Augustine, atheist Brian “Sapient” calls on the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics which holds that matter/energy (same thing) can not be created or destroyed but only transformed. Therefore, it’s matter/energy that is eternal, not God.

At this point, Kirk Cameron begins to squirm. He does not know what to say. It’s an occupational hazard of these God debates that civilians and former child actors are called upon to pick apart the most complicated points of modern scientific theory — on both sides of the case. I think it’s why they’re so unsatisfying: we suspect no one quite knows what they’re talking about.

To their (or Bashir’s) credit, they do stomp into the big issues. Bashir challenges the atheists: If the law of nature is might-makes-right, why do people cooperate at all? Kelly punts that “we depend on one another” and then accuses Christians of permitting moral depravity followed by a deathbed conversion. No, says Comfort, any conversion requires “contrition and genuine repentance.”

This is a better response than you think. If a person is genuinely capable of a life of absolute depravity (“doing whatever you want,” in Kelly’s words), how likely is that same person will feel genuinely contrite on their deathbed? Why? Aren’t our outward lives a visible version of our inner selves? Don’t most depraved people remain depraved because they are, well, depraved?

And then — God help us — they get to evolution. I never thought I’d see the day a former child star spoke these words into the camera: “The number one reason many people don’t believe in the existence of God is because of evolution.”

Of course, the former Mike Seaver, teen idol, thinks the theory of evolution is “a fairytale for grownups.” Why? Because “science has never found a genuinely transitional form,” and he offers ten thousand G’s to anyone who can. He accepts that species adapt to their environment (because it’s obvious), but not that one species evolves into another. Micro can’t go all macro.

Brian “Sapient” then hurls back that “every person in here is a transitional form,” and there are “hundreds” of transitional fossils in the Museum of Natural History, and “How can you not walk a mile taking one step at a time?”

Asked to respond, Cameron sits mute. He forgets the question. His discomfort is palpable, as is Comfort’s. He recovers with the Intelligent Design line that “nature produces patterns and not information,” i.e., there is too much complexity at a subcellular level to be explained by chance.

In fact, Cameron is arguing an outdated version of creation science. Modern evolution argues for common ancestry, not species-jumping — i.e., that different species can be traced to a common point of origin. So we would not expect to find (as Cameron jokes) a sheep-frog, half sheep/half frog, but rather some point in the distant past when those species drifted apart. Intelligent Design types attack the common ancestry hypothesis.

The squads get into the historicity of Jesus and audience questions, but at this point let’s hang up the quill. Cameron pointed me toward the topic of information and so-called Intelligent Design, and I thought: Why not?

So The God Project Dot Net ambled down to North Carolina and the 18th Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics sponsored by the Southern Evangelical Seminary … and ran into the intellectual elite of the Darwin-bashers.

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