On Thursday night, the Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) student group at CSU hosted a lecture by Dr. Alan Scholes, who holds a PhD in Theology and Personality from the Claremont School of Theology.
CRU advertised the event with posters bearing the name of Dr. Scholes and the heading, “Why Does God Allow Pain & Suffering?” I personally identify as an atheist; however, I am interested in discussing issues of faith with people from a variety of religious backgrounds.
So, with an open mind, some trepidation, and a notebook in my hand, I entered the lecture hall. To my surprise and discomfort, the event began with a full half-hour of praise music, led by a live student band.
The advertisements had led me to believe that a leading academic would be giving a scholarly lecture on a philosophical topic; instead, I found myself in the middle of a Christian youth concert. It was quite a novel form of begging the question.
If the introduction was surprising, the presentation itself was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Dr. Scholes outlined three major world views – Buddhism, atheism/naturalism and Christian theism – and then proceeded to describe how each of them “deals with” the problem of evil.
He gave Buddhism and atheism a perfunctory and entirely inadequate description; what he did, in fact, was show clips from the popular TV shows “Heroes” and “E.R.” and explained how different characters in the show represent these two world views.
Naturally, I found this appalling – it would be like an atheist playing clips from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and claiming those characters represent modern Christians. Dr. Scholes then jumped right into Christian theism and managed to explain away the problem of evil (about which entire courses have been taught) in a single, unqualified sentence, saying: “Pain, suffering and evil are the uncoerced choice of those who’ve been given the gift of genuine moral freedom,” he pronounced, with the air of someone who has just made an irrefutable argument.
I waited for a more detailed explanation, but it did not come. He did mention one potential objection: Why couldn’t God create people who would always freely choose to follow him? His utter failure to answer the question came in the form of a false analogy – an anecdote which illustrated a clearly coerced action, rather than a freely chosen one.
He then repeated his unsubstantiated thesis and ended the lecture. The entire event showed an arrant disregard of scholarly discourse; it was, in effect, a self-congratulatory exercise accomplished through a stunning display of intellectual laziness.
While I recognize that CRU has a vested interested in inviting speakers who defend their beliefs, it is to be hoped that students will recognize this sort of deeply flawed argumentation and reject it, even if they ultimately agree with the position being presented.