What happened when a secular Jewish comedian-turned-political commentator from NYC sat down with a Christian Oxford University professor of mathematics from Northern Ireland? It may sound like the punchline to a pretty high-brow joke but, thanks to Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable podcast series, we now get to find out the answer to question.
In part one of an episode that brought together Dave Rubin of the Rubin Report, a man who has hosted Steven Pinker, Niall Ferguson, Jordan Peterson – not to mention Ravi Zacharias, sat down opposite Professor John Lennox, adjunct lecturer at The OCCA, Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. Over an hour of discussion, the three men took their audience on an intellectual and emotional tour around atheism, the existence of God, childhood, Judaism, the Holocaust, Peterson and the collapse of secularism.
Rubin is on a journey from a position from atheism to “trying to find some truth in the madness”. One could not wish for a wiser companion on that journey than Professor Lennox, who admitted that when he travelled to Cambridge University from his small Irish village in the Sixties, “I had never really met a real atheist before. In Ireland we had Protestant atheists and Catholic atheists. I’ve spent my whole life befriending people who do not share my worldview.”
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world
Rubin’s worldview has seen him come to believe that, “There has to be a bedrock of something that is real and true and outside of us.” Professor Lennox’s response to Rubin’s openness took the conversation to another level of depth:
“The idea that there is something “more”, something outside of us, that is the place to start from. Otherwise, everything is subjective. So many post-modernists will tell you as an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. And that is just sheer nonsense.”
Professor Lennox drew on his recent REBOOT experiences with teenagers to provide a sense of their struggle, “In the UK and the US, I find that young people find the world that is presented to them – by the old New Atheists or naturalist philosophers – is just too small to live in.”
It is something too that Rubin picked up on during his world tour with Peterson, “The secular world’s whole worldview is disconnected to anything that came before them…The reason [that] world feels so out of control right now is that everything is tethered to how feel so everything is up for grabs and that’s why it feels that there is something godless happening here.”
Rubin’s answer harked back to the question which Brierley had hung the discussion on, the question of ‘Is God dead?’. Professor Lennox had his own take on the question, “I’m always interested in the phrase God’s dead because it implies that he was alive once. The God I believe in, the God of the Bible, is eternal and that raises questions for his deadness.
“What Nietzsche could see that many contemporary atheists can’t is that, if you abolish God, you wipe the ground off any solidity that you can base morality or dignity or freedom.”