The debate at Lakeview was interesting, and I hope it was helpful to many there. It was very "tame," and Ryan's step-Dad was very congenial. Professor Van de Merwe and Mark Smith didn't have a chance to get into much detail. It was just an hour long and probably it was appropriate to stay somewhat general.
One important omission from the Christian side was perhaps the most important of all for us: the resurrection. The idea that a "Big Bang" needed a big push makes sense, but it says very little about what the "Mover" was like. It is the resurrection that begins to get at the Christian God in earnest. I'm sure this question was in the mix, but they just didn't get to it because of time.
It is the resurrection that identifies God with Christ. Jesus died on the cross. It is ludicrous to suggest he wasn't really dead, as some loons have.
Then many individuals claimed to see him alive thereafter. These individuals died for their faith. These individuals saw the risen Jesus at different times and places. It is not reasonable to think they lied, given their lives. At best the skeptic can say these Christians were deceived. If so, a lot of them were deceived at different times and places.
And no one has ever produced Jesus' body. The earliest arguments against the resurrection mentioned in Matthew 28 are that the disciples stole the body. But that means even the skeptics of that day knew there was no body.
Crossan suggests maybe dogs ate the body below the cross. But where then did the traditions about Joseph of Arimathea come from? Just some random name made up and matched to some arbitrary place of origin? Nah, sounds like a real person that lived and walked among the early Christians, someone people knew about, someone who was proud of the role he played in it all.
So we have no body, and we have a lot of people who thought they saw him. Hmm. Of course if you don't believe that resurrections can happen anything's possible. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Then again, if you are open to the possibility, this certainly is the best candidate for a resurrection in all history.
The skeptic had some questions that are hard too. If I were born in Saudi Arabia, there's an excellent chance I would be a Muslim. But then again, if I were born in 1200 Italy there's an excellent chance I would believe the sun went around the earth. I consider myself very privileged to be born where I was. So the fact that I was born a Christian does not necessarily mean Christianity is wrong.
The question of God's fairness is a more difficult issue. While I don't know God's mind, I'd like to think He judges people on the basis of how their heart responds to the "light" they have rather than the specifics of what their mind thinks. But these are inter-Christian issues beyond a belief in the Christian God.
Another question the skeptic raised was why God did not reveal Himself to us in the manner of a Moses or an Abraham. But if we look carefully, God didn't do such overt appearances very often even in Bible times. This line of thought leads me to things I've blogged on before. Maybe a great deal of how we understand God does have to do with our processes of understanding as much as they do God himself. I sometimes wonder if we create false expectations of our "chummy" conception of God that in the end are not the primary way He operates. If so, then maybe we are just setting ourselves up for a skeptic's question of this sort.
After saying that, I don't have all the answers. I sometimes worry about the hyper-apologist Christians who feel like they need to "prove" Christianity. I think a restful faith that believes and doesn't worry so much is safer and maybe ultimately more inviting to non-Christians.