In “The Problem with Debates” I pointed out that debates tend to be poor vehicles for providing illumination. On the contrary, given their polarizing and competitive nature, debates tend to lead to retrenchment across deep divisions. And so, while I have participated in several debates over the years, I participated in all of them with some reservation.
Though I have participated in debates, I have sought to shake up the medium in the past by proposing devil’s advocate debates. In this innovation on the standard formula, the Christian would be tasked with defending atheism while the atheist would be tasked with defending Christianity.
In the past, I proposed a devil’s advocate format both to John Loftus and Justin Schieber but they both declined, opting instead for a traditional debate format. I did have success on one occasion, however, when atheist Michael Ruse agreed to a devil’s advocate debate on Unbelievable. If you haven’t yet heard that debate (it was broadcast on radio) you can listen to it here:
At this point, I’m no longer interested in participating in any further traditional live debates. However, I am still very much interested in the devil’s advocate format which I have yet to do live. The first challenge is to find a well-known atheist interested in participating in such a debate. I would be interested in debating with a fellow debater who has suitable credentials (e.g. academic credentialing; or perhaps a well established and widely read blog) and who is sufficiently knowledgeable in the Christian tradition to present a thoughtful, nuanced, and credible account of Christianity.
The next step would be to find sponsors willing to cover the costs of the debate (including airfare and hotel costs if required).
Those are big hurdles, but they’re not insurmountable. And if it happens, I think we could attract a decent amount of media attention. So spread the word and let’s see if we can make a devil’s advocate debate a reality.