What Happened in Australia

What Happened in Australia

The controversial Australian tour! This podcast sets the stage for what has gotten the attention of people all over the world!


Transcript What Happened in Australia

Kevin Harris: Well, Bill, if I had known that this was going to be a UFC cage fight with the gloves off I might have gotten tickets myself for these events. We have so much to talk about because, to say the least, this has been an interesting tour in Australia. A lot happened there, not just the Krauss debates, there were other events as well. But what has gotten all the press and buzz, and lit up the blogosphere . . .

Dr. Craig: Literally the buzz. [buzzer sound]

Kevin Harris: We’ll explain that later if you don’t get that inside joke. The nature of these dialogues that you had with Professor Krauss; quite frankly, some of the things we’re going to talk about, I think, are: what does this say about the future of these kind of public dialogues? I want to get your initial reflection.

Dr. Craig: It was a roller-coaster, Kevin, with its highs and its lows. We certainly rode that roller-coaster of emotions during this three week trip. During a period of three weeks in length, it really is taxing. But, you know, I want to say thank you to all of the people who prayed for Jan and me on this trip because we maintained our physical stamina right through the entire trip and on the way home and never once fell ill or exhausted. We were in great shape during this whole time. And so I’m very grateful for folks who prayed for us and upheld us during this trip.

Kevin Harris: This was a tour that involved several stops for you.

Dr. Craig: We took off on July 29 for Sydney, Australia, and spent the first several days in the city of Sydney. But we also had three other cities on the tour. We went later from Sydney to Brisbane in the north; and then we went from Brisbane to Adelaide, and then back to Sydney again; and then Sydney to Melbourne; and then back to Sydney again to wrap it up and complete the tour.

Kevin Harris: These debates with Krauss were part of this tour. You had debated him once before[1] and so it was surprising to me that he agreed to do this again because he did not say nice things about you after that first debate.

Dr. Craig: No, the first debate didn’t go very well for him. The debate at North Carolina State, I think, was something that angered him as his post-debate blog comments clearly showed. And so I was surprised that he was willing to do it again; though the difference this time, Kevin, was he insisted on having a dialogue format. He said, “I will not have a debate format with Craig, where you have set speeches to give.” He said, “What I want to have is just a conversation on stage, dialogue together.” It seemed to me that a dialogue would be somewhat rambling and pointless if you didn’t at least have some opening statements to lay out your respective positions. So I come back with the suggestion, let’s have some fifteen minute opening statements from each of us to lay out our respective positions, and then we’ll have this moderated dialogue to talk about the arguments that we laid out in our opening papers. And so that was the dialogue format that we agreed upon for these three events which certainly were the headline events of this Australian tour.

Kevin Harris: Outside of the dialogues with Professor Krauss, what were some of the other things that you had a chance to do?

Dr. Craig: Well, one of the other events that I did was a sort of exchange of papers and dialogue with Professor Peter Slezak. If Krauss hadn’t been so famous and so eclipsed this other event, it would have probably been a headline event. I had debated Peter Slezak before as well on my previous trip to Australia in the Sydney Town Hall.[2] He’s a professor of philosophy at New South Wales University, and really a class act, a real gentlemen. And we had an exchange of papers where I presented an argument for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus and sent it to him well in advance, several weeks. He then prepared a written response to my paper and sent it back to me just shortly before leaving for Australia. That gave me, then, the chance to prepare a brief counter-response. And so the idea was we would present these prepared papers – much as you would at an American Philosophical Association convention where you have a paper, a comment, and then a brief counter-response from the paper presenter, and then it’s thrown open to the audience for conversation, questions, dialogue with the moderator.[3] This is what we did at the Technical University in Sydney. That event went very well. It was a true dialogue, a genuine exchange of ideas, a substantive discussion on the issues that were raised in our initial papers.

Kevin Harris: What is the importance, by the way, Bill, of Reasonable Faith having a presence in the country of Australia?

Dr. Craig: One thing we found on this trip, Kevin, is that Australia is very much more secularized a country than the United States is. The audiences in these events had a considerable percentage of nonbelievers as you could tell both from the applause in the dialogues as well as from the questions from the audience. I would say forty to fifty percent of the audiences were in some cases very aggressive nonbelievers, but certainly not Christians. And so it was a case of speaking to the kinds of people that I want to try to reach out to. It was not preaching to the choir, so to speak. So that was a very different aspect of it. We were told by a good many people that there just aren't very many Christian philosophers in Australia or Christian apologists even to whom the Australian church can look for a defense and commendation of the faith. So in that sense I think that our doing this tour was a help to the Australian church and hopefully – I know it was – it was an incentive to Christian university students who are now entering philosophy and hope to make it a career. We met so many young aspiring Christian philosophy students in the various universities, and that was a great encouragement to me. So I do think that Reasonable Faith is having an impact on the future of the church in that small way. We are helping to raise up a new generation of Christian philosophers and apologists in that country.

Kevin Harris: By the way, Bill, when we use the term “secular,” for better or for worse at one point at least it had negative connotations to it – “secular,” “secular humanism.” That is a term, though, that is accurate as a definition and one that the nonbelieving community has embraced, but what do we mean by Australia being more secular than you anticipated?

Dr. Craig: What I mean is that it’s post-Christian. The Christian church and its worldview is no longer the culturally dominant worldview. Rather, the worldview of a great many Australians is a naturalistic worldview which doesn’t include God much less Jesus Christ as an important feature. It would just be the material world and ourselves in it that would be the highest forms of existence.

Kevin Harris: Before we get into some of the real juicy stuff here, the meat of some of the stuff that went on, let’s talk about the organization.

Dr. Craig: Yes, one of the things that’s important about a tour like this is to have a central organizing person to be in charge of everything. On this trip we actually had two separate organizations. One arranged for the three Krauss dialogues, and then another, the equivalent of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, arranged for all of the university events and the church events. And the fellow working with InterVarsity, Patty Ben, did an excellent job of setting up these events, recording them; they went very well. But with the three dialogues, I felt there that the organizers, they were in over their heads, frankly. What they failed to do was obtain permissions from Krauss and me, in writing, to permit the recording of these events and then their distribution on YouTube. And, although we were given assurances that everything would be recorded and that we could then later post these on ReasonableFaith.org, and we were also told that they were working on having each of the dialogues live-streamed on the internet so that people all over the world could watch them, and that ABC television, that is to say, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, wanted to actually televise nationally all three of these dialogues. When we arrived at Australia, the second evening at dinner, we were stunned by being told that, in fact, Professor Krauss had not given his permission to have these events recorded, much less distributed.[4] That, in fact, the only event that he had said could be recorded was the first dialogue – the Brisbane dialogue – and he would not permit its release until after the event was over, and then he would decide whether or not to permit its release. Moreover, he would not decide until that time whether or not the second dialogue and the third dialogue could even be video recorded, much less released. Moreover, they told us that Professor Krauss had refused to grant permission to have the events life-streamed on the internet; they would not be available. And he had blocked the permission for the ABC television network to broadcast the events live on Australian television; this was also something he wouldn’t permit. So there was a great deal of censorship of these events taking place until after everything was over, and of course that meant the live-streaming and the television was out. We could only pray and hope that the events could be recorded and that they would finally then be released. And this is a real lesson. I blame myself for not making sure that these permissions were obtained in advance. I thought they had done all their homework and they hadn’t. But this is a lesson for any of our listeners who are themselves engaged in ministry. You’ve got to get this in writing. You’ve got to get these release forms. You’ve got to get a contract otherwise you find yourself in a situation where the other partner in the dialogue or the debate is in the driver’s seat and can control everything that happens.

Kevin Harris: I can only speculate what the motive was for this kind of strategy because I have never heard of anything like that, Bill. Usually you would want some coverage. You’d want it to be on TV. You’d want it eventually to be recorded so there would be a record of it. And, whether you use it as a resource of your own or market it or whatever, to get it recorded. So, what’s going on here?

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I thought it was just extraordinary, and I could only interpret it as a kind of insecurity about how these events were going to do, and only if they went well from Dr. Krauss’ point of view would he then feel good about saying, “All right, we’ll release the recordings.” And as you know, Kevin, he delayed for a long time on the release of the Sydney dialogue. He allowed Brisbane and Melbourne to be released but then dragged his feet on the Sydney dialogue for a long time until pressure mounted to such an extent on the internet and in the blogosphere for the release of this third one that he finally relented and now all three, thankfully, are available.

Kevin Harris: You just had to stay the course when you found out that all of this was not going to happen.

Dr. Craig: Yes. More than that; it was more than just staying the course. The people who organized this told Jan and me, “You can’t say anything. You just hold your tongue about this being prevented from being on ABC and not live-streamed on the internet because if you say something and begin to complain this could cause Krauss to react and not give permission.” So they said, “Just hold your tongue, don’t say anything until it’s all over and these debates, these dialogues, are released.” And now, finally, we feel free to speak and tell people what really happened because we had to just simply maintain silence and, frankly, pray that these recordings would be made and that they would be released all the while that this was going on. And that was, again, as we say, Kevin, just part of the stress of this tour.

Kevin Harris: And just a note to you who are listening. Over the next several weeks we’re going to do podcasts. We’re going to be very thorough on this entire event, on some of the ramifications of what happened, some of the future possibilities because of this. We have a lot to talk about, and it’s bigger than Dr. Krauss and Dr. Craig getting together. Again, we want to get back to the arguments and not just this Jerry Springer type of atmosphere that a lot of people said was present. So we want to address both because these are public events. What does this say about the future of these events, the strategy? But we also want to keep our eye on the ball, and that is the arguments. Bill, apparently Lawrence Krauss is influential enough for these organizers to have wanted to bring him down under in three dialogues with you.[5] And so this is a respected person in his field, but in the atheist community there is one survey I saw that he was number ten or eleven or right around in there (he may have moved up on the charts, I don’t know) most influential atheist today.

Dr. Craig: Especially in Australia, Kevin. I thought this was odd, too. Why didn’t you get an Australian to be my dialogue partner in these events?

Kevin Harris: Graham Oppy was there.

Dr. Craig: Yes, exactly. The moderator for the third debate was Graham Oppy, who is one of the most important agnostic philosophers in the world, not to say Australia. And what they explained to me was that Krauss is a very popular public figure in Australia. He actually lives there now part of the year; he has a residence there and splits his time between the United States and Australia. And as a result of this speaking tour that he did with Richard Dawkins in Australia he has become a real darling of the secular movement in Australia. And we saw this very clearly in the crowds that came to the three dialogues. After the dialogues there would be a time for book signing, and Krauss’ book signing table was just mobbed. It was unbelievable the people who were there to see him and have him sign a book. By contrast there were relatively few, at first at least, at my table, then materialized later on, they must have been further back in the line but there were clearly lots and lots of people out to see Lawrence Krauss. So in that sense he was a good selection by these organizers because they picked a man who has a large following in this very secular society that is modern Australia.

Kevin Harris: He’s a very enthusiastic, animated speaker. He runs all over the stage and things like that, and so I think that’s popular with students.

Dr. Craig: Yeah. He reminded me of a preacher in one of these contemporary worship services who wears sneakers and jeans and walks back and forth across the front of the stage and speaks extemporaneously without notes and uses a power point. I really thought of a preacher in a megachurch as I was sitting there on the stage watching him. So you’re absolutely right; he’s very animated, he tries to use humor. Yeah, he’s an engaging and entertaining fellow. Everyone seemed to enjoy listening to him, I think.

Kevin Harris: He missed his calling. [laughter] He needs to be a pastor of a megachurch.

Dr. Craig: I know, if only he were a Christian, just think of what he could be doing.

Kevin Harris: Well, it’s not over, yet.

Dr. Craig: Amen.

Kevin Harris: Bill, these are such eternally significant issues, you can’t categorize them in just two views that clash and, you know, I’m okay and you’re okay.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, I agree, Kevin, very much with that. For me, my heart was broken by seeing these young rabid atheists in the audience cheering at the silliest points and applauding for sophomoric arguments and sound bites. My heart just goes out to them. These are the people that I want so desperately to reach with the good news of the Gospel. To say, “Wake up! There’s something more here that you just don’t even understand.”[6]



[1] To watch a video of this original debate, see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/craig-vs-krauss-north-carolina-state-university (accessed December 20, 2013).

[2] To watch this debate, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRadlJH67D0&list=PL019DCF332D72B585 (accessed December 20, 2013).

[3] 5:07

[4] 10:03

[5] 15:02

[6] Total Running Time: 19:04 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)