What is "Winning the Debate"?

They were set to debate the existence of God through the problem of evil.  The setting was Weber State University.  Dr. Robert Fudge, Associate Professor of Philosophy, would argue against the existence of God while Dr. Travis Kerns, NAMB Send City Coordinator and former professor, was to argue for the existence of God.

You know how these debates go. Two people on stage argue past each other while their various supporters rally them on.  Nobody's mind gets changed at these things, right? But could they?

A group of friends piled into my van and we drove north to Weber State University for the debate. We didn't know what to expect.  If nothing else, we could rally on Dr. Kerns (who, I should point out, is my friend) and stop for a shake at In-and-Out on the way home.  We set ourselves to pray before and during the event, hopingthat it wouldn't be like so many debates of the same nature.  Maybe someone would be convinced, convicted even, preferably toward God through Dr. Kerns arguing his position.

What we found was a little different than the typical debate involving religion and faith.  What we witnessed was far from my expectations.   As we sat and watched, we saw Dr. Fudge argue for his side, and frankly, debate his position better as far is debate is concerned.  He presented arguments.  He made statements of logic and reason.  He made his best effort to answer the issues and level claims toward his opponent.  Clearly his goal was to present a convincing argument in that moment that would address the existence of God and excite his supporters.  It is safe to say he won that debate, whatever winning a debate means.

Dr. Kerns on the other hand didn't appear to be seeking to win a debate that evening, but presented a need for faith in the God of the Bible.  He seemed rather comfortable allowing the audience to give a 'win' to Dr. Fudge, all the while making a stellar argument for faith and planting gospel seeds for the audience to think about.  (Some of these seeds were biblical chapters that he didn't actually quote but instead invited the audience to investigate themselves.)  If Dr. Kerns believes as I do (and I think he does), his actions and statements are based on his belief that the Bible is completely true and trustworthy.  Furthermore, if the Bible is true and trustworthy, than God will, through the actions of the Holy Spirit, work in hearts of man so that they may turn from their rebellion and place their faith in Christ.  As Kerns argues, this faith does look irrational in man's eyes but it is right and better in God's eyes.

A great lesson can be learned from the way Dr. Kerns debated Dr. Fudge.  He used the "Yup Defense" and was totally comfortable with it.  He was after a bigger prize than a debate 'win.'  He was after lives saved and redeemed to God.  If you're unfamiliar with the "Yup Defense" you can hear more about that here: 

"How to Share the Gospel and the 'Yup' Defense."

During the debate, I pulled out my phone and microphone that we use to record Salty Believer Unscripted and recorded the event so I could listen through the arguments again later.  It's not the best recording, but it's certainly good enough to hear what was said.  I've asked Bobby Wood, the pastor of Redemption Church and moderator of the debate if I could share my recording here and he granted me my request.  (I do not include the Question and Answer segment because I am unsure how the questioners would feel if their questions were aired here.)

If you missed this debate, you can listen to it here:

Dr. Fudge vs. Dr. Kerns: Does God Exist

I highly encourage that you listen and think about both what was said, but also how Dr. Travis Kerns presented his argument. Much can be learned here about sharing the gospel in difficult circumstances as well as a good way to engage in apologetics.

*Photo taken by Mike O'Dowd is registered under a creative commons license.