Is Anything Worth Believing In? A Review of a Conversation with John Lennox
In February, Penn welcomed John Lennox to speak at Irvine Auditorium for a discussion on the existence and nature of God. Lennox is a professor of mathematics at Oxford as well as a lecturer in the philosophy of science and Christian apologetics. He is a renowned scholar, known for speaking on Christian apologetics around the world, and has debated academic atheist Richard Dawkins multiple times.
Lennox spent the evening answering questions that had been submitted by Penn students the week before the event. All around campus, different Penn groups worked in harmony to promote the upcoming discussion. Many students received emails asking them what they wanted to hear Lennox discuss. The Veritas Forum organizers were encouraging Penn students not just to dictate the direction of the discussion, but to ask specific questions of Lennox.
Many students had written questions asking whether it was “okay” to consider God as a force. Although he began the response with a joke about “The Force” from Star Wars, Lennox made an argument that was both lucid and logical. He believes that God must be thought of as a person, and the Bible particularly claims God to be a creator, a speaker, and a being with an image from which we are made. According to Lennox, if God is merely a force, then we dangerously reduce him to a force that we can control and use, just as we would use the force of electricity.
Lennox next tackled the question of God as a singular deity. His answer pointed out some of the logical fallacies involved in a polytheistic approach. A glaring problem with multiple deities is the question of omnipotence, or complete power. If all gods are omnipotent, then we need to deal with the multiple realities that multiple gods would be capable of creating. If only one god is omnipotent, then the other gods are not truly gods at all.
On the topic of suffering, Lennox notes that many people reject the existence of God on the basis of suffering. Adamant atheists such as Dawkins claim in response that the universe has no good and evil. To this, Lennox notes that this particular “atheistic solution doesn’t remove the suffering. And indeed, it could make it worse, because it removes all hope.” God could have easily made a universe in which bad things didn’t happen. However, Lennox argues that “the one thing you will not get in an automated, robotic, computerized universe is love, relationship, and so on… In order to have the possibility of love or relationship, you must create the possibility of choice.” The possibility of choice thus suggests the possibility of failure and evil, as we are sometimes conscious in choosing relationships that may fail. Nonetheless, Lennox suggests that if we believe in “the central claim of Christianity is that Jesus is God incarnate” and he died on the cross, then “God has not remained distant from human suffering, but has become part of it.”
Finally, Lennox discussed the issue of religious war and violence in the world today. To this question, Lennox’s answer was simple and humble: “I am ashamed of it.” He expressed his sorrow that his faith has become associated with weapons and warfare. He stated that violence should never be used to “convert” a person, and illustrates his position through a passage in chapter 22 in the book of Luke. The disciples defended Jesus as he was about to be arrested; one of the disciples sliced off a soldier’s ear, only for Jesus to heal it moments later. Lennox believes that this passage reveals a deeper message: using violence to defend Christianity metaphorically cuts off people’s ears, so that they will never hear or know the message of God’s love.
Over the years I have asked myself many questions regarding my faith. When I put in the effort, most of these questions have been easily answered; some, however, left me stumped. To see these seemingly unanswerable questions discussed in a logical way with biblical evidence put many of my worries to rest. While I find great value in Lennox’s rational approach to faith for my own spiritual walk, his discussion has given me an even more fruitful and indispensable ability: to answer such questions when others come asking.
- A recording of the event can be viewed online at the Veritas Forum website, www.veritas.org.
Veritas Forum @ Penn
A Conversation with John Lennox: Excerpt
February 22nd, 2012
Q: This talk about God is really just replacing one mystery with another mystery, and it’s not different from the Big Bang Theory and etc. God is not an explanation. How do you see it?
A: If you’re talking about the concept found in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, then I putted to Dawkins in this way, I said: “Richard, I picked up a book, it’s called The God Delusion. It’s about 450 pages long, it’s quite complicated. So I ask about its origin and I discovered its creator was a person called Richard Dawkins, and his mind is infinitely more complex than the book. So I dismissed that explanation on the basis that the explanation is more complex than the thing I am explaining.” What lies behind this is the curious idea that explanations have always got to be simpler in an absolute sense than the thing you’re explaining.
Q: If God is a creator, then who created the creator?
A: This is the kind of question, that by its formulation, it closes out the only possible answer that makes sense. Who created “x”? Now, what does that mean? It means that you’re assuming that “x” is created. So if you’re asking the question who created God, you’re assuming God is created before you start, but what if he isn’t? If Richard Dawkins had written a book called The Created God’s Delusion, I don’t think many people would have bought it. Because we don’t need him to tell us that created gods are a delusion, we’ve known that for centuries, we usually call them “idols”. The point is the question deludes you into thinking that it’s a real question about god, but it isn’t, it’s a question about created gods. And the answer is that they are a delusion.
Sarah Banks is a junior in the College from Okemos, Michigan majoring in Biology and Classical Studies.Tags: apologetics, atheist, Christian, Christian journal, Christianity, evil, faith, God, Jesus, John Lennox, logic, love, philosophy, rational, reason, religion, secular, suffering, theodicy, theology, truth, UPenn, veritas forum