Michael Horner's Blog

    Debate: Does A God or Gods Exist?

    Written by Michael Horner

    Photo by Pierre Metivier

    On Friday May 18, my colleague Paul Chamberlain and I participated in a debate at an Atheists’ Convention.  The debate question was Does A God or Gods Exist? and our opponents were Christopher DiCarlo and Matt Dillahunty. It drew about 300 people, most of them attending the North American wide “Imagine NoReligion” conference hosted by the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

    Overall, I would say it went quite well. The first atheists I spoke with at the reception following the debate said they thought that “‘their guys’ had dropped the ball” and that we had “won the debate.” I had numerous conversations with younger attendees at the atheist convention who were sincerely searching and seemed to be thinking seriously about what Paul and I had presented.

    It was also quite clear that we really encouraged the Christians who attended. Many of them came to an apologetics training conference we held the next day and expressed how they thought we had done a much better job than our opponents and they were eager to learn more.

    Since the debate topic was presented in the form of a question, Does A God or Gods Exist?, each team had to answer it: the Christians defending the answer “Yes” and the atheists defending the answer “No.” We presented three arguments for God’s existence (Kalam Cosmological Argument, Fine-Tuning Teleological Argument, and the Moral Argument) that, when taken together, tell us that the cause and designer of the universe is an intelligent, personal, good, immaterial, changeless, space-less, uncaused and enormously powerful being that existed in a timeless eternal state beyond the beginning of the universe, a being which is consistent with the Judeo-Christian concept of God.

    These properties follow from the specifics of the three arguments. They are not just added on as “conjuncts,” as DiCarlo alleged. For example, since the Kalam argument shows that beyond the beginning of the universe there was no space, time, matter or energy, whatever the cause of the universe was must be immaterial, changeless, space-less, uncaused and at least an enormously powerful being that existed in a timeless eternal state.

    So we met our burden of proof to present a case for the existence of God. Moreover, this God had properties that put it well on the way to being the Christian God, even though that was not specifically required in the question of the debate. Our opponents’ tactic, however, was to say that we had to prove every attribute of the Christian God, including his omnipotence and omniscience, as well as, how Jesus Christ was God. And, they added, we had to do it “absolutely without doubt.”

    We prepared good arguments for Jesus’ divinity, but we felt there just wasn’t enough time in the debate format to adequately defend everything, and so since the debate question did not specify the Christian God, we felt it was better to present what we thought we had time to defend.

    By the way, if we were successful in showing that it was more probable than not that a being consistent with the Judeo-Christian concept of God exists, then any sincere seeker after truth should marvel at such a remarkable conclusion! This realization, we hope, would compel them to want to find out more about this being, rather than complain that we failed to prove all the attributes of the Christian God in one debate!

    More coming on the debate in subsequent posts. Have you ever attended a debate between an atheist and a Christian theist? What did you think?

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    7 Responses to “Debate: Does A God or Gods Exist?”

    • Antony Burt says:

      On second thought Doris, while most if not all atheists believe in evidence (of some sort), some still believe in the supernatural.

      Buddhists are technically atheist as they have no god or gods, but they still believe things without evidence.

      All it takes to be an atheist of some sort is to not hold a belief that a god or gods exist. Thus in the true sense of the word, everyone including theists should be hold atheist beliefs toward at least one or more gods (example: Thor, Isis or Ra) I think it would likely to be impossible to NOT be an atheist at some level.

      Originally Christians were held to be Atheists by the majority, as they did not believe in the same gods as the majority did.

    • Doris Beck Doris says:

      Good point Antony!

    • Antony Burt says:

      Naturally all atheists believe in something. They believe in evidence, which is something, not anything.

    • Jamie Jamie says:

      Hi John, You can catch with where Paul is at on his faculty page http://acts.twu.ca/faculty/paul-chamberlain.html.

      So what was it about the dark side that convinced you?

    • Paul and I were Ph.D. students at Marquette University together. I went to the dark side. ;-) Tell him I said hi. Perhaps he’s like to debate ME?

    • Doris Beck Doris says:

      Good point Kahu….I think you are right that even atheists believe in something!

    • kahu says:

      My debate with an atheist was more like one on one and more like someone I know. Anyway, I did learn that even an atheist believe in something. Man has to believe that there is something greater than himself or he is the greatest. go figure,

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