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Christians vs. Atheists

Why Winning a Debate Isn't Enough.

If the debate on this website between Doug Wilson, a a pastor and educator, and atheist pundit Christopher Hitchens has whetted your appetite for more, you'll want to check out "Nightline" tonight. Evangelist Ray Comfort and actor Kirk Cameron will debate two members of the so-called "Rational Response Squad."

The RRS, as you may know, has organized the Web-based "Blasphemy Challenge" to encourage people to blaspheme the Holy Spirit as a way to declare their freedom from and lack of fear over all religious beliefs. The founder of the movement, Brian Sapient, equates theism with belief in the tooth fairy, saying, "There isn't any good reason to believe in God."

This debate, which will be available online at 1 p.m. Central today on ABC News Now, promises to be interesting. I've heard Comfort, a bold street evangelist, speak, and I expect him to do well. I am concerned, however, over the parameters of this debate. Comfort promises to "prove" God's existence scientifically and without reference to the Bible or faith. First, while faith in God is eminently reasonable (the world's greatest minds, including everyone from C.S. Lewis to Isaac Newton to Francis Collins, have affirmed Christian faith), faith is still required, for "without faith it is impossible to please God." Second, while Christian faith made scientific discovery possible and many of the world's first and greatest scientists have been Christians, restricting the debate to things scientific unfortunately plays into the current prejudice that the only "facts" that are real or valiid are based in science. But there are many fields of inquiry that are not open to the scientific method (history being one of them). Thus, the terms of the debate will only take us so far.

I remember the time my wife and I sat down with a friend who had lots of questions about Christianity. At the onset I asked him if he would become a Christian if we answered all his questions. He said yes. Then we talked and we answered his questions, one by one. But he still declined to become a Christian. It was not for a lack of facts. It was a lack of will. As the Bible says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" I don't think a debate restricted to scientific facts, however it goes, will change that.

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