Full text of John Lennox’s talk titled ‘Seven Days That Divide the World’.
Eric Metaxas and Socrates in the City present an evening with John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, at the Union Club in New York City on January 31, 2013.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
ERIC METAXAS: Well, good evening, and welcome to Socrates in the City. You can applaud. It’s great to see—no, no, that’s really not appropriate, please.
But it’s great to see so many of you here. As you know, we were totally sold out for this event, in fact, just because of sheer stupidity on the part of my staff. Not me. No. All right. I admit it. It was I who was sheerly stupid.
And I have to tell you, we oversold this to the extent that you got an email yesterday, I think, saying if some people wouldn’t mind staying home, we’d be very, very grateful. So anyway, you know that we tried to tempt a number of you, like the airlines, to sort of trade your seat for a meal voucher or something like that. And obviously, a number of people took us up on that. We really have no intention of honoring that, but we’re just glad that they didn’t show up. We just go on to the next town. They’ll never hear from us again.
Now, seriously, some of you were turned away mostly because there was simply no room. Others—and we won’t say who, but we just dislike you. But because everyone who wanted to be here could not be here, we promised we would get the video of this evening online as soon as possible. So hopefully in the next few days, it’s our intention to get these evenings out to a wider group than can fit in these wonderful rooms. And we are happy to do that with this talk as soon as we can.
So stay tuned to SocratesintheCity.com or EricMetaxas.com for a video of this event as soon as we put it up. And by the way, if you are watching me say these words on video right now, there’s no need to stay tuned.
Yeah, because you’ve already found the video, I think.
All right. Anyway, happy that many of you will be watching this online and that some of you are watching it online right now. We know that you are. We hope that you’re watching this online. And we will try to approximate in the video what it is like to physically be in this room right now to the extent that we can. Of course, if you are watching this online, you cannot possibly smell the lovely smell filling this room right now. I believe that’s corned beef and cabbage. Am I getting that right? That’s in honor of our Irish-born speaker. It’s just lovely. And those of you watching this online, you couldn’t possibly pick that up.
Now, I know that’s a cheap ethnic stereotype, but you really can’t have an Irish speaker with lots and lots of green beer, and that also is the smell filling the room. Isn’t it lovely, though, ladies and gentlemen? It’s lovely. Yes, yes. And some of you have drunk a wee bit too much, and we can smell that some people have gotten sick. It’s very embarrassing. So maybe you’re glad that you’re only watching this online. Yes, yes.
We want to bring in the cheap Irish ethnic stereotypes. We’re very used in New York to a homogenous group. So when foreign Irish people and so on and so forth, people born in Ireland, it’s just very exotic for us. Most of us are of simple Dutch stock in this room, and we’re just… we don’t know where to go. Yes.
Anyway, I have to explain this to Dr. Lennox. He’s never been insulted in that way before, and I do apologize in advance. Most of us have literally never seen an Irishman before. That’s just the way it is in this room. We expected a big six-foot-five, called a big shocker, red hair and freckles all the way back to Killarney, don’t you know? And so that’s just who we are. We’re simple New Yorkers.
A quick word about who we are at Socrates in the City. Let me say that Socrates in the City is a UFO cult. We’re proud to be a UFO cult, and anyone having a problem with that will be vaporized by the time this video airs online. We don’t normally, of course, admit that we’re a UFO cult publicly, so let’s please keep that in this room if you don’t mind. The people watching this event online will not hear me say what I just said. Instead, for those sentences, we will dub in an audio of Beyonce singing the Star-Spangled Banner, or Danny Boy, as the case may be. Faith & Begorra. Yes.
Seriously, seriously, Socrates in the City takes its cue from Socrates’ famous maxim that the unexamined life is not worth living, so we gather now and again to hear speakers deal with the so-called big questions, what we like to call life, God, and other small topics. In the past, we’ve heard from speakers who’ve dealt with the interface between faith and science, as we will tonight. We’ve heard from Sir John Polkinghorne, from Dr. Francis Collins, and of course, from Criss Angel MINDFREAK.
The interface between faith and culture is at the heart of the big questions in our own culture because, of course, a false wall has been set up between them, we get the idea that we have to make a choice, either faith or science. That’s wrong on a number of levels, and I hope Dr. Lennox will help us think that through a bit tonight.
He will, of course, be talking about the creation account in Genesis and how that does or does not comport with what we know from science. He will also be proving the existence of leprechauns. I didn’t write this, I assure you. This is just unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. I’m not even going to read the rest of this.
A quick word on our format. Dr. Lennox, about whom I shall furiously tell you in a moment, will speak for approximately 45 minutes. We’ll then have time for Q&A, and he’s got a special treat for the Q&A. And then we’ll stop at 8:25, 8:30 promptly, as we always do, and then we’ll have time for Dr. Lennox to sign books.
Okay, so Dr. John C. Lennox, PhD, DPhil, DSC, Notorious B.I.G., is a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford. He is the author of many books, including God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? He’s written several other books on the interface between science, philosophy, and theology, the most recent being the one he’ll speak on tonight, Seven Days That Divide the World.
Many of you thought John Lennox, some of you thought, some of my less thoughtful friends thought John Lennox was a typo, and that tonight we would hear from John Lennon. I’m happy to say that’s not the case, although I’m thrilled to say that Yoko Ono will be at the Patreon’s dinner. She’ll be singing — I think I mentioned several of our emails.
One of the reasons that I’m particularly excited for us to hear from Dr. Lennox tonight is that he was a student at Cambridge, and he was a student under C.S. Lewis. And C.S. Lewis is last year there in 1962, and maybe he’ll share a little bit about that with us tonight. He is, as I mentioned, I think, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, a fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science, and pastoral advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He’s also an adjunct lecturer at Wickliffe Hall, Oxford University, at the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics, and is a senior fellow of the Trinity Forum.
In addition, he teaches for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Program at the Executive Education Center. He studied at the Royal School Armagh in Northern Ireland, and was an exhibitioner and senior scholar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, from which he took his MA and PhD, and a silver candelabra when no one was looking. He didn’t think that we knew about that.
He worked for many years in the Mathematics Institute at the University of Wales in Cardiff, which awarded him his D.S.D. for his research, and holds a D.Phil from Oxford University and an MA in bioethics from the University of Surrey. There’s so much here, my goodness. He’s lectured extensively a course in North America and in Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science, and the intellectual defense of Christianity. He has famously debated Richard Dawkins on the God Delusion in the University of Alabama in 2007, and on the topic: HAS SCIENCE BURIED GOD in the Oxford Museum of Natural History.
He’s also debated Christopher Hitchens at least once on the new atheism at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008, and I believe in Birmingham with my friend Larry Taunton. And he’s also debated Peter Singer on the topic of IS THERE A GOD. He speaks Russian, French, Spanish, and German, so his hobbies, of course, are languages, amateur astronomy, amateur bird watching, amateur professionalism, professional amateurism, and professional wrestling.
John is married to Sally. They have three grown-up children and four grandchildren and live near Oxford. Ladies and gentlemen, please, a warm Socrates in the City welcome for our special guest this evening, Dr. John Lennox.
JOHN LENNOX: I’m sure like you, ladies and gentlemen, you’re enjoying the one-man show.
It’s a great pleasure for me to be invited to speak to this forum Socrates in the City, because Socrates is one of my great intellectual heroes.
Now, I ought to preface my remarks by saying that I am a mathematician, and the received definition of a mathematician is a person who talks in other people’s sleep. But a mathematician who is five hours jet-lagged is in serious danger of going to sleep in his own lecture, which incidentally has happened on at least three occasions that I know of.
Eric asked me to tell you a little bit about C.S. Lewis, which is not part of this talk, but my memories of him are very vivid. And he used to lecture in the English lecture theater in Mill Lane in Cambridge, just virtually next door to the pub where the announcement of the decoding of the double helix was announced in 1953.
It was just across the road from the mathematics institute. So when the maths got boring, I would sneak out and go and listen to Lewis. The room was about this size. It was absolutely packed, people sitting on the floor, and there was just space for him to come through the double doors and wend his way up to the podium. It was winter. It was very cold, and Lewis was a big, heavy man who wore a big, heavy coat and a big scarf and a hat.
So he came through the door and immediately started to lecture before he’d taken coat, hat, or scarf off. But he proceeded to lectures. He made his way up to the podium, so by the time he got to the podium, he probably had his scarf off. And then he’d take his hat off and put it down and his coat off, and by the time all that was done, he was way into the lecture, word perfect. I can’t remember him using notes.
The interesting thing was when he finished the lecture, he reversed this process. So still lecturing, he’d put on his hat, of his scarf, put on his coat, and the last words would be uttered as he disappeared out through the door. There was no opportunity for questions. Those were dealt with in the private tutorials.
Socrates, of course, was a man who is famous for asking questions. I came across him very early in life, and I spent my life trying to ask questions and to get answers to them in order to ascertain which of the two major competing worldviews is true. Our society is divided, and culturally, in the academy, we have a clash between two fundamentally opposed worldviews.
The one is naturalism, that believes that this universe is all that ever existed or ever will exist, and that therefore all explanation has to be bottom up in terms of mass and energy.
The other world view is theism, and in my case, Christian theism, that says in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Never was there a more profound challenge to the naturalistic worldview.
I remember in the sixties in Cambridge when evidence of a beginning to space-time began to come in. It was seriously resisted by the scientific establishment. The then editor of Nature, Sir John Maddox, said, ‘We cannot go down this road of believing that there was a beginning, because it will give too much leverage to people who believe the Bible.’
In other words, here was science being resisted because it appeared to run parallel to what Scripture said. Now we know that the majority of scientists believe that space-time had a beginning. But what they do not believe is that it was a creation by an intelligent God.
And so although the battle lines have changed slightly, the major issue out there is: WAS IT A CREATION OR NOT?
Now of course this has posed an immense problem for atheist scientists because if there was a beginning to space-time and there was nothing before, that is the absence of anything, their problem is, how do we get a universe from nothing? And the efforts made by Lawrence Krauss of ASU and Stephen Hawking recently, have shown spectacularly the absurd lengths to which intelligent people will go to try to avoid the notion that there is a Creator.
Now our topic tonight is not the fact that atheists and Christians agree that there was a beginning. It’s not even the fact that as a Christian I want to defend the fact that the beginning was a creation by an intelligent Creator.
What we’re going to talk about tonight is the fact that there is an account of creation in the Bible. It is an account that has been subject to an enormous amount of study and an enormous amount of attack, particularly from non-Christian thinkers.
And I want to have a look at it because it seems to me to be enormously important not only to look at it, but to think about how we look at it, because it is the fact, it seems to me, that by far and away the most important thing about creation is that it happened. However it happened and whenever it happened.
But it is also the fact that around the however and whenever there is considerable controversy among Christians, of course, because outside that realm, people are more interested in whether it happened or not than how or when it happened. And many people have been put off even considering the evidence for the Christian faith because they see, whether rightly or wrongly, that aspects and sections of the Christian church appear to them to be seriously unscientific and seriously obscurantist. And that puts them into a dilemma because I have many friends, particularly in this country, who want to be faithful to Scripture. They believe in its authority and rightly so in my opinion.
But they also want to face science and they do not want unnecessarily to be taken for fools when it comes to the understanding of science. Now as Christians study these issues they are being watched as to how they do it.
And one of the saddest things to my mind is this: When Christians profess to believe that Jesus Christ is the truth and that He above all brings to us the love of God, start to fight one another in a public way over issues that are not necessarily at the heart of the biblical message and therefore bring it into very serious discredit. We are being watched.
And so it’s important that we get some kind of perspective on what is for many people a very, very sensitive and controversial subject because there’s a double tension. There’s the question of being faithful to their understanding of the authority and inspiration of Scripture, and on the other hand, not being obscurantist when it comes to the developments in science.
And so to get some kind of perspective on this, on the way we handle controversy, I want to go back to the sixteenth century.
Now if we’d been living then, my lecture tonight would have been on a different topic. The topic would have been, DOES THE EARTH MOVE OR NOT? And you would have been fascinated to hear, I hope, what someone thought about this new-fangled idea that contradicted the Bible, the claim that the earth moved.
Because for centuries, of course, under the influence of Aristotle, people believed that the earth was fixed in the center of the universe and everything else revolved around it. And people thought that was pretty logical. Why does a stone thrown up in the air come straight down? If the earth is moving, why doesn’t it come down a bit further along the way? And so on. Why do not we feel a strong wind blowing in our faces in the direction of the earth’s motion and so on?
Now it wasn’t only the intellectual scientists of the day who believed it. The Christians believed it because they read the Bible. For instance, in the Psalms they saw God sets the earth upon its foundation so that it should never be moved.
Or 1 Samuel 2, for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and on them He has set the world. So there is Scripture saying that the earth doesn’t move.
And this upstart, Copernicus, and after him, Galileo, claims it does move. And that caused the initiation of a great questioning in the Europe of the day.
Now, we are in an interesting situation because I suspect that the vast majority in this room believe that the earth moves. That poses an interesting question for the Christians among us, if there are any.
How is it you’ve come to believe that the earth moves when Scripture says it doesn’t move? It’s interesting, isn’t it? And nobody gives a thought to it because we’ve long since, but it took 1,700 years to sort this one out.
And I want to discuss it a little bit with you because it’s comfortable enough because it’s distant. But the fact is that the Bible says the earth is fixed so it doesn’t move. And the other fact is none of us believes it doesn’t move. So we’re in a quandary, aren’t we? And we have to face it.
So let’s have a look at this to see why it is we’re not all fixed earthers. The question, of course, comes down to this: HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE? That was the question at stake during the Galileo controversy.
So let’s think of some general principles of understanding. One should, of course, in the first instance be guided by the natural understanding of a passage. The reformers in the 15th and 16th centuries adopted an approach which they called the literal method. They didn’t mean literal in the way we often use it, though. They meant the sense of interpretation of a text which is obtained by taking its words in their natural or customary meaning and applying the normal rules of grammar. And that’s enormously important because, of course, when we come to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, they are first and foremost to be understood in their natural primary sense.
Creation is not a metaphor for anything. It involved an actual bringing into existence of the cosmos. The cross of Christ is not a metaphor. In the first instance, it is an actual crucifixion. It has, of course, significance way beyond that and so on. But that basic principle needs immediate qualification because, of course, if we ask for the natural reading, there can be more than one. For instance, in Genesis 1, the word earth is first used for the planet and then a little later it’s used for the dry land as distinct from the sea.
Now, both times the word earth is clearly meant literally, but there are two different literal meanings. So we must be open for that possibility.
Then there are many places where a basic literal understanding won’t work. Let’s take the statement that Christ made, ‘I am the door.’ It’s clearly not meant to be understood in the primary, literal sense of a door made of wood or steel or plastic. It is meant metaphorically.
But now here we need to listen to C.S. Lewis. Because the word door in that statement is a metaphor, that does not mean it doesn’t stand for something real. It does. Jesus claims to be a door in a very real way, a door into a spiritual experience of God that we can ourselves experience. That experience is literal at that level, but it’s not literal at the primary level. Do you see the difference? But that shows you that the word literal is a very slippery word to use.
Now we’re used to dealing with this in language, in ordinary conversation. The thing some of us need to do is to get used to it when it comes to the Bible.
Now I want to say something else. How is it that I know that when Jesus said, ‘I am the door’, He didn’t mean one of those? It’s through my experience of real doors, isn’t it? In other words, generalizing slightly, it is through my experience of the natural world. Science, if you like.
You see, what escapes many of us is the fact that our interpretation of almost anything depends critically on our experience. So when we hear Jesus say, ‘I am the door’, because we know what a door in the physical sense means, we immediately go up to the next level. So it is, in that generalized sense, science that’s helping us. So we needn’t despise our experience of the natural world too rapidly.
So the word literal, being almost useless for discussion purposes, is often replaced by the word literalistic when it comes to the primary sense and the primary sense alone.
Now, of course, if, with that in mind, we ask the question, what level should a text be read, it’s often obvious. But sometimes it’s not so obvious, and that’s of course where all the controversy begins.
Now think of the MOVING EARTH CONTROVERSY. For many years, if not centuries, there would have been two groups. At the first, a big group of fixed earthers and a tiny group of moving earthers. But as time went on and evidence came in more and more, the group of moving earthers grew and the group of fixed earthers got less and less. And they had to somehow come to terms with the idea that Scripture appeared to say that the earth was fixed and it didn’t move. So what were they going to do?
Now, were the people who began to believe in a moving earth just people who’d given up on the authority of Scripture and jumped on the bandwagon of science? Or what?
Well, let’s think about it. Let me make clear that I am a scientist who believes that Scripture is the fully inspired word of God and authoritative. I’m not shy, therefore, of drawing scientific implications from it when warranted. But saying that Scripture has scientific implications, like for instance the fact that it for centuries has announced that there was a beginning and scientists only began to look for it in about the 1960s, I have frequently suggested to scientists, perhaps if they’d taken the Bible a bit more seriously, they’d have looked for evidence of a beginning a lot earlier.
But be that as it may, the important thing to realize is, although there are parts of Scripture that talk about the physical universe, that is, they’ve got the same subject matter of science, the Bible is clearly not a scientific textbook. I do not teach Newton’s laws from Leviticus, and John Calvin, no less, said in his commentary on Genesis, nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy and other recondite arts let him go elsewhere.
But it’s very important, having realized that, that the Bible answers actually the more important questions, the why questions of purpose, rather than the how questions of how it works, that nonetheless Scripture has truth to tell about the objective reality that we call the physical universe. And therefore, we must try to understand what it is and what it isn’t that the Bible has to say on this topic.
Now, many years ago, centuries ago, Augustine had some advice as to how Christians should engage with science. Usually, he wrote, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and this knowledge he holds as to be as certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian presuming to give the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics. And we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to score.
He then says this: if they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?
And I think what Augustine has done there is put his finger on the problem that many people face. They want to trust rightly the authority of Scripture, but they do not want unnecessarily to appear idiotic when it comes to results of contemporary science.
Now, Augustine is not suggesting, of course, that Christians should not be prepared to face ridicule over fundamental doctrines of the Christian message, like the deity of Christ, His resurrection, and so on. Such ridicule is often based on the false notion that science has made it impossible to believe in miracles. That has been evident since the very beginning of Christianity and it occurs today, as I have very good cause to know.
I am not ashamed, ladies and gentlemen, to say that as a scientist I believe that Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead on the third day. So I am not ashamed of appearing to look a fool in front of my colleagues who would deny that on some very erroneous arguments derived from David Hume.
On the other hand, I am not prepared to say beyond what it appears to me that Scripture says on certain other issues. And it is that, of course, we need to discuss.
Now, I have mentioned the question of what is central to Christianity and what isn’t, but of course that is usually part of the problem, that one group believes that what they hold is central and the other doesn’t.
But I notice one thing that ought to help us. Among people who are convinced of the authority and inspiration of Scripture, you usually get no disagreement about the fact of creation, about the incarnation, about the miracles of Jesus, about His atoning death, His resurrection, and His return.
But you do find disagreement about the interpretation of Genesis 1. Now, that fact alone ought to make us humble. There is something here to be thought about no matter where we are coming from.
Now, what about Augustine’s advice? You see, looking at the moving earth, fixed earth controversy, we now know that the earth does not rest on literal foundations or pillars made of stone, concrete, or steel. We can see that the words foundation and pillar are used in a metaphorical sense, but Lewis again, it’s a metaphor for a reality. That is, foundation, stones of a temple, gives stability to the edifice.
Now, what science has uncovered are the extremely sensitive and complex mechanisms due to the moon, due to Jupiter, and so on, that keep the earth stable in its orbit. And so most of us, I think, are comfortable with the idea that the sad was expressing the truth using a metaphor for a reality. That is, the earth is literally stable, but not in the sense of having pillars upholding it. You see?
So that kind of thinking brought people to the point where they realized this, and I’m going to say this very carefully because it’s very important to me, and it’s this: They looked at Scripture and they saw that although you could interpret it in terms of the earth being fixed or not moving, you didn’t have to. Shall I repeat that?
They saw that although you could interpret Scripture and say the earth is fixed, you didn’t have to. And you didn’t have to in such a way that did not compromise any doctrine whatsoever. And so, of course, we are all, I take it, moving earthers.
Now, it seems to me that we ought to learn something from that, because for centuries, if we transported ourselves back six or seven centuries, everybody in this room, whether they were Christian or not, would have been a fixed earther. And you will find that Luther and Calvin were very clear in what they believed about the earth not moving. Are we to write them all off? No, of course not.
Because at that time, it didn’t seem ridiculous to believe in a fixed earth because that was the best of their knowledge at the time. What happened historically was that knowledge moved on, the interpretation of nature changed, and so people had to look again at the Scripture and said, how can we hang on to this? Well, of course, obviously we can do it this way, and now we do it without thinking.
And it seems to me that is a paradigm case for today. Could it be that the controversy about the age of the planet and the interpretation of Genesis 1 fits into a very similar, though not an identical, category?
Well, let me say something briefly about it because I believe in Socrates’ questioning method, I’m going to give you time for questions. So please be thinking of them because in this very short lecture, I can only do a sketch of the ideas here.
Now throughout the ages, many have held that there can be straight lines drawn from the creation week of Genesis to the week of ordinary life. And indeed, this is the Jewish year 5773, dated according to the Jewish calendar from creation.
The Reformers Luther and Calvin, who believed in a fixed earth, also held the 24-hour view. But there were others in the ancient world, long before Darwin or anybody else like that had ever been heard of, who suggested that, as Justin Marcher put it, that the days might have been long ages. He noticed that one of the Psalms said, a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past.
And in the second century, Clement of Alexandria thought that creation could not take place in time at all since, I quote, time was born along with things which exist.
And Augustine, who wrote a great deal about Genesis, openly stated in his book, The City of God, that he found the days of Genesis difficult. In fact, he held that God had created everything in a moment and that the days represented a sequence used simply to explain it to us.
Now these men were not armchair theorists and they existed long before the days of modern science. Many of them gave their lives, of course, for their Christian faith.
So let’s come to these GENESIS DAYS. The interpretations are many. I counted 15 or 16, I think. But they morph into three or four main streams.
Number one, the 24-hour view. The days are 24-hour days of one Earth week less than 10,000 years ago.
Two, the day age view. The days represent successive periods of time of unspecified length.
Three, the framework view. The days are not in chronological order, but they’re in a logical order. The first three days representing form and the second three representing fullness. The sky filled with birds, the sea filled with fish, and the Earth filled with animals and human beings.
And then there is the view that they are days of revelation, the time during which God revealed it to man.
Now that’s a lot to take in at one blush, but I suspect most of you are familiar with this. But one thing I want to illustrate is the difference between logical and chronological order.
If you compare Genesis 1 with Isaiah 45:12, you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s Isaiah. ‘I made the earth and created man on it. It was My hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their hosts.’ If you take that as a chronological statement, it means the earth was made before the heavens. But is it meant to be taken chronologically, or is it meant to be taken logically?
When we are describing things, we often mix those two orders, depending on our point of view. So there are these various views.
The framework view is one that is very much to the fore these days, particularly the version of it given by John Walton called the cosmic temple view. That is, I repeat the idea that the first three and the second three days are in parallel.
I would just make a simple observation that the fact that they are in parallel is fairly obvious, but the second thing is it doesn’t mean that there’s no chronology. You can’t put birds in the sky that’s not already there, to put it crudely. So even the framework view has implications of an implied chronology.
Now what should we think of all these different interpretations?
Well, they make me very careful, and I do not claim, ladies and gentlemen, to have a definitive solution of this, but what I want to share with you a number of things that have helped me think about it.
The first thing we note is that they are different interpretations of the same text. Now that is interesting because it means that people have a certain difficulty in understanding what this text means, and I suspect a lot of it comes from, in my experience, that not enough time has been taken to see what the text actually says, as distinct from what it means.
Now those two flow into each other, but what I’m going to try to do tonight is very briefly look at this again and take you through it and see what it says. If you look at the first chapter of Genesis, you first of all have a statement regarding the creation of the heavens and the earth in the first two verses.
Then we have six days of God’s creation and organizational activity culminating in the creation of human beings in God’s image. And then we have the seventh day of God’s rest.
So it’s a very simple, an introduction, a middle, the six days, and as Aristotle would say, an ending. So that the initial, immediate impression is a chronological sequence of events. The briefest, if you like, of brief histories of time.
It starts with an earth that is without form and void. There’s nothing much there. It ends with the earth full of all kinds of life, and culminating the process is the highest form of life: human beings made in the image of God. Let me just stop there.
The very fact of a sequence is fascinating because it seems to be saying, whatever you believe about the days, that God did not create everything at once. There is a sequence with a goal, and what is the goal? It’s human beings made in the image of God.
Ladies and gentlemen, our world desperately needs to hear this today. Human beings are the only creature or thing in the entire physical universe that are said to be made in the image of God.
The heavens declare the glory of God. It is no further said they were made in His image. You were made in God’s image, and that distinguishes you above every other creature. You don’t need me to remind you that in America and in the United Kingdom today, there is enormous pressure to devalue human beings to just another species.
And before we get into the details here, just let’s see what this text is actually saying. It’s saying that you, as a human being, are uniquely valued because you are made in the image of God. That is an immensely powerful and important message.
So there’s a sequence of days and a rest, which becomes, of course, the model of our earth week. And in any age, readers of Genesis 1 would be familiar with this basic cycle of life, the human working week, and they would know the law of Exodus, remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy: six days you shall labour, do your work, and so on.
And the readers would clearly understand that Genesis 1 portrays God as a creative craftsman going about His week of work, taking rest each night from evening to morning and then having a day of rest in the end.
But of course the thoughtful reader would realize a lot more, would realize that God’s work of creation was vastly different from their work. We do not do the things that God does. Indeed, the Hebrew word for create is only used in the Bible with God as subject. The readers would also realize that their rest was not the same as God’s rest. God never slumbers or sleep. And they would realize that God’s creation week was never repeated, whereas theirs was.
So there were points of contact between the Genesis week and the repeated earth week, but there were major points of difference.
So now comes the key question: WHAT DOES GENESIS ACTUALLY SAY?
Well, first of all, the word day, which is the crucial issue here. Well, the first mention of it in chapter 1 is verse 5, where we read: God called the light day and the darkness He called night.
So what’s the length of that day? Not 24 hours. By definition it is. I find it spectacularly amazing, ladies and gentlemen, that people can read this text and insist that at every place where the word day in Genesis or the Bible occurs it means a 24-hour day. The very first use doesn’t. It contrasts day with night.
And that reminds us of the multivalency of the word day in most languages. I came on Tuesday in the day. It’s not saying the same thing twice. It’s saying I came in the daytime.
So the very first use of the word is the contrast between the 12 hours, at Equator at least, of day and night. So number one is not a 24-hour day. It’s actually less. So that’s the first thing.
Secondly, the second occurrence is in the same verse. Day one involves evening and morning and would be naturally understood by Hebrews as what we would think of as a 24-hour day. So now we have two meanings for the word day. But there are more. We come to the seventh day, the Sabbath. There’s no mention of evening and morning. And for centuries people have asked why, and Augustine and many others made the sensible suggestion that God rested on the seventh day but He didn’t start creating again, that Sabbath rest has remained until today and is still going on. And hence the word evening and morning is not appended to it.
So there’s at least one very long day that I find millions of Christians believe in anyway without necessarily being aware of it. So the seventh day, arguably least, is different from the first six which is different from the first mention of the word day.
God of course rested from His work of creation, not from His work of redemption. That is a different matter and is very important. But ladies and gentlemen, the implication of God resting from His work of creation, that is immensely important because it means that things were going on during creation that aren’t going on anymore so that the present is not a total key to the past. Of course that is dynamite in certain academic circles but I’m simply trying to see what Scripture is saying.
It’s saying that God did certain things and He stopped doing them. There was a rest.
But then finally in Genesis 2 verse 4 we meet the expression, when God created. But the word when there is the Hebrew word for day. And you see here is now another use of the word day that we’ve all got.
You know in my young day of Cambridge, C.S. Lewis was a professor. You would never think of asking me was that Tuesday or Wednesday because day there is an expression for an indefinite period of time. It’s used in Hebrew in that way. It’s used in most languages in that way.
So now, looking at this fascinating text, we have several distinct meanings. They’re all primary meanings and they’re all different. Now this text is roughly a hundred words. And here’s a word used in five different senses which warns me that this is extremely sophisticated writing. It may be very simple on the surface, but there’s a sophistication to it that begins to emerge very rapidly.
SO HOW SHOULD WE INTERPRET ALL THAT?
Well the next point to make I think is this, verses 1 and 2 of Genesis, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and so on. Those two at the beginning are separated from the period of days. I find many people haven’t noticed that because every day from 2 on begins with and God said. So you would logically expect that day 1 begins with and God said, but that means that it’s verse 3 and not verse 1.
In other words, the creation of the heavens and the earth, however you interpret the days, according to the text did not occur on day 1. That’s very interesting, isn’t it?
Because if that is the case, and the Hebrew experts whom I have consulted tell me that the Hebrew changes the tense to make that extremely clear, that verses 1 or 2 are written in such a way as to indicate this occurs before the main narrative, well, ladies and gentlemen, one of the major issues I hear around the place is HOW OLD IS THE EARTH OR THE UNIVERSE? I’m not so sure that Scripture even discusses it.
Because whatever you think of the days, whether you think of there are days of one week or long days, if they were not at the beginning, then the beginning occurred at an indefinite time in the past.
Now, if Scripture doesn’t tell me when the beginning was, then why should I be dogmatic about it? Because it’s not the issue, all right?
Now, of course, a lot of things get conflated here because we loosely talk about the age of the earth, but there are several ages to be thought about, aren’t there? There’s the age of the universe, there’s the age of the earth, and there’s the age of life, and there’s the age of humanity. They’re not all the same. Even if you believe in the literal six-day week 10,000 years ago, they’re not all the same. And it’s important to differentiate them.
I’m simply making point number one, that as far as I can see, the text of the Bible does not discuss the actual age of planet earth at all. It simply tells us in the beginning, whenever that was, God did it.
What it now concentrates on is a sequence of days. When you say, now, let’s get down to it, you just told us evening and morning, day one, day two, that’s a 24-hour day. That’s exactly what I said, ladies and gentlemen.
But now let’s think again because there’s another little thing. If you look at the Bible, you usually see the first day, the second, the third, the fourth. That’s not what the Hebrew says.
Hebrew has a word for the, hayom, the day. It’s not used for days one to five. It’s only used for days six and seven. That’s intriguing. Because you see, if you were thinking of a normal earth week, you would either have them all without the article or of them all with the article. You certainly wouldn’t go, not the first day, but day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, the sixth day, the seventh day.
Now, what does that mean? That’s very interesting, isn’t it?
Because you see, if we just think back, suppose you’re only at this page of Scripture. Forget science, forget everything else. Just use logic on it and try to understand it. It’s saying there is a sequence of days. We can presume they’re 24-hour days, evenings and mornings. One, two, three, four, five, six, they’re in sequence. And they’re days in which and God said.
But nothing in the text demands that they’re days of a single earth week. They’re the creation days on which God spoke. So here’s a possibility. I wouldn’t die for this, you know, although some of you might want me to die for it before I go tonight. But I’m only making a suggestion that opens up a vast possibility that what these days are is what they came to be. God spoke. It didn’t take Him long to speak, if I might put it that way. And God said. And something happens. It might have taken a very long time for the potential of all of that to develop. And then sometime later God speaks. And then sometime later He speaks again.
Which means, of course, that if there are any traces of this to be found, we would expect to find what we do find, the sudden appearance of new levels of complexity.
Might I now make a very provocative statement about coming now to the end because I’ve got a stop clock here, mine, not His. And what I want to say is this, ladies and gentlemen, Genesis says very little and the Bible says very little about how God did it. But what it does say is very important.
Let me give you the New Testament version of it. In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through Him. That is through the Word. It’s talking about existence, how you get something from nothing. They came to be through the Word.
Now listen to the unpacking of that in Genesis 1. And God said… the Word. And God said… And God said… And there are two days in which God speaks more than once. I hope you’ve noticed that. On day three and day six, and on day three, fascinatingly, it’s to make the difference between what we would call the inorganic and life. I’m going to word myself very carefully.
In Scripture, you do not get from inorganic materials to life without ‘and God said’. On day six, animals and human beings. You do not get from animals to human beings without and God said.
Might I point out, however obscurant as it may seem, that is the exact opposite of random unguided evolution, ladies and gentlemen. That is God speaking.
Do you know what the irony of the whole thing is? That in every one of the hundred trillion cells of my body is yours. There’s the longest word that’s ever been discovered. The human genetic code, 3.4 billion letters long.
Now, you can do a little thought experiment. You go down to the beach in Long Island if there is one, and you see Metaxas written on the sand. What do you infer immediately? You infer an intelligent mind behind that. It’s only about half a dozen letters or so, ten letters or so. Immediately you infer upwards to intelligence. You don’t know what sort of machines might have been used to write that in the sand, but what you know is you cannot explain it completely without an input from an intelligent mind.
How is it, ladies and gentlemen, I sometimes drop this in in the Oxford Common Room when things get boring, how is it that we can look at the 3.5 billion letters of the genetic alphabet in exactly the right order? And when asked where does that come from, chance of necessity. Really? Seems to me there’s something very odd going on here.
And as a scientist, I want to finish now and give you a chance for questions. It seems to me that when you look at these two worldviews, they’re like this. Naturalism says in the beginning was mass energy, wherever that came from, they can’t tell us. And all of that of itself produced, because there’s no transcendence, produced the universe, produced life, produced you, produced your mind, and produced in it the idea of God because there isn’t a God.
The other worldview is that mass energy is not primary, it’s derivative. In the beginning was the Word, all things came to be through Him. So you have the primacy of mass energy or the primacy of mind, and it seems to be as a scientist, in the beginning was the Word makes infinitely better sense than the naturalistic view.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
ERIC METAXAS: Thank you, Dr. Lennox. Dr. Lennox is going to run the Q&A, and by the way, why didn’t I ever have any math teachers like this? I don’t know. He’s going to sort of run the Q&A, do something different.
Let me just caution you, as I always do at these gatherings. It’s very important at Socrates in the City that you please put your question, if you don’t mind, put your question in the form of a question. That’s the only rule we have. We have 30 minutes. This is a fun thing for us, but Dr. Lennox has something he wants to do, so I’ll turn it over to him.
JOHN LENNOX: Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s your opportunity, and in an audience like this, I know that everybody’s interested in the questions that other people have. And so what we’re going to do is to give them to that. So I’m going to collect five or six questions before we think about any of them. So as we get some idea of the spectrum of ideas that’s going around in this room, and that will make, I think, the Q&A, I hope, a more interesting experience. So just put up your hand, say your question. I will write it down and proceed to the next person.
Let me just briefly say that numbers are fascinating, and of course, the number pi, as you refer to, is a transcendental number. I don’t know that it’s a more godly number. I suspect God invented them all anyway. So that is, of course, an unanswerable question, so I proceed to the next one.
Now, dark energy. I’m not an expert physicist, but the thing your question raises is that, together with your question, is how little we actually know. What is dark energy? What’s driving it? And so on. What I discover in talking to people, I was at CERN recently, and I asked somebody what it was, and they didn’t know.
I think what it points up is a very important thing, and it’s a very big topic, actually, but it helps me illustrate it very well. We are bamboozled into thinking that science explains. You see, somebody comes along, Isaac Newton, and he comes with the law of gravitation. There you are. That explains it. It doesn’t. Newton knew that. The law of gravity describes what happens when massive bodies. Nobody knows, ladies and gentlemen, what gravity is. I wish they’d taught me that at school, because what we’ve come to think of as scientific explanation is not explanation. It gives a partial description, and Wittgenstein, no less, said this, that the great deception of modernism is that the laws of nature are explanations when they’re not.
Now, that limits the effect of science, but I find that many people do not realize it. Richard Feynman, one of the most distinguished physicists in North America, once said, ‘Don’t let anybody fool you. Nobody knows what energy is.’ And that’s very important.
I was speaking to about 500 physicists in our atomic weapons research establishment, and a physicist came up to me, and he said, ‘Professor Lennox, that was very interesting, but you know, I detect you’re a Christian.’ He was really sharp. And he said, ‘But you see, you as a Christian, you’re obliged to believe that Jesus was a Man and God at the same time. Isn’t that right?’
I said, ‘That’s right.’
He said, ‘Can you explain that to me?’
Well, I said, can I ask you a question or two first before I try to?
He said, sure.
I said, ‘Tell me, what is energy?’ Actually, what I first said to him was more difficult. I said, ‘What is consciousness?’
He said, I don’t know.
So I said, I’ll do something easier. What is energy?
He said, ‘Well, we can measure it. We can use it.’
I said, ‘That wasn’t the question. You know it wasn’t. What is it?’
He said, I don’t know.
I said, ‘That’s very interesting. Do you believe in energy or consciousness?’
He said, ‘Yeah, I do.’
‘And you don’t know what they are. Should I write you off as a physicist?’
He said, ‘Please don’t.’
I said, ‘You are prepared to write me off, because the nature of God — the nature of God is infinitely more complex than the nature of energy that we don’t know what it is.’ But I said, there’s something else. Why do you believe in consciousness and energy when you don’t know what they are? And I have to help him a bit, but I’m very kind, you see.
So I asked. I said, ‘You believe in them because of their explanatory power conceptually.’
He said, that’s right.
And I said, ‘That is exactly why I believe that Jesus is both God and human because those are the only terms that make sense of the evidence as I see it.’
I tell you that story, ladies and gentlemen, because you never should be ashamed of saying I don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know. And dark energy helps me to indicate, and that’s a very long-winded way of saying I don’t know what it is either.
Now, if Earth is only 10,000 years old, what about the dinosaurs? Well, you have a problem.
You have a problem. But the point of what I’m saying tonight quite seriously is this. I do not see any evidence in Scripture that gives us any date for the Earth. And therefore, the problem is solved in that sense. It just is not a problem.
And what I would say about this is I want to say what the Bible says and not be ashamed of any of it, but I don’t want to try to defend it by going beyond it. I don’t want to say less than what it says, but I don’t want to say more than what it says. And the more I study this text, the more I’m fascinated by its complexity and at the same time its simplicity. And people come back to me and say, and this wasn’t one of your objections, but I’ll make it for you.
And it says, but look, this idea that there might have been a day and then a day separated by a very long time, surely that’s far too complex. But the notion of a moving Earth is very complex, isn’t it? But we come to believe it on the basis of the evidence provided it doesn’t contradict things.
Now, that brings me to the next question.
Now, the next question is, well, let me take them in a different order. DID WE DESCEND FROM APES AND HOMINIDS?
The point I made earlier is this. According to Genesis… and God said, ‘let Us make man…’ The detailed story in chapter 2 and 3 of Genesis, which says that God took the dust of the Earth and made human beings. Hebrew could have said very easily that God took an existing animal, but that’s what it doesn’t say.
If you were ever trying to get across the idea that human beings were a product of existing animals, Genesis is a very bad way to do it because it appears to go in the exact opposite direction. So, my own feeling about it is that it is a special creation, that human beings are utterly special, that God created them directly in His own image out of preexisting material.
But as I said, if you’re going by the story, it seems to me to lead away from that. I notice, though, which is interesting, that some of my friends who do take the hominid view, they still, many of them, have to say that God does something special to make that hominid a human being, but then once you have admitted the principle that God does something special, why not go the whole way?
You see, what I mean by that, ladies and gentlemen, and this is very important, it’s this, that the problem is singularity. Scientists don’t like them. That is a place where the laws of nature appear to break down. Now, physicists have got used to space-time singularity at the origin of the universe. Christians believe, of course, that God is behind that.
Now, Christians also believe that there was a space-time singularity around 20 centuries ago, the virgin conception, the life, the resurrection of Jesus, the Incarnation. That isn’t a result of physical processes going on in the womb of Mary. That is God’s deliberate intervention. Whether we believe it or not, that is what the text says.
Now, where I come in is this: Genesis says, and God said, doesn’t say it many times. It’s not saying that God did billions and billions of special creations, but it does say, and God said. So if you admit that the original creation was a singularity, the resurrection was a singularity, what is the in-principle difficulty in admitting that the origin of life and the origin of humanity, say, are equally singularities? In principle, I see no difficulty.
You have to face the in-principle question. Now, I’ve tried to face that in my book, God and Stephen Hawking, and also in my recent book, Gunning for God, so I can’t go into that tonight, but it seems to me that that is where the real issue lies, and as I say, scientists don’t like the idea, and I’m accused of it all the time, that they say, oh well, all you’re doing is saying you can’t explain it, therefore God did it, the God of the gaps. They say that’s the lazy way out. Yes, it is sometimes, but not if the gap tells you what the thing is you’re studying.
If I see that the gap, so to speak, is Metaxas written on the sand, I don’t think that saying that an intelligence wrote that on the sand is just saying an intelligence of the gaps because it’s the nature of the writing that tells me there’s an intelligence behind it. That’s a totally different matter. So that’s how I’d approach that question.
Then there was a question about multiverses. Now, multiverses don’t actually come into Genesis 1, but they are a very seriously discussed question, and again, I’m going to be very brief. I have tried to write on this in my book, God and Stephen Hawking, and I took Lawrence Krauss on recently in The Times, and you can look that up online if you like.
But the basic idea for multiverse is that, well, one of the ideas is that we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in a universe like this because there’s an infinite number of universes, one of every kind you could possibly have, so we are in this one. So surprise, surprise. There’s no surprise.
Well, I take issue at that at many levels. One is a mathematician, that it commits what’s called the inverse gambler’s fallacy, and if you don’t know what that is, blessed art thou, you’ll have to look it up and look at it. But I suppose I’m prejudiced a bit. My teacher of quantum physics at Cambridge was Professor Sir John Polkinghorne. He was mentioned earlier. And Polkinghorne just says that the idea of an ensemble of universes, which are not accessible, by the way, to us, seems to be highly speculative, where the idea of a single creator who created this universe seems to be much more economical.
Now, there’s a vast deal more to it, because Stephen Hawking claims that the M-theory, as he calls it, which involves multiverses, is the solution. Roger Penrose, who is his great co-worker and probably the most brilliant mathematician equal to Hawking, clearly, in Oxford, he thinks that this is totally overrated.
And ladies and gentlemen, one point I will make is a very simple philosophical point. God can create as many universes as He likes. The idea of the multiverse is not an argument against God. It’s often used as an argument against God. Indeed, if this book that I believe in is to be believed, there’s a rustle in its pages that it isn’t the only world there is. There is another world. So we needn’t be embarrassed by it.
It’s just very interesting to see how the scientists are using it. And many of them are honest, or some of them, at least, are honest enough to admit that they’re using it because they do not like the idea of a creation. Now, there is some scientific evidence, and it comes from quantum theory. And I can’t go into that.
But the point is, it’s not something that can trouble us either way. It’s a bit of interesting physics. What is very troubling is the kind of thing that Lawrence Krauss came out with in Newsweek. And I’m afraid I’ve got enough of the Irish in me to take him up. He wrote an article on the Higgs boson. You’ve all heard of the Higgs boson, haven’t you? Peter Higgs predicted this, and CERN discovered it. And Krauss said in Newsweek, the Higgs boson is arguably more important than God.
So I replied, and I said, arguably more important than God for what? If you’re explaining elementary particle physics, of course, but if you’re explaining why there is a universe in which elementary particle physics can be done, no. The law of internal combustion is arguably more important than Henry Ford if you’re explaining how a motor car engine works. It’s not arguably more important than Henry Ford if you’re explaining how the motor car came to exist in the first place.
There is a profound confusion in the scientific world exhibited wonderfully, I’m afraid, by Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. This idea, you’ve got to choose God or science. And I say to them, and I find 10- and 12-year-old children can understand me, I say, look, that’s like saying, here’s a motor car, I’ll give you two explanations, one, the law of internal combustion and mechanical engineering, two, Henry Ford, please choose.
And the kids laugh, they see it, but get a professor, no. But it is seriously important because this argument is accessible to anybody. It’s to do with explanation again. Explanation involves many things. And an explanation in terms of a law and a mechanism doesn’t exclude an explanation in terms of a personal agent.
Okay, now come to the final question here. It was your question, sir, which I claim to have understood. You will now see whether I understood it or not.
And the logic of the question, I accept and feel it’s so important I’ve devoted a whole appendix to it in my little book, and it’s this. If you argue, as I did earlier, that it seems to me that not only it may well be that creation is undated but there are long periods of time between and God said, the problem comes that means that death was in the world logically before the fall, as we call it, before Adam sinned and introduced death into the world and that cannot be.
I take that objection very seriously because Scripture teaches. But now again I apply the principle I applied to Genesis 1. What exactly does Scripture say about it?
Now what it says is this in Romans, as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin and so death passed upon all what? All what? All men. I take that seriously, ladies and gentlemen. Human death is a result of sin. That’s what Scripture says.
But I’m not quite so sure it’s discussing other kinds of death. After all, if you create a whale, forgive me if I sound a little bit crude, is he to swim through the water with his mouth shut until the fall happens? We’ve got to make distinctions that we’re not used to making sometimes.
You see, death and disease are not the same thing. For example, salmon can be diseased and die, but you know in the cycle of things. They return to the river where they were born and they just die. That’s not disease. That’s part of a cycle of nature.
Now you have to ask very big questions. Is that cycle of nature a consequence of the entry of sin into the world? Because if it is, it means the entry of sin into the world was the most massive bit of creating that’s ever been seen. I don’t find any trace of it in Scripture. So that’s why I stick. Now there are plenty of difficulties left, of course, and I’m aware of them.
But the basic principle is this, that Scripture says that human death is a result of sin. Now that brings me back, of course, to Eric’s question.
You see, if human beings, ladies and gentlemen, as we know them are a special creation, they ain’t as old as the earth, are they? So I leave you with that thought, but one more thought, because is our time up, sir?
Oh, we can have a couple more questions. Well, okay, yes, yes, please.
First of all, the natural and supernatural question is very interesting, because we readily use, and I do, of course, words that people use. In one sense, the whole thing is supernatural by definition, because the physical creation is created by God, who’s not part of the physical creation. He is supernatural.
But we get a little bit confused, and this is where we have to be a little bit careful. I appeared on the Charlie Rose show. It hasn’t been broadcast yet, but the last time I was in New York a few weeks ago was to face Richard Dawkins again with Charlie Rose, and Dawkins started the mockery tactic and more or less tried to say, well, here’s John Lennox, and he’s a professor at Oxford. Would you believe it? He actually believes that Jesus walked on water, as if to say how absurd.
So I said, stop right there. I said, you know, if Jesus invented water, perhaps walking on it wasn’t such a big deal. But I said, Richard, you know, we could go through all the miracles, all those claims of specific supernatural events, and you wouldn’t listen to a word, because you believe that David Hume has proved that miracles break the laws of nature and are therefore impossible.
I said, the irony of that is this. Forget the biblical miracles, if you wish, for a moment. You are arguing with me at the moment. You’re using your rationality, and if you can give me a cause-effect chain that’s unbroken right back to the beginning, then you empty it of all meaning.
So in fact, and this is Lewis’s arguments, and a very important one that occurs in his book on miracles, that our rationality is a window into the supernatural. So I would agree with you, but it needs to be more nuanced than I can do it at the moment.
The next question was, should we be asking the question, what happens before? Well, of course we should, if we could give a meaning to it. And here we run out of difficulty, you know, run into difficulty. Because if the beginning is the beginning of space-time, and there was nothing before it.
Now, this is such a fascinating thing. You know, everybody’s interested in nothing at the moment. Have you noticed that? There are all kinds of books about nothing. Lawrence Krauss has written one, A Universe from Nothing, Hawking has written one, so I’ve written one. It’s much ado about nothing, actually. But it’s serious stuff, because it shows just how hard pushed they are, both conceptually and trying to work it out.
I’m taking your question seriously. What Scripture claims, and it relates to a question I haven’t answered yet, it relates to the causation question. We ask for the causal chain. And we come back and we say, what caused the universe to be? The answer is God.
And many an atheist says, well, look, we just say the universe has existed forever, and that’s where the buck stops.
Now, it’s important to realize, ladies and gentlemen, that no matter what worldview you hold, the causal chain does stop. Because it’s a question of what the ancient Greeks used to talk about. What is ultimate reality? On the atheist side, ultimate reality is mass energy. It causes everything, and that’s where you stop.
On the Christian side, ultimate reality is God, and that’s where you stop. Now, of course, Richard Dawkins wants to ask the question, who created the Creator and all that, and I’ll deal with that if you want me to.
But just to keep it at this level, it’s not, as I think it was Austin Farrer put it, the question is not, is there ultimate reality, but which reality is ultimate? And which makes most sense?
Is it more sensible to believe that the universe just is, or one of those things that happens to be, as a famous physicist put it, or that God is the ultimate reality?
Now, the question of the common ancestor, that’s a very interesting question to me. And of course, I’m not a biologist, but I try to read biology and go to seminars on systematic biology and various things like that, but I’m an innocent reader here. But it seems to me that an argument for common ancestry depends crucially on having a mechanism that produces it.
Because what we actually observe are similarities, and of course, they’re commonalities. Your dog will enjoy a beef steak. He won’t care whether it’s fillet or ordinary, but he’ll enjoy it, just like you do.
Now, as you look at that, if you’re a mathematician and take any set of objects, you can usually arrange them in some kind of a hierarchy according to certain criteria, and we can do that, the living thing. There’s no question about that.
But there are two things I want to say here.
Firstly, this, all cars have things in common, not because they’re descended from one another, but because they’re designed by human intelligence. Now, of course, if there’s no mechanism to produce it, and this is controversial, and if you want to know what I believe about it, have a look at my book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
But if there’s no evidence for beyond the Darwinian notion that minor changes through mutation and natural selection, which nobody has demonstrated are creative in the sense of increasing information, if that’s the only evidence, well, we don’t have any evidence. All we have are things that show common features. So it is equally open, it seems to me, to argue that they have those common elements because they derive from a common mind, and it may even be more sophisticated than that. It may be there are certain links.
One of the very interesting things about the Darwinian process is the work that’s been done to show that even with human intelligence, a given gene pool seems to have only a certain amount of spectrum of variation. It doesn’t create anything.
So it seems to me this is wide open. Now, what I’m saying is utterly explosive, of course, and many, the majority of biologists would disagree with me. But mathematicians, you know, ladies and gentlemen, have a bit of a track record on this area because the logic, it seems to me, does not work. And that’s where I stand. And I think you qualify that a great deal.
But I want to end now, if I may, making a final point.
We have talked, rightly so, about Genesis 1. I have not said anything virtually about the meaning of Genesis 1. I’ve told you a little bit about the days. Are they the most important message of Genesis 1? They’re not mentioned in the New Testament. What is mentioned is the Word.
And if I had another hour, I would want to tell you even more important things about what the message of this book is. But I’m going to only say one thing, and that’s about human beings. We live in a society where human beings are being attacked. I debated Peter Singer in Australia, a professor from Princeton, who believes that we’re guilty of speciesism, separating human beings out from the rest of creatures because they’re made in the image of God. And he said, that won’t go anymore.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you, as I close, my biggest argument for thinking that human beings are special: God became one.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
ERIC METAXAS: Thank you so much, Dr. Lennox. It is frustrating that we only have a few minutes with you. But let me say, before Dr. Lennox comes to this table to sign books, which is part of the point of these evenings, that the larger point of these evenings is to whet one’s appetite to dig further, certainly to read the books written by the speakers that we have. This is absolutely only meant to whet your appetite.
You probably have more questions now than you did when you came here. We think that’s good. I think Socrates would have thought that that was a good thing. But we really do want to encourage you to get these books. First of all, the book, The Seven Days That Divide the World, a small book. But there are a number of other books by Dr. Lennox, which we do have here, and which we want to encourage you to get them. He will stay here and sign any of his books which you bring to him. I don’t think he’ll sign anyone else’s books. Is that correct?
Okay, so only his own books, if you don’t mind. But we have to respect that. But please avail yourself of that. I just think this is so wonderful. I do think it’s a miracle that we fit into this room, I have to say. I’m thrilled that that worked out.
For Further Reading:
AI, Man & God: Prof. John Lennox (Full Transcript)
(Through The Bible) Genesis – Part 1: Zac Poonen (Transcript)
The New Creation (Part 1): Derek Prince Sermon (Transcript)
Derek Prince: Do you Realize How Valuable You Are? (Transcript)