Blasphemy Debate at UCT
Dr. Peter Hammond, was invited by Campus Crusade for Christ to debate an Atheist lecturer at the University of Cape Town on the subject of: Is Blasphemy Free Speech?
Atheist Abandons Argument
Just the day before the scheduled debate the Atheist Society members and Philosophy lecturer, Jacques Rousseau, cancelled their involvement and withdrew from the debate. Reasons given by Atheist Society members for their withdrawal include: lack of clarity over the debate topic, their opponent and debate chairperson. The organiser also changed the venue from Jameson Hall to a different venue nearby.
Blasphemy is an Abuse of Free Speech
Nevertheless, the hall was soon packed out with both Christians and Atheists and Peter went ahead and presented the Christian position. He stated that blasphemy has absolutely nothing to do with free speech, but is rather an abuse of it. Just as libel and slander, deception in advertising and lying are abuses of free speech, so too is blasphemy.
Blasphemy has absolutely nothing to do with academic freedom. It is an abuse of academic freedom. Just as drunken and reckless driving is not freedom of movement, so blasphemy is not freedom of speech. Traffic regulations do not infringe on freedom of movement but rather enhance them. Having laws against reckless driving does not equal the confiscation of all cars! It is illogical to claim that laws against blasphemy would undermine academic freedom.
Skeptics are Welcome
Christianity welcomes sceptical enquirers. We are eager to debate the evidences for Creation, for the Resurrection, and for all the foundational pillars of our Faith. It is not the Christians who avoid opportunities for debate, but rather the evolutionists, the pro-abortionists and the Atheists.
Malicious Gutter Language is not Acceptable
Objective enquirers, critical thinking and honest challenges are all welcome. However, low gutter language and foul abusive terminology demeans the one who speaks it, and those who defend it in argument. It would not be considered acceptable to use gutter language and degrading humour against someone's mother, father, sister or brother. So too it is unacceptable to speak disrespectfully and abusively, of our Creator God, the Eternal Judge before Whom each one of us will one day stand to give an account of our lives.
Out of the Heart the Mouth Speaks
Jesus Christ taught that: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the Day of Judgement. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:33-37
The Greatest Man
Jesus Christ is the greatest Man Who ever lived, in all of history. He changed the world forever. When He was born, He transformed the very way we measure time. Every time we write the date we acknowledge that Jesus Chris is the central Figure in all of history. Dates are either Before Christ (BC) or AD (Anno Domini - in the year of our Lord). People may find all kinds of things to criticise in individual Christians, but no one has ever been able to prove anything against our Lord Jesus Christ. He was the most pure, holy, humble and self-sacrificing person imaginable. What did Jesus Christ do to deserve to be treated with such contempt and subjected to such hate speech as the recent UCT RAG magazine did? Jesus Christ healed the sick, He raised the dead, He cleansed the lepers, He made the lame to walk, He gave sight to the blind.
The Fruit of Faith
His teachings and example have inspired the greatest acts of generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice and service for the poor, the sick and the needy, over 2000 years. It is for this reason that hospitals are symbolised by a red cross. The nursing profession was founded by Christians such as Florence Nightingale out of devotion for Christ. The whole concept of charity was a Christian innovation. Benevolence to strangers was unknown before the time of Christ.
Respect for Life and Liberty
Slavery was eradicated as a result of the tireless efforts of Christians such as William Wilberforce and David Livingstone. Respect for life and liberty is a fruit of Christianity. The positive impact of Jesus Christ on the world cannot be overstated. Everything from education to human rights, from public health to economic liberty - the things we cherish the most and many of the blessings we take for granted can all be traced to the spiritual and culture revolution begun by Jesus Christ.
The very name of universities testifies to its Christian origin: Uni Veritas. One Truth. Atheists and evolutionists may establish aversities, diversities and poliversities, but universities belong to Christ.
Atheists Admit their RAG Mag was Pathetic
A vigorous group of atheists presented their case during the open discussion that followed. While openly conceding that the anti-Christian cartoons and articles in the recent UCT RAG magazine were, to use their own words: "puerile", "juvenile", "vulgar" and "pathetic" numerous atheists tried to argue that religions are dictatorial, autocratic and anti-democratic.
More Important Than Jesus?
One person tried to argue that it was wrong for Christians to equate blasphemy with hate speech because hate speech was a legal issue whereas blasphemy was only a religious issue. "To call me stupid would be hate speech and be illegal," she said, "however, to call Jesus stupid is not illegal and is a religious issue not a legal one." It was pointed out to her that by that logic she was saying that she was more important than Jesus, and effectively deified people, penalising those who did not honour people, but protecting those who wanted to blaspheme God.
The Right To Blaspheme What They Don't Believe Exists?
Others claimed that it was anti-democratic to question their right to blaspheme a Deity that they do not believe exists. To this some Christians questioned that why atheists would have to fight and mock someone who they do not believe exists?
Several Christians pointed out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the student Atheists in that they only single out Jesus Christ and Christian beliefs for ridicule and blasphemy, but never seem to target Hindu gods, Muhammad or the Islamic Allah. It was pointed out that if they had tried to do that in a Muslim country, like Saudi Arabia, there wouldn't be any debate, they would be in body bags already.
Danish Cartoon Contrast
Some pointed out the contrast between the calm and restrained Christian opposition to UCT's extreme blasphemy in the recent RAG magazine and the explosion of violence worldwide that erupted after some cartoons on Muhammad were published in a Danish newspaper.
Another Christian pointed out the inconsistency of UCT with their own constitution which claims to respect the religious convictions of their students and to protect them from any abuse.
Christians Get Hurt By Hate Speech?
Some atheists pointed out that while hate speech "should of course be illegal", blasphemy against Jesus Christ and cartoons against Christians could not be construed as hate speech "because unlike hate speech against homosexuals, no one is going to get hurt."
Violence Against Christians Worldwide
At this it was pointed out to him that every year over 200,000 Christians are murdered worldwide for their Faith. Over 400 million Christians in 64 countries live under governments which do not allow religious freedom. Every year government sponsored hate speech in these countries leads to mob violence against Christians, the burning of churches, often with the congregation inside it, the beheading of Christians, even of young teenage girls, the stoning to death of Christians, crucifixions, mutilations, enslavements, etc. How can anyone suggest that hate speech against Christianity does not result in violence against Christians?
One Atheist challenged Peter's claim that Christianity has produced the most free and most prosperous nations on earth by claiming that it was ancient Greece, not Christianity which is the true foundation for Western freedoms and prosperity.
In response Peter pointed out that ancient Greece was by no means the secular democracy they were making it out to be. Ancient Greece was polytheistic, executed people for "blasphemy" against their gods, which included Zeus. Greece also practiced slavery. Three quarters of the population of Athens were slaves. And of course women didn't get the vote in ancient Greece. So in what respect do they believe that ancient Greece represented the kind of democracy they would like to live under?
Degrading the Life Giver
When the existence of the Life Giver is held in contempt, then the lives of people are also held in contempt. If God is degraded, then we, His creatures become worthless.
Even after the hour and a half open discussion was formally closed, most people did not leave but continued to discuss in small groups. Many productive times of discussion and witnessing ensued. Many agreed that there was a need for more such debates on evidences for the Resurrection, Creation vs. Evolution, the comparative contributions of Atheism and Christianity to civilisation, etc. Boxes of literature were distributed and we have received invitations to further ministry on campus.
By God's grace, we were invited to set up a literature table at Campus Harvest in Bloemfontein. Over 1000 future leaders of Africa, from universities all over the country, gathered for this weekend, packed with powerful preaching, teaching, worship and fellowship. The organisers requested a donation of 1,100 copies of our Biblical Principles for Africa book to place in the hands of each of the delegates of this landmark university conference. The organiser of the conference, Wayne Sandeman, reported: "I couldn't think of a better book to get into the hands of African leaders."
Who Will Go For God?
There were serious challenges from the pulpit to lay down our lives for Christ, to obey Him completely, to live in purity and then to go into all the world and to make disciples. The challenge went out to everyone: "Who will go for God?" Students in every sector of society, business, politics, health, social sciences, etc. were challenged, and prayed for, to dedicate their lives to nation building on the basis of God's Word. Over 100 students responded to the challenge to commit themselves to full-time Christian ministry. Many of those expressed their conviction that they were called to be missionaries to university campuses. The atmosphere at Campus Harvest was electric.