By David Halbrook; photos by Art Cox; video by Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Friday afternoon's panel for the Fall 2010 Faith and Reason Lecture -- (from L to R) Dr. Graham Walker, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Dr. Mark Mitchell, Dr. Matthew Roberts, Dr. Frank Guliuzza
“We begin – and we shall end – with Sherlock Holmes,” began Dr. John Warwick Montgomery during last Friday’s Faith and Reason lecture, entitled "Speculation vs. Factuality: An Analysis of Modern Unbelief and Suggested Corrective." “’Facts, facts, facts,’ insisted the Great Detective. ‘It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. I can discover facts but I cannot change them.’”
With this introduction, Dr. Montgomery, PHC’s Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought, posited what he views as the central roadblock to genuine Christian faith -- a prejudice in which “modern unbelief departs from factual reality in favour of unsupportable speculation, leaving its advocates in a never-never land without hope either in this world or in the next.”
In citing secular speculations about the true nature of the universe and reality, Dr. Montgomery noted that “speculation has indeed been one of the Enemy’s chief instruments in modern times,” and then proceeded to illustrate the point in a detailed survey of the fields of philosophy, science, theology, literature, the arts, legal culture and society.
Speaking to modern science’s seeming predisposition, for example, to “deep six” the study of intelligent design while passionately espousing “full-blown evolutionary theory,” Dr. Montgomery observed how the multiple evidences of rampant, irresponsible speculation are everywhere: “So far does modern thinking move from the realm of factuality that attempts have even been made to argue that scientific activity is really not the product of factual investigation of the nature of things but the result of the metaphysical presuppositions, commitments, and Weltanschauung of the scientist.” Critiquing further the idea that objective scientific research is the only way to expand fields of knowledge, he continued, “one major scientific paradigm replaces another because of a shift in metaphysical orientation – not because increased factual knowledge leads to a better understanding of things.”
Dr. Montgomery next turned his attention to the fields of theology, literature and the arts, law, and society, dissecting each for underlying flaws that lead to illegitimate conclusions: “The manifold problems just discussed have a common denominator: disregard of fact and the substitution of speculation for reality.
“The formal error in secularist speculation is epistemological: it relates to how one arrives at truth. If one believes that truth depends in the final analysis on one’s own stance, the problems we have described here will follow as the night as the day. Philosophically, one needs to distinguish the real world from one’s encounter with it.”
Lining up for the question-and-answer session, Dr. Laura McCollum prepares to ask the first question
“The secularist,” he cautioned, “the man without God – wants to create his own universe, untrammelled by anything. Facts are a serious impediment to unbelief. The factual case for intelligent design is far better than the case for a godless, irrational universe. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and thus the soundness of his claim to Deity, is far better than the speculative truth-claims of other religions and sects.”
Exhorting his listeners to heed the biblical admonition to “test the spirits” instead of naively assuming that any kind of belief will yield a proper understanding of reality, Dr. Montgomery encouraged students to “start by investigating the world so as to arrive at factual truth.
“We need to open our eyes to God’s facts, as embedded in creation. We need to open our eyes to the facts of Christ, as manifested, ‘by many infallible truths,’ in his historical life, death, and resurrection. We need to open our eyes to the factual presence of the Holy Spirit, promised by Christ himself, as he convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.”
A lively question-and-answer session with students and PHC faculty followed in the afternoon, touching upon a diverse array of theological topics and moral concerns.
One of contemporary Christianity’s leading apologetics experts, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, author of more than fifty books in four languages on the issues of human rights and biblical apologetics, has been named a Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought at PHC. Dr. Montgomery, who lives in France and England, spends each fall semester teaching the core course in apologetics at Patrick Henry and an upper level course entitled Philosophy of Law and Human Rights. According to Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Provost at PHC, “Dr. John Warwick Montgomery is one of the giants in Christian thought. He is one of the most influential voices in apologetics today; his spiritual children include Josh McDowell and many others.”
Click on the video below to watch his lecture.