Wednesday, November 28, 2012
BA: Hello. This is Brian Auten of Apologetics 315. Today’s interview is with John Warwick Montgomery. He is Emeritus Profession of Law and Humanities at the University of Bedfordshire, England. He is also a Distinguished Research Professor of Apologetics and Christian Thought at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. He’s also the Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism, and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. His legal specialty is the International and Comparative Law of Human Rights and he regularly pleads religious freedom cases before the European Court of Human Rights. He is a U.S. and U.K. citizen and the author of some 50 books in 5 languages.
John Warwick Montgomery is a noted Christian apologist and as Dr. J.P Moreland puts it, “The name of John Warwick Montgomery deserves to be mentioned alongside that of C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer as one of the 20th century’s most articulate defenders of historic Christianity.”
Well, the purpose of our interview today is to learn a bit more about Dr. Montgomery and to get some insights from him as today’s defenders of the faith. Thank you for joining me today Dr. Montgomery.
JWM: You’re most welcome.
BA: Well, first I would like to say that it is a privilege to speak with you today. I appreciate your work and hope this interview will help commend it to others. Dr. Montgomery, would you mind telling our listeners a bit more about yourself? I am interested in how you became a Christian and how that led to you being one of the foremost Christian apologists of the 20th century.
JWM: Well, I grew up in a liberal church in a small town in upstate western New York. When I went to Cornell University my first year, I was confronted by an engineering student by the name of Herman Eckelman. He stayed in the temporary dormitories which were available to freshmen and sophomores instead of going into the gothic dormitories for upper classmen; and he did this because he witnessed to students and presented a strong apologetic for the Christian faith and he got me on the subject of religion and he had a fine library and he loaned me books and my questions and objections were trivial in comparison to the answers that were available and so by the end of my freshman year I was converted. I became a Christian. I continued in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and witnessed on campus and that was really the beginning of my apologetic activity. If you want more information on this you can go to a book I edited entitled Evidence for Faith. This consists of essays by myself and other people who were impacted by Eckleman’s ministry at Cornell.
Then after all this, I went on to take a Doctorate in History and took theological training and finally I took legal training because all of these were very important to the apologetic task. I now live in France and in England. I am an internationalist. I am a member of the English and French Bars as well as several American legal Bars and I try to provide an apologetic that takes into the accounts the very sophisticated techniques of legal evidence.
BA: Well, I would like to talk a little bit more about that in a moment. I wonder what thinkers or authors had the most profound impact on your thinking and why is that.
JWM: Well, three certainly did during the time I was being presented with the Gospel. Edward John Carnell’s Introduction to Christian Apologetics was very important to me. So was Wilbur Smith’s classic Therefore, Stand. And C.S. Lewis’s broadcast talks were being published at that time and I was very much influenced by that. I was majoring in philosophy and classics at Cornell and I therefore came into contact with Norman Malcolm who was a friend and student of Ludwig Wittgenstein and I was therefore also influenced by the analytical philosophy movement, so all of these considerations entered into the picture.
BA: Yes, that’s good background information because I am curious to hear more about how you describe your approach. Many who start studying apologetics become familiar with maybe a few different approaches, what could be categorized as say the classical approach, or the presuppositional approach, or an evidential approach, and so on and you will often be offered as an example of one who takes an evidential approach to apologetics but again, I would like to ask you how you describe your method or approach and why do you take that approach.
JWM: Well that’s accurate. I certainly am an evidentialist. An evidentialist is a person who believes that a Christian and non-Christian are living in the same world and therefore they encounter the same facts and that it is possible to present facts in evidence to the non-Christian that will show him that the case for Christianity is far more persuasive than any contrasting view. I see the greatest problem with presuppositionalism in that it’s a dead end. If all we can say is that each person starts with his own presuppositions and ends with them then it becomes impossible to offer any kind of case for meaningful case for Christianity and it looks to me as if in the Bible we’re continually faced with examples of evidence being offered in behalf of faith. For example, there is Elijah and the prophets of Baal, there’s Jesus healing the paralytic to show he can forgive sin, there’s the use of the resurrection as the primary evidence for the truth of Jesus’ claims, the Pauline emphasis of the witnesses to the resurrection and so forth.
My problem with classical apologetics is that it follows the Aristotelian Thomistic insistence of arguing for God’s existence before you do anything else. The difficulty with that of course is that once you’ve demonstrated God’s existence you still haven’t brought people to Jesus Christ. The devil’s also believe and tremble and that doesn’t save them. The case for Jesus Christ is going to have to be presented anyway and I believe in starting there. I go with the Gospel of John where Phillip comes to Jesus and says, “Show us the Father” and Jesus says “Have I been so long with you Phillip and you have not known me? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” I think we should make our apologetic Christo-centric. My personal theology happens to be Lutheran which is Christo-centric and I think that the best apologetic is one that focuses on Jesus Christ and doesn’t start from God and His sovereignty and eternity or with human free-will here on Earth.
BA: Well, I think that is a persuasive case for an evidential approach and regardless of the various objections that may come from whatever camp, if you will, one question that comes to my mind, in say a practical conversation starting with Jesus, you’re presenting evidence, you’re laying out the case for Christianity or the resurrection say, how would you respond when someone comes back and says, “God doesn’t exist, therefore miracles aren’t possible.” How does that sort of prerequisite for miracles, the existence of God, that is, would you then take a few steps back and argue for the existence of God? How does that come into play for you in your mind?
JWM: It doesn’t seem to me that the miracles issue requires one going through traditional proofs for God’s existence at all. If a person objects to the miraculous, the best approach is to point out that we are living in a Einsteinian universe where no longer do we think of the world as a playing field where we know all the rules. We are living in a relativistic universe so no one is in a position to exclude events as metaphysical possibilities but one philosopher has said anything is possible except squeezing toothpaste back into a tube. The fact of the matter is it is a very mysterious universe and the only way you can tell whether an event occurs is by investigating it, by checking the evidence for it and if there is sufficient evidence that Jesus fulfilled prophecy from all over the Old Testament and that he rose again from the dead, then we have the very best reason to accept his explanation for this and his explanation for this is that he is God incarnate. He has come to Earth to die for the sins of the world. He’s obviously in an ideal position to assert this if he has demonstrated the character he shows in the primary source historical documents.
BA: Thanks for sharing a little bit about method but I don’t want to dwell there. I want to talk a little bit about how you’ve described a legal approach to apologetics. So when we make a legal defense we often appeal to evidence to make a case in favor of a position so to what extent does your legal training influence how you look at the question of defending the faith?
JWM: Well, for one thing it’s been said that lawyers fire rifles while laymen fire shotguns. That is to say, in discussion a layman will often throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Whereas as the lawyer has a clear objective in mind. He needs to line up his ducks, he needs to line up his evidence so that the evidence will convince the jury and bring them to a specific verdict. So, one very important thing about a legal approach to apologetics is that is insists on focusing on the object of the whole thing, which is to bring people to the cross of Christ so they can make an informed decision about Christ. So, you line up your evidence and prepare the evidence so as to get a verdict specifically to get a verdict. The legal method insists upon a careful examination of evidence and the use of solid principles.
See, in the law you are dealing with the most intractable problems in society. The ones that haven’t been able to be solved in any other way than by going to court so legal method is developed as a technique for solving those problems. If we can use those same techniques to make the case for Christianity then this is a powerful approach for the unbeliever, the unbeliever then either has to dump the legal system and our method of solving intractable problems in society or he has to face the implications of this for competing religious claims.
Principles such as the following: That a witness or a document or defendant is innocent until proven guilty. That is to say that the burden of proof rests upon the critic, burden of proof doesn’t rest upon the person trying to support the position. That means that when Simon Greenleaf in his Testimony of the Evangelists, this great specialist on evidence in the 19th century says the Gospels are going to be admitted as sound documents. Why? Well, because they pass the normal admissibility test. That is the documents are found in a place of natural custody and have nothing in them that would suggest a problem. If higher critics of the present time used that approach there would be a lot less objection to the New Testament materials. I mean you contrast the Howard Hughes alleged Mormon will. Why would Howard’s will have turned up among the Mormons? He had not contact with the Mormons. So that will was never admitted into evidence, but in the case of the Gospel records, they are exactly where we would expect them to have been and they show on their face no reason not to accept them as admissible documents. That doesn’t mean that their weight, the weight of evidence has been established, that you have to go into independently, but at least the documents go in.
BA: Well, I like what you say there about the burden of proof being on the one who would call into question the evidence but often times when you are dealing with the skeptic they will want to put the burden of proof upon the person making the claim. So I’m just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on how the burden of proof is rightly used. If a Christian is saying that Christianity is true, it seems to me that the skeptic would immediately fire back, “Well, prove it” and then it’s a big battle of if it can be proven or not. So I wonder if you can talk a little bit about burden of proof, talk about this word proof and how it’s defined and how we go about proving, so to speak, Christianity.
JWM: Well, you are quite right. Whoever asserts something has a burden of proof. No question about that. So the moment that the Christian asserts for example that Jesus claimed to be God, or that he rose again from the dead, then the Christian has the obligation to offer sufficient evidence to deal with this. What I was saying was that in legal standards of proof, one is innocent until proven guilty. One doesn’t have the position of being guilty until proven innocent.
Unfortunately, the higher critics take biblical material as not stating what it appears to affirm, their position is even though the earliest manuscripts would suggest single authorship and valid historical claims, really this material was written by other people whose sources we do not have any longer, edited by somebody at a later time we don’t have any evidence of that and consisting of errors, contradictions, and non-historical affirmations. And there it is up to the people who assert this kind of thing in reference to New Testament documents, they need to show this and of course they can’t show it because they don’t have any documentation.
As far as proof is concerned we are helped a great deal by the analytical philosophers. Analytical philosophers have pointed out that there are really three ways of asserting anything, one of them is analytical which is a purely deductive kind of operation where you start with first principles and you arrive at a deductive conclusion and to demonstrate anything, to prove anything all you have to do is to connect your conclusions back to your assumptions. Then when matters of fact are concerned you’re dealing with synthetic material and there your only choice is to investigate the facts. If the facts support the claims then you’ve demonstrated them. And then there are claims that are neither analytic nor synthetic that is to say they are neither purely formal nor do they deal with content. For these no evidence is possible at all and these are known technically as meaningless claims. Now, the case for Christianity is a synthetic case. It a case based upon facts and therefore there is no choice but to go out and check the facts. Fascinatingly enough, other religions present largely meaningless claims. These are claims that can’t be tested. They can neither be confirmed nor disconfirmed… reminds me of Wolfgang Pauli’s famous comment to be put in the margin of Pauli’s Paper, “This isn’t right, this isn’t even wrong.” So there are things worse than being wrong is asserting stuff that you can’t demonstrate to be either right or wrong. And this connects with legal evidence because legal evidence is based on factual material, it’s synthetic in character and the determination is made on the basis of probability no possibility cause anything is possible or absolute certainty which is only available in deductive logic and pure mathematics so the lawyer is operating with facts with questions of probability with preponderance of evidence proof beyond reasonable doubt with moral certainty and that’s exactly the kind of approach that seems to be most effective when dealing with the case for Christianity.
BA: Well, I want to jump on one of the phrases you just mentioned there, “Beyond a reasonable doubt” There are a lot of different thoughts that come to people’s minds when they hear that phrase so I want to ask you to elaborate on it and basically say what exactly does that mean in a legal context, in a proper application of the term? And the reason I ask is because in my experience I do see something happening occasionally, and that is if someone can find some sort of loophole where something possibly couldn’t be the case—in other words you haven’t proven it beyond all shadow of doubt—then they shouldn’t believe it because there is some other possibility, regardless of its plausibility. So can you talk about this reasonable doubt and how you apply that.
JWM: Yea, the reason why this is the standard and not beyond all doubt is simply because in an empirical world you can’t assert any factual matter beyond any doubt at all because after all you could theoretically find more information or you might be mistaken in a way in which you’re having information but that doesn’t stop courts of law or each one of us personally from acting. You have to act anyway and our standard is that of high probability. So you want to cross the street, you look both ways, you never arrive at absolute certainty that you are not going to be run over but when you see the likelihood is very low then you cross the street and when you cross the street you take 100% of yourself across. You don’t leave a percentage of yourself in accord with the fact that you were not able to reach 100% certainty and the difference between taking 100% of yourself across when let’s say you have 80% certainty and doing anything else is faith.
Faith jumps the gap between probability and certainty and that the way we operate in life all the way across the board. That’s the way juries operate when we bring in their verdicts. When a judge explains to the jury what he expects of them in a criminal case he will say beyond a reasonable doubt to moral certainty. That means when you consider the evidence and you must limit yourself to the evidence that is admissible in the case when you consider this evidence you ask yourself if there any other reasonable explanations of the crime other than the defendant did it. If you can find any other reasonable explanation according to the evidence you’ve got to find him innocent. If you cannot find any other reasonable explanation then you find him guilty. What you must not do, what the jury must not do is to consider metaphysical possibilities for example, Martians having come in and done the crime or some utterly bizarre explanation that has nothing to do with the evidence and when we are taking up something of the resurrection of Christ or any other element on behalf of the Christian faith, we deal with it in exactly the same way. Why? When the unbeliever for example says well couldn’t Jesus have wondered off to India and consulted with gurus, well sure, and the possibility that your wife or your brother is really a Martian then for none of this is there any evidence and if there’s no evidence then you are wasting your time considering it as an alternative.
BA: And as you’ve said before when it comes to burden of proof someone who makes this alternate possibility claim has to have some sort of proof behind that.
BA: Now I know the overall case for the resurrection; that’s what we’ll be aiming at. I wonder how you would go about defending the resurrection of Christ historically.
JWM: Well, the key to this is to recognize that we are not trying to explain how resurrections occur. We are not dealing with the mechanism of resurrection at all. We’re simply dealing with the question was Jesus dead at point A and alive again at point B, that’s all and the way in which you determine this is exactly the way you determine death and life in any other situation only the differences are the two are reversed. Our ordinary experience is a person is alive at point A and dead at point B. But our method of coming to a conclusion in the instance is to know the different between dead people and live one and we certainly know that and that’s a matter of ordinary experience.
See the approach apologetically we are using is if you employ good reasoning and ordinary life and you then apply that to religious question such as the resurrection, the case for Christianity will be vindicated and if you use lousy evidence in religion it’s going to mess up ordinary life. So if you understand how to show that someone is dead or alive you can apply this to the resurrection and the term resurrection is simply the word we use for the fact that Jesus on Easter morning physically was back with the disciples and demonstrated by doing this that he was God Almighty.
BA: It makes it simpler the way you’ve explained it there. Now marshaling the evidence for a case for the resurrection say, some people would say, well there are a lot of things to take into consideration and it takes time to make that case. A legal case for instance can become very protracted—there’s a lot of things to take into consideration—so I’m wondering how you would go about… say you’re are talking with a friend, making that concise but still presenting sufficient evidence to say here’s a good strong case reasonable case for the resurrection of Christ. What are your thoughts on that?
JWM: Well, I don’t think this would be protracted at all really all you’ve got to show was that he was dead and that he was alive subsequently and there is an important article back I think 1986 in the Journal of the American Medical Association where a medical scientist, a historian, and a theologian dealt with the medical details of the cross and their conclusion is that Jesus was very certainly dead when he was taken down from the cross to eliminate any of those ancient swoon theories that you read about in the 18th century. Then you go to the first hand reports of post-Easter appearances and these show Jesus eating with his disciples, the road to Emmaus, and the doubting Thomas being able to touch the nail prints in his hand and to touch the wound in his side, etc. St. Paul writing in 56 AD, which is within a generation of the events, this is in 1 Corinthians 15 in which he says that he lists the people who saw the resurrected Christ and he says he appeared to over 500 others, most of whom remain alive to the present, which indicates that if people didn’t the people that Paul was citing they could simply go to these other people. This was a public event, the kind of thing that could be checked out and fascinatingly the opponents of Jesus, the ones who had brought about his crucifixion and therefore had the means, motive, and opportunity to disprove the claims being made never attempted to do this. The reason is, of course, is that they couldn’t, they had no basis for doing that so. All of this could be put together and presented, I believe, quite rapidly.
BA: Well, that’s good. You mention there, Dr. Montgomery, the swoon theory and it reminds me of various objections that may come up when discussing the resurrection, perhaps alternative explanations. In your experience in presenting this case, what are the most common objections that you have heard or encountered?
JWM: Well, the two most common certainly are Hume’s argument against the miraculous; miracles just don’t occur so the resurrection is impossible and Carl Sagan’s, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. As far as Hume is concerned, Hume’s argument against the miraculous is completely circular and is based upon Newtonian physics. There has been a very important book published in the last decade, this is a work entitled Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles and that is by a John Earman. This is not Bart at all, it’s John E A R M A N and it’s published by Oxford University Press and Earman was not a Christian and claims that Hume’s argument against the miraculous is a catastrophe. As far as Sagan’s extraordinary claims require evidence, we just don’t with this…the resurrection sounds like an extraordinary claim but if you examine it closely it is simply the claim that someone was first dead and then alive again and that claim therefore does not demand extraordinary evidence, it demands the kind of evidence we demand for any person who is either alive or dead, the order of the event is not relevant as to the whether the event actually occurred.
BA: Very good, very good. John Earman who has written Hume’s Abject Failure and you mention Bart Ehrman, and that comes to mind here where, “what you’re saying there sounds good,” people will say, “but what about what Bart Ehrman is saying? You know, you’re looking in the Bible and looking at the gospels to get your information here, and we all know that Bart Ehrman’s shown that these are counterfeits, they have been written by other people… these aren’t really eyewitness accounts…” for instance. So how would you approach the evidence, or would you approach it any different with someone who says the gospels aren’t reliable sources for historical information?
JWM: Well, people have been too nice to Bart Ehrman, there’s no question about this. The fact of the matter is that his scholarly accomplishments have all been in a very narrow field of textual criticism simply involved in examining the existing manuscript sources for the New Testament and arriving at appropriate dating and interrelationships there. When he stayed in that field it was no problem. But everything he has done in criticizing the historicity of the material and the value of the earliest texts has nothing to do with textual criticism whatever. What he’s doing there is employing his own theology and highly questionable logic and he has swallowed higher criticism, which has nothing do to with textual criticism. Higher criticism attempts to find the real sources that are behind the best and earliest texts but once you’ve gotten to the best and earliest texts you don’t any longer have any manuscript material on which you can rely. The whole thing becomes a subjective matter of looking at the text and seeing if you would have written it that way had you done so and if it doesn’t read the way you think it ought to read on your subjective evaluation of style and vocabulary then you assume that a later editor pasted earlier materials together. This is entirely subjective and it’s worthless as a scholarly technique but his logic is ghastly for example he continually argues that since we don’t have any autographs of the New Testament material that this stuff is unreliable. Listen, we don’t have any autographs of 99% of all the literary works in history. We don’t have a single autograph of a Shakespeare play for example but that doesn’t mean that we can’t rely on the earliest texts we do have. People are willing to swallow Bart Ehrman without ever examining the basis of his arguments. They are simply impressed with the fact that he did important work in textual criticism.
BA: Well there is a lot of good critiquing there and I know it goes way deeper. I’ll perhaps point people to some audio I’ve heard of you dealing specifically with Bart Ehrman’s newer books. But I want to ask you sort of a side question along the same topic of Bart Ehrman as he’s been writing a lot of these works that are popular books against Christianity, and I wonder what’s the best approach, from the Christian position, to counter these; write more books that answer them? What would be your response?
JWM: I don’t know there… F.F. Bruce’s The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? remains, it’s a classic and I would put that little book in the hands of people who are influenced by Ehrman. If they have gone to the trouble of reading him they certainly ought to be willing to read F.F. Bruce on the subject or they can go to my History and Christianity or History, Law, and Christianity, that sort of thing. If however, they are simply impressed by the fact that they have heard him speak, then I think that probably they’re operating on a pretty superficial level and I think the best thing might be to get them to listen to other people speak who are more competent in areas of that kind. I suppose I shouldn’t toot my own horn but I have tons of lectures that are on CD ROM and on old audio cassettes, these are available from the Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy and if I do say so myself, this stuff is a lot clearer and it is certainly far more scholarly than what Ehrman’s doing.
BA: Well, I think you’ve earned the right to go ahead and toot that horn so I’ll be trying to point people that way so they can get more information on it and I like what you said there, that they need to hear more than just the first person that they want to agree with on the subject.
Now I want to shift gears a bit and ask you some questions relating to the character and disciplines of a Christian doing apologetics, and of course every Christian is commanded to be an apologist. From your experience in defending the faith, what would you say are some of the most important disciplines that a Christian defender should develop both spiritually and intellectually?
JWM: Well, spiritually the person’s got to be sensitive to the unbeliever. I’ve known evangelicals who can stand on the unbeliever’s foot while witnessing to them without even being aware that they are doing this. It really is important to put yourself in the position of the unbeliever to try and understand him, to empathize, and if possible to get at how the person has arrived at this point. If scripture is right that the fool has said in his heart there is no God, people who are in a non-Christian state are suffering in various ways. They are suffering in intellectual and other deficiencies and they need to be helped. One has to have a bedside manner in dealing with them. From and intellectual standpoint, there are a number of fields that are really valuable. One is getting some background in logic and critical thinking so that one can think clearly and recognize the logical and rational errors because if you can’t do that you are not really in a position to see where the unbeliever is off base. I think it is awfully important to have a broad background in the history of ideas so you can understand where non-Christian ideologies have come from and why they have arisen. The deism of the 18th century arose to a very large extent because of the indifference and deadness of the established church. You also certainly ought to have a solid understanding of classic Christian theology. One of the problems with people running around doing apologetics or cult ministries is they’ve never had a decent theological education. I think if possible that people ought to go to a solid theological seminary, one that holds to the inerrancy of scripture and get that kind of background, even if one isn’t planning to be a pastor, and finally, the area of law. Lawyers are the specialists in evidence. You don’t have to take evidence in theological seminary, you don’t have to take evidence in a philosophy program but no lawyer gets his ticket to practice without learning how to marshal evidence and how to present it effectively. So these are all areas that I think that can help immensely if a person wants to be a good apologist.
BA: That’s all excellent advice. Dr. Montgomery you also mentioned how someone could be insensitive to the person to whom they are speaking and I wonder if there are any other pitfalls that apologists should avoid or common errors you would like to warn against.
JWM: Another one is majoring in minors that is thinking that you’re fulfilling the apologetic task by convincing people to straighten out their worldview in various ways, for example to persuade them to give up any kind of evolutionary ideas or to arrive at the same view of the end of the world that you happen to or to get them to agree with your on church’s position on one thing and another. Listen, the only proper function of apologetics is to get people to the cross of Christ because it’s only there that salvation comes. I had a conversation with the late Henry Morris years ago on the phone and he said the greatest apologetic task of our time is to show special creation. I said, “come off it Henry, the greatest apologetic task of our time is the same as it has always been and it’s to present Jesus Christ as the only savior.” So I think that that is a potential pitfall.
Another is, and you’ll pardon my hitting some other fine apologists, it seems to me that it is a great error to place the major stress on the case for God’s existence. The classical apologist people like William Lane Craig and RC Sproul take the same approach as the Thomists did in the Middle Ages that until you have huffed and puffed and provided the philosophical argument for God’s existence you can’t do anything else with any real effectiveness. This is a dreadful mistake because as we’ve said before, merely believing in God doesn’t save anybody. I had a debate with a major Imam, a Muslim Imam under the auspices of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship in England years ago and he started out by saying that he and William Lane Craig were entirely in agreement as far as the Kalam argument for the existence of God presented by Muslim theologians, and I said that’s very interesting, now let’s start talking about Jesus Christ. We’ve got to have our focus there, and I think it’s possible to begin with that and if you’ve to move into those philosophical and scientific arguments for God’s existence you can do it but you’ve got to get back on the case for Jesus Christ as rapidly and as efficiently as you can because that’s the heart of the whole business.
BA: Well thank you so much. Dr. Montgomery, you teach apologetics a lot and we are talking a little bit about the International Academy of Apologetics in a moment, but when you get a classroom full of students that want to pursue the same sort of vocation as yourself, in defense of Christianity, what sort of advice do you want to impart to them? You’ve mentioned some of the pitfalls and the spiritual disciplines and intellectual disciplines but what is sort of the overall thing you want to impart to them as you have students in a classroom setting like you do at the International Academy.
JWM: Well there are several things, the first is that none of it is going to be worth anything unless the Christian has a real concern for the condition of the non-Christian and you’ve got to be willing to become all things to all men that by all means some can be saved. A Jew to the Jew, a Greek to the Greeks. We cannot take the kind of approach that the presuppositionalist does, that we remain within the framework of our presuppositions and the non-Christian is over there in another universe. He is not. We are all in the same universe; we are living in the same world. The factual world is the same for all of us and what we’ve got to do is to be willing to start where the non-Christian is, show him the same kind of good reasoning he is employing in ordinary life to survive if applied to religious questions will vindicate Christian faith so that is certainly the first point. The second point is that in order to do good apologetics one has got to have an understanding of the non-Christian positions and that means doing some work in the area. When Paul defended the faith on the Areopagus in Athens Acts 17 he quotes stoic poets to the stoics. He didn’t learn that in Rabbinic school. He had took the trouble to read the Stoics in order to be able to witness to them. Too many evangelicals are simply lazy. They are unwilling to do the work necessary to understand the non-Christian and if one doesn’t understand that, one is not going to be able to speak to the non-Christian effectively, he will not have the respect of the non-Christian and then finally of course you’ve got to know the best arguments in behalf of the Gospel and that means that a lot of work is going to be necessary there. People are not born apologists. This is a learned skill and it takes some work for the lost and if we are really concerned for the lost we ought to feel compelled to do this. Now Peter says, he gives this as a command, that we are to give a reason for the faith and reason is the word apologia and we are to give a reason for the hope that is within us.
BA: Well very good, it is all excellent advice and I am sure that our listeners will benefit from hearing it. Now we talked just a moment and we hinted at the International Academy of Apologetics Evangelism and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, please tell our listeners a bit more about this academy and what you do there.
JWM: Well, it meets every summer for two weeks, the middle two weeks in July and it’s the only institute of advanced studies in apologetics anywhere in the world. This consists of an examination of the nine areas, major areas of unbelief of our time and the best answers to be provided in these areas. And every summer there is a faculty of four master apologists who teach these areas. The list of the members of our faculty and board of reference are given on our website and of course on the brochure for the summer program each year. This includes people such as John Ankerberg, Bill Dembski, Gary Habermas, Craig Hazen, Josh McDowell and so on and so on, J.P. Moreland and there are some 25 people on our board of reference and 4 of these people teach every summer. The program has gone on now for 15 years. It will be in its 16th year this summer and it has been refined like a fine watch and it is an absolutely marvelous program with an associated social program connected with it. It takes place in the French Rhineland though it is in the English language and it is an amazing theological, intellectual, and cultural experience. We take only 20 people each summer for this and already a third of all the places are gone for this coming July, seven people are already registered out of the 20 so if listeners to what we are doing now are interested in doing this they ought to register as soon as possible. Registrations are handled on a basis where the evaluations take place as the registrations come in it’s a rolling admissions basis so the people who apply early are the ones who are able to go.
BA: Who are the kind of people that you have in mind for this academy? Is it the student, is it the person who has finished their education, maybe the person who’s listening to this audio right now is thinking, boy I’d like to do some specialized study and get away and really focus on my skills as an apologist but they are wondering is this the sort of thing for me? What kind of person is this for?
JWM: Well there are no prerequisites for this, that is to say that we take people regardless of their background though there is a voluntary examination at the end of each session and if one takes this written examination one can obtain three hours of U.S. college or university credit either on the undergraduate or graduate level. In order for that credit to be worth something that person would have to be on the college level but we have had during the 15 years of the program we have had a couple of high school seniors who were particularly able, we have had retired people, we have had pastors, lawyers, scientists, and theology students, there is a wide, wide gamut. The essential thing is that the person needs to want to defend the faith in the most effective manner possible. Normally this would mean that the person would have operated on at least the college level but as I say this is without prerequisite and only if one intends to obtain academic credit through the program does one have to demonstrate that one has already reached the college level.
BA: Well, I am sure that one more thing that people have in mind when thinking about this, maybe they’re thinking, well, gee that is for me, wait a second, this is in France, how can I make it over there? What sort of costs is involved with that? Would you mind talking about that just a bit, you know the location and possible costs that they should consider?
JWM: Well, the costs are no more than one would pay for a two-week vacation through a tour agency. The cost exclusive of transportation is just short of $3000, so with the transportation this comes to about $4000. There are also ten partial scholarships that can reduce the costs by about $1000 if one can demonstrate the need and the usefulness of the material to that person so this is perfectly feasible it doesn’t create a problem in that regard. It takes place in the French Rhineland, that is eastern France on the German border that is a wonderful location because you are only two hours from Heidelberg in German to the north, you are only two hours from the French Alps and the Swiss Alps to the south, and you are only two hours from Paris to the west so it’s an opportunity to expand one’s horizons as well as opportunity to sit under some marvelous instructors. Strasbourg is a grand part of Europe because it has both the French and the German background, it is a historic city as well as being the location of the European Court of Human Rights where most of my civil liberty cases have taken place and the people who have gone on the program have just been fascinated with the environment and have loved it and one can return a second summer, not necessarily a consecutive summer and take a second session and defend a thesis for a diploma from the academy or sit for an oral examination and become a fellow of the academy. A fellow is a European designation somewhat on the master’s level. So there are all sorts of grand opportunities and we would recommend that people check that website. www.apologeticsacademy.eu The eu suffix, of course, is for Europe.
BA: Well I’ll help point people there as well as PDF brochures that they can have a look at and get more information. If they’re in the states, I would say take time to get out of the states and expand their horizons, as you mentioned, and I think the program you are offering there is excellent. I would love to go myself. Just one last thing, Dr. Montgomery, you’ve written over 50 books so, if you could only recommend one or two which would you recommend and why?
JWM: Oh dear. Well the most comprehensive apologetic is my Tractatus Logico-Theologicus. The reason for the title is that this is a response to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Wittgenstein realized without transcendence you can’t answer ultimate questions and his Tractatus ends with the proposition, “whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent on ultimate issues.” And my Tractatus gives the case for Christianity and its implications and ends with the proposition, “whereof one can speak, one must not remain silent.” Okay, it’s a call to evangelize and do a good apologetic and the other book I would recommend is my History, Law, and Christianity, which gives in very simple form the basis for historical arguments and basic legal arguments for Jesus Christ. Those books are available through the Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy. Because I’m in Europe, most of my stuff is now available in Canada and in Germany, and from Canada one can get these materials with no trouble at all. Their website is www.ciltpp.com.
BA: Well, thank you. We’ve got a lot of things to link to this week but I’m sure it’s a great way where people can delve deeper into your resources. Dr. Montgomery, it has been a real pleasure speaking with you. Thanks for joining me for the interview.
JWM: You’re most welcome.