I just arrived back from the 2009 Apologetics Conference at the New Orleans Baptist Seminary. I was very impressed with the Seminary campus. It is one of the more beautiful campuses that I have ever seen. Of course the Southern Baptists do have a lot of money. The campus was damaged by Katrina and was closed for an entire year but there are no visible signs remaining of any damage. One of the more famous NOBTS graduates is Paige Patterson who is currently the President of the largest of the SBC Seminaries--Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. (Patterson is, more than any other single person, responsible for driving the liberals out of the SBC seminaries and reinstating conservatives who would defend the inerrancy of Scripture).
The Seminary also sponsors every year the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum which involves an evangelical scholar and a non-evangelical scholar dialoguing over a specific issue. Last year they had N.T. Wright and Dominic Crossan discussing their different viewpoints on the resurrection. Each man presents his case and then they sit down and informally ask each other questions. The next day they have two evangelical scholars and two non-evangelical scholars respond to the previous day's dialogue. I like this format. Sometimes in a debate format, people talk past each other. I purchased the book of last year's discussion and look forward to reading it.
I will be making some random observations as time goes forward on the various presentations that I attended.
The conference was opened on Thursday night by J. P. Moreland speaking on Why Christian Knowledge Matters for your Mind, Your Heart and Your Life.
Dr. Moreland is Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in Southern California and a prolific author. One of the more interesting things Moreland said was: You can know something without certainty. He admits that he is not 100% certain that God exists. He says he has a true belief based on good reasons but not certainty.
I find it significant that Moreland honestly admits that he cannot be 100% certain of Christianity. This is my whole point and why I continue to be agnostic. He believes in historic Christianity and I don't believe; but, neither of us know with certainty.
Another thing that surprised me was that Moreland said that God had spoken to him directly and internally (on more than one occasion). He related an incident in Korea where God revealed to him that a certain man named "Mike"needed to call his Pastor. He had no idea who "Mike" was but he mentioned it during his lecture and, sure enough, a man named Mike came up afterwards and asked Moreland how he knew there was an issue between him and his Pastor. Moreland said that God told him.
I found it unusual that he would claim to have direct revelation from God. Historically, his institution (Talbot)would have opposed such a position. The historic fundamentalists were adamant about revelation having ceased with the canon. I am sure that Moreland doesn't place God's speaking to him on the same level as canonical literature but it seems to ultimately minimize written revelation. If one can hear from God directly and internally, that seems superior to interpreting an ancient revelation given to someone else.
I will comment on other presentations as time goes forward, but let me say in advance that nothing new or revolutionary was put forth. I left being more convinced than ever that evangelical Christianity is false.