Dr. William Lane Craig: "I Will Not Debate John W. Loftus"

That's right. That's what he said...in so many words.

I learned from DC member Darrin at the Carrier/Craig debate that Craig said he would not debate his former students. That's what he said.

I am now classed with a group of people, i.e., the people comprised of his former students. And Dr. Craig says he will not debate anyone in that class of people. Okay, I guess. But given the fact that I'm probably the only member of this class of people who wants to debate him he might as well have said: "I will not debate John W. Loftus."

I've heard him say this before about former students, so it’s not really like he’s singling me out, or is it?

While I was a student of his he said something I thought was odd at the time. This was back in 1985 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He said "the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine." Keep in mind that Dr. Craig was on a High School debate team and has been debating these topics for probably just as long as I've been thinking about them. And he had only been teaching a few years before this to actually know of any student who might want to debate him. But that’s what he said. Again, he said "the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine."

He cannot deny saying this, and I don't think he will.

Does he really fear me? I don’t know. But just maybe he does after all. He could change his mind though. I think a lot of people would be interested in this match-up.

In any case, the stated reason why he won't debate former students is that he "fears" doing so. Yep. That's what he told me when the cameras were off before the thought crossed his mind that I would want to debate him and would use his words against him. Again, he fears debating former students. That's his only word as to why he won't do it. One more time. He fears debating me.

If that word gets out he may have to man up, as it were, and show his followers that he isn't afraid.



New Family Bureau said...

If he thinks it will help him sell books or live streaming Internet feeds of the event for $98 each, I suppose he'll debate you.

quine said...

If Craig had not debated dozens and dozens of top atheist scholars, a cowardice theory might be plausible, but he has. Such a theory would seem to apply better to Richard Dawkins.

Steven Carr said...

Craig refused to debate the reliability of the Gospels with Carrier...

Host said...

You can still debate him, just take the same lame arguments he uses in all of his debates, and refute them.

In every debate I have heard him in (Avalos, Ehrman, Price) he makes the same two assertions.

1. The majority of NT scholars agree with these four "facts"

a. The honorable burial
b. The empty tomb
c. The appearances
d. The origin of the disciples faith.

His proof for these "facts" is entirely dependent on the gospel stories themselves! LOL

2. The best explanation of these four "facts" is that god raised jesus from the dead (presumably the god yahweh).

That is his pathetic proof that jesus rose from the dead.

quine said...

Craig treats the gospel accounts according to the same secular, professional historigraphical standards used to analyze other ancient documents. Thus, they only need to be reliable regarding the four facts in order to make his case; they need not be entirely reliable (and certainly not "inerrant") for those four facts to be established. And the consensus of New Testament scholarship agrees with him.

Steven Carr said...

In other words, Craig has zero evidence for the existence of Barrabas,Judas, Thomas, Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, Joanna, Salome, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus etc.

Or else he would produce such evidence.

He cannot find one named person who wrote that he had seen an empty tomb, or a flesh and blood resurrected Jesus.

kiwi said...

I can think of many reasons why he wouldn't want to debate a former student:

- If some of his former students end up being atheists, it reflects poorly on him. So I suppose he would rather not make public that some of his former students are now atheists.

- If a former student insists to debate him, the student in question probably has an axe to grind. (Not saying it's the case with Loftus, I'm just sayin').

- If a former student debates him and the student does a very bad job defending his side, makes basic mistakes of logic or such, again, it reflects poorly on Craig as a teacher.

There are other reasons as well; I don't think it has anything to do with Loftus, but with the idea of debating a former student. Craig simply has nothing to gain to do that.

Considering Craig debates with la creme de la creme of atheism and skepticism, he has no reason to fear an amateurish atheist who happens to be a former student.

Anonymous said...

kiwi, you sure know how to get a rise out of me. What basis do you have for the mere assertion that I'm an "amateurish atheist"? And are you saying such a debate would NOT be of interest?

Harry H. McCall said...

Craig will not have to debate anyone anymore. He onlt needs to publish a book that debunks Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)

Since Bart wrote this on a layman’s level, Crag’s multiple doctorates will look worthless should he fail to address the glaring contradictions both internal (Biblical) and external (Historical)this books clearly points out.

In the end, Craig is simply trying to make it to retirement in a evangelical seminary where he make his living as an apologetics par excellence.

In some respects, I feel sorry for him.

K said...

I'd really like to see a debate between you two, even if it's a written debate. Surely this blog and it's readership provides a platform for such an event to happen. That way it's not about winning over the audience either.

Anonymous said...

Kel, are you the 'Kel' who comments frequently on Pharyngula?

K said...

Eric, indeed I am.

Patrick said...

Craig sure is a whipping boy on this site. I enjoy this site but what exactly has Craig ever done to deserve the attacks on his character?

One guy wrote: "In the end, Craig is simply trying to make it to retirement in a evangelical seminary where he make his living as an apologetics par excellence."

I don't know how someone makes his living AS an apologetic but regardless the entire thought here expressed is absurd. Give Craig the respect he deserves. The guy is committed and I have never seen his character questioned. He's out globe-trotting and engaging people not waiting for retirement. The guy who made the above comment just looks like a little, bitter man.

As to a debate between Loftus and Craig, I'd like to see it. Loftus is obviously a qualified opponent for Craig.

Jay44 said...

While I agree that Loftus is qualified to debate Craig, I think the notion that Craig is afraid to debate him is absurd. Too me, that just sounds like self-glorification.

Quine has a point and Kiwi is definitely on to something. If Craig can debate Zindler, Tabash, Ehrman, Parsons, Bradley, Avalos, Price, Carrier, and soon to come Christopher Hitchens as well as many countless others, etc etc etc, then he sure isn't afraid of John Loftus. I get tired of hearing from people on the Internet (ie. Steven Carr) of how he's afraid to debate certain people. The man has debated more prominent and reputable figures than any other Atheist/Theist on the planet. When you can match or beat his record then maybe, just maybe you'll have a point.

Steven Carr said...

'I get tired of hearing from people on the Internet (ie. Steven Carr) of how he's afraid to debate certain people.'

When did I ever say Craig was 'afraid' to debate anybody?

Provide a date and link to me saying that.

Harry H. McCall said...

Patrick…bitter, really?

Unlike Craig, I don’t make my living manipulating data to defend one certain religion over all the other as true (per David Hume). In religion, truth is in the mind of the believer.

Craig has to and does claim that, as a religion, Christianity is totally different from all the other world religions, plus even within its own tradition of, says for example, the Christian sect of Mormonism.

Could I ask you to explain how Craig’s defense of Biblical Christianity is any different from The Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at Bingham Young University?

Are you claiming that Bingham Young Mormon apologist’s professors Ricks and Robinson just either don’t understand their data or flat out lie about their sect’s religious truths (Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price) while Craig has solid data to work with?

Here are some quotes Craig must deal with from Mormon apologist Neal A. Maxwell:

“The golden plates are history's most stunning 'find' in the field of religion.”

“Scholarship is a search for truth. The fact that a truth is given by God and then is confirmed through scholarship makes it no less true. Premises and hypotheses that help in the search for truth are often supplied by the gospel.”

“If the Church (LDS) were not true, our enemies would be bored rather than threatened, and acquiescent rather than anxious. Hell is moved only when things move heavenward.”

“The Book of Mormon will remain in the realm of faith. It has a bodyguard of scholars who now surround it and protect it from the frail attacks often made on it. But even so, it's the witness of the Spirit that matters most.”

Fact is, not only must an apologist like Craig defend and build up evangelical Christianity from the secular world, but he then turn right around and then attack and tear down other world religions and Mormonism as well.

By the very fact Craig is not a Mormon means he finds its claims to the totality of religious truth false.

Patrich, maybe Craig would do well to debate Mormon apologist Neal A. Maxwell over what is really Christian truth!

Eternal Critic said...

"the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine."

I would propose that what it means not that he's afraid of debating a former student so much as he's afraid of encountering that situation which could in his view be considered a personal failure.

A student who turned away from all of Craig's teachings could be a failure for him.

Honestly, i don't know much about WLC, but if he's not afraid of debating you John, that's the best interpretation I have.

Samphire said...

On Craig's webpage this week he has this to say:

"So God exists changelessly (though not immutably) without creation with a timeless intention that a world with a beginning exist, and by exercising His causal power brings such a world into being at the first moment of time."

According to my dictionary "changeless" and "immutable" are synonyms. Is anybody able to explain what Craig means by this seeming contradiction?

As to his general thesis that God can have "a timeless intention", to my mind such an argument is without meaning. Am I right or do I need a much bigger mind?

Joe Staub said...


I just have a simple question. Why doesn't Craig even acknowledge you anywhere. I mean, I have not even heard or read a peep out of him about you???

Am I missing something?

Just wondering what you think the reason is.

Anonymous said...

Joe said...I just have a simple question. Why doesn't Craig even acknowledge you anywhere.

He has done so in a few places. And he'll talk of me if you ask him personally. But from what I hear it grieves him to do this because he cares for me, at least that's what my friend Kevin Harris tells me.

Joe Staub said...


That makes sense and it is a very "Christian" kind of response. I remember leaving the Presybterian Church In America for a small Reformed Baptist pastorate. One of the most respected Pastor's of the Presbytery wrote to me and said, "How saddened I am to hear of you departure." There was no, "well wishing", as you can imagine. It was expressed as a saddness for leaving the fold of faith. I didn't know how to take it. I was both disappointed by the patronizing that I read in to the message and hurt that I was viewed as someone tantamount to an apostate. And you know that Reformed Baptists are very close to Reformed Presbyterians.

ismellarat said...

Can't you have all the "debates" with whomever you want by systematically linking to their articles and responding to their points in detail?

I've seen plenty, and there's really not a whole lot of ground that can be covered in 90 minutes of talking, anyway.

It seems that debates serve mostly to direct the attention of a wider audience to the fact that there *is* something to debate.

Erlend said...

Steven Carr, read WlC's response to Carrier on the non-debate on the reliability of the Gospels:


Steven Carr said...

I read Craig's non-answer.

Apparently we atheists are now perfectly entitled to write reports of Craig debates that are not generally reliable, and tell people that they must get their facts about Craig debates from reports which are not generally reliable.

Looking forward to doing just that!

So where is Craig's evidence for an empty tomb?

Does one person in history name himself as having seen an empty tomb?

All Craig has is the ridiculous position that multiple Jews were attesting early to the disciples having stolen the body, using sleeping witnesses as the source of this story - sleeping witnesses not being considered credible witnesses in the first century.

But despite the anonymous Gospel of Matthew claiming that this story was being spread by the chief priests, there is absolutely no confirmation of it.

dvd said...

I don't think William Lane Craig would enjoy a debate with John Loftus. I think his emotions would be to unsettled before and after the debate and it probably would take toll on him that way. At this stage and age of his life, that type of burden is not what he wants to shoulder, as he probably already feels somewhat responsible as a teacher. In terms of "debating," Craig won't loose, the only way Craig would or could loose a debate is for him to be off his game.

dvd said...

Steve Carr

What exactly is your obsession with William Lane Craig? Seriously, it doesn't seem very healthy to me. You are all over the internet always talking about debates he is avoiding. You have been doing this for a number of years. It seems an odd way to go about one's life to be after a man you feel is delusional and has no real arguments!

Who cares if William Lane Craig, wins or looses. Does that matter that much to you?

As for Richard Carrier, that is a total ridiculous request for a debate. The reliability of the gospels. Do you not realize that a debate of that sort, would have so much relevant ground to cover that it would be untenable.

Judging by Richard Carrier's Logic and his use of "coincidences" to try and prove a point, I don't think Craig would have any difficulty in correcting Carrier given if the debate was 2 weeks long!

AS for Richard CArrier, the Great Greek Expert, said he would fail one of his translations and thought that Richard was being "deceitful" but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. To me that is damning. When Daniel B Wallace says something like that, you can't "twist" it. He is one of the greatest experts on the langauge.

If your looking for a good close debate with Craig, it already happend. Last year in Saskatoon a Canadian Philosopher from Saskatoon gave a good hard case.

Here is what William Lane Craig said about the debate in his newsletter:

"The small convocation hall at the U of S quickly filled to its capacity of 290, and another 500-plus people packed the overflow room to watch the debate on the live video feed. I presented my usual five arguments for God’s existence, and Williamson countered with three arguments for atheism. As I look back on this debate, I can’t help but reflect that Williamson’s arguments were actually far more formidable than Shook’s, but the atmosphere was completely different. The Shook debate appeared to be closely contested only because of the interruptions of the raucous atheists, whereas poor Williamson seemed easily dispatched, when in fact quite the opposite was the case."

I hope you can sleep now Steve. It wans't anyone from the internet, nor from the infidel crowd who offered a formidable debate, but a little known philosopher from Saskatoon Canada.

Unknown said...

Deist Dan: Greetings Sir. You typed:1. The majority of NT scholars agree with these four "facts"... snip

That's a good point. Could Craig be guilty of an inverse genetic fallacy? Isn't he saying his religious fairy tale is true because so called Christian scholars say its true? Would that be an instance of a reverse of inverse genetic fallacy?

eheffa said...

DVD said:
As for Richard Carrier, that is a total ridiculous request for a debate. The reliability of the gospels. Do you not realize that a debate of that sort, would have so much relevant ground to cover that it would be untenable.

It doesn't take two weeks to make a good case for why the Gospels are not reliable history. The Gospel stories are the only source we have for the biography of this supposed God-Man of Christianity. Despite his widespread fame & popularity at the time he is supposed to have lived, we have no corroborative evidence that he even existed. To rely on the Canonical gospels as "evidence" for the resurrection is like relying on Agatha Christie to prove that Hercule Poirot was the greatest detective who ever cracked a case.

Craig's arguments depend totally on this one assumption (i.e. that the Canonical Gospels are reliable history). It is not a difficult task to show that this is an untenable assertion. These anonymously authored, Midrashic & plagiarized stories written well after the "fact" CANNOT be considered reliable history by any reasonable standard.

I suspect that Craig has a sense of this & is therefore quite reluctant to debate this question with someone like Carrier (even if Carrier lacks a lot of Craig's rhetorical power).

It is a crucial question. If the Gospels fail this question of documentary veracity, Christianity has no credibility.


Unknown said...

Steven Carr: Greetings Sir. It is my hope you and yours are well and feeling fine.

SC: So where is Craig's evidence for an empty tomb?

Does one person in history name himself as having seen an empty tomb?

Here is a list of ancient authors that should have know about the Christian human sacrifice but didn't mention it.

Josephus, Philo-Judaeus, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus
Quintilian, Lucanus. Epictetus, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Hermogones
Valerius Maximus, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Appian, Theon of Smyrna, Phlegon, Pompon Mela, Quintius Curtius, Lucian
Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus, Florus Lucius, Favorinus,. Phaedrus, Damis, Aulus Gellius, Columella, Dio Chrysostom, Lysias, Appion of Alexandria

Best Regards

eheffa said...

Great Link Robert. Thanks.


Unknown said...

Why not refute his presentation, as mention above, but use video. Refute each aspect of his argument and post it here and to youtube.

I'm sure it could a attrack a great audience there. I'd love to see it.

I cringe everytime I hear Craig in a debate with his tired presentation, but then it gets me fired up to confront this kind of stuff. One of Craig's obvious weaknesses is his unwillingness to argue his case. He consistently falls back on Ad Poppulum arguments, about how the majority of scholars believe this or that. He refuses to tell the audience WHY they believe it and therefore WHY the audience should believe it too. He just insist the audience let the majority of scholars - filtered through him - do their thinking for them. Then there are all the things the majority of scholars believe that he doesn't present.

It's only a matter of time before his fans are forced to wake up to his game. Doesn't he realize he's building a "house of cards" legacy?

Anonymous said...

DJ if I attempted to refute Craig before a debate took place I would be tipping my hand. I know his standard opening really well but he won't know mine until we debate.

Glenn said...

I wouldn't read much into Craig's comment about fearing pupils. My best guess is that it was intended to be humorous, suggesting that he arms his students very well with arguments, so they would make formidable opponents for anyone.

I doubt that he had in mind the scenario of a student rejecting the christian faith and debating him from"the other side."

Anonymous said...

Well, when he said it he was serious. I was there. Maybe he changed his mind and thinks otherwise. But then maybe not. As I said I'm goading him. He can tell us what he now thinks if he wants to.

BTW Glenn I responded on your blog a bit ago.

Dane Eidson said...

Yea..He is afraid. He is afraid of being owned and schooled by a former student.

Judy Weismonger said...

Just imagine 5 of the well-known theological scholars aka Christian snake oil salesmen attempting to use the magic of belief to defeat Hitchens. How funny. If anything, with Hitchens winning the debate at ever single corner...is it no wonder that so many people are concluding they are Atheists. Religion is just a belief in magic, and we all know magic doesn't exist. Logic and reality exists...religion does not have anything but fairy tales and magic to promote, all for money and power.

K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

People on this site seem to be milking a lot from Craig's comment. I'd suggest that John Loftus has hit on the reason most closely.

I don't believe that Craig refuses to debate former students because of fear of losing, or even any remote threat. I highly doubt that John Loftus has too much to throw at Craig that he hasn't encountered in the last 3 decades. I've also personally seen Craig engage in an inpromptu debate with a former student who came at him very aggressively, so I know that he doesn't actually run away.

I strongly suggest that he doesn't like the idea of debating former students because of the dangers of hurting someone you have personally invested in and care for. Regardless of what Loftus believes now, Craig still invested in him at one time and Craig probably has a soft spot in his heart for Loftus (and all other students).

I've had the unfortunate eventuality of having to engage in debate with someone I had previously taught, and it was very painful. Even though they were angry and took it out on me as the embodyment of what they rejected, I was still, in some way, their teacher. I still cared for them, tried to listen to them, considered what they said, responded gentle and gracious in honest effort to instruct them, etc. It was amazingly difficult and I'd rather not do that again.

For that reason, I also don't pursue engagement with former students. I'll much rather let someone else deal with them.

Anonymous said...

Personally, and intellectually I'm getting very tired of the use of the word "faith" as if that particular word means anything.

Faith means...that without proof, evidence, or verifiable facts...one "believes" something is true.

Faith actually means in terms of psychological processes, that the individual person is lying to themselves...and worse, use the word "faith" as a shield against all investigation of any religious claims.

The word faith...is interchangeable with the word "magic." Somehow...having "faith" is just as irrational as "believing" a magician can magically pull a rabbit out of hat by waving a magic wand.

The religious believe like magicians, that mumbling magic words, prayers, singing, crossing one's self, genuflecting, rolling beads around, can then cause an imaginary god to "do something" for the person of faith...or give them something they didn't earn...without working for it.

Praying and having faith is like asking for an imaginary god to interrupt the laws of physics, and block all negative consequences of one's actions...

Now how is that possible? Not once in 10,000 years of recorded history, or 12.5 billion years of cosmological history has there been a single event whereby the "laws of physics" have been blocked, interrupted, redirected, or changed.

To believe that such laws of physics can be interrupted by magic words, prayers, etc...is verging on a mental illness.

I predict that about 50-100 years from now...those who claim that god speaks to them, or that they have "faith" and are "religious" will be found to be insane.

By the way, the original concept and translation of the word "faith" as described by the original Christians, i.e. the gnostics...meant "hope." One "hoped" god was listening, or that god could do something...it did not mean anything close to such absolute beliefs in religious magic...as it does today.

Unknown said...

mennoknight typed: "I don't believe that Craig refuses to debate former students because of fear of losing, or even any remote threat."

Aren't you overstating your point? Since there are no sound or valid arguments for your god or christ fantasies and since there is not the slightest wisp of actual evidence that a god fantasy of any sort actually exists, then Craig's beliefs are only self indulgent delusions that are probably rooted in mental illness. At best Craig and his ilk are religious charlatans exploiting the mental illness of fools.

Weismonger said...

I just don't get it. The "religious" who continue to claim that the bible is "real" are beginning to sounds as if they are truly mentally ill....or like small children at about the age of 5 years...who think that Cinderella, Santa Claus, and Mighty Mouse are real.

There is no proof that any part of the bible or the one-dimensional characters populating the bible ever existed.

Therefore, what is the point in the religious "debating" ...there is nothing to debate. One's imagination is not proof, evidence of anything, and is certainly not a discussion of Facts.

And how can anyone debate that some guy who committed suicide by cop (Roman soldier) was the son of god?

And it gets even more silly...when if as the bible states...Jesus is god and god is Jesus...then Jesus had sex with his own mother...and that is nothing more than incest.

Freud must have had a chuckle, and a field day getting into the minds of the religious. I certainly have.

Judy Weismonger PhD