On Wednesday, March 23, The Campus Church and the Society of Secular Students held a debate entitled “Good without God?” Dr. Avery Kolers, a University of Louisville professor of philosophy, and Dr. Mark Coppenger, a professor of Christian apologetics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the pastor of Evanston Baptist Church, spent nearly two hours debating whether or not it is possible to be good without God.
Student interest and turnout was plentiful. Even with a complex and controversial topic, both debaters were civil and polite in the presentation of their cases. The crowd was mostly students, but was not limited to U of L students. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bellarmine University and Indiana University Southeast were also represented at the event. The beliefs and opinions regarding the debate topics were intense and varied. Students not only listened to the debate, but were eager to share their opinions in the question and answer session afterward.
“I mostly wanted to see how Kolers, who is normally mild-mannered, would respond to Coppenger in a debate setting,” said Caleb Pittman, a senior philosophy major, about why he attended the debate.
The event’s organizers strove to create an atmosphere of collaboration, rather than bitter disagreement. This helped prevent the debate from ever devolving into a shouting match. Dan DeWitt, the lead pastor of The Campus Church, said that the idea for the debate arose out of previous conversations with Nick Searcy, a senior electrical and computer engineering major and the president of the Society of Secular Students. After Searcy asked a question at Atheism Remix, a previous event put on by The Campus Church, DeWitt and Searcy formed a friendship and began a dialogue. These conversations have evolved into a blog, thechristianitydialogue.com, in which the two discuss some of the very points that were covered in the recent “Good without God?” debate.
“I really appreciate meaningful dialogue, especially with those who have differing views,” said DeWitt. “I have greater respect for [Searcy] the further this progresses.”
This respect is mutual, and Searcy also said that he appreciates the discourse, even if they disagree.
“I’ve gotten a lot of out the experience,” said Searcy.
According to Searcy, the Society of Secular Students strives to have the same spirit of respect and civility that was present at the “Good without God?” debate.
“We do everything we can to make the environment open and safe for different ideas and people, but being challenged is an unavoidable part of discussing something with a group of smart and engaged people,” said Searcy. “So we spend a good deal of effort trying to balance the discussion.”
Both DeWitt and Searcy said they hope to continue their collaboration and hope future events like “Good without God?” will bring even more people into the dialogue.