In this episode, Kurt talks with Braxton Hunter about his recent debate with Matt Dillahunty on the question of “Does the Christian God Exist?”
Listen to “Episode 139: Debate Review” on Spreaker.
Kurt: Well, a good day to you. And thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Very nice to be with you here. Last week, we had fun going over all sorts of different questions, questions or slogans. I think that Seth Baker had come up with slogans and questions that Christians don’t want anyone to ask. And some of them were tricky for me to answer I went in blind. And so some of them were tricky, and some of them were, I think there’s at least one softball. So I’m glad Seth sort of made that one easy for me. That was a lot of fun. And I hope if you haven’t had the chance to listen to that, or watch it that you will go back through our archive, you can watch our videos on our website veracityhill.com, or find us on Facebook veracity hill, where we live stream, or from time to time pre record episodes that we upload there. But every Saturday at 1pm. We’ve got new material for you, week after week. On today’s episode, we are joined by Dr. Braxton Hunter, and we’re going to be talking about his recent debate with an atheist by the name of Matt Dillahunty. If you’ve heard of Matt, he has a program on YouTube, I believe, that is called the Atheist Experience, very popular program. And somehow he seems to dupe Christians into calling in all the time and these people go in unprepared. And it just serves serves as confirmation bias for these atheists watching this program, which is really a shame. But from time to time, I think I think there have been a few intellectual Christians that come on and chat with him. He has an open phone line. All right, well, let’s so let’s just jump right to it. Dr. Braxton Hunter is the president of Trinity seminary. It’s got a longer name and Braxton, I’ll let you go through that. You’ve been on our program before. So it’s great to have you back again.
Braxton: Well, thanks for having me back, Kurt. And yes, it’s Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary at Trinity SEM dot edu.
Kurt: I just, you know, I run defenders media, I just think in web domains. So Trinity sem.edu. So Trinity seim. So it’s kind of like Donald Trump. He remembers the CEOs by their first name and the name of their company. So for those that are following along, it’s not Tim Cook. It’s Tim apple. And it’s also Marilyn, Lockheed. So it’s very funny how but hey, he’s a business guy. And that works for him. So…
Braxton: Sounds good. Kurt Hill, Kurt veracity.
Kurt: Yeah, right. Yeah. Something like that veracity Hill. Great. Okay, so you had this awesome opportunity Braxton to debate Dillahunty. He’s a popular atheist out there, especially on the internet. He’s got a very large internet following. And so it’s important for Christians to engage with folks on the internet in a constructive way. Because if we don’t do that, well, then, you know, Where’s, where’s the gospel? Where’s the good message on the internet? Where are those that are contending for the faith and defending true and right doctrine. So that’s very important stuff. So it’s great that you had the chance and to do it, of all places at Baylor. That was a very wonderful opportunity you had there. And the debate question was, does the Christian God exist? Right?
Braxton: That’s right. Yeah.
Kurt: First, Tell me what was the thinking behind determining that question?
Braxton: Okay, so last summer, I guess July of last summer, maybe June, Leighton flowers, who’s the head for Texas Baptist apologetics, contacted me and said, Look, we’re gonna do one of these. They do these multiple times a year, the unapologetic conference. And if you live in Texas, you ought to go it’s fantastic conference. And he said, We’re gonna do one in February, and Waco, Texas, and I want to do a debate to get some interest for this thing. And I think I get Matt Dillahunty to do it. He did a debate here with Mike Licona in 2017 for the conference, so would you be willing to debate him? Well, I didn’t know a whole lot about Matt Dillahunty. But I’ve seen the clips you just referenced from the Atheist Experience, and the vulgarity and the aggressive nature of those calls and blasphemy and you know, all that stuff. And so I was like, Whoa, man. I don’t know. Could we get like Michael Shermer or something, you know, try to think this thing through. And he said, Well, you know what Braxton if you don’t want to do it, maybe Mary Jo or Frank Turek will do it. Maybe Maybe that’d be happy to do it. Like now hold on just second. Now. Wait just a minute. Hold on now. Uh, yeah. Okay. What do you think about this? Give me a minute. And he gave me every bit of that minute and not a second longer. And so I agreed to debate and so for the next eight months, I guess I was preparing for that. And so yeah, the does the Christian god exists so late and asked me well, what would you want to debate? Well, one thing that a lot of Christians and atheists delight criticize about these debates is that so often it’s just does God exist when the Christian is obviously a representative for the Christian God, right? And I don’t blame guys who do that? Does God exist? Debate? I’ve done one of those two, I think that’s, that’s perfectly fine. But I’m an evangelist. And I’m an apologist second, and an evangelist. First I want to see people come to Christ. So I, you know, even though I think that there’s a place academically and in apologetics for Does God exist, I wanted to discuss specifically Jesus and the Christian God. So I want to does the Christian god exists for that reason, and just take it by the horns? I thought, if I’m going to debate Matt Dillahunty, let’s just make it harder on myself and just go all in.
Kurt: Yeah. Now that seems like it’s a harder question to approach because, you know, with the Does God exist, it doesn’t seem like there’s as much to prove, so to speak, not that God’s existence needs proving, but for some people that, you know, they might perceive that, whereas you’ve got to go a step further than So, you know, from from trying to woo over atheists. You’ve got to get them first to think that God exists. And then also, that the particular God exists, so that was certainly harder. But I like your approach taking, you know, just going full steam.
Braxton: Yeah, yeah. So yeah. So I decided, and maybe this is something you want to question me about later. But I decided I would do kind of a classical apologetics approach and give two arguments for God’s existence, and then a case for the resurrection. But there were some things unique about that. But but that’s the approach I took.
Kurt: Yeah. So I wanted to ask you, for those that haven’t watched your debate, what were the you know, what were the arguments you’d lead with? What did he say with what were the responses? So let’s start going through it.
Braxton: Yeah, there’s a little bit of an origin story here. And so I’m sorry, I don’t mean to suck the air out of the room. But I, um, a few years ago, you know, I’ve done several debates, theological debates with Calvinists. And, you know, this is an in house debate. They’re my brothers and everything and all the other caveats I’m supposed to say. But I had debated Calvinists. And so. But I really felt convicted that from my ministry as an evangelist, I needed to go back to apologetics with unbelievers. And so I was thinking about this. And I was a little bit sad, because it was like, we you know, I have all this knowledge now about the nature of human freedom and how all that works and determinism, compatibilism, libertarian freedom, all that stuff, I don’t want that to just go to waste. So I prayed that God would give me a way to use that, in apologetics and evangelism with skeptics. And so what so I was praying one day, and as I was praying about this, I thought of William Lane Craig’s moral argument, which is a modus tollens. You know, if God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist, objective moral values and duties do exist, therefore God exists. And I thought, you could so easily remove the objective moral values and duties do, and in place of that put libertarian freedom does so that you’d have if God does not exist, then libertarian freedom does not exist. Libertarian freedom does exist, Therefore, God exists. And so I started working on that argument, and I first threw it out there as red meat to the theological determinists friends I had, and they took to it. And they were really perplexed by it, because on the one hand, they wanted to agree with me on God’s existence, but they couldn’t grant my libertarian freedom.
Braxton: But the criticisms that came were very much the criticisms that I expected. So I knew I was on the right track. And what was great about it is for those that might be familiar with Craig’s moral argument, some of his defenses of his premises actually work for this argument, too. And so there’s a lot to go through there. But just simply put, you know, one thing that we could say is, someone might say, Yeah, but the thing about the moral argument is, even though it’s not an appeal to emotion, that is, you’re not trying to say, look how awful it would be if we don’t have moral values and duties. You’re instead playing on someone’s immediate awareness that morality is real in that way. Nevertheless, it does pack an emotional punch. You know, I think that the libertarian freedom argument that I constructed also packs that emotional punch, and can be defended, or it can be defended in a couple of ways.
Braxton: But anyway, that simply put, it gives you the same moral freedom gives the same emotional punch that the free will or the moral argument does, because if God does not exist, or if libertarian freedom does not exist, then that means that whatever you find yourself doing, whether you’re racist, engaging in a hate crime or a sex offender or you build wells for thirsty people in Africa, or are philanthropist, whatever good, bad, good or bad thing you end up doing, you were just determined to do it. So it gets you to in a different way, a similar moral point, not the same moral point. So anyway, I brought that as my first argument. And then I brought the Kalam Cosmological Argument. And then lastly, I bought a resurrection case. So that those were the arguments that I brought. And there’s actually something that’s not unique to me about the resurrection case, but that I don’t think it’s highlighted enough. And if at some point, you want to talk about that, I’d be happy to explain that.
Kurt: Yeah. So first, let’s start with the first argument you use, which is, you know, this is a new territory, I think, maybe implementing a debate like this, or an argument like this. So basically, what you’re what you’re trying to do with it is to say, hey, if atheism is true, then there is no libertarian free will, there’s no robust sense of freedom. That’s good enough for human responsibility. And the atheist bases.
Braxton: If atheistic naturalism is true, then your mental states reduced to brain states, which reduces to biology, which is external to you is formed by events external to you. So you just have a real serious determinism…
Kurt: Right, and so for the so called free thinkers out there, not exactly free.
Braxton: But the lastly, they are as a free thinker, because you just hit on something that’s so valuable. And that is that it’s not just your actions that are determined, but your thoughts and your beliefs are also determined.
Kurt: Yep, yep. Yeah. So it’s, for people that don’t want the god to exist, because they want their freedom. They give their freedom up when they act as if God doesn’t exist. And sorry, go ahead. I was gonna say, Yeah, and that’s why it doesn’t, you know, it’s not consistent. The fact that they are free creatures is not consistent with the worldview they want to adopt.
Braxton: Right. And that’s why even though I think this was easily defended in the debate, I think it’s probably most helpful with personal evangelism, doing apologetics with real people, because your atheistic debaters are mostly going to have thought about these things, and they’re going to be determinists, but your friend at work, who’s an atheist, probably thinks he has libertarian freedom, unless he’s thought too much about this. Libertarian freedom being what you and I might call real free will, you know, the, the idea that I’m the originator of my actions, my choice is nothing external to me, made me do whatever I do. Most people think that the general population demonstrably thinks that there have been studies on that, that I was prepared to present in the debate, but so anyway, yeah, I think it can be really good for everyday discussions with people. And you could pretty well defend it like you would the moral argument. But in the debate, I think it went well. Now, there’s one mistake that some viewers of the debate are making that Matt himself makes.
Braxton: Matt has a tactic where, and he might deny this if he if he was sitting here with us, but it certainly is there. And it is basically the debate is framed up such that, look, I don’t believe your god exists. And then whatever evidence we present, he’ll just say, well, that doesn’t convince me as if winning the debate is reducible to convincing Matt to be a Christian? You know, if that’s the case, he didn’t convince me to be a skeptic, either. So I guess we both win. You know, we both get trophies.
Kurt: Participation trophies.
Braxton: Yeah. But the thing about it is, that’s so what he’s saying is, well, look, I don’t believe in liberty and freedom. So I don’t know how this argument supposed to convince me that God exists. I don’t believe in either one of those things. You don’t. But you know what those people back there are out there in the audience. They do believe in libertarian freedom. And you’re not the only person. We’re talking to you here, Matt. And though I’d love you to come to Christ today, and we’ve got an organ sitting over there. We could play just as I am. And you could come to Christ. I’m not counting on it. And so for these people who are being realistic about life in general, for that.
Kurt: Yeah. Nice. Alright, so your second argument was the Kalam, which is a specific type of cosmological argument. So looking at the origin of the universe, and I’m sure many folks in apologetics are familiar with that. Due to the work and Ministry of Dr. William Lane Craig. So I don’t think we have to Yeah, I don’t think we have to get too much into that one. But basically…
Braxton: Well, there is something saying about that, I think and that is when so all of Matt Dillahunty’s fans will say, man, Matt has debunked this argument so many times. But if you’ll listen to what Matt says about it, and all you have to do is go to YouTube and search for the Atheist Experience and Kalam or something like that. And what you’ll see is that he says two things, or three things pretty much. First, he’ll say, look, the conclusion of the kalam argument is not that God exists right? Everything that begins to exist without a cause for its existence, the universe began to exist. Therefore the universe must have a cause for its existence. Nothing They’re about God. Therefore, it’s not an argument for a God now, is it? He’ll say to the caller? And they’ll say, Well, no, but it says no, no, it’s not an argument for God.
Kurt: So when he says that he’s only critiquing the shortened version of the argument, he’s obviously I’m familiar with the longer version in the academic literature.
Braxton: Sure, yeah. Because then we build onto that, and we can get to these other things that are, you know, implications of that. So but anyway, so when I, when I came to the debate, I framed it that way. Oh, the other thing he says that I also addressed is, even if he grants you a whole ball of wax and says, Fine, you need a spaceless, timeless non material sufficiently powerful mind as the cause, but it might not be a god. It could be a group of universe creating Pixies. And there you just respond to the way that other apologists have in the past and Craig’s done this, but people have said it could just be some computer or something. Because you say okay, look, fine. It’s a big it’s a group of Pixies, but Occam’s Razor says you shave away all the unnecessary explanatory variables. So we’d be left with one universe creating pixie. So we have a spaceless, timeless non material sufficiently powerful universe creating Pixie, all you’ve done is described God and called God a pixie. So I’d like to welcome you to theism you Pixy theist. So I said that in my opening statement, nice. But so those are the two things he says yeah. And the other answer is just I don’t know. Now, if that’s debunking the Kalam, then goodness, you can debunk anything with that sort of, yeah, that’s not debunking the Kalam. But anyway, so he stepped into the trap. So in the rebuttal, he said, Look, the kalam is not an argument for God, you know, he said that whole thing.
Braxton: And so I said, Well, look, man, I told you, in my opening statements, I didn’t say I’m bringing you the Kalam, I say I’m bringing a case that begins with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. And then we were off and running in a real discussion of it. So I think it went well, from there.
Kurt: Yeah, good. Now, the resurrection argument. What did you present here?
Braxton: Okay, so the way I began this was, so if you read the relevant books on the resurrection, they will point out that so if you took a classical apologist like William Lane Craig, even in reasonable faith, he’ll point out that you want to, you know, this comes on the back of the theistic arguments to show you that God exists, right? Because if God exists, now, you’ve got a sufficient power to do something like a resurrection. And they’ll point out Jesus self conception, what he thought about himself, and what Jesus thought about himself, and this is universally I called Mike Licona, before the debate, and I said, I really want to get this right, I see what you’ve written in your book on this. I see what others have said, but, you know, I want to know, is this still true? And is it right that almost universally or universally, scholars agree that Jesus thought of himself, at the very least, as God’s special eschatological agent, or God’s agent to bring about the kingdom on earth? And he said, Yes, that is almost universally agreed upon by scholars. So what so people have said those two things before, but I really wanted to underscore it. So what I said was, I said, Okay, look, you guys, normally when you bring a case for the resurrection, people will say, the old Carl Sagan thing of, well, this is an extraordinary claim. And so we need extraordinary evidence that will overcome the implausibility inherent to any supernatural claim like this or a miracle claim. So I’d like to head that off with something that I call recalibrated plausibility. And so what is recalibrated plausibility, well, if God did not exist, or if Jesus was just any other first century Jew, well, then yeah, it’d be incredibly implausible to say that Jesus was risen from the dead. But and this is really important, these two features, one, by this point, in my opening statements, I had already shown that God exists. So we’ve got God in play.
Braxton: And then secondly, it’s understood by scholars and I was ready to defend it, you know, with that with the facts that scholars actually rely upon that Jesus thought of himself as God’s agent. And here’s the analogy I gave for that, that I think is really helpful. And that is, let’s imagine that you went into a coffee shop and you encountered this group of people who were so excited that they had just seen this guy Neil walking on the moon, they saw a video of this guy named Neil walking on the moon. Now, let’s imagine that you don’t know anything about NASA. And you don’t know anything about space exploration, and or the moon landing. The claim that these people are making that they saw a guy named Neil walking on the moon is an extraordinary claim. And we would expect there I mean, it’s incredibly implausible…
Kurt: Yeah. How does a man get to the moon?
Braxton: Right. If you don’t know anything about the space exploration, right. So But then let’s imagine that later that day, you do become aware of a couple of facts. One, there was this sort of there is Is this organization called NASA and in the 1960s, they were doing something and they had the power to do space exploration. And they had the power to get a man to the moon if they wanted to. And you also find out that there was this guy named Neil in the 1960s, walking around saying that he was a part of NASA’s special program, as if he was carrying around a sign saying, just watch my life and see what I do as a part of NASA special program. Okay, now, the analogy should be pretty easy to figure out, when you go back to your friends in the coffee shop is now as their claim implausible? No, it’s very plausible. What happened?
Braxton: Well, it wasn’t that there was extraordinary evidence, it was that we recalibrated the plausibility for our discussion with these extra facts. So before I ever get to the resurrection, I want to say, look, God is like NASA in that we’ve now given good reason to believe that he exists. And he’s the sufficient power to do something like a resurrection. And Jesus thought of himself as God’s special Kingdom agent, as if he was like Neil holding up a sign saying, Look what I do as as part of that as a part of this special program. Now, with those two things in place, now are the claims that we get in the rest of the resurrection case, you know, like that, that people were claiming that they saw the risen Jesus and they were willing to die for it, and all those kinds of things? Are those implausible now? No, now they’re incredibly plausible. What have we done? We’ve recalibrated the plausibility. And if it works in the NASA analogy, I think it works in the Jesus analogy. And the only real criticism that I’ve heard of this misses the point of the analogy and criticizes the analogy instead of the point and says, Yeah, but we have good reason to believe in NASA and all these things. All right. But if you don’t think we have good reason to believe that God exists, then we need to back off of the resurrection case, go back to the theistic arguments, and do some more work there. So that when we get to the resurrection case, this works.
Kurt: Yeah, nice. I like how you’ve come up with the terminology recalibrated plausibility. Because what you’re doing there, you’re talking about Bayesian probability theory. You’re talking about background evidence and how we need to consider the background evidence when we consider an event occurring. So but you do it in a way that’s very likely easier to understand than Bayes Theorem.
Braxton: Well, it’s gonna be easier to understand because I’m not a Bayesian, and I don’t really know how to do that. So I only know how to do it, you know, with analogies, right? So I’m not somebody like Blake Guinta or Tim McGrew, or somebody who understands Bayesian stuff.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Nice. Good. All right. So you talked about all that. But before presenting the case of the resurrection, then what did you say for the case for the resurrection?
Braxton: So for the resurrection, I used some really simple facts. Like most people, since the minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas, I, you know, most people will have an arrangement of facts that are usually the bedrock facts, which I know you’ve got a podcast with Mike. So people are probably familiar from listening to that, that a bedrock fact, counts as such as such, if it has two things going for it. One is highly evidenced. And two, it enjoys the consensus of critical scholarship. So I only use bedrock facts. And I really only use these, that Jesus died, that he, that people thought that people had experiences that they interpreted as the reason Jesus after his death, um, and that those people were willing to die for the claim. And that was really pretty much it, you know? Because I think when you combine those features, with and of course, those there’s subcategories underneath those, like, you know, the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed, and you know, who exactly have these appearances? And, you know, why can we trust the Gospels? There’s all kinds of subcategories under those, right, but, but those three were pretty much because I think when you combine those with the pre crucifixion features that we just described with the recalibrated plausibility, I think you have a goo a good standing to make the resurrection conclusion.
Kurt: Yep. It’s a when you look at the the bedrock facts, how is one to be consistent in all and understanding all of these facts? And what’s the hypothesis that best fits them? Non believers have to, they have to disagree with one of the facts in order to escape out of it. And that’s where the rub is that they have to go against the grain of scholars to say, you know, we’ve got all this good evidence to think this is the case, empty tomb, you know, all that stuff, early appearances, multiple early appearances. So that’s, that’s one of the reasons why I’m a Christian, because in order to get out of it, you’ve got to do away with some of the one or some of the other facts.
Braxton: Right. And you know, what this is really key here for people that watched the debate or who have watched it is, notice something the debate question was Why does the Christian God exist? Right? So the specifically Christian case that I brought was the resurrection. Both of the previous arguments could be used for a number of, you know, you couldn’t use the freewill argument with Islam. But you could use but with these other things, you could, you could with the kalam and with the freewill argument could with most of these monotheistic religions, but this is the specifically Christian thing. And he had been preparing for another debate on the resurrection. So I expected trying to think about tactics here, I needed to bring a case for God’s existence before I got to the resurrection, so that I could do this, you know, have a good explanatory hypothesis for the resurrection, that God raised Jesus from the dead, right. But Dillahunty didn’t have that all Dillahunty would have to do is to if he wanted to, was just challenged the resurrection, if he could knock down the resurrection, he would have succeeded in in overturning the debate question, or giving a negative answer, or an I don’t know, answer to the debate question, does the Christian God exist, right? So but he didn’t do that. In fact, all he really said about the resurrection was some passing comments like, well, I don’t care what the scholars say, which I was, it’s not in the video, but I was back there shaking my head vigorously nodding my head because I was happy to talk about why the Scholars say what they do. But he never challenged me in the cross examination or in the audience Q&A on the resurrection. And I specifically asked him toward the beginning of the cross examination. Is it the case that you’re not going to bring a competing hypothesis to the resurrection? And he said, correct. And then we just moved on to talk about the freewill argument and the kalam for the rest of the debate? Well, as you know, if you’re not going to bring a competing hypothesis, then you didn’t come to the historiography game. That’s how we do this. We compare hypotheses. And I’ll say something more bombastic than what Michael Licona would say. He’s too scholarly to say something like this. But the reason that nobody wants to bring a competing hypothesis, the reason that you have guys like airman actually, in the past, having said you shouldn’t try to bring a competing hypothesis is because every time someone does, as you just said, as you just illustrated, it gets shredded by the Christian side of the debate. And so they just don’t bring one.
Kurt: Yeah. And in terms of debate tactics, and how you win a debate, if you have a dropped point. You lose that point in the debate. I mean, if you don’t respond to it, boom, point to Braxton side. So…
Braxton: Especially if that point is the very question that we’re here to discuss.
Kurt: Yeah, right, right. Good Braxton. We’ve got to take a short break here. When we come back, though, I want to get your thoughts more on and you’ve already clued us in a little bit about how he responded to your arguments. And I want to hear about the cross examination. And there was a question from a fellow named Drew that attended the debate. That very fascinating short little video on YouTube, I saw I want to get your thoughts on that. So stick with us through the short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thank you for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors, if you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, visit our website, veracityhill.com. We would love to get your sponsorship for our program. If you want to get your logo up on our website with a link to your homepage. It could be your business or your organization, perhaps even your ministry, we’d love to help support you, in addition to us supporting us, so thank you for your consideration. And if you want to become a patron, you can do that at veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab. Those are folks that just chip in a few bucks each month. If you are one of our devoted listeners, I want to encourage you to give us a review on iTunes or the Google Play store. Or even just a Facebook page review. All of that is helpful for people that are just encountering our ministry here. So thanks for your consideration in supporting us in those ways. On today’s program, I’m joined by Dr. Braxton Hunter. He’s the president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. There I got it right there. Braxton down in Evansville, Indiana. And I’m sure it’s a bit warmer in Evansville than it is up here in Chicago.
Braxton: Probably but I think we both wish we were in Florida.
Kurt: Now, we’ve had Braxton on the program before. So we’ve done rapid questions already. We’ve got to know you a little bit for those that want to go back and listen just to that rapid questions. Go search our archive for the episode on Evangelistic apologetics, I believe we titled it. So that was a great, great time chatting with you. And you certainly do have that heart as an evangelist/apologist. You do that well, and that’s one of the things I like about you, is, because that’s what it’s about. Really, you know, sometimes folks are really into the apologetics and they, you got to think what’s it for? What’s it for? It’s about bringing people to Christ. You can’t lose sight of that goal. All right. In the first half of the program, we talked about sort of your opening arguments that you brought to your debate, your recent debate against Matt Dillahunty. He is the the atheist, host of the Atheist Experience a long time YouTube program. Does he air it on TV? I’m not even sure.
Braxton: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s out of Austin, Texas. I think it’s televised.
Braxton: In parts of Texas. Yeah,…
Kurt: Yeah. So he’s been doing that for I think, like 20 years now, and has a very large following a lot of support, loads of subscribers on YouTube. And it’s very important for Christians to engage with folks like that out there on the internet. And so I applaud you Braxton for engaging in a debate with him. Okay, so you had three arguments that you brought forward, the Libertarian freewill argument, the kalam or which is a subset of cosmological arguments. And then the case for the resurrection. You said before we went to break that he basically just dropped the resurrection and didn’t respond to it at all. So it sounds like in his was it in his opening speech that he just dealt with the two? Or did he wait for his rebuttal time?
Braxton: You know, he takes debate seriously. And he does try to follow the conventions of these debates. And so he didn’t respond in his opening statement to anything I said in my opening statement.
Kurt: Right, which is the proper way to do it. A lot of people don’t know that. But yeah,
Braxton: Right, and so instead, he in his rebuttal was when he did say some things about the resurrection, but they were really just, I don’t know why I should believe something just because a bunch of other people believed it. And I don’t care what scholars say. Now, I didn’t get a second rebuttal. After that, we went right into cross ex. So I didn’t get to deal with those or, you know, say anything else. So the way I kind of just dealt with that was in the cross examination, I just said, Are you not going to give me a competing hypothesis for the resurrection? Or, you know, and I don’t know if I don’t think I said this, but the sentiment was, Are you going to deal with this that I brought, you know, and he said, correct? I’m not going to bring a competing hypothesis. So that was just left standing, you know, for the rest of the night.
Kurt: Yeah. Okay. So he did take time to reply to your first two arguments. So how did he respond to the libertarian freewill argument?
Braxton: So, in his rebuttal, he just said, you know, basically, I don’t believe in free will, and I don’t believe in God. So I don’t know how this could possibly be convincing. And then with the Kalam, he just pointed out the kalam is not an argument for God. So, you know, that takes care of the kalam there may have been more to it than that, but I don’t recall there being much more but they’re really the action happened there in the cross examination. So I got the first you know, went six minutes me questioning him six minutes of him questioning me than five minutes and five minutes. So I started off. So I asked him first. Now I thought about this, because if you watch his debates, and if you’re a person watching this, who ended up debating him at some point, I think this is key, Matt’s epistemology and what He requires in order to believe something is really slippery. Now, I’m not saying that as a slight to Matt, I’m just saying it’s difficult to figure out and deal with.
So I’ve heard him say before, as recently as Christmas that he doesn’t believe we can have certainty about anything, including our own existence, or we’re talking about like Cartesian certainty, absolute certainty. Yeah. And so I said, Is that the case? And he said, That’s right. That’s okay. So now when you’ve often said we shouldn’t believe something until it’s been demonstrated, right, that’s right. Okay. What does that mean? Because here’s the thing with Matt, whenever he says something, we have to demonstrate, say that the Christian god exists before we should believe it. He never clarifies what that looks like. And he’s even admitted in the past. He doesn’t know what it looks like. And I was gonna ask him, and I backed off of it, because I thought it sounded too snarky, but I was gonna ask him. Okay, if you don’t even know what you mean, when you’re asking me for a demonstration? Is it fair to characterize what you’re saying is that you don’t even know what you’re talking about?
Braxton: But I didn’t. I decided not to say that.
Braxton: So anyway, the point I want to make was, you’re asking us for a demonstration. You don’t know what that demonstration looks like. So we give you a bunch of evidence, and you say, that’s not a demonstration? Oh, so, you want certainty? Oh, no. Can’t have certainty. You just want a demonstration that Yeah, okay. Here’s some more evidence. That’s not a demonstration. It’s not a shifting of the goalposts. There’s not even a goalpost. And so it’s very slippery to try to deal with. So we dealt with that. And we went into the freewill argument. And he misunderstood the argument a little bit. He, you know, one of the defenses that I give, and the guys like, say, Tim Stratton, give is in defense of premise two, which is all he addressed, which is the claim that libertarian freedom does exist. All he really, yeah. So, so I definitive by saying, look, here’s the thing. First of all, this is kind of like the principle of credulity. You know, and this is how Craig defends premise to the moral argument is, look, it’s not just that I believe this just because I feel like I have libertarian freedom. But it’s also that a good argument has premises that are plausible. And what we mean by that, are the premises more likely to be true than false. That’s a good argument has premises like that. So any argument that is meant to show me that I don’t have libertarian freedom will be built on premises, it will have one or more premises that are less plausible than my immediate experience right now that I do have libertarian freedom.
Braxton: So, it’s not exactly it’s kind of oafish to characterize it as well, you just think you have libertarian freedom, because you feel like you do. And that’s, that’s, that’s not what we’re saying something a bit more sophisticated than that. But he didn’t respond to that. And so then, and I know, I’m just kind of going off year, I don’t mean to railroad, the conversation. But the next thing and the only other thing we really got to with that is, and this is what Tim Stratton would would argue alongside me is that look, if you don’t have a libertarian freedom, then rational affirmations are impossible, rational affirmations. And what we mean by that is rationality, definitionally is reducible to reason. And reason is the process of deliberation, where you think about facts, and you choose, you choose which thing you should affirm? Well, if you don’t have libertarian freedom, then every step of that cognitive process is determined. And you weren’t making any choices. So that you just find yourself believing whatever you believe, even though you went through the steps, and it felt like you were making those choices. So you can affirm things, but you can’t rationally affirm them. Because beliefs aren’t rational beliefs are true or false person’s irrational. So as a result, you just find yourself believing these things. And you have to just assume that you’re right, so you can affirm things. And you might even be correct, but you can’t rationally affirm them is counterexample to this. That is the only thing he said response. And then I’ll hush and let you say something. On your own show. I’ll let you say something. But the only thing he said is like, Well, yeah, but that I don’t believe that at all, because calculators are purely determined things that give you you know, almost 100% If not 100% correct answers. But this misses the point and kind of makes the point for me,
Kurt: Right. Computers are… a calculator’s machine.
Braxton: Right. That’s right. And just like on your view your machine, you can get two right answers. But you can’t rationally affirm those right answers. Even if you were 100%. Right about everything like the calculator is, you could be right and you could affirm all those right things, but you couldn’t rationally affirm those right things because you have no justification for claiming that you reliably got to those answers. You got to those answers the same way as the man who believes that he’s a pink unicorn got to that answer, you were determined. And every step of the way it was determined, right. And it basically said, I don’t accept that and moved on. So that was kind of the end of the freewill discussion.
Kurt: So yeah, that’s fascinating. He brought up a calculator analogy. That is a really awful analogy for his position to use.
Braxton: Right, right. Well, it works. If you’re, if what you think is that the theist is saying that your beliefs are rational or irrational like that the Ohio River is out the window right now, where I’m sitting. That’s a rational belief there. No, that’s a true belief,
Braxton: But rationality has to do with the process of my getting to that belief. So that little hiccup would make his analogy work, if that’s what I was saying. But it wasn’t…
Kurt: Right. You weren’t saying that the consistent atheist couldn’t come to true beliefs. That wasn’t what you were debating. Yeah, and yeah, certainly mistaken there. And then, you know, when you’re thinking about this form, this process of deliberation, the the atheist might think, oh, yeah, of course, I’m thinking in evaluating, but you’ve got to be consistent here. Is this. Is it genuine, right? Or is it just illusory? And if atheism were true, then it’s just illusory? So…
Braxton: Yeah, I love Tim Stratton’s analogy for this. Because for those that don’t know, Tim Stratton is at free thinking ministries. He has his own freewill argument, but it’s not the same as mine. It’s substantially different. But anyway, he points this out on this point, he says, Look, he said, Imagine that you just found out that while you’re listening to this podcast, that there’s a mad scientist who’s controlling your every thought, your every belief, your every action, including whatever you’re thinking about right now, as I’m speaking, and the next words that are going to come out of your mouth. Now, if that if you found that out, could you do? Would you be justified in trusting anything that you believe? You know, because you don’t know the motivations of this mad scientist? And it’s actually worse than that? Because there’s not even a mad scientist? If atheism is true. It’s just the natural blind processes of the universe.
Kurt: Yep, yep. All right. So now the kalam argument. You said earlier, he kind of dismissed that as well, that it’s not for the Christian god, is that all he said in response to it?
Braxton: No. So he would have, but I pressed him on it here. So when I, you know, in my first cross examination, I brought the freewill argument, and he stayed on it for his. But then in my second round, I brought the kalam and he stayed on it for his which was shocking to me. But what he basically said was, he didn’t want he didn’t care about these different premises. And the problem is, and I pointed this out to him is, you know, because he’ll often say, let’s just, let’s just grant the kalam and move forward. The problem is, then he’ll later raise concerns that would have been addressed by the kalam that’s why we begin with a call, you know. So anyway, I pressed him on, does the universe have a beginning? And he says, I don’t know. And I didn’t do respond to that tonight. And I don’t I don’t know. And I’m like, Well, okay, but so either the universe is past infinite. It’s just always existed forever and ever and ever, or it’s not, which is he’s like, I don’t know.
Braxton: Yeah. And I said, Well, how could it possibly be past infinite? And he said, How could your God be past infinite? Now, the clear minded, you know, initiated apologists out there know instantly, the answer to this is we don’t say that God is past infinite. We say that God is timeless Santa. And so I said to him, thinking that he was well versed enough in this, I’m not I’m not trying to be rude. He really does try to understand these arguments. I just don’t think he had thought too much about this particular criticism, is I said, Look, I said, we believe he’s timeless. And he interpreted that. And it didn’t become clear to me until a few moments later, he interpreted me to mean by that. He’s, he’s past infinite. He just is that’s what we believe. And so he said, Well, I don’t care what you believe. I want to know why you believe that.
Braxton: I said, Well, you’re asking me definitionally a question about the Christian God. I’m telling you, he’s timeless. And he got really frustrated. And I said, What I’m saying is we don’t have the problem of past infinite, because he’s timelessness creation. He’s like, Oh, well, you didn’t say that until just then. Well, I had said it, because the phrase because I said he was timeless, and past Infinite is temporal language, right? But anyway, so anyway, we got so he said, Well, maybe maybe he’s, here’s the response. He says, here’s the response, if time began with the physical universe, and the wouldn’t be past infinite, and I was like, right. So what was this whole song and dance about right? And he said, Well, I never said it was past him. I said you said you didn’t know. And he’s like, right. And he got really frustrated. And this was the most frustrated he got with me, in an otherwise cordial debate. He said, The thing is, I’m not a physicist, and I don’t claim to know. And the problem with you apologists who are also usually not physicists, is you do claim to know. And then I have this, if I have a proud moment in the debate, which you got to give me at least one the freedom to be carnally proud about one thing is I just kind of casually responded, why do you need to be a physicist to to understand the philosophical point that the universe can’t be past infinite, or we would have never arrived at this present moment? So anyway, I felt like the kalam discussion was a slam dunk, if I do say so.
Kurt: Yeah, nice. Good, good. All right, I want to move the discussion here to the the audience Q&A, and I’ve watched this short little video that we’ll put up at our website, along with our program here, of a fellow I guess his name from on Facebook, if I can say his name is Drew. And he asks Matt, about the question of whether he’s an atheist. I mean, the program, the title of Dillahunty shows the Atheist Experience. And so what was Matt’s response here on on atheism,
Braxton: You do need to watch the video clip to get the force of this. But, you know, Matt, is very clear, like a lot of newer atheists are, that I’m not claiming that there is no God. I’m claiming, I’m just saying, I remain unconvinced. I lack a belief in God. Right? That’s atheist. Well, you and I both know, that Drew is right, that traditionally that would be defined as that would be like agnosticism, you know, I just don’t know, you know? And maybe a strong agnosticism because he would say, I don’t think you know, either.
Kurt: Right. Right. Maybe a nihilism. Yeah,
Braxton: Maybe so. But atheism is defined in almost all of the literature as one who’s an atheist is one who maintains that there is no God. Right? So and we had one professor who listens to our show Come on, and kind of, say, if we took his definition, atheism could be true. And theism could be true at the same time, you know, the claim lack of belief of the statement, lack of belief in God doesn’t even enjoy the benefit of being true or false.
Kurt: It’s not a metaphysical claim. It’s an epistemological claim, I lack a belief. So God could exist and Dillahunty could lack that belief. They could both be true.
Braxton: Right. But now for atheists, you may listen to this and think I’m being disingenuous. There’s… so when he brought that he and Dillahunty got into a bit of a back and forth and Dillahunty basically told him to go away. He said, If you don’t care what I think about it, why are you at my event? go away. So I didn’t know that that this Drew that we’re talking about is a listener to our podcast, Trinity radio. And I didn’t know that. And he had driven three hours to be there for this event, because he appreciates me and the work we do. And so I felt really bad about this. I didn’t know that at the time.
Braxton: But I do have a personal principle that when you’re for academic reasons, it’s important to point out the definitional differences here, right. But in evangelism, I don’t think we need to concern ourselves with that, we just need to understand why the person is calling themselves what they’re calling themselves. So I don’t care if you call yourself an alligator. And you mean by alligator one who lacks a belief in God. Okay, alligator, let’s talk about your lack of belief in God, I don’t care what you call yourself, right? Because I’m interested in reaching the person. But it is important for academic discussions like we’re having right now about this. And so, Drew’s right, but I, but in the moment, number one, I saw an opportunity to extend an olive branch and show some camaraderie with my opponents. And I do think it was important to make that point I just made about evangelism and really talking to people and not just trying to win arguments. So I said that basically, I said, Look, I’m gonna take up for Matt here. And I said that, well, Drew, likely feels, you know, slighted by that because, and he told me, he did. And he said, I knew you didn’t know who I was, or anything. And I’ve actually heard you say that before. But he is the people who are involved in this debate, either as a questioner, a moderator or a debate participant. You would think I’d be the most hated on the theist side. No, no, Drew is the most in most people’s minds from the atheist, and that is entirely unfair. And so please allow me to just say this very briefly. Drew told me told us in our Facebook group privately, and I know he wouldn’t mind for me to say this is that He didn’t mean to come off the way that he did.
Braxton: There was a person behind him in a wheelchair trying to, you know, get in line. And he was having to move the microphone. And so some of his responses back to Matt sounded abrupt. And in fact, when he said, I, you know, it doesn’t matter to me what you call yourself, and then Matt cuts him off and says, well, then go away. He was trying to then say what I always say, which is, it doesn’t really matter to me what you call yourself, it just matters what you mean. But I wanted to ask the question. So he didn’t mean this the way it came off. And all the vitriol against him is overblown, I think.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. Well, someone’s got to be the villain. Yeah, so one of the common lines I like to take when I’m engaging with atheists, and they say, you know, I just lack a belief. I mean, by that definition, then rocks are atheists, because rocks to lack belief that God exists. So it’s not a helpful definition, by any means. To say that you just, you know, lack that. So the traditional definition, which I think drew provides, in this video, he cites from numerous academic sources, you know, that atheism is the belief is the, you know, affirmed position or the denial of God’s existence is not just this lack of belief. It’s a metaphysical claim, there is no God. So, I think you’re right, though, the way that Matt describes himself and from other things, he said in the debate, it’s that he is just agnostic, you know, maybe a strong agnostic, you just can’t know. So…
Braxton: One other thing, there’s another video that somebody made, where somewhere Matt gets on to me about the libertarian freedom thing and says, this idea that you can, that you’re justified in believing something, until such time as somebody convinces you otherwise, is actually a fallacy, he says, and then somebody edited that together were earlier or later in the debate, he says, he says exactly the same thing. He says, Now, I can’t prove that I exist, and the other people actually exist. But I’m fine with the notion that other people actually exist until such a time as somebody convinces me I’m wrong. So he basically says the same thing. It’s a flat contradiction between those two statements. And somebody put a video together illustrating that, which I thought was neat.
Kurt: Wow, wow. Fascinating, because it’s in the same context, you know, he’s talking about what would be, you know, required for us to, to change our beliefs, you know, if evidence came to light. And so there, he’s presenting two different contradictory statements, mostly. So what’s been let me ask you, what’s been your feedback of the debate? I mean, you’ve I guess, been keeping tabs on what atheists are saying online?
Braxton: Well, all the atheists think that I believe in unicorns and Santa Claus, and you know, all the things that you typically hear,
Kurt: Don’t you?
Braxton: Yeah. And you know, you know, what’s interesting? is they’ll say that this, there’s more than one comment, go look that says this. They’ll say, Oh, these apologists, they always bring the same old arguments that we’ve heard 1000 times nothing new. And we hate this new freewill argument that we’ve never heard before. You know, it’s like, they don’t I think they just copy paste mentally from their previous debate that they said this about?
Kurt: Yeah, the previous comment two minutes ago from some other debate they were watching.
Braxton: Right, right. So but the so the atheists are gonna be atheists. Now, some of the atheists have said there was, there was one comment that was to Matt that said something like, you know, Matt, this guy was way more prepared than I think you were. And you came is like, you were in the preseason. And he was going for the Super Bowl or something. So that was nice. There were some people that said that, even though they think Matt, you know, Master hero, and Matt wins all the time, and all this, they said that I know that this debate was better than anybody’s ever done with Matt, which is really helpful. There have been people in the community, you know, like Mike Licona helped me prep for this debate. He was thrilled with it. He said the only thing he could possibly criticize about it was that in my opening statement, I talked a little too fast. Which if that’s all my gonna has to say negative about my debate, then I’m thrilled, you know. So it’s been overwhelmingly positive from the people that mean the most to me.
Braxton: Again, the only real criticisms have been superficial. And usually that just been, you know, like, Mary Jo Sharp agreed with like, that, I spoke too fast my opening. So, you know, but aside from that, I mean, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. And that’s me. You know, one thing about the nature of the internet is those people, even the ones that you like, even your friends, even other Christians and theists, you get to hear what they’re saying behind your back because all you have to do is search your name on Facebook, you know?
Braxton: And so, I think the feeling is good about the debate, and I’m certainly pleased with it.
Kurt: Nice, good. Well, I’m glad to hear that. What’s up next on the horizon for you? Are you preparing for next debate? Are you going to take it easy now? A little bit?
Braxton: Yeah, my wife doesn’t want me to ever debate again, because I do get stressed out and everything. But um, I’ve got to do, I’m working on d min. And my dissertation has been accepted, or my major writing project, I guess, has been accepted. And it is on discipleship and apologetics. So I need to do the project there and try to get that done publishing the freewill argument as a journal article. And so I’m trying to wrap that up. And I’ve got this documentary that people might not know about that I’ve got to go to Canada here in a couple of weeks and do some post work on that. They can see a trailer for that it’s called the journey if they just go to my YouTube channel is featured there, they can go to braxtonhunter.com. And the first thing that pops up. It’s a documentary on the seven churches in early Christianity and Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. So look forward to that.
Kurt: Nice, yes, very nice. So keep us posted on on the progress there. And we’ll help promote it when it’s released.
Braxton: And if you want to be a keyboard warrior for me, you could go argue you listeners with these, tried to evangelize these YouTube atheists on the comment thread, the YouTube video and while you’re there, go ahead and subscribe. It won’t cost you anything. And it really helped me out.
Kurt: Yep. Great. Braxton. Thanks so much for coming on our program today and for reviewing the debate. I from what it sounds like from what I’ve read online as well. Sounds like you did a great job. So so glad to hear that and give Matt a run for his money. So all right, God bless you. We’ll be in touch. Thanks, brother. All right. Well, if you want to learn more about Braxton and his work, you can go to Braxton hunter.com. Also check out Trinity SEM. That’s the school where he is the president at again, that’s the shortened version is Trinity College, and Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary at Trinity som.edu. Coming up on next week’s program, we are looking at a political topic. It’s been a while since we’ve done that. But as you might pay attention on our tagline, striving for truth on faith, politics and society, we’re going to be talking about the suppose that the green New Deal opportunity here that has been raised in Congress, to renew, bring renewable energy to America and to retrofit literally every building with energy efficiency. And to get rid of airplanes and such we’re going to be exploring. I mean, when I say that I’m literally not kidding. That’s part of the proposed Green New Deal. We’re going to be bringing in some experts from the Heartland Institute to be enlightening us about that, and why that why some people might think that’s a good idea, and what some serious issues are with it. So we’ll be exploring the green New Deal. All right, that does it for the program.
Kurt: Today. I’m grateful for the continued support that we have with our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. And they are Chris has it up defenders media consult Kevin the sky floor rethinking Hill, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. I want to thank our technical producer Chris for all the fine work that he does for our guest today Dr. Braxton Hunter and for for his heart and intellect for Christ’s kingdom. And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
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