Full text of mathematician John Lennox’s talk titled “Why I am a Christian” at Youth Event in Perth, Australia in August 2014.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
John Lennox – Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s an immense honour to be with you — all three of you — and it’s lovely to see such a crowd.
Now, I spent a lot of time in Russia, and in Russia, people lecture while they’re sitting, so I’m about to sit. And you will pardon me because I’m rather elderly, about twice the maximum age of anybody in this room, and therefore it is a much more pleasant thing for me, and I hope for you that I sit in this way before you.
I’ve been asked to address the question: WHY I AM A CHRISTIAN, and I’m very delighted that Dan preceded me because, ladies and gentlemen, here you have an example of a young man who, up until recently, found his world closing in on him, and suddenly, just over a period of time, something happens to him that begins to expand both his mind and his heart and changes his life fundamentally so that his songs are filled now with meaning.
And you know, if I were to summarize in just a few words why I’m a Christian, it’s because Christ gives me the biggest story to put my life into of any story that there is on offer. In other words, He solves for me the problem of meaning and significance, and that’s the question we ask all the time: Who am I? What is my significance?
And in the sea of humanity, we often feel so terribly small, and we feel so unsuccessful in life. We look around at those who are more talented, more beautiful, more able, more skilled, and we see the defects in ourselves, and we look back over a record of messing it up. And we wondered, is there any ultimate significance? And many atheists will help us and tell us that there is no ultimate significance. All you are as a human being is an eczema on the face of the universe with no more significance, as one philosopher put it, than slime mold.
And ladies and gentlemen, the battle in your mind, tonight as well, is the battle over the question: WHO AM I?
I love the ancient Greeks, you know, I hope you do. They were brilliant. And they started examining the universe, and they started asking questions: WHAT’S THIS MADE OF? And they got very good at that, and so in our universities, we have all kinds of faculties exploring what things are made of, material science, and so on. What’s the universe made of? What are you made of? And we know a great deal about what we’ve made of, and we can get it repaired, generally speaking, up to a certain level.
But the Greeks asked deeper questions. And one of those deeper questions was: WHAT IS THIS MADE FOR?
That’s a harder question. And it’s a question I’d like you to face tonight. You may never have asked it before. It’s this: WHAT AM I MADE FOR, IF ANYTHING? You know so much about what you’re made of, but what were you made for?
Let me illustrate this. Suppose I were to get one of these four-by-four vehicles that I see clogging up the streets of Perth and getting in my way. And I take it home, and you’re a very good salesman, and you decide to follow me up.
So after three months, you turn up at my home, and to your utter amazement, the four-by-four is sitting in the middle of the garden, full of tomato plants. And you knock my door in great bewilderment, and you say, ‘Excuse me, Professor Lennox?’
‘Oh, I’m so glad you came. You know, this is the best greenhouse I’ve ever had, because I’ve been growing the biggest tomatoes in my neighbourhood.’ You know, there’s a thing on the front panel here called AC, and I find if I tune it just to the right spot and leave it for a few weeks, I get these colossal tomatoes.
Now what would you think? Well, I suspect you’d advise a psychiatrist, but before you did that, you might say, oh, pardon me, that’s not what it’s for.
WHAT ARE YOU FOR? Have you ever asked yourself the question? You’ve got various goals in life, and as those goals fall, you discover that somehow they don’t satisfy you.
How many people I’ve sat with who’ve got to the very top, and I say to them, ‘Where are you going to go from here? What have you discovered at the top?’ And the answer is nothing.
One famous tennis player said, ‘I got to the top, and I discovered there was nothing there.’
Have you begun to discover there’s nothing there? Dan is a fortunate young man. He started to discover it in his 20s, and we’ve got to be ruthlessly honest, ladies and gentlemen, in asking this question: WHAT ARE WE FOR?
Well, now, of course, when it comes to my four by four, I would expect the dealer to refer me to the book of instructions. And of course, you know the general rule, when all else fails, read the instructions. And the sophistication of everybody’s gizmos these days is such that the instructions are on CDs in inaccessible places, and you rack your brains trying to sort out how to get your iPhone connected and all the rest of it.
ARE THERE ANY INSTRUCTIONS FOR HUMAN BEINGS?
Oh, you say, don’t be foolish. This is the 21st century. Instructions that there were instructions for human beings, that would mean there was an instructor, and now you’re beginning to talk about God, aren’t you?
‘Are you a Professor at Oxford, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. You can’t possibly expect us to raise the God question and instructions in the 21st century.’
WHY NOT, ladies and gentlemen? Where did your iPhone come from? It’s a brilliant result of technology, isn’t it? Where did technology come from? It came from modern science. Where did modern science come from? Belief in God, ladies and gentlemen, that’s where it came from. We’ve forgotten it, of course.
C.S. Lewis put it brilliantly, men became scientific. Why? Because they expected law in nature. Why? Because they believed in the Law Giver.
You see, I’m not remotely ashamed to be both a scientist and a Christian because Christianity arguably gave me my subject. And it odd therefore that Isaac Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Babbage, Torque Maxwell, all of them were believers in God. It didn’t hinder the science. It was the powerful motor that drove it.
What’s fascinating to me? It’s even more fascinating when you realize that people like Stephen Hawking, who was just ahead of me at Cambridge and light years ahead of me in his brain power, he says, ‘You’ve now got to choose between science and God.’
Newton didn’t say that. The more he studied the universe, the more he admired the genius of the God that did it that way. His law of gravity, which he incorporated in his famous book Principia Mathematica, where he said that he hoped it would persuade thinking people to believe in a deity.
HOW HAVE WE MOVED FROM NEWTON TO HAWKING?
I want to suggest to you, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve moved from Newton to Hawking by a series of colossal and partly deliberate misunderstandings of two things. One is the nature of God, and the other is the nature of science, very briefly, because this is part of why I’m a Christian, because it makes sense of my science. It gives me a rational basis for doing it.
Pages: First |1 | ... | → | Last | View Full Transcript