Speculation Versus Factuality: An Analysis Of Modern Unbelief -- By: John Warwick Montgomery

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 168:669 (Jan 2011)
Article: Speculation Versus Factuality: An Analysis Of Modern Unbelief
Author: John Warwick Montgomery


Speculation Versus Factuality: An Analysis Of Modern Unbelief

John Warwick Montgomery

John Warwick Montgomery is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought, Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, Virginia.

“Facts, facts, facts” insisted the great detective, Sherlock Holmes. “It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts.”1 “I can discover facts, but I cannot change them.”2 The theme of the present essay is remarkably simple, even though the arguments and illustrations supporting it are occasionally complex and difficult. It is this: Modern unbelief departs from factual reality in favor of unsupportable speculation, leaving its advocates in a never-never land without hope either in this world or the next.

The examination of this theme is restricted to the modern secular era, which may be viewed as having begun in the eigh-teenth century with the rise of modern secularism in the so-called “Enlightenment.” But substituting speculation for factuality did not begin there. An example is the great Marburg debate between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. The Swiss reformer argued that Christ could not be present in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because, he argued, bodies can have only one location, and Christ had ascended into heaven, so that His body is located at the right hand of God. To this metaphysical speculation as to what Christ’s body could or could not do, Luther responded simply by writing again and again

in chalk on the table, Hoc est corpus meum (“This is my body”).3 In his writings Luther was prone to assert that “metaphor is the Devil’s tool.”4

Speculation has indeed been one of the enemy’s chief instruments in modern times. This article surveys the major areas of modern thought that illustrate this fact—the fields of philosophy, science, theology, literature, and legal culture. Then the article discusses why speculation is so dominant and what can be done to counteract it.

Areas Of Modern Misery

Philosophy

Central to what Thomas Paine termed the “Age of Reason” was the deistic conviction that God, having created a perfect world, would never intervene to perform miracles, much less undergo the Incarnation. David Hume asserted that it is always more probable that one reporting a miracle is a deceiver or mistaken than that the miracle actually occurred. So he said it is a wa...

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