It was a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Doug.
At no point did I feel deceived, tricked, or uncomfortable. Doug is sometimes accused of being this way, but I think he asked straight-forward, honest questions.
Likewise, I think I gave straight-forward, honest answers.
I think it would be fair to breakdown the interview into a few main categories: (1) Doug’s presupposition, (2) Doug’s hypotheticals, and (3) Haden ceding things to Doug.
Straight out of the gate Doug said he didn’t find philosophical arguments for the existence of God convincing at all because he thinks philosophy is more or less dead, or at least a bunch of “poo-poo.”
He quoted Steven Hawking who said “philosophy is dead” which of course is a self-defeating statement.
I responded that I would give Hawking the benefit of the doubt and say that he was speaking tongue-in-cheek because the statement “philosophy is dead” is a philosophical statement which would make Hawking’s statement self-defeating. And I think Hawking was too smart to say something so silly.
Doug said, no, I think he was a little bit serious. Doug seemed to think philosophy was indeed dead, which left me a bit stunned, but I tried to keep my facial expressions to a minimum as to be a respectful guest.
I even tried to soften Doug’s own position by making a distinction between philosophy per se, and metaphysical arguments for the existence of God, but he affirmed that he was referring to philosophy per se.
What shocked me most about Doug’s presupposition that philosophy is dead is that Doug later said he loved “street epistemology”. Street epistemology is basically what Doug was attempting on me throughout the whole interview. Namely, Doug, through hypothetical scenarios would try to get me to doubt that the evidence and reason actually warrants my belief in God and Jesus (more on this in a minute).
The obvious problem is that epistemology just is philosophical in nature. Doug can’t love epistemology and hate philosophy, not coherently anyway. I didn’t point this out, as I wanted to be a respectful guest, but maybe I should have.
Later on, Doug would present me with a couple hypotheticals.
Say a friend came up to me and said, “So-and-so died and came back to life three days later.” Would you believe them? And I held up the piece of paper that Doug had me fill-out before the interview labeled, “Leans No.”
I probably wouldn’t believe a close friend that claimed someone else rose from the dead. I mean, I just wouldn’t, I don’t know what to say.
I clarified that if they were a close, trustworthy friend, I would look into the claim.
The point was: I would need more evidence.
With the resurrection of Jesus, I think we have way more evidence. I told Doug I didn’t think his parody was analogous to the situation we have with Jesus and he disagreed, and I said okay.
His other hypothetical was that of his (naked?) grandfather flying over the grand canyon unaided at a time when there was no photography. What would it take to make me believe this actually happened?
One eyewitness? Two eyewitnesses? Doug said he wouldn’t believe it if there were 10 independent eyewitness accounts. I said I might, it would depend on the eyewitness accounts.
Haden Cedes Things to Doug
Then we came to what I think was the most important part of the interview. I ceded a lot of “points” to Doug. I don’t think they were actually points that mattered, but I did cede a lot.
Let me preface by saying, I will pretty much cede everything to a skeptic that doesn’t directly relate to the existence of God, or the Resurrection of Jesus. Since none of the things I ceded to Doug had anything to do with those two things, I was happy to do so.
Doug asked if I thought there was anything fictional in the New Testament. I said I don’t think so, but I’m not opposed to it. If the New Testament purports some aspect as true when it isn’t, that doesn’t mean much to me, as long as it doesn’t directly relate to the Resurrection.
He pressed me on the Transfiguration narrative. Which I think is telling that he chose this narrative instead of say, the Resurrection, but I digress.
I admitted that I couldn’t really verify that as a historical claim. Maybe I can, I just haven’t studied that specific claim that much because I focus on the Resurrection.
Doug then asked me about the Old Testament. He asked me if I believed the Flood really happened. I said it probably did, but that I couldn’t verify it one way or the other from a historical perspective. I simply haven’t studied the evidence.
He then asked me if God gave me a choice to drown everyone or poof them out of existence, which would I do? Without hesitation I said I would poof them out of existence.
Doug was pleasantly surprised, I think he even clapped. Why would I choose differently than God? I said because I don’t want people to suffer. So why would God choose the way he did things? I have no idea.
He, as well as the audience, went crazy about how honest I was. I think I won them over at that point. Maybe they just thought Doug was talking me out of my beliefs, but they seemed to appreciate my honesty.
But wait, things got even better.
Doug then asked me if God gave me the choice, which would I choose: have Jesus be beaten and crucified, or just have Jesus die for my sins by a stroke.
I said I would choose for Jesus to die by a stroke.
Again, Doug and the crowd went wild. I was amused at this point and asked, “Do people not come out and say that?” To which there was a resounding “No!”
But why not? Why can’t this tension exist? God is omniscient and I am not. Maybe things had to play out the way they did, I have no idea and am fine saying that I don’t.
Perhaps there are better answers to these questions than a simple “I don’t know.” I’m sure there are. I’m quite sure I’m not the perfect person for the job of answering these questions. But I think a simple and straight-forward “I don’t know” went miles further with Doug and his audience than some speculative answer that I might have been able to conjure up.
The God of the Bible is the God who says, “Come, let us reason.” He is the God who listens to the prayer of “How long, oh God?!” I see a tension here between my understanding and God’s omniscience, but I see no contradiction.
What’s more, I told Doug and his audience that when I became a Christian, I struggled with the fact that Jesus would die in my place, while I seemingly got off scott-free. That doesn’t seem fair and I’m fine with admitting that it doesn’t.
I deserve the wrath due for my sins. I’ve told God that numerous times. But God didn’t want me, or any of us, to suffer forever for our sins, and Jesus was a willing participant to take our place. Adding that into the equation, I don’t see anything immoral, but Doug did, and I understand perfectly where he is coming from.
My biggest take away was this: we should be honest when we don’t know, and we should be honest when there is a tension in our beliefs.
I could’ve dug my heels in and insisted that everything Genesis purports is a historical fact and if you deny that you’re dishonoring God.
I could’ve dug my heels in and insisted that the Transfiguration is a historical fact and to deny it would be to take “man’s word” over “God’s word.”
But that isn’t my aim. My aim, first and foremost is the truth. Did those things really happen? Did the author really intend them to be taken as a historical fact in the way you and I would think of a historical fact?
But, perhaps more importantly, I want as few hurdles as possible for potential believers.
I believe you can become a Christian and think those things didn’t really happen, or just say that you don’t know. I don’t think you have to hold to a certain view of inspiration, or innerancy to become a Christian.
I know that might ruffle some peoples feathers, I’m sorry.
The testimony of Scripture is clear: “If you believe in your heart that God rose Jesus from the dead, and confess Him as Lord, you will be saved.”
I think we can work backward from the Resurrection and say, if Jesus rose from the dead then he is Lord and we should place our faith in Him, so that we too can conquer the grave and all the suffering that has come from the curse of death.
For that reason, I was willing to cede everything to Doug because all that I am interested in convincing unbelievers of is that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead.
Unfortunately, Doug and I didn’t talk about those two subjects, but that’s okay. I still think our conversation was productive. If nothing else, I made a lot of new atheist friends!