Ten Quick Responses to Difficult Questions on Faith with the Help of John Lennox


john-lennox-houses-of-parliament


The ten statements and responses suggested below are inspired by a presentation by John Lennox, the famous mathematician, philosopher and Christian theist. Neither the statements nor the responses are comprehensive in the least, but they offer a quick look into the richly rational world of faith through a theistic (and Christian) lens. At the same time, they expose the shallowness of many atheistic objections to the idea of God.

                1)    Christians are really just atheists regarding Zeus and other gods. True atheists go one god further and reject the Christian god.

Statements like these reveal a willful ignorance. The Christian God (as with Allah of Islam and Yahweh of Judaism, for instance) is an exclusive claim: there are no other gods. That Christians, Muslims and Jews cannot all be correct in their understanding of that exclusive God does not negate the possibility that such a God exists. They might be all correct in some aspects of that one God, but only one of them can be correct in all respects; or none may be correct, but that does not necessarily mean they are all incorrect.

Further, the gods atheists like to prop up for the fodder of their attacks are nothing like the God of the Christian faith (or Islam or Judaism for that matter). John Lennox observes: “There is a vast distinction between all of the Ancient near eastern gods and the God of the Bible. They are products of the primeval mass and energy of the universe. The God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth.” Atheists who claim they just go one god further than Christians in their atheism are simply refusing to grapple with an accurate concept of God, creator of the universe.

                2)    Science explains everything, and science does not reveal there is a God.

I am reminded of the Russian cosmonaut who returned from space to say that he looked, but he didn’t find God. The worldview that would suggest that science does not reveal God is a naturalistic one. Naturalists are not looking for God; in fact, they exclude God by definition. If they are not looking for God, is it reasonable to think they would find Him?

Science is limited to the study of the natural world. God, by definition (the Christian definition), is separate and apart from the natural world. Though some people claim that science is the study of “all there is”; they can only do that by denying any reality that is beyond the natural world. Regardless, science does not explain to us what is ethical or what is beautiful, among other things.

God who is the creator of the natural world is (by definition) not part of the natural world, though God’s attributes may be reflected in the natural world. Someone may equally see God in the natural world or fail to see God in the natural world just as someone may see my father in me or fail to see my father in me. My father and I are different, though anyone who knows my father will see the resemblance.

John Lennox adds, “God no more competes with science as an explanation of the universe than Henry Ford competes with the law of internal combustion as an explanation of the motor car.”

                3) Science is opposed to God

Some conceptions of god may be opposed to our knowledge and understanding that derives from science, but the Christian God is not in opposition to science. Some gods may have been invented in the past to explain things we don’t understand, but those gods are not the Christian God.

The biblical concept of God is not opposed to science, says John Lennox. “The biblical God is not a god of the gaps, but a God of the whole show. The bits we do understand [through science] and the bits we don’t.” The common idea of God that is popular among atheists is “thoroughly pagan” according to Lennox; and, if people will define a god that way, then, of course, there is no choice but to choose between science and such a god. But that would be an incorrect understanding of the Christian God.

                4) No one can prove there is a God

This is a common statement and understanding, but it begs the question what is meant by “proof”. God cannot be proven in the mathematical science, but mathematical proof is only one kind of proof. In criminal court, proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the standard by which the truth is ascertained, and in civil court, “more likely than not” is the standard of proof necessary to prevail.

While God cannot be proven with mathematical precision, many things in science that we accept as true, such as evolution, are also not capable of proof with any degree of mathematical precision. Whereas, we accept that many things are proven more likely true than not true, and some things we can validly say have been proven true beyond a reasonable doubt.

We have no formal statute establishing the standard by which God must be proven true, unlike civil and criminal courts. Therefore, the quantum of proof necessary to establish the existence of God may be different from one person to the next. One person may be satisfied with “more likely than not”; another person may require “beyond a reasonable doubt”. I would submit, however, that requiring mathematical precision is a patently unreasonable standard that we do not require of other facts that we take for granted every day.

                5) Faith is believing without any evidence (or believing contrary to the evidence)

This, again, is a willful misunderstanding of what it means to have faith. Anyone who makes this claim simply does not want to understand what faith means. Christianity, more than any other religion, is based on historical, falsifiable records. Luke says in the beginning of his Gospel that his narrative is based on eyewitnesses and was reduced to writing so that people could have certainty about what occurred. The end of John’s Gospel contains a similar statement.

The Old Testament and New are full of names, places, events and facts that are offered as accurate records of real people, places and events in real time. Paul even instructs believers to “test everything”. Christianity was never intended to be about “blind faith”. Doubting Thomas needed to feel the crucifixion wounds of the risen Christ before he would believe.

While belief without evidence (or contrary to evidence) is a common misconception of faith, Christianity is and always has been based on evidence. Christianity is highly dependent on evidence, and the evidence in support of Christianity is robust if you take the time to look into it and consider it. Whether that evidence is sufficient “proof” for belief is a different story. (See question #4.)

                6)  Faith is a delusion on the level of someone who believes in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster

These ideas, made famous by people such as Richard Dawkins, are only good for mockery and proof only that “statements by scientists are not always statements of science,” according to Professor Lennox. They make for good print, like the statement by Stephen Hawking, “Religion is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” to which Prof. Lennox famously responded, “Atheism is a fairy story for people afraid of the light”.

The fact is that there statements are nothing by rhetoric. They make for good sound bites, but they don’t illuminate our thinking at all. As professor Lennox demonstrated, such rhetorical statements are as true in reverse as they are straight forward, and they settle nothing. According to Lennox, “What lies behind all these delusion claims is the Freudian idea of wish fulfilment [that we believe what we hope to be true.] This works brilliantly providing there is no God. But if there is a God, then atheism is wish fulfilment.”

                7) Christian denominations disagree with each other; therefore, Christianity is false

A person might as well say that many scientists disagree on evolution or climate change or whatever area of disagreement currently exits; therefore, science is false. The “mainline” denominations and many of the offshoots may disagree on peripheral matters, but they all agree on certain core tenets. Even so, the fact that they cannot all be “right” does not make them all wrong, especially when most of the disagreement is on peripheral issues.

As Lennox says, there are many different football teams with different philosophies on playing football, but they all play football. There are many different views on politics and government, but few people question the need for politics or government (other than anarchists). Different philosophies and theologies do not make Christianity false any more than differences and disagreements among political views and governing structures invalidate politics or government.

                8)  The Bible is immoral

On what basis does an atheist claim the Bible is immoral? What is the objective standard by which that morality can be determined? Naturalists who make this claim are dishonest and disingenuous.

Consider this famous statement by Richard Dawkins: “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

This is the view of the modern naturalist, and those who claim that morality has a place in a naturalistic worldview have not thought through the consequences of their fundamental “belief”. Even Dawkins finds it difficult to be consistent with his own standards. As John Lennox observes, “Dawkins says faith is evil, but at the same time he abolishes the categories of good and evil. That doesn’t make sense.”

                9) The Bible must be taken literally, or not at all, and literally it makes no sense

This is absurd, though even Christians get confused on this point. There are some atheists (and a few Christians) who try to apply a very black and white interpretation of the Bible. They will both claim that it must be taken literally or rejected entirely, but this is patently absurd.

For instance, as Lennox points out, “Jesus said ‘I’m the door’. Is Jesus a door like a door over there? No. He is not a literal door, but he is a real door into a real experience of God. Metaphor stands for reality. The word ‘literal’ is useless.” And so it is. This may be the red herring of red herrings.

                10) What evidence is there for God?

This kind of statement is issued as a challenge: “Prove it!” The question likely misses the point of the person asking it. A better question might be: “If you had the evidence for God, would you be prepared to accept it now, repent and trust Christ?”

All the argument and debate in the world is not going to sway a person who doesn’t want to believe. As noted in the answer to question #4, the quantum of proof sufficient to convince someone to believe is more of a subjective than objective standard. For some people, not even mathematical certainty would suffice because they simply don’t want to believe.

Many an honest atheist has admitted this, including the great C. S. Lewis and Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project. I say “honest” because they were able to see that the obstacle was not evidence, but the will and desire. Both of them conceded this fact and (reluctantly) turned to faith. For them, faith was not the will of wishful thinking, but the only rational conclusion to be reached in spite of wishful thinking it was not so.

If you are interested in the more complete arguments for (and against) the existence of God and want to weigh the evidence more completely yourself, the debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox is as good an example as you can find.


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8 Comments on “Ten Quick Responses to Difficult Questions on Faith with the Help of John Lennox”

  1. Drexus Says:

    This article sights 10 questions and answers on faith.

    To that, It should be pointed out that few questions are offered here. A collection of statements does not qualify as questions — and therefore needing answers. Still, the opening statements are misquoted references to key arguments. Perhaps a literary perspective on each point is needed to better tune this article.

    1) Christians are atheists regarding Zeus and other gods. True atheists go one god further and reject the Christian god.

    This reference should be corrected. For there was no reference in rejecting the Christian god, just that atheists “go one god further” — which ever that god might be.

    The argument that atheists are like all other people who don’t believe in all gods, just one — is a good point to argue. It’s widely understood there are many who believe in some form of god, but out of chance follow a certain religion — and sometimes change to other religions that better sympathize with the needs of the individual. To that, this article presents a valid point, making the initial claim by RD incorrect in that sense. On a literary standpoint, this point could have been made without the verbiage — giving more impact to the point.

    2) Science explains everything, and science does not reveal there is a God.

    This statement is fundamentally contradictory. It should be pointed out that science is not a social construct with followers and/or believers. Science is akin to logic in reasoning — as a process that filters out errors. Thus, the science of flight, or the science of hydrodynamics reveals measurable evidence as describing the accurate behaviour of a fluid or gas as passing over an object. To that, mathematical formulas can be developed as accurately describing these interactions. And there in lies the nature of science: the furthering of truth through evidenced based analysis, 2+2=4, and so on.

    Thus, the claim that science explains everything is fundamentally counterintuitive. This would be the same as saying computers are smart — ignorant to the software that actually enables the work, much less the programer who wrote it. Science is a [process] of structured evaluation as furthering an ever more accurate understanding of our reality. The scientific process is a formal process that openly accepts results as being false. For in doing so, work can continue in gathering more information that may better describe a natural process or behaviour. There are no absolutes in science as a founding principal.

    To that, this opening statement should say: Science hopes to explain everything, and science does not reveal the existence of god thus far.

    This remainder of this section suggests god is not found because those who do not believe in god are not looking for god — and as a result they won’t be able to find god. Interesting, as this suggests god is a state of mind, and yet this state of mind claims cosmological achievements. Not a sentence later, this claim is expressed exactly in this way — god is an abstract manifestation as indivisible in the natural world.

    Yet, the claim that science (again, referencing it as if it were a book with “science” written on the cover) is denying the existence of god because it’s limited to the natural world. It’s these kinds of subjective assertions that trouble many. Somehow there are those who are willing to offer hardened claims before doing even the slightest research. Amazing to many the discovery of Quantum Mechanics just after the turn of the century — as describing quantum field theory and the nature of the multiverse. Imagine what it must feel like to now know that dark energy (by current calculations) represents 69% of the energy in the universe, or that dark matter represents 27% (by current calculations) of the matter in the universe.

    Still, this section goes on to say that science does not explain what is ethical — that is, unless you decide to read about it. It’s troubling to find compelling arguments as to why anyone would look at the bible for sustainable ethics. It’s filled with genocide, barbarism, favouritism, jealousy and slavery. Clearly this collection of books was from a human civilization far less evolved than today. How could such writings from this archaic time provide sustainable guidance today?

    With respect to the quote from John Lennox, it should be noted there is no “law of internal combustion”. This in of itself explains the kind of foundation John Lennox stands on.

    3) Science is opposed to God

    Incorrect. Science cannot find evidence to god, that’s all.

    4) No one can prove there is a God

    Define prove. Scientific proof? Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not the same as scientific proof. Scientific proof is far more strict. Further, to claim “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” as the “standard by which the truth is ascertained” is allowed in US courts, but not in the real world of science. Close enough doesn’t cut it here. Proof is absolute, and such a claim is disingenuous on a galactic scale.

    ‘God cannot be proven with mathematical precision” — It’s widely understood no evidence of god exists, much less any amount to assign precision over. Incidentally, as a researcher in Quantum Theory, please explain what “quantum of proof” is. That aside, the only mathematical context that can be applied for the existence of god would be probabilistic. As it stands, the probability is near zero. And based on the provided reasoning in this article, that constitutes proof of no god existing at all.

    5) Faith is believing without any evidence (or believing contrary to the evidence)

    Please look up “faith”. Faith is belief [without] evidence — not contrary to. The above description belongs to the word unreasonable, not faith.

    6) Faith is a delusion on the level of someone who believes in the Easter Bunny, Father Christmas or the Flying Spaghetti Monster

    Remember the part where religion is a social construct?

    “On what basis does an atheist claim the Bible is immoral?”

    Again, the bible is filled with genocide, barbarism, favouritism, jealousy and slavery (to name a few). One only needs to get as far as Genesis to learn this.

    9) The Bible must be taken the Bible literally, or not at all, and literally it makes no sense

    Form a grammatical standpoint, it’s difficult to know for certain what’s being said here. However, if the question points to differences in metaphorical and literal accounts, then her lies the crux of bible value: inherently subjective, open to interpretation. Fitting in that religion could only exist from this one attribute. Hence, only a social construct could adopt these writings through subjective interpretation — as though no real value or understanding could be had without someone to make sense of it all for you. It’s this very foundation of subjectivity that welcomes differences in opinion. As a result, wars between nations have killed millions upon millions — for in the interpretation of these writings comes the bias of each religion, and respectively each nation.

    10) What evidence is there for God?

    “All the argument and debate in the world is not going to sway a person who doesn’t want to believe.” By definition, this equates to failed brainwashing.

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    • You have made some good points, but there are answers to each one. I don’t have the time or the space here to address them. I would not, however, that you should spend some time trying to understand the Bible before undertaking to categorize it in sweeping generalities. It would help the discussion along if you made the attempt. When I say try to understand it, I do not mean a superficial understanding, but the same kind of understanding as you would ask of a theologian or philosopher making a statement about evolution or quantum gravity. If you gained such an understanding, whether you “believe” it or not, then we could have a good conversation.

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      • Drexus Says:

        Given this author’s 30+ years of researching the social and historical values of the bible, it’s evident such a versed perspective goes unrecognized by the author of this article — much less clear evidence of the author’s grammatical grasp.

        It may come as no surprise such a lack of credibility is indicative of literary fortitude, void of any substance — yet astounding irony in claiming the contrary as the principal objection. Evidently little of what’s found here stands to reason.

        Still, to be specific of an earlier point (as it appears it was missed), what might the social value of a certain kind of bible (as there are many), if it requires the rehearsed interpretation of a theologian in “weeding” through the subjective narratives in finding something of value? Does this dichotomy in driving values not stop you cold on principal alone? Is it not profoundly clear the contradiction these claims make?

        Further, just what might a theologian or philosopher offer on the topic of “quantum gravity” for you to stray from the topic of interest? Does religion now have a steak in the supporting arguments of a multiverse array as per the probabilistic convergence of non-local dimensional space? For sure, this is far more interesting if you care to venture, for in doing so it will become evident the existence of god is hopelessly improbable — based on probabilistic field modelling alone and all that implies.

        Perhaps the doorway to this scientific field is completely out of your reach. Surely you have a superficial interest. Why else might one sprinkle “quantum” to various things unrelated if not completely nonsensical?

        Dare one wade into the science of cutting edge quantum theory in making an [unknown] point one couldn’t hope to support? Perhaps it’s far more likely the author of the article simply likes adding “quantum” to various things in the hope it remains undiscovered by a quantum theorist. Such an incredulous gamble — it escapes all belief.

        As for your self qualifying parameters in engaging “a good conversation”, you must realize your statement has buried all credibility claimed by your article. It’s far more likely the social and cultural inconsistencies easily found in the bible escape the reason of those who submit to it’s unsustainable pretentious claims — including yourself.

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        • Wow. Just a few thoughts. No lack of respect intended. Your arguments are laced with an ad hominem undertone. While it makes for good rhetoric; it lacks the substance of logical (or respectful) discourse. I actually agree with you on your grammatical assessment. Not my best work. I write as a matter of discipline, not just when I feel like it, and sometimes I am not as careful as other times. Dare I point out to you that you have also made a grammatical (spelling) mistake. See if you can find it. Should I dismiss your argument on that point? That is a rhetorical question, and I expect you will understand the answer. This was done quickly, and I prefaced it with a statement indicating it just scratches the surface. Books (and volumes of books) have been written on these things. You make sweeping (and extremely superficial) claims about the Bible and contradictions in it. If I did the same about scientific theories, you would be all over me, and rightfully so. You should become educated on the subject before you comment, and by that I mean that you should study both the works that favor your position, and (more importantly) the works that are contrary to your position on the subject of the Bible. You should approach it the same way (i assume) you approach science – without preconceived notions and biases. Learn what it says and means from the best of the Bible scholars (Bart Erhmans and Daniel Wallace’s alike). Finally, I am of the believe, which I think is well supported by sound evidence, that believe in God is not so much an issue of intellect, but an issue of the will. We have adequate room for choice in the matter. (https://pemiwader.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/the-nuance-of-choice/). To that end, I enjoy dialogue, but I am inclined to dismiss argument over these things. There are strong intellectual underpinnings for and against believe in God. I happen to have concluded that the intellectual underpinnings favor the proposition that a Supreme Being exists (one by the way), and I am always wiling to talk about it (and the opposite conclusion), but I am uninterested in unproductive argument. If the argument does interest you, the debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins may appeal to you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0UIbd0eLxw

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  2. You do realize that ad hominem is not a logical argument, right?

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  3. Gary Says:

    No one asks you to have faith to believe the fact claims of history or science. They ask you to believe these claims based on the evidence. So why should we treat Christianity any differently? Asking you to believe the central claims of Christianity “by faith” is simply an appeal to emotions and superstition.

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/so-which-is-it-bishops-and-pastors-of-the-lcms-is-the-case-for-christianity-made-by-evidence-or-by-faith/

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  4. Gary, have you watched either of the debates between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins? Most Christians (and non Christians) misunderstand what faith is. They think that faith is believing in spite of the evidence to the contrary or believing in spite of no evidence at all. Rather faith is trusting yourself to the evidence and committing to it. You can believe something is true without having any faith in it (without trusting it or committing to it). Fundamentalism is a false dichotomy. I’t’s an all or nothing proposition, but the all or nothing depends on our finite, incomplete knowledge. Either way, believing or not believing, a person weighs the evidence and commits to a direction. To that extent, a person takes a leap of faith (ultimately) either way because finite beings, such as ourselves, will never know everything. We will never have absolute proof that there is or is not an infinite God who stands outside time and space who made us and all that we see. There is wealth of Christian scholars who are not fundamentalists, like John Lennox, Dr. William Lane Craig and many others. Escaping fundamentalism as we know it is a good thing, but you could also grow out of it and and into the wealth of Christian thought that exist out of that small circle. I wish you well on your journey.

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  5. http://Jamiyat.Org

    Ten Quick Responses to Difficult Questions on Faith with the Help of John Lennox | Navigating by Faith

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