Lots of Debate Feedback

11 Oct
There has been a significant amount of buzz about my last First Friday event, “Ask a Christian and an Atheist Debate”. Here are some of the links:

We did a debate review show on Backpack Radio.

 Several callers voiced their opinion on the debate (including an apologist and an atheist who were in attendance). We even spoke to William himself about his thoughts. DOWNLOAD IT HERE

A commentary by atheist Wade Austin Padgett.

I wish my atheists friends would talk more about the content of the debate instead of just methodology. For some reason, that’s been everyone’s focus even though I’ve written several follow up posts dealing with the textual and historical issues

Two follow up videos by the atheist debater, William Costigan.

The first video deals with my views on epistemology and the second video deals with a question he answered in the debate.
In the discussion we really didn’t get too deep into some of the points in his video. If we did, I may have said something like “we do have common ground but it is not neutral or bias-free. The common ground between us is this: we are both creatures in God’s universe”. Whenever I say there is common ground, I’m saying either:
A) these are things we agree on, or
B) it’s “common” to both of us because this is the situation we both find ourselves in.

I am NOT saying we can both justify the common ground between us. The common ground between us is not neutral, rather, the common ground belongs strictly to The Triune God. Only Christian Trinitarianism makes a claim of this kind that could even sustain the preconditions of intelligibility. Atheism, polytheism, and the like are ruled out; they don’t even claim to have the ability to sustain a complete program. The ones that do claim this are internally self-refuting. One example is Islam; the audio from this Backpack Radio episode is a demonstration.

William’s first overall video is true as far as it went, but I affirm the reality of God is prior. Sure, I may have been aware of my self first (as a toddler, for example). Even though I experience that first, the reality of God is logically prior even though chronologically my experience may have “felt” different. In reality, The Trinity is both logically and chronologically prior, though. Further, my own self consciousness immediately informs me of my creatureliness.

In classic Reformed epistemology, there is an integral and organic question about which comes first: knowledge of self or knowledge of God. It is how Calvin opens his Institutes. The whole discussion is a “pretty big deal”, if you will.  Calvin writes and thinks as if in the face of God (coram deo); I want to do the same and to that end, here are some quotes from his work (Inst. I.1.i) which I found useful:

“Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.”

“No one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God.”

“Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends.”

One writer summarizes this, in his own words, as: “Know God. Know yourself. Know yourself to know your need of God. Know God to know you are not gods.”

This is a good starting place for me.

First Friday Debate

Nonetheless, William keeps asking me to lay out an entire framework in my own words in a Facebook post. I am not super fond of this expectation.  He is supplying nothing whatsoever in regards to this issue from his own framework, so I ask William, “When will you do this for your own worldview?” He must do this, as he does assert that he “knows stuff”; even a claim to not know is claim to a certain kind of knowledge. His video, despite claims to the contrary, does not give a justification for knowledge from within his own worldview.

Nor can he.

NOTE:
There was a blog post from a Christian apologist which was rather critical of me but the author has since removed it. The post seemed to be saying that unless one uses a classical apologetic method, they have no business debating an atheist in public.  Maybe. RC Sproul once mocked presuppositional apologetics as “a Mexican standoff” – perhaps there was a similar idea there? Overall, I was thankful for a rather thoughtful piece. I disagree with being called a fideist, though. Here is a helpful article on the distinction.

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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vocab Malone (John-Mark Rieser) is a semi-retired hip hop artist and slam poet. He is Pastor of Teaching  and Evangelism at Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Vocab holds a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary and is  pursuing further education at Talbot. He has been married for 10 years and has adopted three boys. Vocab and his wife enjoy going to Comicon in full cosplay. He can be heard every Sunday night on Backpack Radio on 1360 KPXQ.
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