There’s a principle present in the new documentary “Debating Dillahunty” that can be encapsulated in the famous song from the Disney classic “Mary Poppins:”
“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
In “Debating Dillahunty,” the “medicine” is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the “sugar” is Sye Ten Bruggencate.
Anybody who is even remotely familiar with the (unfounded) rumors that Sye is unloving and harsh might find the thought of Sye being “sugar” almost impossible to believe. They need to sit down and watch this film.
“Debating Dillahunty” was produced by Crown Rights Productions, who also made the documentary “How To Answer The Fool” (which will be referred to as HTATF from now on) with Sye. In that film, the Christian apologist lays out a strong case for Biblical apologetics—also known in Reformed circles as “presuppositional apologetics.” HTATF was entertaining and was structured in such a way to teach both by lecture (Sye stands behind a podium and speaks to a captive audience) and example (Sye has conversations with atheists on the campuses of universities).
“Debating Dillahunty” is also entertaining, but it seems to have a different focus. Whereas HTATF wants you to learn Biblical apologetics, “Dillahunty” wants you to learn how to live it out before the lost.
The premise is simple: On May 31st, 2014, Sye engaged atheist Matt Dillahunty (host of “The Atheist experience” podcast) in Memphis, TN in a debate entitled “Refining Reason.” Marcus Pittman, who shot HTATF, captured various moments of the debate as well as a post-debate interview. This footage is intercut with interview footage of Sye himself, as well as sections of a sermon he preached at a Memphis church the weekend of the debate. The footage is intercut skillfully and Pittman establishes a strong narrative that propels the 45-minute film toward a (surprisingly) emotional climax. Yes, dear reader, Sye just might make you cry.
“Dillahunty” also communicates a powerful message to the Christian: The lost (including atheists) are not simply notches on our apologetic belt, nor should they be objects of our ridicule or the butt of our jokes. The lost are just like us—wretched sinners who desperately need to hear about how Jesus Christ saves sinners. For those who have bought into the (false) rumors that Sye Ten Bruggencate is a frowning curmudgeon who enjoys hitting atheists over the head with various nuances of the same question (“how do you know that?”), “Dillahunty” will be nothing short of a revelation. However, those of us who have watched HTATF will already know that Sye has a genuine burden for the lost he is trying so desperately to reach.
The debate itself is greatly truncated here but Pittman deftly presents the highlights, as well as an (occasionally) tense post-debate interview with another atheist.
“Debating Dillahunty” could best be viewed as (sort of) a sequel to “How To Answer The Fool” or—perhaps more accurately—a companion piece. Dillahunty’s arguments are no more sound—and actually less boisterously mounted—than most of the college atheists that Sye encounteres in HTATF, but Sye clearly has a genuine concern for this man’s soul. The final minutes—in which Sye relates a simple message of sovereign grace—will stir your soul to give thanks for our Creator, who saw fit to save guilty sinners and gave His only begotten Son to do it.
“Debating Dillahunty” is well worth your time. It’s not an instructional film as much as it’s an inspirational film. It vividly depicts the love of God in action.
As Christians, we need to learn to love our enemy at least as much as we love our apologetics.
You can preorder the film here. When you purchase the documentary, you’ll also receive–as an added bonus–the entire debate presented cinematically in high-quality spectacular high-definition and Dolby Atmos sound!*
* – Okay, the Dolby Atmos part isn’t true, but it’ll still sound great
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