There are two people who have been asking noted Christian apologist William Lane Craig to debate them for years. And he has consistently declined, always with specious excuses–which are all the more galling given that they are much the same excuses Dawkins gave for not debating Craig, which Craig then mocked, not at all grasping the irony.
One of those guys is, of course, Craig’s former student, John Loftus, author and editor of multiple books and chapters in the philosophy of religion and Christianity, with multiple graduate degrees in the field. Loftus has analyzed all the accumulating excuses Craig keeps giving for never debating him, including his declaration that “the person I fear debating the most is a former student of mine” (a statement Loftus has multiply confirmed). Indeed. Fear. Attempting to backtrack from that embarrassing admission, Craig has retreated to a litany of other excuses, which Loftus has pointed out are ridiculous at worst, and specious at best (here and here). It’s been years now. No change.
Jeffery Jay Lowder
Jeffery Jay Lowder, co-founder of the Secular Web and an astute analyst and skilled debater (who now blogs regularly for Secular Outpost), commented on this odd and persistent refusal by Craig to ever debate Loftus and there even noted that Craig was willing to debate him…until, apparently, he chickened out. That wasn’t Lowder’s conclusion, it’s mine; Lowder tried to be charitable.
But now Lowder is starting to get suspicious. All the way back in 2006 Lowder documented Craig’s willingness to debate him…and his sudden backtrack (with the “I won’t debate anyone without a Ph.D. excuse,” which is funny because Craig has debated lots of people without Ph.D.’s–and even the people with Ph.D.’s he has debated, few have Ph.D.’s in the actual subject they debated: philosophy of religion; Lowder is actually far more skilled in that field than most of them).
And yet before deploying that excuse, and beating a retreat, Craig actually said:
Yes, I did say I’m happy to have a debate with Jeff. My statement to whatever university group is referred to [that he wouldn't do any debates unless invited to do so by a university] is just my general policy to which I feel free to make exceptions. Jeff is an exception.
Apparently not any more. Because that debate never happened and Craig now refuses to debate him. What changed?
Lowder has now blogged about his latest refusal when he invited William Lane Craig to debate him in 2014. His excuse this time was that he’s busy. Or more specifically, he really wants to write his next book so he can’t debate anyone for…well, apparently a year. Hmmm. I wonder how many people Craig will end up debating in this coming year anyway. Indeed, apparently just as Craig was telling Lowder that, Craig was asking to debate biologist Jerry Coyne next year, and Coyne refused. So, Lowder reasons, apparently there is a debate Craig agreed to do and scheduled for next year that now has no opponent…well, great! Now he can debate Jeff Lowder! I mean, he can’t use the “I’m busy” excuse now, can he? I wonder what his fallback excuse will be.
(Has Craig used enough diverse excuses to avoid debates by now to fill out a bingo card? Anyone who makes one, definitely link it here in comments. I will appreciate the amusement.)
Lowder informs me that he’s “been trying to schedule a debate with [Craig] for over a decade, but for one reason or another it never happens.” He even documents this litany of refusals stretching back fourteen years. Note that Lowder has been at the forefront of studying Craig’s apologetics and has spent nearly two decades making available online critiques of Craig’s arguments from diverse authors, some with Ph.D.’s in philosophy, history of philosophy, theology, or biblical studies.
Even noted Christian apologist Victor Reppert has expressed puzzlement and disappointment at Craig’s persistent refusal to debate Lowder, writing that:
I am personally disappointed that there has never been a Craig-Lowder debate. I do not think [Lowder's] background knowledge would be weak; I am trying to understand the Ph.D. rule that Craig has. There is no committee I have in mind; I just was thinking about how Bill and company would go about selecting debate opponents. After a bad debater debated against Bill, he called me (as I had asked him to) and told me that even though the opposing debater was bad this was nonetheless a good opportunity for the presentation of the gospel. The comment made me cringe a little.
Reppert openly wonders whether indeed Craig is afraid to debate Lowder. I suspect he is. I’ve been told Craig won’t debate me again, either (even though he has debated several other opponents multiple times–even opponents without Ph.D.’s, and I have one). Is it the same thing? I don’t know.
There can be no doubt Lowder is as qualified as anyone else Craig has debated, and in fact more qualified than most. In addition to being a reasoned and well-informed critic of Craig for 20 years (as just noted), Lowder is even published on this subject (the philosophy of religion and Christianity) and frequently cited as an authority or contender in it, unlike many other opponents Craig has debated.
Even apart from his extensive online writing and editing and compiling, much of which Craig has also seen worthy enough to respond to, Lowder has authored or edited the following in print:
The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (co-edited with Robert M. Price; Prometheus, 2005. (Featuring a litany of experts, many specifically addressing Craig’s apologetics, including Lowder’s own contribution.)
- [That book received a lot of attention, being reviewed by Jana Riess (Publishers Weekly); John Jaeger (Library Journal); Richard Ruble (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith); Robin Griffith-Jones (Times Literary Supplement); R. Joseph Hoffmann (Free Inquiry); Glenn Balfour (Journal for the Study of the New Testament); Tim Callahan (Skeptic); Norman Geisler (Christian Apologetics Journal); Stephen T. Davis (Philosophia Christi); and New Testament Abstracts. It was also discussed in Charles Foster, The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), chapter 4.]
- [Indeed, it has been seen as such a threat it is attacked in Lee Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus (Zondervan, 2007; e.g. pp. 108-111, 145-147, 151) and in Tim and Lydia McGrew, “A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, actually edited by William Lane Craig himself, and J.P. Moreland; in Josh and Sean McDowell's More Than a Carpenter (rev. ed., Carol Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2009), e.g. p. 134; by Stephen T. Davis in Disputed Issues: Contending for Christian Faith in Today’s Academic Setting (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009), pp. 66-73; and even by William Lane Craig himself, in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (third ed., Crossway, 2008), e.g. p. 376.]
“Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig,” The Journal of Higher Criticism 8:2 (Fall 2001): 251-293.
- [This article gained considerable attention, too. It was cited in Michael J. Cook, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2008), e.g. p. 324, nn. 20 and 22; and in Michael Martin, “Review of The Resurrection of God Incarnate by Richard Swinburne,” Religious Studies (2004): 367-71; and both defended and criticized in Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T & T Clark, 2005), e.g. pp. 314 n. 451, 318 n. 468, 319 n. 473, 326 n. 506, 334 n. 537, 336 n. 545; and critiqued by Robert Bowman, Ken Neimann, and Lenny Esposito on Apologetics.com Radio (Los Angeles radio station KKLA, 99.5 FM), on April 19 of 2003.]
“Review of The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel,” Philo 2 (1999): 89-102.
- [Which gained enough attention to be criticized by Lee Strobel himself on “The Bible Answer Man,” a nationally syndicated radio show with Hank Hanegraaff, on July 13 of 2000. It was also addressed in John Noe, “The Only Defense in the Major Case Against Christ, Christianity, and the Bible,” presented at the 54th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Toronto, Canada, November 2002.]
Lowder’s writings in print and online have gained expert attention in several venues, for example:
- Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Was Jesus Mad, Bad, or God?… Or Merely Mistaken?” Faith and Philosophy 21 (2004): 456-479.
- Michael Martin, “It Is Not Rational to Believe in the Resurrection” in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (ed. Michael L. Peterson and Raymond J. Vanarragon, Malden: Blackwell, 2004), 174-184.
- Wes Morriston, “Causes and Beginnings in the Kalam Argument,” Faith and Philosophy 19 (2002): 233-244.
Lowder has also engaged several formal public debates, and in each performed excellently:
- “Does God Exist? The Cases for Faith and Atheism,” a debate with Rev. William Gipson (theist), Prof. David Hufford (theist), Stephen Van Eck (deist), and Hillary Aisenstein (atheist), at the University of Pennsylvania, on April 24, 2000.
- “Naturalism vs. Theism: Where Does the Evidence Point?,” a debate with Phil Fernandes, sponsored by the Society of Humanist Philosophers, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, on September 26, 1999. [This debate is widely considered one of the best debate performances ever by an atheist on God's existence.]
- “Evolution and Creation,” a team debate with Jason Robar, Lief Moi, and Doug Jue on “Street Talk,” KGNW AM 820, Seattle, January 15, 1994.
So, no slouch or nobody here. Lowder is a contender.
If Victor Reppert, Stephen T. Davis, Norman Geisler, Lee Strobel, Tim and Lydia McGrew, Mike Licona, Charles Foster, Josh and Sean McDowell, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Wes Morriston, Michael Martin, Robert M. Price, Ted Drange, Keith Parsons, Richard Carrier, Robert Greg Cavin, and Evan Fales think Lowder is worthy of being cited or critiqued, or collaborating with on a book, then why is he not worthy of a debate with William Lane Craig?
Inquiring minds want to know.