I attended the 8th, and last lecture of the God and Reason course. This one was focussed on "The Next Step". Prof. John North spoke again, and his talk was very easy to listen to, very engaging.
The talk was really a bunch of stories tied together with a few concepts. That's a great way to get a message across... I really want to learn from these. But the appropriateness of that style depends, perhaps, on what your message is. If your goal is to outline a sequence of facts in the derivation of a proof, then the stories -- while entertaining -- will slow you down too much. But if your goal is to convey a more intuitive message, stories are the way to go.
And that leads me to my overall impression of this lecture series.
It seems obvious now that the series was not meant as a scientific or critical appraisal of Christianity, but rather as an exercise in persuasion. The talks tended to be short statements of opinion interleaved with emotionally-charged stories, sprinkled with scant cherry-picked facts thrown in for good measure. This is not how we discover truth, but rather an effective way to sway opinion. In many respects, they might as well have been up there extolling the virtues of Coca Cola over Pepsi. Really! Just swap out any reference to the Bible or God, and replace each with something about secret recipes and personal taste.
Here is an example of the persuasive argument. Prof. North started to push our guilt button in this talk. He made everyone feel guilty for having so much opportunity (yes, we are lucky to live in Canada). He told a story about Ethiopian Christians trying to escape through Sudan, some being caught in Egypt and sent to be tortured. He said that we are all guilty of sin and that without forgiveness guilt will destroy us. He offered no evidence for that assertion, but merely stated it as incontrovertible fact. The solution, according to Prof. North, is to give yourself to Jesus, since the only punishment big enough for our sins is Jesus' death on the cross.
The Ethiopian story is very scary, true. But what does it have to do with the question of God's existence? If anything, that story tells me that we need to stop people from seeing the world through the lens of their own religion. We all share a common humanity. We do NOT all share the same religion.
It is my understanding that a public university like Waterloo should exercise critical thinking in all of its sanctioned activities. This course did not achieve that standard. Instead, it was an exercise in persuasion, promoting a single ideology. This is a course I'd happily fail.