Has Science Buried God? John Lennox Says No
Recently I found and viewed an interview on Youtube that constitutes one of the best examples of Christian apologetics I have ever heard or read. Please view and listen to it. It is part of a series called “Socrates in the City.” The title is “Has Science Buried God?” The interviewer is conservative Christian writer Eric Metaxas and the interviewee is retired Oxford professor of mathematics and philosophy of science John Lennox.
The only negative thing I have to say about the interview is that I don’t appreciate Metaxas’s attempts to be cute; I wish he had just let Lennox talk. Metaxas’s interjections are annoying.
The basic question that Lennox answers most adroitly is whether modern science as “buried God.” Now, of course, that is not always the way atheists express their view, but it stands as a cipher for belief that modern science and belief in God are incompatible. Stephen Hawking famously said near the end of his life that there is no possibility that God exists. Was that a statement of science or of a secular faith? That is one of the questions Lennox takes up and answers extremely well.
Many people are under the impression that belief in God is wishful thinking, choosing a fantasy over fact for the sake of comfort, or that people who believe in God are just ignorant. John Lennox stands out as one example of a coterie extremely learned Christian academics who dare to confront the myth that science has buried God.
But he also confronts and corrects Christians who base their belief in God on “gaps” in scientific explanation. In this rather lengthy interview (where he does most of the talking) Lennox chides Christians (and others) who base their belief in God on phenomena that science allegedly cannot explain.
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Here is a sample of Lennox’s nimble argumentation. I paraphrase here: If it is true that the only path to truth is science then it is false that the only path to truth is science.
At that point the interviewer pretends to be “blown away.” But the point is clear without elaborate explanation. The claim that science is the only path to truth (or knowledge) is self-referentially absurd because the claim is a claim of truth (or knowledge) but is itself not scientific. It cannot be tested or proven scientifically. It is a philosophical statement and one that involves something like faith.
Now I am not claiming, and Lennox does not claim, that in this interview Lennox says anything new. Everything he says has been said before; he is just an especially articulate expresser and explainer of the ideas.
Also, Lennox is not at all opposed to science; he is only opposed to atheism that claims to be based on science. And he is an opponent of naturalism—the philosophy that nature is all there is and that the mind is only the brain. He demonstrates conclusively that such a philosophy undermines itself because truth itself disappears if all thoughts are only byproducts of evolutionary, biological adaptation and interactions of chemicals in the brain. To his credit, he mentions Alvin Plantinga whose book Where the Conflict Really Lies makes this argument in excruciating detail.
As a fan of theologian Emil Bruner I find it interesting that he made the same argument, very concisely, in Dogmatics. So it is certainly not a new argument or idea.
Much American conservative evangelical apologetics has been dumb. It has been easily swept aside by skeptics because it has relied too heavily on gaps in secular knowledge and explanation. Or it has depended on highly debatable arguments about history and evidence. The Brits have done the best job in recent years of demonstrating that science itself, when it keeps to its proper limits, does not conflict with or even undermine Christianity insofar as Christianity stays true to its limits. Both have explanatory power and can work together. The conflicts are all imaginary and based on misunderstandings.
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