A Personal Note About the Darwin Day Debate
As most of our readers are aware, I participated in a debate February 12, 2009 in which I defended the existence of the God of the Bible. My opponent was Dan Barker, the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest atheistic organization in North America. The debate took place on the campus of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. The venue for the debate held 550 people. It was filled to capacity, and several came that could not get in due to fire regulations. From what I can gather, there were probably about 650-700 who showed up. The entire debate lasted about two hours with alternating speeches from Dan and me and an audience question segment that lasted about 30 minutes.
We don’t have any precise records as to the make-up of the audience, but in my estimation, it looked as though there were about 400 members of the Church in attendance, with another 50 or so Christians who could not get in due to seating limitations. Many of the Christians traveled several hundred miles, driving for 6-8 hours to be in attendance. Several congregations brought bus loads of people, some even chartered buses. It was truly energizing to see so many Christians who cared enough to spend their valuable time and money to be there to support the Lord’s cause.
Months before the debate, Christians all over the world had been including the debate in their personal prayers as well as congregational prayers. From what I have been able to gather, literally thousands of Christians, some from other countries, were praying for the success of the debate. As the debate got closer, many Christians fasted and spent hours praying specifically for the truth to be obvious and God’s name to be glorified.
We arranged for Apologetics Press to have a table set up at the debate, from which we distributed material. We passed out information about A.P., as well as articles and books that addressed the specific arguments that were part of the debate. In all, we gave away about $5,000 worth of materials (of course, this was only possible through the generous donations of our supporters). We also gave people the opportunity to sign-up for weekly e-mail updates, and we made hundreds of personal contacts with other members of the church, those in denominations, and those in the skeptical community. We have already been involved in several e-mail, postal mail, and phone exchanges that stemmed from the debate, and we anticipate many more opportunities in the upcoming months and years to spread the truth because of the networking done at the debate.
I had about six months to prepare for the debate. During that time, I tried to watch each of Dan’s debates on the subject, as well as read all his books and many of his articles or other writings. I also found various Web sites that addressed Dan’s specific arguments. Thomas Baxley, a senior at Faulkner University who was interning with us at the time, also watched the Barker debates and helped me tremendously in narrowing down the material to be used during the debate. For the six months of preparation, my co-workers Eric Lyons, Dave Miller, and Caleb Colley, picked up most of my other writing responsibilities for our monthly journals and our Web site. I am extremely grateful for their extra effort that allowed me to stay focused on the debate.
My overall assessment of the debate is that it was a huge success on several different levels. First, I believe it invigorated the Lord’s Church, and reminded our people that New Testament Christianity is founded on truth and reason, and can stand against and defeat the best that the atheistic, unbelieving world has to offer. Second, it also manifested what the Lord’s Church can do when we work together. The prayers offered up to God, the financial support given to Apologetics Press, and the personal presence of so many Christians were an overwhelming testimony to the fact that the church of Jesus Christ is alive and well in the United States of America and is not afraid to stand up and be counted for His cause. Third, the debate helped show some of those in the skeptical community that rational, logical arguments undergird the Christian faith, and that those arguments are powerful and respect the dignity and God-given freedom of choice for all humanity.
Finally, and most important, it needs to be stressed to the point of redundancy that anything good that has been or will be accomplished by the debate must be attributed to the God of the Bible Whose existence I defended. It is His truth that was presented, His providential hand worked out the arrangements for the debate to transpire, and His strength and power, accessed by the prayers of thousands of faithful Christians, support those who are employed in defending His cause. We must always remember, that no matter what part we play in furthering the Lord’s Kingdom, at the end of the day, we are merely servants of the Most High who are doing what it is our duty to do (Luke 17:10). To God be the glory, great things He has done!