Oxford Town Hall has played witness to The Rolling Stones and David Bowie but on a Monday night in January, it was the venue as Professor John Lennox bore witness for Christ. Unlike Professor Lennox, neither Mick Jagger or Bowie sold out the Town Hall. It is just as unlikely that either of them managed to guide hearts and minds closer to Christ as Professor Lennox did on the night.
The grand Jacobethan setting was fitting for the majesty of Professor’s Lennox’s Gospel message and for an apologist blessed with a gift to speak to the individual no matter the size of the gathering. He made one request of the audience to, “at least once in your life, listen to what is being said before making up your mind.”
Professor Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, took to the stage in front of a crowd of over 600, drawn from all walks of life, many shades of theistic faiths and sceptics and unbelievers of all persuasions. As well taking apologetics into the heart of Oxford, Professor Lennox was questioned by Rob Gifford, a senior journalist at The Economist magazine, about his latest book, Can Science Explain Everything?
Watch John’s promo for ‘Can Science Explain Everything’…
‘Made in the image of God’
Professor Lennox reached beyond his book to draw on the deeply personal. He used domestic bliss to tease out the role of evidence and rational argument in faith and science, “I believe my wife of 50 years loves me. I have strong evidence for it. I couldn’t prove it mathematically, but I would bet my life on it.”
He then took us back to the foundation for his faith and his need, which he made ours, to rationally and logically investigate that faith. “My parents instilled in my mind the sheer importance of understanding that all people, whatever they believe, whatever their religion is, are of equal infinite value because they are made in the image of God.”
Hawking’s profound category mistake
That grace was evident as he dismantled Stephen Hawking’s conception of God: “He was an absolutely brilliant physicist, light years ahead of me in brain power. However, Hawking’s belief that I believed in a god of the gaps was a profound category mistake.”
Professor Lennox described “a god of the gaps” as one who disappears “bit by bit as science advances, like the grin on the proverbial Cheshire cat…The God of the Bible is not a god of the gaps. He is the God of the whole show.”
Entering into dialogue
For Christian and Alessandra, evidence-based faith is extremely important. Alessandra, a biochemistry graduate, originally “got into science because I thought I would prove that God exists.” For Christian, a biomedical science graduate, “I believe what I believe. I think it’s feasible and I wouldn’t believe it otherwise.”
David, a trainee minister from Birmingham, had no scientific background but came for deeper understanding: “Historically, we always see science and religion as opposites. It’s wonderful to hear how they can enter into dialogue with each other.”
Dialogue is fundamental to Professor Lennox’s apologetics. “Why am I a Christian? You might argue that it’s a genetic disease of the Irish. You can take that view if you like but in order to check that view – and I’ve spent my whole life checking it because I don’t want to be fooled – in week one at Cambridge, I deliberately went out of my way to befriend someone who did not share my worldview.”
Hamed, a Muslim, had travelled all the way from East London to enter into dialogue with Christ: “I run a madrassa and in one of our conferences John Lennox was brought up. A lot of the questions I had have now been answered, listening to John has given me confidence that science does not have all the answers.”
Peace with God
Professor Lennox’s arguments struck a deep chord with Chris, an atheist, “John was saying that morality comes from somewhere, I do agree with him on that point. Our basic morality is born from religion I would say.”
Professor Lennox would no doubt sense in Chris a young man beginning to think thoughts that could lead him to Christ. Although Professor Lennox may caution against Chris’s use of religion: “I rarely use the word ‘religion’ because it seems to smack of ceremony, ritual and all the rest of it. The entrance into Christianity is not a ceremony, it is a step of commitment rationally based on evidence.
What Christ promises is that if a person faces the mess they have made of their own lives and repents and trusts Him for salvation, they will receive in that moment peace with God. Christ assures them that you’ll never come into judgement but have passed from death to life.”
Watch the whole interview from the January 28th event…