This was the question debated by two scholars Sean McDowell and James Corbett. The audio was posted on Apologetics 315.
Sean McDowell: Head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, where he teaches the courses on Philosophy, Theology, and Apologetics. He graduated summa cum laude from Talbot Theological Seminary with a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Sean received the “Educator of the Year” for San Juan Capistrano, California in 2008.
Dr. James Corbett: Dr. James Corbett is a popular history teach in Capistrano Valley High School. On April 30, 2010 US District Court Judge James Selna ruled that he had violated the First Amendment by disparaging Christians during a classroom lecture. His reference to religion as “superstitious nonsense” was recorded by a student, Chris Farnan, who subsequently filed the lawsuit. He has a Ph.D. in communication-journalism from Ohio State University; master’s from San Diego State University; bachelor’s from Syracuse University.
Here is the MP3 file of the debate.
Sean’s case is similar to the one I make, but he only has 3 minimal requirements for morality.
First, he explains the difference between objective and subjective truth claims, and points out that statements of a moral nature are meaningless unless morality is objective. Then he states 3 things that are needed in order to ground objective morality.
- an objective moral standard
- free will
- objective moral value of humans
The question of the foundations of morality is without a doubt the easiest issue for beginning apologists to discuss with their neighbor. If you’re new, then you need to at least listen to his opening speech. He’s an excellent speaker, and his rebuttals are very, very smooth. The citations of atheist philosophers like Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, e.g. – to show that “religious” wars had nothing to do with religion, really hurt his opponent. He seems to cite prominent atheists like Thomas Nagel, Richard Taylor, Michael Shermer, etc., constantly in order to get support for his assertions. That took preparation. I can’t believe that McDowell is this calm in a debate situation.
When I listen to Frank Turek, he seems to struggle in his rebuttals. McDowell sounds like he foreknew exactly what his opponent would say and pre-wrote responses. He even had powerpoint slides made in advance for his rebuttals! I am not making this up – Corbett even remarked on it.
For those of you who want to understand how these things work, listen to the debate. There is a period of cross-examination if you like that sort of thing. I do!