On Wednesday November 13, 2013, The Veritas Forum in conjunction with the University of Colorado-Boulder, put on a discussion between a University of Colorado philosophy professor and an Oxford scholar on the subject of Atheism vs. Christianity. Though it was hosted by the University of Colorado, the public was invited to attend and the Glenn Miller Ballroom was packed with both students and non-students wishing to learn a bit more about the subject. The discussion was not intended to be a debate about which world view was better, but was put forth to inform people, to get people to ask questions, and to better inform people about both Atheistic beliefs and those of Christians. Michael Tooley from the University of Colorado spoke on behalf of Atheists and John Lennox from Oxford spoke for the Christians. They wished not to have a winner or a loser, but to have a thoughtful and respectable dialogue. The talk turned out to be so popular that hundreds of people were turned away at the door because the venue was full.
The scholars began by giving a brief description of their backgrounds and how they came to believe what they believe. They then began to discuss the topics of evil in the world, the philosophy behind a good and moral God, the infallibility of the Bible, the co-existence of science and religion, and the second coming of Jesus. Finally, the floor was opened for those in the audience to ask questions to either Dr. Lennox or Dr. Tooley or both. I found it interesting that a number of the questions asked did not seem to come from those wishing to learn more, but from those wishing to attack the beliefs of Christians, many of them being posed to Dr. Lennox to defend.
Just about the only thing that the two scholars could agree upon were the basic definitions of Atheism and Christianity that would be used in their discussion. Beyond that, both had very different ideals that reflected their upbringings. Both speakers were clearly very passionate about what they were discussing as they had spent their lives devoted to the subject. This is something that is critical to giving a good talk.
What really stood out about this talk was the level of civility involved. Both professors held each other with the utmost respect and often pointed out when the other had made a good point or where they were correct. The idea that this discussion was not a debate was driven home quite well. The talk could have very well be conducted in a person’s home one on one and it very likely would have had the same atmosphere for the speakers. The emphasis was placed on informing the public however. They professors both implored the audience in their closing remarks that we go out and ask our own questions, to search for the answers ourselves. It is in this way that we will most fulfill our own search for knowledge.