Dec 04, 2009 by Doug Groothuis | 0 Comments
The DVD "Collision" recounts several debates between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian pastor Douglas Wilson.
This production suffers from all the worst of the postmodern sensibility and aesthetic. While billed as a "debate," there is no linear presentation of ideas in a classic debate forum. Rather, the video jumps from one setting to another. Now it's a TV exchange; then it's a debate at a seminary; next they are in a bar. I lost track of how many settings there were. It is maddening to anyone trained in linear logical thinking and analysis. All the actual arguments between the two men are clipped and lack sufficient context. Moreover, the camera angles, set conditions, and lighting are deeply annoying. There are strange high-glare closeups, jiggling cameras, as well noisy backgrounds. It is unnerving. Call it videographic ADHD.
Despite all this unnecessary clutter and chaos, a few arguments stand out. For example, Wilson claims that Hitchens has no philosophical grounding for his moral pronouncements, and Hitchens admits as much while denying God as a foundation for morality. Those trained in apologetics, will note that Wilson uses the Van Tillian presuppositional method (with some help from C.S. Lewis on objective moral law). This approach, while helpful for critiquing non-Christian worldviews, has deep limitations in apologetics, since it can marshal no genuine constructive arguments based on natural theology, science, and history. At several points, Wilson seems to concede that he and Hitchens inhabit different thought worlds entirely. If so, how can you build a logical or evidential bridge with the unbeliever? The cumulative case approach--used by William Craig, J.P. Moreland, Douglas Geivett, (if I may) myself, and many others--is the far better method. See Craig's debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, God: A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist (Oxford, 2003).
Unlike Hitchens, Wilson is not that articulate. However, he is knowledgeable, civil, courageous, and funny at times. He reduces Hitchens worldview to this at the end: "There is no God: s--t happens." We need more Christians, who, like Wilson, are willing to engage in meaningful debates with unbelievers. However, we need less DVDS in which the original debate form is debauched through the insane postmodern insistence on fragmentation and incoherence.