Friday, March 1, 2013

My Experience at Thrive Apologetics Conference

What happens when you get a local mega-church and some of the top ranked apologists together? You get the Thrive apologetics conference with about 3000 people attending. I went to this conference in my local area primarily to hang out with a friend and be encouraged by the conference. It was a two day conference and I could only attend the 2nd day.

The first lecture I went too was entitled, " A House Needs a Floor: Foundationalism and Postmodernity." The apologists lecturing were Dr. Scott Smith of Biola and Dr. Holly Ordway of Houston Baptist University. The lecture outline prima facie gave me the impression the lecture was going to center on Alvin Plantinga's contributions to foundationalism and its immunities to postmodernism. Instead, the lecture was like a roundtable discussion of foundationalism (of the Reidian sort), and postmodernism's backlash to modernism. The discussion was interesting until I heard Dr. Smith speak of worldviews and presuppositions.

He stated the common analogy of a worldview is the glasses one wears to see the world a certain way. The presuppositions one espouses comprises his or her worldview. Presuppositions are what one uses to interpret reality. So far so good, but then Dr. Smith says we can change our worldview.  One can choose to take his/her glasses off and put on a different pair since his/her original glasses are not cemented on. He stressed that we can judge presuppositions which use to interpret reality by facts. Thus, he says, one can have direct acquaintance with reality without requiring mediatory presuppositions to interpret reality. His proof for such a view was an appeal to human experience. It got worse, he said if what he was arguing wasn't true, then we would be left with everyone having different presuppositions comprising different worldviews with no objective standard to justify one worldview over another. All worldviews would be incommensurable. Ultimately, such a view, in Dr Smith's estimation, leaves worldviews at a mexican stand off. He thinks such a view entails fideism so he opts for his view. After I heard all this, I wanted to ask Dr. Smith one question, "If there are presuppositions (e.g. logic, induction, knowledge, and truth) that can only be justified by the Christian worldview then doesn't that give us an argument against all non-christian worldviews?" Due to time constraints I didn't get to ask Dr. Scott my question. But if I am correct then Dr. Scott has no good reason to accept his view. Yet assuming he is right, how could one rightly evaluate facts apart from presuppostions? It sounds like this view entails autonomy? What makes facts the ultimate standard that ought to judge presuppositions? Further, if one doesn't know all facts, how can one properly understand a fact apart from all facts? Dr. Smith says we can have knowledge directly by acquaintance with reality, but how? If Dr. Smith is an empiricist, knowledge is conveyed "through" the 5 senses. So how can knowledge be "directly" acquaintanced? What bridges the gap from the subject to the object in Dr. Smith's model? It seems we are left with the Ding an sich of Kant?

We all have presuppositions (or ultimate beliefs) that come about by experience. But there are certain presuppositions that all man possess. We must acknowledge God's revelation as the ultimate authority over presuppositions and it alone must be the standard our presuppositions ought to conform too. We are made in God's image and so we can know truths by our 5 senses. We all know the Triune God and His law (though men are habitually suppressing this knowledge as Rom 1:16-23, and 2:12 states).  In fact we presuppose many things, taken for granted, because we are made in the image of God living in His world ( i.e. rationality, knowledge, morality, and the regularity of nature).


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