The other day I mentioned the book The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose, about a Brown Univeristy student who transfers to Liberty University for a semester. The book has all sorts of quotable nuggets, but I especially got a kick out of the following one. I should mention that Roose changed all the names of the people he is describing.
On Monday night, the radio debate between Dr. Caner [a professor at Liberty] and the Rational Response Squad finally comes to pass.
I listened to the debate — all three hours and forty minutes of it — and it was time well spent. The Rational Response Squad members, two men and a woman, were just like you’d expect professional atheists to be: exact, articulate, and a little prickly. And Dr. Caner … well, to everyone’s surprise, he didn’t play the part of the angry fundamentalist. In fact, he seemed somehow too polite, almost wishy-washy. He said things like:
“I like doubt. I think doubt is healthy.”
“I wouldn’t expect you guys to bow on your knees and accept Jesus.”
“There are times when what we call Christianity is unhealthy.”
Dr. Caner got a few good points in. He put forth a fairly convincing version of the argument from design (the world is so beautiful and so orderly that it must have been designed by a creator). But ultimately, he was outmatched. The atheists anticipated his arguments and had counterarguments in hand. They knew the Bible inside and out and confronted him with hard-to-spin textual contradictions, like the fact that the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis differs pretty widely from the account in the second chapter. And although Dr. Caner came up with explanations for the discrepancies, they were hardly rock solid.
Ten minutes after the debate, Brad Miller comes into my room. At twenty-five, Brad is one of the older guys on the hall. He took three years off between high school and college to travel with his Christian music group, but decided to come to Liberty to train for the ministry. He looks a bit like Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo, with a spike haircut nd a piar of black-framed hipster glasses. His role on the hall is the advice giver, the wise sensei who tutors the younger guys, the giver of stirring theological lessons. But tonight, Brad’s steps are plodding and his aura sags.
“Did you listen?&rdquo he asks.
“The atheists definitely knew what they were talking about,” he says. I almost don’t want to say it, but … they beat him.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, man. If that was a boxing match, I think they won 9-1 or so.”
He digs the toe of his Converse All Star into the ground.
“Man, that scared me. I’m going to talk to my professors about some of the arguments they made. I don’t know what to think right now. That was weird.”
Whoo-hoo! Score one for the good guys.