Saturday, August 17, 2013

William Lane Craig vs Keith Parsons - Why I am/not a Christian 1998 BEST TOP TEN


This debate ( audio | video 1 & 2 | 2:11:50s ) took place in 1998 between Craig and Philosopher Keith Parsons on why they are/are not a Christian. Here's alternate audio files that I think are better quality: Part 1 and 2. The debate was apparently in front of 4,000+ people in a Dallas MegaChurch.

Debate Begins around 5:05s in...

5 stars. This is my favorite Craig debate. Parsons is one of the few debaters to have bested him in a debate about Christianity. BEST TOP TEN

Craig opens up with a personal story that he doesn't bring up too much in his debates and it was nice and wholesome and all that. He then goes on to give his usual arguments for the existence of God though with fewer arguments and less of an emphasis on proving a deistic god and more of an emphasis on the Christian god. Craig usually gets away with arguing for a generic philosophers' god and having his audience think he demonstrated the existence of the Christian god in his more vaguely titled debates. He actually gets away with this A LOT and the only times I can remember someone calling Craig out on this is in Craig's debate with Massimo Pigliucci, a little in his Tabash debate and probably the most forcefully in this debate, but more on that later.

Parsons gives a great opening speech. He covers a lot of crowd pleasing bases too, though I don't know if that ultimately helped too much considering the cheers Craig got later on in the debate. He quoted people like Thomas Paine (what American dislikes Paine, AMIRITE?), disparaged Marxism - academic Marxism no less and his overall presentation was much akin to a fire and brimstone pastor, only without the threats to eternal damnation and requests for money.

One of the things that Craig has on his opponents is the density of his speeches. I think he's lost against Stephen Law and Arif Ahmed but Craig certainly shelled out more content than those two guys when he spoke. Usually this is hard to keep up with and if you miss anything out in your rebuttal, Craig will make you pay for it.

I've always wondered what it would be like if someone was like "I think I got everything, Dr. Craig, did I miss addressing any of your arguments?" what Craig would say...But that doesn't happen here, Parsons covers it all sans Craig's KCA since it is irrelevant to the debate. Craig brings up the fact that it is "remarkable" that Parsons does not address his KCA and Parsons comes back, making it perfectly clear, saying he doesn't have to address that argument because the debate is just about Christianity.

The thing that Parsons did that I think threw Craig off, was his focus on the resurrection. Parsons' arguments followed two themes: Christianity is not good and Christianity is false and he really hammered the resurrection claim for the latter argument. Parsons gave the philosophical argument against the resurrection while briefly mentioning the more obvious historical arguments, but this still did the trick. In a correspondence between Jeff Lowder and Craig, Craig mentioned that he was not prepared to focus so much on the resurrection.

They go back and forth and Parsons is able to keep up with Craig throughout. His final rebuttal sees him barely answering Craig but all of his answers are pretty good and Parsons really doesn't let Craig get away with too much. I think maybe one thing Craig called Parsons on was left out and that was Parsons' claims about why women would be at the empty tomb.

One thing that Craig gets away with using in most of his debates is an appeal to personal experience. Before bringing it up Craig usually says that it isn't technically an argument, but if his opponent doesn't address it in their rebuttal he certainly calls them out on it as if it were an argument. And if his opponent does address it, he can just say that it is his personal experience and not really an argument and either move on or use his time to preach. It's a pretty slick tactic, tbh. Parsons is the only one to really catch Craig with his pants down on it in this debate however, by pointing out that Craig uses this point in his writings as an argument as if it is supposed to support his case, and maybe Craig can get away with mentioning it in a debate, but it seems academically-sketchy to mention it in your written work with the impression that it's a more serious argument.

But alas, one issue is that Parsons was playing on Craig's home field, it was at a church and the audience were certainly polite and cordial but when Craig made a joke the whole house would crash down with laughter.

Still, Parsons just does an amazing job and that's what makes this one of my favorite debates. Parsons has done two other debates, another one with Craig in 2003 and one with a pastor named Trigg but this is the only one available, so listen the heck out of it!

Other Reviews
PhilVaz 4/5
CSA review: good 
John Loftus: atheists always win
DangerousIdea and Jeffery J Lowder's Summary
Christian perspective 
Parson's Thoughts about the Debate HERE
(In it apparently Craig thought Parsons did a better job with the resurrection arguments than most of the people he's debated on that issue specifically)

The AQ starts out ok but gets lower a little ways in. The debate was shot as if it were a sports event, it even has "honey shots"...It does not become messed up half-way into Craig's rebuttal, either!

A list of mini-reviews of Craig's debates can be found here! 

8-19-2013 I just now found the link to the Craig correspondence I mention in the 5th paragraph.
9-12-2013 Someone JUST uploaded the actual footage to the debate. As I mentioned, it does not mess up and continue to have lower volume. Also, holy crap! People were sitting on the floor the even was so packed!
8-24-2015 Cleaned up the review but left it still in naive awe of Parson's devastation of Craig. Also, I might actually get a copy of the full second debate these guys had, if it works THEN I'll finally upload it!


  1. Good stuff!

    Have you posted the second Craig/Parsons debate that you found yet (or at least the bit you were able to get ahold of)?

    1. OMG Zach, saver this moment. You're the first comment on my blog ever. The first of billions, I can only assume.

      Anyways, I totally got an incomplete version of the debate. Only the Q&A and the openings are completely intact. I've been putting off reviewing it. Here is a link to where I uploaded it:

      I would love to hear what you think about it! I think that Parsons had a great opening. I lost it when he used my favorite non-theistic framework of morality contractarianism. If you go by what IS in the audio, Craig doesn't respond to it at all, and when he is asked to respond to a question about morality, he really shows how little he actually knows about morality outside DCT...he's gotten away with just quoting Michael Ruse for way too long.

      Again, I would love to know what you think of the debate.

  2. If you go by an incomplete version of the debate, how can you come to the conclusions you do come to? Assert the points of Parson's arguments that you seem to think Craig couldn't answer. I'm no Dr. Craig, but I'll debate you or anyone from a 'common sense' point of view' . I would like to ask you of any of your own 'personal experience' where you might have an emotional response to a belief against the Resurrection or Creationism? I'd also like to know why your slant seems to favor Parsons most of the time, not even addressing the challenge Dr. Craig presents, but merely finding every turn to accuse Dr. Craig and how he couldn't offer a rebuttal. Even in my own novice studies, I can argue some of these hypothesis, let alone standing by a fair argument by Dr. Craig.
    But my biggest question is this: Why is it so awful or ghastly to even entertain the idea that we, as human beings, could be created by a Being that desires nothing but love or relationship with us? Oh the problem of a good God allowing evil comes up. But I ask why do WE, as human beings, allow such evil to exist? Evil is not created, it is merely the absence of good. And again my question: what is so bad to believie we are a unique creation from a unique creator?


Don't be a jerk!