The topic was "Does the God of the Bible Exist?" and the panel of participants included
Dr. Hugh Ross, a brillant Christian thinker and astronomist, Dr. Clay Jones, Apologetics professor at Biola University and Dan Grossenbach, a graduate of Biola's MA program in Apologetics.
The Atheist side of the panel included an ex-Christian, a undergrad student from UC Irvine and a medical Doctor from Riverside.
The education and experience seemed stacked on the side of the Christians, yet I have to say the Atheist panel generally did a good job of debating their points.
About 500 people were in attendance making this debate really interesting and full of excitement.
3 Observations from the Debate
#1 - The Atheist panel had absolutely no idea how to answer Dr. Ross's argument from Design and what now is being called, "Fine Tuning." They Atheist panel conceded on this point in order to get to what they called more "important points." It was cool to see a guy as smart and talented as Hugh Ross, carry himself with such humility and clarity in his presentation. There was literally nothing the opposing panel could debate with his presentation!
#2 - The Atheist panel's main argument attacked the Christian position of God's goodness. They called it God's omnibenevolence. They questioned how a God who is good could allow evil things to happen or send people to a permanant Hell. This is the typical "Problem of Evil" question. I felt the Atheist panel did a good job of presenting this point, even connecting specific Bible scriptures to this argument. The Christian panel was solid in their response to this question, but I felt the Christian panel dropped the ball on answering this question with clarity. They seemed to bounce around alot and got a little off-topic.
For a great response to the problem of evil wrapped around God's goodness, check out William Lane Craig's response.
#3 - The majority of the crowd was from Atheist clubs in the area. I was really disturbed and saddened to hear some people in the audience mock the name of Jesus with such arrogance. This broke my heart. I am so amazed when I read the account of Jesus on the cross and read the part where Jesus is being mocked by the eye witnesses at the cross and He responds with such an incredible answer:
"Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do."
I want Jesus' response of compassion to be my response as I engage with an increasingly bitter and angry secular culture. My friendship with Bruce has been really cool. It was funny to be invited by an Atheist to a debate on Christianity! He did a good job of organizing the debate and and I am proud to call him my friend. I pray God will use me in Bruce's life to show him the authentic Jesus.