Monday, October 10, 2011

Apologist Interview: John Warwick Montgomery

Today's interview is with John Warwick Montgomery, Emeritus Professor of Law and Humanities, University of Bedfordshire, England, Distinguished Research Professor of Apologetics and Christian Thought, Patrick Henry College, Virginia., and Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism & Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

He talks about how he became a Christian and became a defender of the faith, the thinkers and authors that have been most influential for him, his approach to apologetics (evidentialism) and why he takes it, the traditional proofs for God's existence (are they needed?), taking a legal approach to the case for Christianity, the meaning of burden of proof and its proper use, the concept of "beyond reasonable doubt," how to defend the resurrection of Christ historically, making a concise case, the two most common objections to the resurrection, answering the textual claims of Bart Ehrman, spiritual and intellectual disciplines for the apologist, pitfalls to avoid, advice for apologists, the International Academy of Apologetics, recommended books, and more.

Full Interview MP3 Audio (53 min)

The top two books (of his 50+) that Montgomery recommends:
1. Tractatus Logico Theologicus 2. History, Law and Christianity
The International Academy of Apologetics in Strasbourg, France. (PDF)
Various audio by JWM (and critiques of Bart Ehrman). And more...
Subscribe to the Apologetics 315 Interviews podcast here or in iTunes.


Anonymous said...

I like Montgomery, but he continue to misrepresent Presuppositionalism. I do not understand why.

Anonymous said...

I studied under Montgomery. I watched him bite the heads off American students who pronounced his British name "War-Wick."

"Warrick!" he would say. "Warrick!"

Ditch the second "w."

Brian said...

Thanks, Anonymous one.
I will remember that when in biting distance!

Ex N1hilo said...

This is a fascinating interview. Dr. Montgomery has done many great things.

Of particularly importance in the discussion is his insistence that apologetics be centered on Jesus Christ and His cross. Amen! And, he is correct to point out the over-emphasis on proving the existence of a deity, with which so many apologists seem to be obsessed.

But there are, it seems to me, a couple of problems with his positions as well. For one (and as Jeff has pointed out) he appears to be ill-informed about presuppositional apologetics (PA). He repeats the common misconception that presuppositionalists reject the use of evidence. They do not. They do reject what they consider to be the improper use of evidence.

It comes down to this: The facts are what they are because God has made them what they are. The only way evidences and the arguments that reference them can make sense is by viewing them through the lens of Scriptural revelation, allowing God's word to mold our thinking. Without submitting her thinking to the washing of the Word, the unbeliever cannot come to correct conclusions about spiritual matters through the consideration of evidence.

Another claim that Dr. M makes is that PA sees the believer and the unbeliever as living in two separate worlds that do not overlap at any point. This is another common misconception about PA.

On the contrary, saint and unbeliever do share the same world. That world which was created by, and is owned and ruled by the Triune God of Scripture, who alone provides the necessary foundation for all knowledge and intelligibility. They share a lot of common ground. But it's not neutral ground. It belongs to the Lord Jesus. He gives meaning to all things. The difference is the unbeliever takes these things for granted, refusing to acknowledge the Creator she knows exists. The believer recognizes who it is that all knowledge and experience point us to.

Also, it is surprising to learn that Dr. Montgomery is a Logical Positivist or Logical Empiricist. He appears to be unaware that the basic tenners of this school of philosophy were thoroughly disproven decades ago by Quine, Popper, and others. I would ask him, “How do you avoid the conclusion that the following statement: 'Any statement must be either analytic, or synthetic, or meaningless;' is itself a meaningless statement (since is it neither analytic nor synthetic)?”

Roger Morris said...

This man is a legend! If anyone might inspire me to go back and study law, it would be Dr W-M. This might be your best interview yet Brian.

I love how W-M effortlessly demolished - or at least fatally wounded - the presuppositions and premises behind presuppositional apologetics. I found his critique of classical apologetics equally as interesting. Evidentialism is often touted as intellectually and theologically deficit. W-M might be the best argument contra this assertion.

I plan to be at Strassbourg one day, God willing.

Peter Grice said...

Ex N1hilo, you said that the unbeliever knows that the Creator exists, and yet that they cannot come to correct conclusions "about spiritual matters" without Scripture. Since God has made plain to them "what may be known about God" (Romans 1:19), and since "his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature" are clearly matters of spiritual significance, doesn't it seem that PA is unscriptural on this point? Didn't you overextend the notion of unregenerate thinking to create a class of people who cannot conclude this? Granted, there are limits to general revelation, and many things one cannot know without special revelation, but in pointing to this PA is not contributing anything new. Antagonizing the two forms isn't biblical.

Peter Grice said...

PA is caught in the mire of "mere correctness." Demons have correct knowledge of the truth, which they believe. True spirituality goes beyond mere correctness, and encompasses one's desire to worship God in His good "power and... nature." Desire/will, beyond mere affirmation, is critical. The right interpretation of facts falls short.

Ex N1hilo said...


Yes; of course the unbeliever knows facts. And all facts, no matter how mundane they may seem, bear spiritual significance—if only because of who it is that created them and revealed them to men, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who created all things, in whom we all live, move, and have our being. In Him, all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom are hid. It is He who enlightens everyone who comes into the world. Most significanctly of all, He has, through creation, revealed Himself to every man as Creator and Judge.

But there are some things He has not revealed to all men. When I refer to “spiritual matters” I mean those things that Paul refers to in 1st Corinthians 2 as “a secret and hidden wisdom of God,” which “God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” And which “the natural person does not accept,” “for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” That is, the Gospel.

Paul tells us that those who do know, understand, and embrace the truth of the Gospel do so because they “have the mind of Christ.”

I should have been clearer on what I meant. I do not deny that unbelievers have fragmentary knowledge of certain facts that have spiritual significance. Nor does PA, as I understand it.

(BTW, I refer primarily to Van Tillian and similar types of presuppositionalism. Clarkian presuppositionalism holds to a radical idea its adherents call “scripturalism.” In this view, scripture is the one and only source of knowledge that there is. I reject this view.)

As to your characterization of PA as tending toward “mere correctness”, “mere affirmation” and lacking a desire to worship God (!), you're simply wrong about that. Where did you get that idea? Do you know a lot of presuppers really well? Are there a bunch of them at your church? Have you observed them really closely for a good while?

Anonymous said...

Is JWM still alive? I was under the impression he passed away.

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