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Sean McDowell vs. James Corbett

As I mentioned earlier, Sean McDowell and James Corbett faced off to debate the topic “Is God the best explanation for moral values?”

The debate was held as scheduled last Friday and I applaud the people who organized and ran this event. They had a robust turnout at the debate venue and the live webcast was a great addition.

That said, I was disappointed With James Corbett’s performance. In any debate, I always hope to watch two evenly matched debaters who can explain their perspective clearly, even persuasively. Equally important, I think, is the debater’s ability to fully engage the argument being presented by his opponent. Debates should give you a very clear picture of not only what the debaters believe about the topic, but it should help you explore the arguments for and against the debaters’ respective positions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those “ideal” debates. To put it simply, I don’t think Mr. Corbett really bothered to engage the actual topic of the debate. Instead, he spent much of his time asserting that Christianity is bad and that authority, especially morally or religiously based authority, is dangerous. Even if you were to agree with Mr. Corbett’s points, they really had nothing to do with the topic of the debate.

A popular atheist blogger, Luke Muehlhauser, made some similar observations. He wrote, in part:

Point after point, Corbett fails to engage McDowell’s argument. Instead, he rants against the straw men that McDowell clearly labeled as straw men in his opening statement.

When will atheists stop embarrassing themselves in debate? This shows the problem with atheists believing they are, by default, more rational than believers. Atheists don’t think they need to study the relevant subjects, or pay attention to the logic of the Christian’s position. Instead, they just wander in and spout some irrelevant points about the Crusades and religious disagreement.

In this at least, I think he is dead on.

While I was disappointed in Corbett’s showing, I would recommend watching the debate when you have a chance … it still contains some very good material, most notably Sean’s well laid out arguments.

You can watch the video of the debate over at ConversantLife. Sean has also posted his reflections on the debate experience there.