Announcer: Welcome to the Veritas Forum, engaging university students and faculty about life's
hardest questions, and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.
Daniel Lowenstein. As a member of the faculty here, I'd like to welcome all of you to the
UCLA campus, and to thank Dr. Lennox for being our guest tonight, and to thank the Veritas
Forum for inviting the two of us. I hope that those of you who are in the overflow room
can see us well, because I think anybody who looks at the two of us will conclude that
this will be a very weighty conversation. So, with that, I'd like to make two, brief
preliminary comments and then we'll get into putting some questions to Dr. Lennox. First
of all, as to the topic for tonight, I think that there are many questions that one can
ask about Christianity and that have been prominent in recent debates on the subject,
especially perhaps those prompted by the so-called "New Atheists," such as: Is Christianity good?
What has been its role in Western history? And so on. Many questions, and they're all
important, but tonight will be limited to one question, which is a big enough question,
and that is: Is Christianity true? I guess in terms of the title that was given to this
evening, is it less true, equally true, or more true than stories about the Tooth Fairy.
And the second point I want to make is that this is not a debate. I'm neither qualified
nor desirous of debating with Dr. Lennox on this subject. As I see it, at least, the purpose
of this evening is to give him, who has written and thought a great deal about this subject,
to give him an opportunity to expound his views, and my role is to facilitate that.
If I think I can do that best by probing him on certain points, I will try to do that to
the best of my ability, but I'm not trying to score points. That's not our purpose here.
I'm as interested in thinking about this with his help and the help of others as I assume
all of you are. So, with that preliminary, let's get right
to it, and I want to start with what I think is the main subject of perhaps Dr. Lennox's
best known book on the subject called God's Undertaker, and that is the relation between
Christianity and science. I think many people would think that ideas about Christianity
developed in a pre-scientific era in which there weren't the explanations that we now
have for many natural phenomena, and they may think really that those kinds of ideas
aren't as necessary now to explain the universe, and the human situation in the universe, and
they may feel that science has made religion more or less irrelevant. Do you want to respond
to that viewpoint?
John Lennox. I'd be delighted to respond to it, but first, ladies and gentlemen, I would
like to say how delighted I am to have such a companion to discuss with tonight. I have
enjoyed the company of lawyers all my life, admired their capacity for logical analysis,
and to meet a lawyer like Professor Lowenstein, who's interested in the humanities is sheer
delight. But my intellectual education has taken a massive leap forward today, sir, because,
as a boy, I used to like Bruin the Bear, and now I've discovered where he lives.
But let's get down to this question about the very common notion that science has made
religion obsolete. I find it almost ironical that it's actually a very false notion to
history. I think it's worth concentrating for the sake of compression of time and argument
on the fact that modern science as we know it exploded in the 16th and 17th centuries
in Western Europe, and historians and philosophers of science have constantly asked the question,
"Why did it happen there, and why did it happen then?" and I've given a great deal of thought
to this and worked with colleagues at Oxford who have contributed seminal works to it,
but the general consensus appears to be, and I put it in the words of C.S. Lewis summing
up the work of Alfred North Whitehead on the topic when he said: "Men became scientific
because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed
in the lawgiver." In other words, if we think of Galileo, Kepler,
Newton, Clerk Maxwell and so on, what drove their science was the belief that science
could be done. Now, why did they believe it could be done? Because they believed that
the universe was rationally intelligible, at least in part, and why did they believe
that? Because they believed there was a creative mind behind it. So, it seems to me that the
history of science is on the side of those that think that there is no conflict essentially
between them, so that's where I'd start on that one.
Lowenstein. I think probably many -- perhaps most -- people would concede that Christianity
was very intimately tied with the development of science and with the scientific culture
that we're still living in, but that doesn't really go to the question of whether science,
even if we regard it as the creature of Christianity, has made Christianity obsolete. In other words,
does science give us the explanations that Christianity was previously thought to be
Lennox. I think here there's a basic and very common confusion about the nature of explanation,
because very often today -- and I find it especially in Stephen Hawking's recent book
but also with Richard Dawkins -- the idea that explanation is either God or science,
and that the more science advances the less space there is for God. Now, that seems to
me to be extremely wrongheaded for the following simple reason, that it's not either/or. God
and science are not in the same categories. God, the claim is from where I sit, is a personal
creator who created and maintained the universe. That is, he is the agent responsible for its
existence. Science is a set of disciplines that investigate how it works and what it
is made of, and so on. If I might illustrate it by one particular
instance, that Hawking, for example, offers us to choose between God and science or God
and the law of gravity. That, to my mind, is like, say, "Here's a Ford Galaxy motorcar.
You've got two possible explanations for it. One is the laws of physics and internal combustion,
and the other is Henry Ford. Please choose." Well, that is nonsense because they're in
different categories. You need both. Now, what I'm saying here is this, that the
God explanation is not the same kind of explanation as the science explanation, so they're not
in competition. Henry Ford does not compete as an explanation of the motorcar with the
laws of internal combustion and engineering. You need both, and I think that is the important
thing to stress. It's not a question of one making the other obsolete. You need both.
And I would dare to say that if there wasn't a god who created the universe, there would
be nothing for the scientists to study anyway.
Lowenstein. Well, some scientists say, I think, and some who are not scientists say that science
teaches us that before we regard something as knowledge, it should be something that
we can test empirically, and that we may have great theories about whether it's quantum
mechanics or Newtonian mechanics, or any kind of engineering, whatever field, but the reason
that we have confidence in them is because they have been tested and they work, and that
the questions that religion, and Christianity in particular, addresses have not been and
perhaps cannot be tested in that way. I mean even as a Christian, would you want to say
that we can actually have knowledge of the existence of God, of all the various doctrines
and parts of the Christian religion, can we call that knowledge, or should we call it
Lennox. Well, I certainly think we can call it knowledge. It depends what we're talking
about. You see, if we take the Bible, for instance, because we're concentrating on Christianity,
as you said, as to whether it's true, Christianity makes statements and the Bible makes statements
about a whole range of things. It makes statements, not very many actually, about the physical
universe. It's not a textbook of science, but we needn't go away with the idea that
says nothing about the universe. Now, for instance, it says there was a beginning. Can
we test that? Well, apparently so. Arno Penzias and the rest of them came up with their theory
of the hot Big Bang, so there is a testable hypothesis. It's been sitting in the Bible
for centuries: there was a beginning. We've now come, after a lot of struggle, actually,
and I remember when it was done in the '60s, so those are testable kind of things.
But I suspect what you may be referring to is the idea that God is not a theory simply,
he's a person, and that raises the whole question of whether we can have a relationship with
God that can reasonably be described in terms of knowledge, and I believe that is possible.
And can we test it? Yes, I believe we can, because, specifically coming to Christianity,
the fact is that Christ made certain claims. He claimed that if people trusted him, they
would know an experience of forgiveness; they would know an experience of what he called
the eternal life, that their lives would be changed. I've seen it happen hundreds of times,
and I would say at the empirical level, this is very important to me: that not only does
the intellectual side of it, if you like, the objective side, the descriptors that match
reality in terms of what the Bible actually says about the universe and so on, but the
bottom line for me is does it actually work, is it testable, and I think it is.
Lowenstein. Before we leave the subject of science, let me ask you a question that was
in my mind. I had a chance to read your book, God's Undertaker, within the last month or
Lennox. You're a brave man. Thank you.
Lowenstein. No, no! I enjoyed it.
Lennox: I haven't read his books, you see, and I'm embarrassed!
Lowenstein: Well, you see, that shows how rational both of us are. But no, it's a very
enjoyable book and I recommend it to anybody who's interested in the subject. I'll just
say in passing that in my own thinking about Christianity, such as it is, the question
of science has not been a major barrier or a major issue for me, but I do think that
it is for many people, and I think it was sensible for you to write that book. The reason
I started with that subject is I think that it probably is important to many of the people
who are listening to us. But it seemed to me that there are two ideas, or let's say
two hypotheses in the book, and I'll call one a weak hypothesis and the other strong.
Weak is not a pejorative; in fact, in this kind of academic jargon, it's a good thing,
because a weak hypothesis is one that doesn't take as much to prove it, it's easier to accept,
and a strong one is one that's harder to prove. The weak hypothesis seemed to me to be, let's
say, defensive -- defending Christianity against various reasons why science might be thought
to disprove Christianity -- and the strong hypothesis is perhaps more positive and saying
that the findings of science actually tend to confirm Christianity. It seemed to me that
you're clearly making both of those arguments in the book, but it wasn't always obvious
to me how strongly you are asserting the strong hypothesis, so I'd be interested in your talking
about how much does science really -- the findings of science, as you understand them,
or as properly understood, really further, would you say, in a positive way the case
for Christianity, or if you were trying to get somebody to accept Christianity, to become
a Christian, would you want to focus that person's attention a lot on science, or really
have the person look at other questions? Dr. Lennox: Not if they were a lawyer, no.
[Laughter] Moderator: You know, I thought I'd not comment
on the judgment of somebody who starts out by saying he enjoys the company of lawyers,
but -- Dr. Lennox: Yeah, yeah.
Moderator: − but I think in the British we expect eccentricities, and we tolerate
[Laughter] Dr. Lennox: Well, let's try and unpack this,
because I think there are a number of things that are worth unpacking. We've used the word
Christianity, but actually in the world in which I live, initially I'm up against a worldview
that dominates the academy that denies the existence of God. It's not really remotely
interested in Christianity. So, the first level seems to me to tackle that, and there
I think science has got quite a lot to say. It's not neutral, and for me, one of the major
arguments is, as I've said, the rational intelligibility of the universe points toward a rational creator.
That sits comfortably with the rise of science, so pointers towards God, but I would not claim
that Christianity in the narrower sense is derivable from science. Let me put it this
way: the early Christian apostle, Paul, who wrote half of the New Testament, comments
very carefully on what can be, in his view, deduced from the natural world, and he says
from the beginning of the creation, the invisible things of God are clearly perceived -- not
proved, perceived -- in the things that are made, and then he names them, namely God's
everlasting power and Godhead.
Now, that second word, theotokos, I take to mean that there is a God. There's a bit of
controversy about what it means but, for the moment, we don't want to get into that. What
I would say is that Paul is being very careful. First of all, it appeals to me as a mathematician
because it's only in pure mathematics that you get rigorous proof in that sense, but
it's perception, it's an informed perception, and he says, "As you look at the natural world,
you can perceive that there is a God and that he's powerful." He certainly claims nowhere
that you can deduce the specific doctrines of Christianity from an observation of the
world, but it seems to me this is an incremental type of argument because in Oxford and elsewhere,
I'm confronted not with people who start talking about Christianity, they start off by denying
the existence of God in the name of science. So, I want to clear that ground away, first
of all, in the hope that it will then be plausible for them, at least, to take the next step,
and that is the step towards considering the more specific claims of the Christian faith.
So, I think your question is very important. Moderator: Let's start with just the question
of the existence of God. How important in your belief in the existence of God is your
understanding of the findings of science? Dr. Lennox: It's only part of the deal, and
for the reasons that I've just given, because it doesn't take us all that far but, of course,
it takes us to the difference between Atheism and Theism, and I think how important it is
is shown by the number of people in these two rooms tonight in the sense that what is
happening in our world, as I understand it, is we're being offered a story, and every
person is interested in a story into which they can fit their lives, and the story of,
so to speak, the origins of the universe way back, why does that fascinate us? Because,
of course, our past determines our identity. A person without a past who has amnesia doesn't
know who they are, and so our bookshops are filled with books attempting to explain who
we are in terms only of the basic material of the universe.
That's materialism, and there's a great fascination with this because people are interested in
whether it's true or not. Against that, there's the other story that says that the matter
and energy is not all that exists, there is transcendence, there is a God who created
it, and I tend to believe with Augustine, you know, that, granted, there is a God-shaped
space in our hearts, and we have that sense of longing that there must be something more,
and it's there, I think, that many contemporary people and many university students are at:
is there something more than pure materialistic explanation of the universe?
Moderator: Well, let's suppose that we assume for the sake of argument that the materialists
explanation of the universe is inadequate, and, therefore, that we reject what I think
you call the scientistic -- Dr. Lennox: Yes.
Moderator: − explanation. But there are, I suppose, an infinite number of possible
ideas that we could have of the universe as something that's more than just materialism.
My not-very-well-informed believe is that the great majority of cultures past and present
have not believed in a materialistic universe, but most of them also have not believed in
the monotheistic god in which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe. What reason is there to
accept the idea of a monotheistic god? Dr. Lennox: Well, the first thing I'd want
to state there is you are absolutely right, and there are, apparently, loads and loads
of ideas, but let me go back to your notion of testability. The only way I know about
dealing with these things, and you being a lawyer will know it even better than me, is
where's the evidence? They make claims, all these different philosophies and religions,
and here I am faced with a whole series of claims, and, in the end, it's a personal question
in the sense that ultimately I have to decide between the claimants. So, first of all, I
have to decide between if materialism is right or if there's something more; that's stage
one. So, suppose when I pass that stage, why should I select a monotheistic god? Well,
I would say, "Now, what is the evidence that God exists?" because another great myth that's
flying around the place is that if you believe in God, that's faith, so it's believing where
there is no evidence, but that's nonsense. Faith, in the ordinary use of the word, it
comes from the Latin fides, fidelity, it means trust, and our normal experience of faith
in everyday life is a commitment based on evidence, and certainly I want my commitment
to whatever is there to be based on evidence.
So, what is the evidence coming closer up that there is a personal god, and, secondly,
that he is the god I believe in as a Christian? Now, I've given one or two indicators that
it would seem to be that the idea of there being two equal gods is almost logically self-contradictory,
but the big thing that now comes into the equation for me is this: on the hypothesis
that there might be a god − we're open to that now it seems in our conversation, that
there might be a god -- who created the universe, the next question is is it possible that he
might have communicated to us in any way? Has God spoken? And that raises the question,
of course, of revelation, and you mentioned the three great monotheistic religions. Each
of them claims that there is such a thing as revelation and, indeed, part of that revelation
is common to all three.
So, there is somewhere that we can begin to start, because let's take Christianity for
a moment, Judaism, neither of them claim to be simply a philosophy. They're geared into
the story of history. They have a historical dimension. So, immediately, that shifts the
focus from science to another very respectable discipline, and that is the discipline of
history. You are quite right, by the way, and I think it's important to flag it up to
mention scientism, the idea that science is the only way to truth. Well, that's logical
nonsense because if I say science is the only way to truth, that is not a scientific statement,
and so if science is the only way to truth, then it isn't true, so science isn't the only
way to truth. It's a bit too late at night, I think, for logic like that, but --
− coming rapidly back down to earth, it's quite clear that science, a lot of its success
is due to the fact that it asks a limited number of questions, but history is a very
important discipline, so I want to look into the claims historically that God has revealed
himself. Now, that makes sense to me. Now, I've just met you today, and meeting you has
been a sheer delight, but it's been very interesting, you see, if I had simply come to Professor
Lowenstein and put him in a scanner in Berkeley Medical School, the biggest --
Moderator: Hey, we have a medical school here. We don't have to go to Berkeley for that.
[Laughter] Dr. Lennox: What time is it −
− ___________? Right, UCLA Medical School, they've got a better tunneling microscope
here. I was just giving Berkeley a chance. They could tell a lot about the activity of
your brain, but I could never get to know you as a person, but I'm beginning to get
to know you as a person; why is that? Because you have started --
Moderator: Because you haven't had to look at my brain, that's why.
[Laughter] Dr. Lennox: − no, no! No, but you have spoken,
you have started to reveal yourself to me. Now, I think this is very important because
very often people say, "Oh no, we're not gonna start in holy books and revelation now, are
we?" because revelation is opposed to reason. What absurdity. When Professor Lowenstein
began to reveal himself to me today, did I shut off my reason? That's nonsense. I have
to use my reason to understand what you say. Now, the central biblical claim is that God
has spoken, he has revealed himself. Now, we can assume a priori if we like, that that
cannot and doesn't occur, and of course many people say, "Well, of course it can't occur
because miracles are impossible; the supernatural doesn't exist because science has proved it."
I don't believe anything of the sort but, leaving that aside, I would want them to say,
"Right, let's investigate this claim that God has spoken. Does it make sense? Does it
cohere?" and here I find that the literary people have helped me, C.S. Lewis in particular.
You remember that wonderful statement he made, "I believe in the sun, not so much because
I see it," -- it's dangerous to look straight at the sun, especially in Los Angeles −
[Laughter] Moderator: Well, it's gotten better --
Dr. Lennox: − but because -- Moderator: − since I moved here, because
now -- Dr. Lennox: − yes, yeah.
Moderator: − we don't have as much smog covering up the sun --
Dr. Lennox: Yes, right. Moderator: − as we did when I moved here.
Dr. Lennox: "I believe in the sun, not so much because I see it, but because in its
light I see everything else," and now I would want to bring one of the truth tests. You
mentioned truth at the outset of our discussion. I'm glad you did. One of the truth tests is
coherence and consistency, and what I have done, really, in my life, you've asked me
how do I know, and it's a bit personal. Do you mind if I answer it personally? I was
brought up in a Christian background, so the first worldview I met was from my parents.
I was impressed by my parents, particularly because in the sectarian country of Northern
Ireland, where everybody was fighting about religion, or so it appeared, they didn't,
but they loved me enough to give me space to think. So, the first worldview I met was
Christian, and I get to Cambridge and, in my first week at Cambridge, somebody comes
to me and asks me the question, "Do you believe in God?" and then they said, "Sorry, I forgot
you're Irish. You people all believe in God, and you fight about it," −
− you see? In other words, they were giving a causal explanation in terms of my Irishness
that was invalidating the claim, which is a very interesting phenomenon, you see? So,
what did I do? I decided that, like you, I'm interested in knowing whether it's the truth.
Now, my influence up to that point, from my parents and many friends and Ireland, had
been almost exclusively Christian, except that I had read hundreds of books, but that
wasn't enough because I wanted to meet persons and ask them how they had come to their worldview.
So, I decided in week one in Cambridge in 1962 to befriend someone who didn't have my
worldview, and I met an Agnostic and we dialogued for two years, and I've been doing that for
my whole life for the simple reason that I want to know whether it's true or not, and,
therefore, one of the tests I've got is the coherence, "Does what?" is claimed in the
Bible, for instance, what is claimed for the revelation of God in the whole Judeo-Christian
tradition, does it make sense and does it work, and that is where I think I would place
most of the emphasis, actually, and not on science.
Moderator: Well, let me go back -- Dr. Lennox: Yes, please.
Moderator: − a minute, and I take your point that there may be deficiencies in trying to
look at this question too abstractly -- Dr. Lennox: Yes, there are.
Moderator: − and you're saying that your thinking has been shaped very much concretely
by your own experiences, and particularly your own dialogues with many, many other people,
and I don't mean to -- I mean that makes sense to me. But, nevertheless, I'd like to step
back for just a moment because I mean I think it would be silly to say as an a priori matter
that it's impossible for God to have revealed himself through the Bible or in any other
manner. I mean that seems to me to be pretty clearly a contingent question that can't be
resolved a priori in one way -- Dr. Lennox: Yes, exactly.
Moderator: − or the other. But there are other questions about revelation, especially
how do we know that this really is a revelation, and not something that a lot of people have
believed falsely to be a revelation, and I don't mean to belittle that --
Dr. Lennox: No, no, not at all. Moderator: − but I would just like to ask
the question first, how far can you get in a belief in God prior to revelation? Is that
a clear question? Dr. Lennox: Oh, a very clear question. Well,
in one sense, not at all, because I believe that the universe is part of God's revelation.
We often call it a general revelation, but I think you mean it more specifically.
Moderator: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dr. Lennox: So, I think you can get quite
a long way, and a lot of that would be science or literature, the sense of longing, and so
on and so forth. But to come to the heart of this actual question, because this bothered
me, you see, "You believe it because you're Irish. They're great storytellers in Ireland,
and how do you know it's not all made up?" and so on and so forth. I would want now to
zero in on some of the actual specific claims that are made by the Christian faith. Now,
you know as well as I do that the central thing that burst on the world in the 1st century
was the startling notion that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. Now, of course, that
will send Richard Dawkins into orbit, but −
[Laughter] Moderator: _________ kind or miracle in itself.
Dr. Lennox: − well --
− that's why I stopped. I thought I was in danger of going in the wrong direction,
but never mind. It seems to me that here is something enormously important because the
central claim of Christianity is that God became human. It's not simply that he revealed
himself in terms of the profits, like Jeremiah and Isaiah, and he spoke to various people,
and so on, but that God coded himself, if I use the modern terminology, that God coded
himself into humanity, and because we are humans made in the image of God, we can understand
a human. So, this incredible claim -- well, it's not incredible for me but you know what
I mean by incredible -- this staggering claim that God became human, the biblical claim
is that the evidence for that par excellence is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, and, therefore, we now have a concrete, historical instance that we can investigate,
not in the strict scientific sense of, "Oh, let's repeat history and see what happened,"
because we can't do that, but we can do something near to that.
We can conduct a forensic examination. I mean the detective cannot repeat the crime to see
who the murderer was, but he conducts a forensic investigation of the evidence to try to get
_______ what's going on, and very, very early on in Cambridge, I remember listening to a
very distinguished professor of Islamic law, Professor Sir Norman Anderson, who was a Christian,
and he came to lecture to us in Cambridge. I remember a very gracious, brilliant man,
and, as a lawyer -- I'm now explaining to you why I rather like lawyers, you see, but
I'll have to do this. "As a lawyer," he said, "Let's have a look at the way in which I would
handle the case for the resurrection." Now, we sat spellbound as this man, who was one
of the most distinguished lawyers in Great Britain, Sir Norman Anderson, took this case
apart and started saying, "Okay, let's assume it didn't happen."
Christianity explodes from Judaism. That has got to be explained. How are we going to explain
it? I haven't time to go through the details tonight, many people have done it, but I remember
as an undergraduate being massively impressed by this because he was bringing intellectual
rigor to an event that was the pole event for the Christian faith, and claiming that
after a lifetime study of law, he felt this event was one of the best attested events
he'd come across in history. So, that to my mind makes it even more concrete, and so I
would go there. I go there, of course, because when the apostle Paul faced the Greek world,
the intellectual world of the New Testament in Athens, they of course asked him about
his belief, and he talked about creation and so on, but the climax was when he said that
God has appointed a day in which he is going to judge the world, and he is shown by the
man whom he has demonstrated by raising him from the dead, and what interested me was
the fact that many of the audience laughed at that point, as Luke records. They laughed
because Paul was saying, "Anastasis," resurrection, standing up again.
Now, many Greeks believed in a survival of the soul, that was a respectable doctrine,
but none of them believed that a dead body could stand up again. So, that teaches us
that right at the heart of Paul's message to, if you like, the intellectual world was
his unashamed claim that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, and I think that's the
heart of the business. I know, of course, what happens immediately, and I see the shadow
of Richard Dawkins almost in the room coming to say, "But that is absurd because David
Hume showed long ago that miracles are impossible." Well, that's why I revised my book to write
a chapter at the end to show that David Hume was wrong, but that's another story. So, that's
what I'd come to. Moderator: I don't know how you would show
that miracles are impossible, but I can certainly imagine people believing that they are highly
improbable. Dr. Lennox: Oh yes, they are, otherwise they
wouldn't be miracles. Moderator: Yeah −
− so let me -- Dr. Lennox: But that's actually an important
point. That's an important point, because you were saying Christianity arose in a pre-scientific
age. Do you remember? This is one of the arguments, that it arose in an age when people didn't
understand the laws of nature, and of course they could believe in miracles all over the
place. That's nonsense. People knew then as much as they know now, that dead bodies don't
rise up. That's why they recognized it as a miracle. But David Hume, if I might say
a word − it'll only take a few seconds − was wrong, and, before he died, I had a long chat
with Antony Flew, the world's Hume expert, who changed his mind, and told me after a
lifetime of writing books on Hume that Hume was wrong on this. Hume was wrong for a very
simple reason. He claimed that miracles were violations of the laws of nature. That's nonsense,
and C.S. Lewis illustrates this beautifully. Could you imagine me going to my hotel tonight,
and I put $100.00 in one drawer and I put $100.00 in another drawer. That's $200.00,
by the laws of arithmetic, yes? I wake up in the morning and I find $50.00. What do
I say, "The laws of arithmetic have been broken"? No, I say, "The laws of California have been
[Laughter] Moderator: You're not familiar with our system
of taxation here, apparently.
[Laughter] Dr. Lennox: Oh yes, I am. I'm still trying
to get a TIN number. But the interesting thing about that point is this, that it's my knowledge
of the laws of arithmetic that tells me that the laws of California have been broken. That
is a hand that's been put into the system. If I didn't know the laws of arithmetic, I'd
say, "Okay, $100.00 plus $100.00 is $200.00 today, it's $50.00 tomorrow. Fine." In other
words, in order to recognize the supernatural, like the resurrection of Jesus, you have to
live in a world that's mostly governed by regularities, and you have to know them in
order to recognize the exception. But, you see, the miracles aren't violating any law.
When Jesus rose from the dead, it wasn't a result of natural processes, it was God injecting
energy in from the outside, just like in my simple analogy, the thief put his hands in
and takes the money out, but that's another story. But I think it's important because
it shoves out of the way this whole notion that science has showed that miracles are
impossible. It hasn't, it can't, but of course it's shown they're improbably, which we always
knew they were. Moderator: As you say, that's the point in
a way, but no, I mean although I asked the question earlier, the idea of the pre-scientific
world has never been an impressive issue to me because --
Dr. Lennox: Nor to me. Moderator: − even people with vastly less
sophistication than, say, the Greeks and the Romans, or the other people living at that
time, you can go to people living at the most basic level, they still know that when you're
holding something and you let go of it, it's gonna fall, and when you do this, it's gonna
go up in the air, and they know you rub sticks together and it's gonna start a fire, and
they know the sun is gonna rise and they know it's gonna set. The regularities of the universe
-- Dr. Lennox: Were perceived.
Moderator: − yeah, and nobody can function from day to day without entirely understanding
that. Dr. Lennox: That's correct.
Moderator: But let me ask you something different, and this is something that I think, in some
ways, may be a strength of Christianity, but there's at least an obvious sense in which
it might be regarded as a weakness. On a lot of points, the central issues of Christianity
seem to be incomprehensible. So, for example, one of the most basic difficulties for those
who hold the view of the materialistic universe is the question of a beginning, and, as you
pointed out before, Christianity has long claimed that the universe was created, and
now we have the Big Bang theory that suggests at least that it started at a certain time,
and yet then there's always the issue, "Yes, but if there can't be an uncaused cause, then
what created God?" and -- Dr. Lennox: Yeah, sure.
Moderator: − I guess Christianity perhaps gives different answers to that. As I understand
it, Augustine's answer was that God is outside time, and, in a way, that's a good answer
but it seems to me that that's a way of saying, "We don't know what the explanation is," because
none of us has the slightest idea of what it means to be outside time, or Christianity
says that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are three but they are one, and from
those statements, many wonderful things follow, and yet it seems to be a way of saying, "We
don't know what it is," because we have no idea of what it means to be three and to be
one, and how a god as powerful and as amazing, let's say, as the god of Job could appear
in the form as a human being and be the Holy Spirit. So, my point is this, and as I say,
I think this may be a strength or a weakness, but it does seem as if many of the difficult
questions are just explained by mysteries, which is a Christian word, that in a way are
saying, "We don't know." So, I don't know whether that's a challenge or a suggestion
or a help, but − Dr. Lennox: It's a wonderful challenge.
Moderator: − but I'd be interested in your response −
Dr. Lennox: Absolute ________. Moderator: − to it.
Dr. Lennox: Yes, yes. I love this particular thing, and I've had to think about it a great
deal because, of course, it's absolutely obvious that replacing one mystery by another is not
always a helpful way forward, but − Moderator: Sometimes it might be.
Dr. Lennox: − yeah. Well, if it's a more sensible mystery. Let's unpack this, because
there are three or four questions, which is why I wrote them down because, with my dying
brains, I can't remember everything. But let's come to that first question, which has interested
me because it's become a great focus recently, both in North America and Britain and in Europe,
everybody's talking about it − I thought I'd left it behind in Russia − and that's
the question, "Who created God?" and Dawkins has made it the heart of his book, The God
Delusion. I was staggered when I found it there. What I mean about Russia, ladies and
gentlemen, is I used to get this all the time at the Academy of Sciences when I was traveling
out to Russia in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, you see _______ it was almost the first
question, "If you believe that God created the universe, then, logically, you've got
to ask the question, 'Who created God?' and then you have to ask, 'Who created the God
that created the God that created the God that created the God that created the God,'"
and so on, ad infinitum, and that was the end of God, of course, and that's exactly
what Dawkins says in The God Delusion.
Well, let's analyze that for a moment. Who created God? If you ask that question, it
shows you've immediately categorized God as created, so you're talking about a created
God. Now, you imagine if Richard Dawkins had written a book called The Created God's Delusion,
I don't think many people would have bought it, because I don't need him to tell me that
created gods are a delusion. We usually call them idols, incidentally. But, you see, this
− this question is extremely interesting because it's an illustration of a question
that already rules out the explanation that's most likely to be true, because the Christian
claim is that God wasn't created, so if God was un-created, in the beginning was the word
-- and I'm coming to your three-in-one now, and I'm bringing it in obliquely -- in the
beginning was the word, the word was with God, and the word was God, he already was,
so the central Christian claim is, and in Judaism and Islam of course equally, is that
God is eternal. So, the question by definition doesn't even apply to him. That's immensely
the important. The only way you can get anything out of it then in the negative sense is to
assume that everything is in the category of the created, but that's just begging the
original question, and the Greeks were interested in it, and that's why John's gospel starts
with those words, "In the beginning, the word already was," and then it says, "All things
came to be through him." The Greeks were interested in the question of two categories: the things
that came to be, the created things, and the things that already were, and the question
resolves down to this: is there a thing or a being that never came to be, and that is
the Christian claim and he's called God. But there's a little codicil to this, you see?
Richard Dawkins, and I had a debate with him on this very topic in Oxford, and I said to
him, "Richard, you say that, 'Who created God?' is a legitimate question. I don't think
it is, but let me assume now that it is. You believe that the universe created you, so
I beg leave now to ask you, using your own question, who created your creator?'" I'm
waiting still for the answer.
So, that's the first part; very briefly to the second point. God is three in one. Is
it a mystery? Yes, it is. Am I allowed to tell a little story --
Moderator: Yeah, although I think we should −
Dr. Lennox: − a very, very -- Moderator: − we want to get ________ −
Dr. Lennox: − yeah, yeah, move it on. Moderator: − yeah.
Dr. Lennox: Okay. Moderator: But do tell the story because I'd
like to hear it. Dr. Lennox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was talking
to about 1,000 scientists, and a man came up to me afterwards, a physicist, and he said,
"That was very interesting, all that talk about God," but he said, "You know, I detect
you're a Christian," and I said, "You're −
[Laughter] Moderator: A very astute gentleman.
Dr. Lennox: − yes. Well, that's what I said. I said, "You're pretty sharp."
He said, "Come off it." He said, "As a Christian, you're obliged to believe that God is a tri-unity,
that Jesus was God and man," and he said, "Now, c'mon, you're a mathematician at Oxford.
This is absurd. Can you explain it to me?" Well, I said, "Can I ask you a question first?"
He said, "Sure." So, I said, "Tell me, what is consciousness?" and he thought for a second
and then he said, "I don't know." I said, "That's okay, let me try an easier one. What
is energy?" Well, he said, "I'm a physicist, I can measure energy, I can use it." I said,
"You know that's not my question. What is it?" He said, "I don't know." ________ that's
very interesting. You don't know? Tell me," I said, "Do you believe in consciousness?"
"Yes," he said. "Do you believe in energy?" "Yes," he said. So, I said, "You believe in
these two things and you don't know what they are." I said, "Should I write you off as an
− and he said, "Please don't," and I said, "But that's exactly what you were going to
do with me five minutes ago." Now I said, "If you don't know what energy is," and nobody
does, and if you don't believe that, you physicists, read Richard Feynman. "If you don't know what
energy is, don't be surprised if energy, light, gravity and consciousness are a mystery. Don't
be surprised if you're going to get an element of this in God. You're bound to get it." But
now I pushed him a bit further, you see, and I said, "Why do you believe in these things
if you don't know what they are?" Now, that was a bit difficult, so being ________ chap,
I tried to help him out, and I said, "You believe in these things because of their explanatory
power as concepts," and he said, "That's exactly right." I said, "Look, of course I can't explain
to you how God became human but," I said, "It's the only explanation that makes sense
of the evidence as I see it." I said, "I've got a simple analogy that might help you.
It's a very low-level analogy, but at least it's biblical. I'm married. I've been married
for 42 ½ years, to the same person."
"My wife and I are, in a sense, one. We're two persons in one flesh, the Bible would
say, but in one unit, and it seems to me that at the very least," -- don't misunderstand
me when I say this -- "That this mystery is telling us something magnificent about God.
God is not a monolith who, to put it crudely, was lonely, so he made a few people so that
he could have somebody to talk to. God is himself a fellowship." Now, that's un-dimensioned
and we can't grasp it, but there is a sense in which I feel it's got to be something like
that, that God is big enough as a being and complex enough to have relationships within
his own being that then reveal themselves. So, although I entirely agree there's mystery
here, I think it's wonderful mystery because it begins to illuminate other things, and
of course Christ himself, just to finish the point, began to give us some insight __________
when he was on Earth. He made claims like, "I and the Father are one," and yet he said,
"The Father judges no man. He's given old judgment into the hands of the Son." So, they're
one, and yet there are differentiations of things that they do. Well, would you expect
that in God? Of course. If God was some trivial being, easy to understand, I wouldn't tend
to believe in him for a moment. So, it seems to me that there is an approach that makes
sense of these things, begins to. Moderator: Well, we're gonna want to go to
the -- I mean I'd love to follow up on some of these things _______ −
Dr. Lennox: So would I. Moderator: − we'll go to questions, but
I do want to say that of all the Christian writers, or Christian apologists that I've
read, and they're not the hundreds that Dr. Lennox has read, but the one who has spoken
the most to me and come closest to persuading me that I ought to become a Christian has
been G.K. Chesterton, and in his book, Orthodoxy − after you read Dr. Lennox's book, I would
recommend Chesterton. In his book, Orthodoxy, he talks about the symbol of the cross, and
he says that he thinks it's a good symbol of Christianity because at its center, there's
this clash that makes it somewhat contradictory or incomprehensible, but that because of that,
the arms go infinitely out in all directions, and that they sort of provide a straight way
that gives good resolutions to all the problems that we need to deal with as humans, despite
this clash at the center. It's a typical, I think, wonderful Chesterton ________.
Dr. Lennox: Well, I would want to subscribe that, too. You know, I'm so glad you ended
with a cross, because we haven't mentioned it yet, and if I were to say what is the biggest
thing in my Christian faith, it's precisely that. It might be strange for you to hear
an Oxford professor say it, but the biggest thing in my life, ladies and gentlemen, is
that God loves me, and that God has done something through Christ on the cross that brings forgiveness
and peace with God and gives me a certainty and a meaning for the future, and I like your
image very much from Chesterton, of the things stretched out wide. The cross only makes sense
if Jesus is God. It makes no sense if he isn't. So, hence, the resurrection is so important
to direct our minds to ask the big question, "If that is God on the cross, what's he doing
there?" Moderator: Now, the procedure that Dr. Lennox
-- this the avant-garde, fresh-over-from-Europe that he would like to follow, is that we're
gonna get all the questions, including the six from in here, and we're also gonna get
some questions in writing that are gonna be brought in from the people in the overflow
room, and Dr. -- John. We said we were gonna do first names --
Dr. Lennox: Yeah, we did -- Moderator: − and I completely forgot about
that. Dr. Lennox: − ___________.
[Laughter] Moderator: Now that we've gotten to know each
other, John is going to take all the questions, write them down and assimilate them, and then
he's going to answer them in total in the order that he thinks will work best.
Audience: You state that your main evidence for the truth of Christianity as opposed to
other religions is on the basis of personal experience and the questions, "Does it make
sense, and does it work?" How is it that these lead you to believe in Christianity when followers
of other religions have the same experiences? Audience: One of my questions was that one
of the things that I've also talked about with also my believer friends and also my
Atheist friends if the idea of a deterministic system. What I mean by that is that if God
already knows a priori that who's going to accept him, is there an idea of choice, basically,
involved in believing in him? So, _________ _________ the idea is that is it God who predetermines
who is going to choose him, or, as us, do we choose God, and that's kind of been on
both sides of the argument that I've been thinking about.
Audience: I was just a little lost. I was wondering if you say there's proof for God,
or if -- you mentioned a lot of different things, but could you maybe make one argument,
like say if you were going to convert someone, say, "This is the proof, absolute proof for
God," or if you can even do that. Audience: ___________ and you were speaking
about Paul talking about the resurrection and what an astounding claim this would have
been, and using this as sort of one of your central arguments for the proof of Christianity,
and this is part of the widespread belief in it. But we have multiple instances in the
Gospels of the gospel writers seeking to identify Jesus as a fulfillment of the prophecies that
came before, and there is large bodies of Jewish theology before Jesus that deal with
this issue of the raising of the dead, and isn't it more plausible that perhaps Jesus'
message spread the way it did because of its concerns with social justice and not so much
because of this issue of the resurrection? Audience: Dr. Lennox, it's an honor to have
you here. Thank you very much for coming. Dr. Lennox: A pleasure.
Audience: One thought I had when you brought up the example of Henry Ford is that because
we as human beings give laws and govern ourselves and we design things, we know no other mind
than our own and we know no other consciousness than that which we experience, is it possible
that as a human fallacy that we implant a mind similar to ours on a supernatural entity?
Moderator: I was told to limit it to five. I'm gonna go to six and take the next person
after you, because I'd like to have at least one question asked by somebody who looks like
he might be more than half of my age −
− but I think we should hold it there because I think we're gonna have some questions coming
in from the overflow room, too. So, thank you, but I think we just need to cut it off.
Audience: Hello. My name is Elliot. You've alluded both to the nature of explanations
and solving one mystery with another. In what sense, if you're going to posit God as the
creator of the universe, that raises the additional question of what it means for an atemporal
being to create something ex nihilo, in what sense is saying, "God created the universe,
but I don't know what that means," a better explanation than saying, "Coo coo ca choo,
but I don't know what that means"? Dr. Lennox: Sorry? Could you repeat that last
[Laughter] Moderator: How do you spell coo coo ca choo?
Yes? Audience: My name is Douglas. I wonder if
you could say a little bit more about Hawking's claim that the universe --
Dr. Lennox: Hang on just a second. Moderator: He's still writing coo coo ca choo.
[Laughter] Dr. Lennox: I've tried six alternative spellings.
Moderator: We're gonna set it -- Dr. Lennox: __________.
Moderator: − to music and that'll make it easier to remember.
Dr. Lennox: Yeah. Okay. Audience: I wonder if you could say a little
bit more about Hawking's claim that the universe began itself.
Moderator: I'm not sure. Is a duck gonna come down with the questions from the overflow
room, or are they gonna come in? Is there anybody who knows? You have to be more than
half my age to know what that's a reference to. That's the old Groucho Marx program. Well,
do you want to start with these and, if we get some others, we'll take a look at those,
as well? Dr. Lennox: Yeah, sure. Well, let's have a
start, and of course this is a Q&A, and you rapidly fathom my ignorance, if you haven't
fathomed it already, but we'll have a little go at these things. Resurrection I've used
as a central argument, but of course there are other arguments, such as the fulfillment
of the prophecies, and that's absolutely right, but that would be a separate discussion. I
myself do believe that some very powerful evidence for the truth of Christianity proceeds
from the ________, or what we call the Old Testament, and particularly the whole prophetic
tradition of Judaism, and some of those prophecies that were stated centuries before Christ,
particularly by Isaiah, for example, and then earlier Abraham, I do believe they have very
powerful evidential value in supporting the truth of Christianity, in particular they
were already there to explain the significance of the crucifixion and the meaning of the
death of Christ.
But your question was, "Isn't it more plausible that Christianity spread because of social
justice than resurrection?" I would say that's equivalent to the question, "Which of the
two wings of an eagle is necessary for flight?" In other words, it seems to me that Christianity
spread because __________ powerful base and that its leader had risen from the dead, and
that relationship with him -- this is the claim, and I've experienced it and thousands
of other Christians, as well -- meant that they received a new kind of life that gave
them moral power, and, therefore, alerted them internally to social justice and questions
of justice, and I'm glad you mentioned it. I think one of the very impressive things
in history is -- I was just thinking and reading about William Wilberforce recently and saying,
"Of course, that is a phenomenal thing." But one of the questions I have that's related
to this is where does the power come from to live morally? So, for me, there's no contradiction
in what you say, it's both and rather than either/or.
Moderator: Just might want to explain, William Wilberforce was a Christian -- I don't think
he was a minister, but -- Dr. Lennox: No, no, he was a minister in the
government. Moderator: − well, okay, a minister in the
government, but a deeply believing Christian in the 18th century who almost singlehandedly,
I mean that's an exaggeration, but was the driving force behind the movement against
slavery that ultimately ended the slave trade in the world and to the extent that it has
been ended, ended slavery in the world. Sorry. Dr. Lennox: Well, let me come just to the
nature of explanation one, the more scientific ones, and then we'll get to the one that came
from the Skeptics Society, which interests me greatly. In what sense is saying, "God
created the universe but I don't know what it means," any better than saying, "Coo coo
ca chuc," which clearly is a language spoken only on the UCLA campus.
Well, I never said that God created the universe and I don't know what it means. I don't know
all that it means, but I've certainly got a lot of ideas on what it means, and so have
you. Notions of creation are not unfamiliar to us, and although we cannot necessarily
extrapolate upwards to God and understand all of the aspects of it, to say that I didn't
know what it means in any sense whatsoever would simply be false. So, I think that the
question in that sense is invalid, it is much more than coo coo ca chuc, unless coo coo
ca chuc actually means, when you translate it, that God created the universe.
[Laughter] Moderator: I think he's actually probably
from Berkeley. That's their language.
Here are the other questions if you want to take a look −
Dr. Lennox: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Moderator: − at them.
Dr. Lennox: Okay. Moderator: Should I read them out loud so
that people -- maybe we should do that. Dr. Lennox: Yeah, we can do that. "What type,"
-- you read it. Moderator: You want -- okay.
Dr. Lennox: No, you read them − Moderator: All right. One of them says --
Dr. Lennox: − and then set them down here so as I can read them.
Moderator: − yeah, "Evolution from a scientific standpoint is a fact. There are virtually
no dissenters," I think he means, "In the scientific community. If Genesis did not happen
literally, then original sin did not happen, making Jesus useless. How do you rectify this?"
I think maybe it means how do you reconcile your beliefs --
Dr. Lennox: I know exactly -- Moderator: − __________ −
Dr. Lennox: − what it means.
[Laughter] Moderator: − and the other questions are
shorter than that. The next one is, "What type of evidence would convince Dr. Lennox
that God isn't real?" I think that's a good question.
Dr. Lennox: It is. Moderator: I don't mean -- I think all the
questions have been good questions.
I'm very judgmental, but not in this setting. It's not my role tonight. "If there is a God,
why are there bad things happening in this world?" and the last question is, "We believe
in energy because there is physical evidence for it. Is there physical evidence for the
existence of God?" Dr. Lennox: Okay. Well, let's have a look
quickly. How long have we got, midnight? These are very interesting, but I must be true to
the skeptics up here because we did promise them, and I've got so many friends that are
skeptics, actually skeptics. I'm a skeptic. I've spent my life being a skeptic, but I'm
very skeptical about some skepticism, but that's another matter. One of the questions,
I think two of you asked questions, and one of them had to do with the truth of Christianity,
vis-à-vis other religions, when they have the same experiences. I think I understand
what you mean, but I would very much question having the same experiences, because I meet
some religions where the notion of knowing that you were forgiven would be almost a blasphemy
and being certain of it so that they would not claim to have those same experiences.
But I think, really, behind this question is a very important question, is that we're
in a world with different religions, and how can I possibly advance the truth of one?
Well, it seems to me in the end, skeptic as I am, I have to ask for evidence. Now, I constantly
am talking particularly to my Jewish and my Muslim friends, of whom I have many, and I
was talking to a Muslim friend just the other day, and he said, "Of course," he said, "We
disagree about some matters of history," and I said, "We do, indeed," and it is the fact,
ladies and gentlemen, it is simply the fact that Judaism believes that Jesus died and
did not rise, Islam believes he didn't die, and Christianity believes he both died and
rose again. They cannot all three be true, and they are matters of history, and what
I would say is we have to decide, and it's our personal decision in the end, on the basis
of the evidence as we understand it which one we believe to be true.
So, I think there are ways of dealing with these things, but one thing I would want to
say is this: we must be very careful to distinguish two things, because you will find that religions
around the world have got many major elements in common, as well as many differences, and
it seems to me that in our society we need to recall some of the common elements, and
those elements are to be found in our basic morality. You will find the Golden Rule, "Do
unto others as they would that you do to them," in every religion and philosophy, including
Roman pagan religion, and I think it's very important to show mutual respect to one another
on that basis. I am making no moral critique of what my Muslim and Jewish and so on friends
about their morality, but they agree with me that there are these fundamental differences.
We can't resolve the differences, that would be absurd, we've got to live in a society
with people free, I hope, to believe and articulate what they do believe, but I must make my personal
decision on the way in which the evidence leads.
Now, the other skeptic question, I think it was a skeptic question, was if God knows in
advance what I'm going to do, is there any choice in freedom, and this question, of course,
has been debated for centuries, and I'm not about to give a lecture lasting one and a
half centuries. No, I'm not, because there are immense problems in understanding God's
relationship to time, and I think that we have two easily naïve ideas about it. Why
should we assume that God's knowledge of something causes it? I see no reason for doing that.
Now, we can debate this from now to midnight, until tomorrow, and we'll still discover there
are differences of opinion, so what do I do? Well, as a Christian, I try to say what the
biblical claim is, and it seems to me it is two halves. First of all, there is a real
sense in which God knows. Secondly, there's a real sense in which I have real choice.
Indeed, I do not see it is possible to have such a thing as love in a universe which is
deterministic, and that seems to me to be immensely important. The big thing about my
marriage is that I chose my wife, I know why I did it; she chose me, I wonder why. But
− that freedom of choice is what makes love possible. In a deterministic world, love wouldn't
be possible. So, I might be very naïve; I discover a world in which there is love. So,
I conclude absolutely, directly that whatever it is, it is not a deterministic world in
the fullest sense. The next question was, "Is there absolute proof for God?" Well, I
did try to say that you only get proof in my field of mathematics in the rigorous sense.
In all other disciplines of science and elsewhere, we can only give evidence, pointers, and so
on. I said only, but I came here on a Boeing 747, I trusted my life to it. I hadn't absolute
proof it would get me to San Francisco. I can't prove to you that my wife loves me,
but I'd stake my life on it because I feel there is enough evidence. So, it seems to
me that there is evidence.
Now, you say, "What is the proof that you would use? Is there one proof above all others?"
No, there isn't, because we're all different, and we all come to this in different ways.
So, arguments, you heard Professor Lowenstein say that earlier, that it's not the science
that would appeal to him so much as something else. So, I have no sort of, "Here's the argument,"
so to speak. Everybody is different, and that is one actually of the evidences in itself,
that I find the simplest people, the brightest people, the most humble people, people from
all over the world, they can come to a certainty of knowledge of peace with God through Jesus
Christ. That is one of the evidences that weighs with me.
Now, there was a Hume question. I'll come to that in a minute. We design things, and
so on. Are we in dancer of imposing design on the universe? Well, we could be, and Hume
made this point. But, quite frankly, I would prefer an explanation that makes sense than
one that doesn't make sense. What I mean by that is this: there is evidence of designing
intelligence in the universe. Now, in my book, I write about. One of the evidences, to me,
is the longest word. We talked about coo coo ca chuc, but there's a much longer word than
that. It's the DNA code of the human genome. Now, whatever natural processes were involved
in that, it is a text, and the moment we see a text that has meaning -- four-letter alphabet,
3.5 billion letters long, all in the right order -- the moment we see a text, we infer
immediately upwards to intelligence. Three letters of your name written on the sand on
the beach in California here will indicate to you that a mind has been behind it. Now,
if you say, "Ah, but that's imposing something on the universe to look at the universe like
that," I say, "Well, half a minute. It makes sense to ascribe such a text ultimately to
a mind. It makes nonsense not to, because the idea that an unguided, mindless process
could produce a text flies contrary to everything we know. Now, that's not an up/down argument,
but, as I say, I would prefer an explanation that makes sense to one that doesn't.
Okay, what will I say about Stephen Hawking and the universe created itself? I've written
a book on it in the last two months. It's called God and Stephen Hawking, and I gave
a lecture on it at lunch time, and I can't really say anymore about it except that to
claim, and here is the central claim of his book, because there is a law of gravity the
universe can and will create itself from nothing. I think that sentence, that statement contradicts
itself at three distinct levels. I'll just give you one of them, the one that's focused
by the question. If I say X creates Y, the words mean that I need to presuppose X to
explain Y. If say X creates X, it means I'm presupposing X to explain the existence of
X, and that's nonsense, even if you set X equal to the whole universe. So, I think Hawking
is actually talking nonsense, and it just goes to show that nonsense remains nonsense,
even if somebody very highly intelligent speaks it.
Now, let's see how we're doing. We're nearly done, I think. "Evolution is a fact." Well,
now I'm going to be really controversial. I would want to say, "What do you mean by
evolution?" What Darwin observed is one thing, but that ________-guided processes are responsible
for everything is another thing. You can have a look at my book, but the question is really
geared to this: if Genesis is to be taken literally, and now we come to it -- now, I'd
love to be able to spend a long time on this -- this notion of literal is a very misleading
notion. It has two meanings, actually. When the ancient thinkers, like Augustine, talked
about -- well, he wrote a book on the literal interpretation of Genesis, but he didn't mean
literalistic. By literal, he of the ________ reformers meant that you take a statement
in its natural meaning, so if it's base-level literalistic, let it be, "Israel was a land."
Okay. But go the next bet, "Flowing with milk and honey." What, when the Israelites came
into the land, they met a great sticky mess of honey flowing down the main street?"
Well, of course not. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor, though, for something real, and
C.S. Lewis, I do wish they'd teach English grammar these days in schools. C.S. Lewis
taught me a great deal, and the big thing he taught me about this is that just because
a sentence has a metaphor in it, it doesn't mean that something real isn't meant, and
people say to me, "Do you take the Bible literally?" That's a meaningless statement. Let me put
it this way. Jesus said, "I am the door."
Do you take it literally? Well, clearly not. Ah, but just a moment. Is he a real door?
Oh yes, he is. At the higher level, the first level of metaphor up from the base, he is
a real door into a spiritual experience of God that's more real than that door over there.
You see, we make a mistake when we think that metaphors mean that it's not real, but that's
foolishness. We use metaphors. Scientists do it all the time. Listen to the next time
you hear a scientist describing an electron, and things that buzz around in little orbits.
They do no such thing, and so on. But, anyway, I leave that. But I have actually written
a book of this because I got very concerned about it, and it will appear at some stage
later this year. It's called Seven Days That Divide the World, and you probably understand
what that means.
But now, let me come rapidly to the end. Is there physical evidence for the existence
of God? Well, I think I've said enough about that. By physical evidence, I suppose you
mean the kind of thing we do in science. I think there is. I think there's physical evidence
at the level of the change that God can effect in people's lives as observable. When an experience
of God converts a person from drug addiction to being a happy, loving husband, that's physical
evidence in a way, isn't it, and I could spend a long time talking about that, but I won't
because there are a couple of questions left.
"What type of evidence would convince Dr. Lennox that God isn't real?" Evidence that
Jesus didn't rise from the dead, for instance, I would take seriously. Christianity is falsifiable,
that's what this question really implies, in the popperian sense. Of course it's falsifiable,
because it's testable. Mind you, having lived for all the great number of years I have to
constantly testing my faith, it would take an enormous amount of evidence, and that's
natural, of course. Just as having lived for 42 years with the same wife, it would take
an enormous amount of evidence for you to convince me that she was being unfaithful,
and that's natural. There's nothing wrong with that. But the final question here is
the hardest question that's been asked tonight, and it's this: "If there is a God, why do
bad things happen to good people?" The problem of evil and pain.
I've just come back from New Zealand, sitting, talking to a woman who was in her office,
the earthquake happened, the walls collapsed, killing instantly the girl at the far side
of the table, and she's left alive, and I had to give a lecture on this very thing over
there. Now, I'm going to suggest two things to you. If you're really interested in this
question, Google my name in New Zealand and you'll find a whole web page dedicated to
the lectures packed with students which I gave on this topic, but I am gonna say something
about it. Many of my colleagues _________ open with you. This is the hardest question
I face. The badness of people − now, there are two questions. There's the question of
moral evil. That's what humans do to other humans, and I've thought of it often as I've
stood in Auschwitz. Then, there's the problem of pain, natural disasters, disease, where
there's no immediate human agency involved. They're separate questions, but they're actually
related in a way that I cannot begin to talk about tonight.
Many of my friends, I tell you straight, say, "Look, all this God talk from science is very
interesting and all the rest, but please don't talk to me about a personal god. Just look
at the evil in the world." What do I say to them? Well, often, I say something like this:
"Okay, then, there isn't a God. You've solved the problem. The universe just is as it is.
Some people are lucky, and most people are not, and that's how it is, and we've got to
face it and move on." So, they solved the problem, but wait a minute. Have they? Have
they? Richard Dawkins commenting on the universe says, "The universe is just as we'd expect
to find it if, at bottom, there is no good, no evil, no justice, ___________ and we dance
to its music." Well, of course, if that is true, as I pointed out to him, that's the
end of all morality, and I don't understand then how he's criticizing and talking about
things that are evil if there isn't such a thing, and I think that's a major problem,
for Atheism, actually.
But, leaving that aside, coming down to the sheer practicality of it, Atheism claims to
remove the problem, "That's just how the world is and we've got to face it," but I notice
what it doesn't remove, and that's the pain and the suffering. It's still there, and we
have to face it. So, the Atheist doesn't have the problem in one sense; I do, because I
still believe in God. So, how do I face it? Well, I'll tell you straight, I have no easy
answer to it. I haven't. This world is full of ragged and jagged and difficult edges,
but I don't despair, and I'll tell you why not. I can't solve the problem of evil. I
can't. So, I ask myself another question. Granted, there are jagged and ragged and raw
questions, particularly for people who are suffering from earthquakes and disease, and
there are inner earthquakes as well as outer earthquakes, you know. Get a brain tumor,
and that will affect you as much as an earthquake that shifts the tectonic plates on earth.
I ask myself this question, ladies and gentlemen, and very seriously: Is there sufficient ground
to trust God, granted that the universe is as it is?
And that brings me back to where Professor Lowenstein ended the first part of our time
together tonight. If that was God on the cross, ladies and gentlemen, what does it tell me?
It tells me many things, but it tells me one in particular, and that's this, that God has
not remained distant from the problem of human suffering, but has become part of it. It's
there I see a window into hope, because the cross was not the end, it led to the resurrection,
but there we've got to leave it. What a wonderful audience you've been, and, secondly, I want
to say that this for me has been one of the most enjoyable public discussions I have ever
had, and it's thanks to our moderator, Professor Lowenstein, and I want you to show your appreciation
for what he's done.
[Applause] Moderator: Now I hope we'll get a round of
applause that will put that to shame in a moment, but I would like to say one word about
my experience here tonight, because I've been on the UCLA faculty for more than 30 years
now and I've made many, many academic presentations, and I think probably in every single instance,
it was because I had or somebody was foolish enough to believe that I had some expert knowledge
of the field, and that's the way we generally operate in higher education, and of course
it's very valuable to do that, to take a group of people who have been studying some question
with great diligence, and who have a lot of knowledge and a lot of understanding, and
to get them to exchange ideas, and that's one way in which knowledge moves forward.
But I think there is an older tradition in higher education that had a place for a certain
kind of amateurism, and I think that's important, also, because the questions that we've been
talking about tonight are too important for all of us to be left exclusively to the theologians
and the philosophers and others who do have expert knowledge, valuable though their input
The questions, for example, that I and my colleagues deal with in the law school, of
human society and human justice are also too important for everybody to be left to a group
of specialists. The problems dealt with in this building, the questions of business,
should not be left only to the executives and to the economists and others with expert
knowledge. So, this has been an unusual experience for me to have an opportunity to engage with
somebody who is very knowledgeable on a subject that is of interest to me but in which I don't
claim to be an expert, and I think that I've enjoyed it a great deal; each of you has to
decide for yourself if this was a good format, but I think there is something good in this.
I think this has been a delightful evening for all of us to have the chance to hear from
Dr. Lennox. Obviously, he brings to this not only very strong convictions of his own and
great erudition, but also, I think, a delightful verve and eloquence, and now, let's have some
[Applause] Announcer: For more information about the
Veritas Forum, including additional recordings and a calendar of upcoming events, please
visit our website at veritas.org.
[End of Audio]