The reason the debate between Matt Slick and Dan Barker was canceled at BSU

by Matt Slick

The secular group at Boise State University (BSU) contacted me and asked if I would be willing to debate the atheist Dan Barker on "Does God exist?" I gladly accepted. After a few days of negotiation, we arrived at the date of February 7 at the student union on campus.

I then received this email on Sunday, January 26.

"Hello Matt, I have read your link concerning questions for Dan Barker on this link In every point you have made is addressed to Dan Barker. These questions have little to do with if god exists or not and more to do with what Dan Barker has said in previous debates. The debate is not about what Dan Barker has said in the past but it is about the existence of god. This debate is not about Dan Barker nor yourself, it is about the existence of god. If in your rebuttal you start to rebut a point that was not brought up in THIS debate, your point will not be allowed by the moderator. On your 14th point you write "Our debate is about being good without God" this is false, the debate is about the existence of god, not whether or not we can be good without god. I apologize if I was not clear about what the topic was. This debate is not about morals. We want this debate to be about the existence of god. The moderator will not allow personal attacks by either side about what either debater has previously said in any previous debates. You are debating for the existence of god, not for morality without god, and not debating if Dan Barker is a moral person or not. This debate will not turn into a moral argument with the questions like "So Mr. Barker, how many babies would you torture to save the lives of X amount of people?" I apologize for any misunderstanding, but any argument against someones personal history during this debate will not be allowed by the moderator. Sincerely, Jake--"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"--Carl Sagan"

I responded to the email by saying that I did not agree. I then called him up and told him that the link he provided was to possible questions that I could ask Dan Barker on a previous debate that I'd had with him in Portland, Oregon, about two years earlier. But somehow, Jake thought these were questions that I was planning on asking Barker on February 7. I told Jake it was not my practice to publish the questions I might ask of my opponent ahead of time. I was kind of surprised that he would make such an assumption and, apparently, didn't check the reason those questions were there. Furthermore, I told him that if I wanted to use a particular argument that included what Dan Barker had said in his books or previous debates, if it pertained to the topic, then I should be allowed to cite him. Why would they not want that?

I pointed out that if I were off-topic in the debate, Mr. Barker would certainly have the opportunity to correct me. Furthermore, I told Jake that if I wanted to demonstrate that Mr. Barker is inconsistent because of his atheistic worldview, then that is a legitimate approach for me to quote Mr. Barker. But, Jake did not like that. So, then I was actually debating Jake over the phone about how I was supposed to debate an opponent later on--an opponent he sided with! Did Dan Barker put him up to this? I don't know. But consider what happened when he debated James White . . .

I have never had anyone contact me prior to a formal, public debate and tell me what I can and cannot say in that debate and, in essence, try to limit the approach in favor of my opponent. I found this to be, well, ridiculous.

So, I told him that I did not accept his terms and that what I would argue would be on topic but that I needed to be free to quote Mr. Barker if necessary. Furthermore, I told Jake that if I were in the debate and the moderator interrupted me and said that I was not allowed to quote Mr. Barker's past books and debates, I would then end the debate on the spot. I told him that if he did not like it, he could find someone else to debate according to the rules and limitations imposed by the atheist "freethinkers" that would obviously be constructed in a manner that was favorable to their position--which is, again, ridiculous.

He was not happy.

But, to his/their credit I got an email later. This is what it said:

"Matt, We will allow you to use the arguments that you want. Sincerely, Jake"

Hmmm, I thought that was nice of him to allow me to use the argument that I wanted. Yep, that's right. I could actually be allowed to use whatever argument I wanted to against my atheist opponent. Okay, so far so good . . . but then another email later that same day . . .

"Matt, Please disregard the email I have sent you earlier today at 1pm saying "Matt, We will allow you to use the arguments that you want. Sincerely, Jake" Matt, we will not be using you in this debate over the existence of god of February the 7th of 2014. Jake"

So, there you have it. I'm now officially out of the debate with Dan Barker. Jake called me and told me they found someone else to debate.

Well, I guess they found someone who would play by their restrictive rules. Now . . . why do you suppose that is . . . ? Don't you just love how the atheistic "freethinkers" . . . "think"?

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.