Regarding William Lane Craig’s Refusal to Debate John W. Loftus
Numerous readers have pointed out the apparent inconsistency between The Reactionary Researcher (TRR) commenting on Richard Dawkins’ refusal to debate William Lane Craig, arguably the world’s leading and most well-known Christian apologist, while seemingly ignoring another similar inconsistency: William Lane Craig’s refusal to debate John W. Loftus. In all honesty, TRR has not previously commented on this because:
- TRR had not heard of John W. Loftus
Thus, TRR had not heard of Craig’s refusal to debate anyone, much less, John W. Loftus, specifically.
So, exactly who is John W. Loftus?
Interestingly, John W. Loftus is a former student of William Lane Craig’s, and according to his blogger profile:
I have three master’s degrees in the Philosophy of Religion with some Ph.D. work. I majored under William Lane Craig at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985. I’m the author of Why I Became an Atheist, and editor of The Christian Delusion, and The End of Christianity.
It is also noteworthy that Loftus was recently added to the roster at FreeThoughtBlogs (translation = Anti-ChristianBlogs), a slightly more appropriately, but arrogantly named, multi-author blog, that is a more aggressively venomous anti-Christian spinoff from the already anti-Christian ScienceBlogs, where very little science was actually discussed anyway.
Loftus’ profile over at FTB is a bit more detailed and up-to-date compared to the previously linked profile, but reads very similarly:
John W. Loftus is a former Christian minister and apologist with M.A., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religion from Lincoln Christian Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. While in school John majored under Drs. James D. Strauss and William Lane Craig, then studied in a Ph.D. program at Marquette University for a year and a half in the area of Theology and Ethics. John is the author of the book, “Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.” He also edited “The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails,” and “The End of Christianity.” He is co-authoring a book to be released in 2012 titled, “God or Godless” (with Dr. Randal Rauser).
Based on this, Loftus is perfectly suited for FTB: Angry atheist author with an axe to grind, whom of course are a dime-a-dozen these days, though Loftus has the noted credentials of being a trained theologian, and the unique element of having been one of William Lane Craig’s former students.
As you might imagine, William Lane Craig isn’t highly thought of or respected by the authors over at FTB, thus Loftus is a logical and sensible addition to FTB, especially given his stated goals of ‘changing the religious landscape’ by ‘debunking Christianity’.
With that background information about Loftus out of the way, what does Loftus believe regarding Craig’s refusal to debate him? In the his blog entry ‘recapping’ this situation, Loftus makes a significant issue of something that Craig is alleged to have said back in 1985, specifically that
“the person [Craig} fear[s] debating the most is a former student…”
Loftus then notes that he approached Craig regarding this issue:
Then I was at his debate with Sam Harris and talked with him afterward. I said wanted to debate him. He said he knows but that “it just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to debate a former student.” What he said is still consistent with what he told his class in 1985, isn’t it?
With respect to Loftus’ question regarding the consistency of this statement with what Craig is alleged to have said in 1985, I would respond that it’s consistent with respect to his lack of desire to debate former students, but offers a different, real-world reason for that refusal:
“it just wouldn’t be appropriate for me to debate a former student.”
This says nothing about Craig fearing the prospect of debating Loftus, rather he noted the ‘inappropriate’ nature of such a debate.
Loftus offers a number of other vague and somewhat nebulous further explanations that Craig is alleged to have offered in explanation of this refusal, including:
- Craig “doesn’t think it would be good for [Loftus] spiritually.
- [Loftus] is not qualified.
- Craig does not want “to turn [Loftus] in[to] “Mr. Anti-Christian Apologist.”
Each of these statements Loftus heard secondhand, so TRR cannot and does not allege that they were offered by Craig, or in what context and circumstances they were offered. In any case, they are of little consequence, as Loftus himself doesn’t think they are the reason that Craig won’t debate him, and concludes that:
I haven’t a clue why he won’t debate me. The only consistent non-hypocritical reason is that he fears me. Again, no one can speak for him, unless you can make better sense of this than I can.
Though TRR does not believe it is reasonable that Craig ‘fears’ debating former students, Craig, allegedly, did state that he ‘fears debating former students’.
Let’s evaluate this particular claim based on available facts and evidence.
Firstly, William Lane Craig is one of the most prolific Christian debaters alive today, having debated a vast array of opponents from a wide and diverse set of backgrounds. There are a number of websites devoted to archiving these debates, and make them available for download; see for example here, here, and here, as well as a youtube channel that archives many of his debates. As a rule, Craig debates prominent and well-known atheists, including Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Anthony Flew, Daniel Dennett, Laurence Krauss, Victor Stenger, and Bart Ehrman.
Chances are you’ve heard of many, if not most of these prominent atheists, as each and every one of them is a more accomplished, successful, and well-known individual –by any measure– with respect to atheism, relative to John W. Loftus. This is not meant to disparage Loftus in any way, and is simply a statement of the facts. In addition to this and as noted above, Craig has been and is currently attempting to engage the world’s most prominent atheist and, arguably, best known science author and popularizer, Richard Dawkins, who as noted above, has refused to meet Craig on multiple occasions.
In addition to this, when one considers the arguments offered by Loftus, and his overall performance in a debate with Dinesh D’Souza, one finds it difficult to believe that Craig would genuinely ‘fear’ engaging with Loftus in debate.
Given Craig’s prolific debating history and the roster of opponents with whom Craig has engaged and attempts to engage, an honest assessment of the facts and evidence does not permit one to believe that Craig genuinely ‘fears’ debating Loftus.
What is also noteworthy regarding this particular issue is Dr. Craig’s failure to address or comment on this refusal publicly. Indeed Craig is relatively thorough in addressing his critics in any response they offer to his apologetics and performance in debates. Craig does not have a history of failing to address his critics, nor does Craig have a history of turning down potentially difficult and challenging debates. Based on these facts, one is forced to disagree with Loftus’ conclusion that Craig ‘fears’ debating him.
As Craig is alleged to have stated, he probably simply thinks it’s not appropriate to debate his former students. Being an educator himself, TRR agrees with this notion. This is further supported by the utter silence on Craig’s part with respect to this request; Craig most probably believes not only should not debate his former students, but apparently believes it’s inappropriate to even comment on such matters publicly. Quite simply, Craig believes he shouldn’t debate his former students and/or others whom he’s mentored. That’s a completely reasonable position to take, and is entirely supported by the facts and evidence.