Debates on College Campuses

Frequently on college campuses speakers are invited to debate several topics. For example I saw one awhile back between Christopher Hitchens and a well known Christian Apologist. It was a very good lecture and a lot of students went to see it.
I had a friend whose parents were upset that she attended at the time. The question is, would you be upset/angry/annoyed if your child attended such a debate? Would you view it as your child exploring/seeking out atheism?

As a College Seminary Student myself, it’s always fun to go and attend debates between the Philosophy Professors and other guest speakers.

To answer your question though; I wouldn’t see it as a bad thing. One thing that my pastor told me before entering seminary this year was that I should learn the good philosophies and study the bad ones. Why? Because this will help me see how all of the bad philosophies poke their heads out in society and then I can use the good philosophies to counter and convert.

So, see it as more of a learning experience; seeing how the different views of the world work and understanding why the right views work.

No, I would not be upset. As someone who went through a time of doubt/skepticism, it was absolutely critical to my spiritual growth, and it gave me the ability to empathize with those who hold different views than myself. Also, I am no longer shocked at the statements that militant atheists make, or ashamed at the mockery they throw in the face of believers (a key tactic of the militant atheists, that work). I don’t think it’s necessary for all believers to listen to these debates, but I certainly think it would behoove them.

Debate is a good thing! It gets the mind working! One of the best part of medieval scholasticism is their use of rigorous logic and debate!

This style of examining intellectual questions was common in all the disciplines that were taught in the medieval university and was particularly important in the development of law, theology, natural philosophy (that is, those studies concerned with matter and the physical world), and medicine. Philosophy itself was not an independent discipline in the medieval university, as it is today, although its methods of rational analysis and its logic pervaded all studies. Much of what we would identify today as “philosophy” was concerned with theological issues, although in every area of academic endeavor, medieval scholars wrote works that were philosophical in nature. The importance of philosophy in the medieval curriculum, especially in theological studies, had grown during the course of the high Middle Ages (the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries). In the eleventh century, for instance, many of those who taught in Europe’s cathedral schools had been wary of the use of ancient Instruction at the University of Paris in the later Middle Ages. philosophy within theological studies, but over time the rational and logical analysis that philosophy offered influenced theological study more and more. In the twelfth century Peter Abelard (1079–1142) compiled his Sic et non , a work that presented the conflicting statements of the scriptures and of early church fathers concerning doctrinal issues. Although Abelard was a Platonist as were many scholastics of his day, he relied on Aristotle 's dialectical method as a means to analyze and harmonize contradictory statements. Peter Lombard (c. 1100–c. 1160) built upon his efforts to construct his Sentences, a work that examined the sum of the church’s theology, and which attempted to harmonize the contradictory statements of the ancient church fathers concerning the key teachings of Christianity . In many cases, however, Lombard’s Sentences left the contradictions that existed between early Christian authorities unresolved, and thus his work became an important textbook for those theological students who followed him. Students were expected to weigh the contradictory statements of ancient church authorities and the Scriptures the Sentences contained, and to construct their own theological judgments by confronting and harmonizing those contradictions through reasoned and logical analysis. As the Sentences became more popular the dialectical method of Aristotle and the teachings of ancient philosophy concerning the science of logic became increasingly important to European theologians , many of whom wrote commentaries on Lombard’s work. By the thirteenth century, in fact, logic had a pre-eminent position in the theological curriculum of universities throughout Europe.

I would say that the medievals were the rationalists, and the early moderns the fideists (and today moderns have absolutely no understanding of logic, and their views are small and incoherent: in a word, they are irrational). Unlike the polemics’ lies, Catholics are very intellectual, and not at all against debate. In fact, we Catholics are furious today that no one wants to debate us, as they would rather dismiss us dogmatically as “obviously wrong,” or “patriarchal,” or “proven wrong in the past” (can you show us how?), without any justification. Of course, if reason leads to belief, then reason too must be eschewed.

Christi pax,


If you’re talking about the US, I’d be happy that they would allow a Christian apologist and actually him/her to speak without getting heckled by emotional, uniformed activists.

If you want your child to not be educated or be faced with the real world then don’t send :confused:them to college .

Yep, exactly. College is where people grow up and learn, maybe for the first time in their lives, that different people can be interacted with, and you don’t automatically turn athiest or gay or democrat or whatever. It’s also where you come to grips with the fact that you’ve never believed x, y, or z that mom has tried to teach you all this time. Some faithful folks will lose faith, some kids raised by athiests might just get to know people who know the Lord, and discover they can also have brain cells and not be wrong.

It fascinates me at how many parents try to control their adult children’s environment and the information to which they are exposed. Honestly mom, if you haven’t beaten it into their heads by college, it ain’t going to fit. I mean really - even if you’re footing the bill for college, why are you sending them if you don’t want them to learn stuff?

1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast to which is good.”

Jude 1:3: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

“Though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,”

Totally agree. I always find it eye-opening to see the differing views. I think it makes my faith stronger too.

One of the better debates I have seen was between an athiest (can’t remember who) and a priest from Nigeria. It was a very informative debate and the audience was respectful even though they tended to lean more towards atheism (about 2/3 of the audience identified as atheist). But the Priest delivered himself well explaining a few core concepts/beliefs of the church and the atheist did as well.

Yes this was a college in the US. I think the colleges will bring opposing views to the campus as a part of their Lecture series. In fact, Notre Dame used to do it as well. I am not sure if they still do however. Often these speakers are invited by the student groups though.

I am interested in debates like this (and that’s why I like hanging out at CAF). I have learnt so much about different faiths but especially about the Catholic faith.

Cool. Is it recorded?

Christi pax,


Most of them are and I am sure can be found on Youtube. If I remembered the name of the priest maybe I could find it.

No I would not be upset. I would be thrilled if my child went to hear Trent Horn or Jimmy Akin debating an atheist. Young christians need that experience to teach them how to defend their faith. Hopefully your friend would have witnessed a christian who is well educated, has debating skills and expert at defending the faith from a rational, philosophical and historical perspective.

Our children NEED to be exposed to debates such as these and to Christian apologetics especially. Here’s why:

William Lane Craig on Teaching Kids Apologetics

Not only is apologetics vital to shaping our culture, but it also plays a vital role in the lives of individual persons. One such role will be strengthening believers. Contemporary Christian worship tends to focus on fostering emotional intimacy with God. While this is a good thing, emotions will carry a person only so far, and then he’s going to need something more substantive. Apologetics can help to provide some of that substance.

As I speak in churches around the country, I frequently meet parents who approach me after the service and say something like, “If only you’d been here to or three years ago! Our son [or our daughter] had questions about the faith which no one in the church could answer, and now he’s lost his faith and is far from the Lord.”

It just breaks my heart to meet parents like this. Unfortunately, their experience is not unusual. In high school and college, Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian worldview coupled with an overwhelming relativism. If parents are not intellectually engaged with their faith and do not have sound arguments for Christian theism and good answers to their children’s questions, then we are in real danger of losing our youth. It’s no longer enough to teach our children Bible stories; they need doctrine and apologetics. Frankly, I find it hard to understand how people today can risk parenthood without having studied apologetics.

Unfortunately, our churches have largely dropped the ball in this area. It’s insufficient for youth groups and Sunday school classes to focus on entertainment and simpering devotional thoughts. We’ve got to train our kids for war. We dare not send them out to public high school and university armed with rubber swords and plastic armor. The time for playing games is past. (William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, p. 19)

I would not be upset at all.

Christianity is eminently defensible.

Apologia for it needs to be broadcast, to be sure.

I would love to see a debate like that at my school. I’m at a community college, though, so it probably won’t happen.:frowning: It is important to know both sides of an argument. Although, if the person’s faith is shaky at the time, it might not as good of an idea.

I’ve watched a lot of debates between different beliefs on YouTube. They give me an opportunity to learn and direction for more research.



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