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Debate with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo at the University of Waterloo

From the February '09 ReasonableFaith.org Newsletter
by William Lane Craig

On the evening of my arrival I spoke at Creekside Church in Waterloo to about 400 people on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, followed by Q & A. This was a nice way to ease into a week of much more challenging events and audiences. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up, to my dismay, with awful flu-like symptoms of aching body and head congestion. This was not the way to start four consecutive nights of debates! But with rest and medicine and the prayers of many of you, I was feeling better by evening and so was able to go to my first debate in fighting form.

My initial debate was with Dr. Christopher DiCarlo at the University of Waterloo on “Does God Matter?” I’ve never debated this topic before, but students today doubt, not just God’s existence, but even whether the question of God matters at all. So I decided not to present any arguments for God’s existence but rather just to quote atheist philosophers themselves to show that the question matters. I would argue that if there is no God, then life is without ultimate meaning, value, and purpose, and, moreover, that it is impossible to live happily and consistently with such a worldview.

The morning of the debate, while resting in my hotel room, I watched a video of one of DiCarlo’s earlier debates. He struck me as a formidable opponent: young, handsome, and athletic, he connected well with students. His arguments were sophomoric, but he sprayed them like buckshot, leaving me to wonder how one could possibly respond to them all. But I noticed that in the debate I was watching, he actually said exactly what I was going to argue that evening, namely, that if there is no God, then “the universe is devoid of any absolute meaning or moral sense.” I decided to camp on that point and added his quotation to the end of my opening speech.

This strategy worked perfectly. Poor DiCarlo proved to be utterly inflexible in responding to my case. He used the very same powerpoints and arguments from his earlier debate, which was on whether God exists, not on whether God matters. Since he agrees with what I was arguing, he seemed off-balance throughout the whole debate and floundered to find some reason why it doesn’t matter whether God exists. Having explained the existential significance of God’s existence, I invited all the students to my debate the next night on the question “Does God Exist?” and promised that I would give five arguments to think that God exists and would answer any objections that my opponent might raise in support of atheism—which drew a big laugh. It was a great evening and a great kick-off to my debate series.

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