Thursday, August 12, 2010
20th Anniversary Interview with Thomas B. Warren, Weylan Deaver
In addition to watching the DVD of the Warren-Flew Debate, I did some additional research on events relating to the debate. I became more interested in the The Warren-Flew Debate from a presentation by David Lipe at the Friends of the Restoration Luncheon at Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship in 2008. Lipe spoke on “The Debates of Thomas B. Warren” and how he helped Warren prepare hundreds of charts (in excess of 500 charts on transparencies were made by both Warren and Lipe for the discussion with Flew). Brother Lipe showed how he made charts with handwriting so similar to Warren’s that even Lipe’s wife had difficulty discerning between the two. When flying to Texas for the debate, brother Warren was understandably anxious and kept checking on the charts in Lipe’s care on the flight. It was the first and only time that Lipe flew First Class--one seat for Lipe & the other seat for the briefcases of charts! To hear brother Lipe’s presentation on the Warren’s debates, please see here.
World Video Bible School fortunately interviewed Thomas Warren as he reflected on the debate 20 years later (1996) with Roy Deaver’s grandson, Weylan Deaver. There were several observations made by brother Warren as he reflected on this monumental debate that we should consider. (The debate can be ordered here.)
Brother Warren previously had a career as a commercial artist which helped in drawing charts which he used effectively in his debates. Warren’s charts were very effective and impressed Flew as well. This shows that experiences we may feel of no present or future value may actually work for the furtherance of the gospel.
Flew acknowledges that this was one of the two most well attended debates he conducted. In the interview, Warren reports that the operators of the North Texas State University Coliseum calculated the average attendance was 6,500 with the highest attendance being 7,000. Flew was greatly impressed by the interest in the discussion and even wrote of such in his final book. Imagine how this would have gone if Christians found other things of more interest? How many people will someday read The Warren-Flew Debate based on what Flew wrote about such interest in his last book renouncing atheism? Our attendance tells others where our loyalties truly are.
During the interview, Warren provides some insight on just how he met Flew. The Philosophical Association’s annual meeting was held at a major university in Los Angeles, and Flew was to be a special speaker. Warren decided to attend. When he arrived he found the several in the audience distressed because Flew was chastising theists vehemently. Warren was in attendance with a university president of the Los Angeles area, and the president prodded Warren to get into it before it got ugly. Warren said that the president, not he, should do so; but the president said there was no way he was going to argue with that man! When Flew paused to take questions, he recognized Warren to ask a question. Flew‘s annoyance at Warren’s questions quickly turned to near rage when Warren accused him of being “shifty” in his argumentation. Warren demonstrated how Flew was using “shifting” tactics of argumentation in an attempt to prove his points. Flew was so outraged at the attack of being “shifty” that he inadvertently knocked over the lectern when pounding on it. Afterwards, many praised Warren for his apologia. Sometime later, the church sought to have a debate over the existence of God, and selected Warren to represent them. They asked brother Warren to recommend a disputant to debate, and Warren picked Flew, and Flew agreed. Warren says he did not know if Flew recognized him from the earlier encounter or not. At the debate, Flew acknowledged the hospitality of the hosts and some believe this certainly contributed to him listening more intently. Brother Warren states publically that he considered Flew one of the most intelligent men he had ever met, just mistaken. One should take a lesson from this…if we win the argument but lose the soul then what have we gained? That is not to say that we will always convince our challengers, but we can certainly drive them further away or build sympathy for them (and thus their positions) in others by having an ugly disposition.
Warren warned us that we need to get busy with serious study to defend Christianity against the attacks of atheism and agnosticism. He pointed to a student of the Bible for 10-15 years being shaken by just one confrontation with an atheist because he was unprepared. As Warren points out “Prove all things” does not mean just to assert facts. One must be able to use facts to formulate valid arguments with true premises that prove the conclusions to be true. Logic is a tool for those who want to be rational and New Testament and Christianity is rational. Warren pleads for churches to stop “dilly dallying around” and read and study seriously! We should help train able men to get their doctorates and seek out opportunities to meet atheists and agnostics on the public polemic platform. An interesting observation comes from Winford Claiborne who knew and greatly admired brother Warren. Claiborne shared with us that at first he thought Warren’s dwelling on logic and rationality was a bit overdone, but now with the threats posed by the post modernists and their emergents he knows that Warren was right! Brother Warren had equipped and prepared himself to debate several of the day’s top atheists and foes of Christianity. Unfortunately, he had a heart condition which prevented his personal goal of confronting a list of top atheists and agnostics of his day from being fulfilled, but thankfully he was able to live longer to prepare and write several materials of assistance to us today. Brother Warren passed way on August 8, 2000.