Notes from lecture at RZIM by John Lennox
When he started at Cambridge – someone said to him, ‘Oh you’re Irish, you all believe in God, and fight about him.’
He started to engage more with non believers. Has done so in unusual places. Eg communist atheism. Russia. More recently debating eg. Hitchens and Dawkins. Comes from the conviction that Christian faith is not only helpful, but TRUE. And if we do not stand up, secularism or atheism will appear to win.
1 Peter 3.13 Can anyone really harm you for being eager to do good deeds? Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry about what people might do. Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear. This way you will make people ashamed for saying bad things about your good conduct as a follower of Christ. You are better off to obey God and suffer for doing right than to suffer for doing wrong. Christ died once for our sins. An innocent person died for those who are guilty. Christ did this to bring you to God, when his body was put to death and his spirit was made alive.
This passage’s context = FEAR! We all contend with it. Subtle, peer pressure. Looking the odd one out. Not knowing your stuff. PC.
We are told to ALWAYS be ready to give a DEFENSE.
A REASON – a logos…
In the context of fear – nevertheless, get on and do it.
Apologetics is not a subcategory of philosophy. It is just what Christians have always been supposed to be doing. To clear up misrepresentation, misunderstanding. Not just to say WHAT, but WHY. To engage with our society and give REASONS.
Number 1 reason in survey why people don’t come to church = ‘They are not answering the questions we’re asking.’
The precondition for giving a defense is not how many books you’ve read. It’s ‘in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord.’ That requires WORK. Sanctify him,’ set him apart.’ Then you get the courage to break through the fear. When we start doing this, we’ll get into trouble. In Acts, the gospel is on trial time and again. The apostles were put on trial. Laws these days from Europe etc are looking to outlaw anything that looks like an exclusive claim, we’ll have to contend that Jesus is THE way.
Paul’s answer when under pressure? He described how he encountered the risen Christ. He was NOT a believer, but then he met Christ. So he stands before Agrippa (who accuses him of being under the God delusion – this is not a new challenge!) and gives his testimony and then says, ‘I’m not insane, what I am saying is TRUE and REASONABLE.’ Our world resembles Paul’s world more than any other age has, politically, philosophically and socially.
FAITH in God is reasonable. Faith in atheism is not. Atheists don’t regard what they have as faith. They think faith is an evil. Dawkins damns it, ‘Faith not based in evidence, is the principle vice of any religion.’ The clamour is for the eradication of religion because it doesn’t want to look at the evidence.
The claim of new atheists goes like this:
Faith = belief nor based on evidence
Science = belief based on evidence.
Many accept that without question. But Faith can be evidence based.
We have to look at terms. Dawkins definition of faith is wrong! Oxford English Dictionary. Faith = from Fides. Trust at its heart. Pistis (Greek) = trust. Faith = “Belief = trust. Confidence. That which produces belief, evidence and trust in it.” And this is how we usually think of the word. People used to believe in banks. But they showed there is not much basis to trust them with your money. If you are going to trust anyone, you have to have evidence or you are a fool.
Faith/trust/ belief. The Question is – what’s the evidence for it?
People say, “I won’t believe anything unless you can prove it.’ But in a mathematical sense? Logical? You’ll have infinite regress. It’s ONLY available in pure maths. Nowhere else is proof in that narrow sense. Not certainty. But in ordinary life, we have trust enough to put our life on it. Cf Flying a plane. Trusting your wife.
When you leave your field of expertise, you must check with the experts. What Dawkins/ Hitchens call and dismiss as faith = what we’d call ‘Blind faith.’ And that is of course dangerous, especially when linked with autocratic religious structures.
Is the faith required by the Christian system unreasonable?
Why was gospel of John written? In order that belief can be BASED on it. These statements are based in historical reality.
Paul at Mars Hill did not offer the resurrections as PRODUCT of faith, but a REASON for it, a basis. The resurrection as a fact is the basis on which the Christian can trust in Christ as the Son of God. Not a leap in the dark, but a step into the light, based on evidence.
It’s useful to notice that we use faith followed by THAT or IN.
Faith in my wife
Faith that London is the capital of England.
One = faith in a fact. One = in a person. You usually need more evidence to trust a person than a fact.
So as Christians we don’t just have faith in a theory, or a worldview (it is all that) but its faith in a person. A husband on wedding day has faith enough to trust in his wife, without knowing everything. We don’t know everything about God, but we have enough to get started – and as the relationship develops, so does the trust. Trusting in relationships is multi levelled. Shared interests, etc – multi-orbed. Faith in God is too. There is evidence of all kinds. Can be built up. So the first thing that’s wrong with thenew atheists view of faith is that wrong.
Dawkins has said in discussion with Lennox, “Atheists have no faith.” The answer to that? “So you don’t believe it then?”
Hitchens says: “Our principles are not a faith, our beliefs are not a belief.’ Hmmmm….
They put all religions in the same pot, because they are all dangerous aberrations. That’s a failure of scholarship, because it’s obvious that not all religions are the same.
One of the main accusations new atheists make is that God is communicated out of the barrel of a gun, leads to violence etc. How do we answer that? Look at the stance of Christ. Jesus was accused of terrorism by Pilate. That’s why his trial is so important. And he was exonerated. ‘My kingdom is not of this world, otherwise my followers would fight.’ The message you can’t defend with a gun is the one where you command them to follow the Prince of peace.
They also point out the unreasonableness of Christian faith, and say atheism had nothing to do with the massacres of Stalin, Mao etc., blame everything on God and nothing on atheism. We need to know our history! Dawkins says he cannot imagine an atheist who would bulldoze a cathedral. Well Stalin used dynamite. Beware revisionist history.
Lennox endorses David Robinson’s book ; The Dawkins letters.
Also http://www.publicchristianity.com/historians response, the new atheists are outside their area and trying to rewrite history.
Dawkins says, “We are all atheists with regard to Odin and Zeus. It’s causing no problem to be A-Woden, what’s the problem with A-theist.’ He says its a negative and so can’t harm anyone. It’s no accident that he concentrates on A-Theism, denial of God, because he has a naturalist agenda.
In terms of the unreasonableness of faith he calls in the psychologists. However, Andrew Sims (President Royal college of Psychiatry) has written, “Is faith delusional?” and states that religion doesn’t damage but greatly helps mental health!
Freud saw faith = projection of your longing for a father.
Manfred Lutz says, ‘If there is no God, the Freudian explanation is spot on. But if there is a God, Freud will also show that there is in atheism a great desire for there NOT to be a God!’ That doesn’t deal in any case with the question, ‘Is there a God or not?’ For that, we have to look at EVIDENCE.
The idea that faith does not appear in science is wrong. All scientists are believers. They have to trust. They are commited to the idea that the universe is rationally intelligible, otherwise science is useless. The one incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible ‘ (Einstein).
So it’s not science vs religion. It’s materialism vs theism. Dawkins wants to argue science must lead to materialism. Not so!
Some say our brains are end product of a mindless process. From that, we get beliefs. Why trust that proposition? Logically incoherent to say that. You can’t do any science until you believe there’s reasonableness. it’s that belief in God which has inspired modern science.
Ford Car or Henry Ford. Which do you believe in? Choose! (that’s what the atheists want to say)
Ford car = laws of combustion.
Ford = designer and maker.
Two different categories!
The old chestnut is, “Who created the creator?” and so on…
Well you are there thinking about a created God, by definition. You are thinking of a created being to start with.
We agree, created Gods are a delusion. (idols). But there is an ETERNAL God.
You can choose to disbelieve that there is an eternal God.
You believe the universe created you? Who created your creator?!
The materialist’s ultimate reality – mass energy created everything. We believe God did it. Look at the evidence.