Making a stand for God in a scientific world
New film answers ‘why God?’ and ‘why Christianity?’
Oxford mathematics professor and philosopher of science John Lennox is not afraid of arguments. He is also unfazed by criticism – of which he has copped a lot.
“You can’t stand up for God and Christianity in a multicultural, pluralistic society without people at the very least asking questions, being critical, misunderstanding and misrepresenting [you],” Lennox tells Eternity.
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“And therefore you’re open to a lot of heat. And the old adage is true: if you can’t stand the heat, keep out of the kitchen. Certainly you’re bound to attract it, and I’ve attracted a lot of it.”
Lennox is the author of numerous apologetics books at the intersection of science and faith, including Can Science Explain Everything?, Gunning For God and God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is It Anyway?
He is also widely known for debating prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer and Christopher Hitchens.
“I have spent my whole life opening myself to criticism and comment and questioning.” – John Lennox
“The ‘God Delusion’ debate with Dawkins in Alabama … really catapulted me on to the big scene, so to speak,” says Lennox. “I’m very grateful for that because, subsequently, I’ve had endless opportunities.”
But, he adds, “I have spent my whole life, long before these debates, opening myself to criticism and comment and questioning.
“That’s the way I’ve learned. That’s where my convictions come from. They don’t come from some kind of private space that I hide in, away from the world and away from criticism, as just a private little religious belief – not in the least! I firmly believe that Christianity in that sense is a public belief system that needs to be articulated.”
Lennox notes that his parents – although “profoundly committed to Christianity” – urged him to explore other worldviews, as well as to examine the evidence for Christianity itself. Not only did this cement his own convictions about the truth Christianity, but it enabled Lennox to articulate a defence for his faith from a young age.
“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager and at Cambridge [University], and so on. I never hid my light under a bushel,” he says.
“… I believe that Christianity is true, not simply that it’s helpful,” he adds. “But actually it is the true account of reality of our relationship to God, to the universe and to one another.
“And therefore, I feel an explicit calling – based on what Christ says to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations – that this is something that I don’t keep for my own private space. I’m called upon to explain it and to herald it, to witness to God in a world where there’s quite a bit of antagonism.”
Of course, his calling to witness to the facts of Christianity has also been spurred on by biblical examples.
“Read the New Testament – the criticism and the comments that Jesus and his followers got, and all through biblical history, people who believe in God have faced that kind of thing. The real issue is not to be afraid of it, but to try to learn from it and to learn how to answer people’s questions.”
In order to help Christians do just that – defend Christianity against the questions raised by modern science – Lennox has produced a new film called Against the Tide – Finding God in an Age of Science. The film will be released in Australia by Crossroad on July 19 for one week only as a premium digital title, with 14 screenings that week. Later in the year, Against the Tide will be available on DVD and for on-demand streaming.
The film is a documentary-style conversation between Lennox and Kevin Sorbo, the actor known for the Hercules TV series and God’s Not Dead movie. Against the Tide begins in London, where Sorbo invites Lennox to explain the rational foundations for his Christian beliefs, before the pair travel to Israel, where they dive deeper into the historical story of Christianity.
“The two-part nature of the film means it not only deals with the ‘God question’, but also the Christian question,” explains Lennox, “… because very often I get asked, ‘Look, we can understand your scientific arguments about God, even though we may not agree with them, but why would you want to be a Christian?'”
Lennox identifies his intended audience for Against the Tide: he suggests that Christians invite non-believing friends into their home or church and show the film, then have a discussion afterwards.
“I see it as providing a foundation for discussions in school classrooms and colleges and universities, in homes and in churches, in particular, because many pastors are not scientifically literate,” says Lennox.
“We’re very much hoping that it will inform Christians and give them an introduction to arguments that they can use, whether they’re scientists or not.”
Regarding the relationship between science and God, Lennox notes that he is certainly not the only academic to believe the two actually fit together. He points out that a surprising number of leading scientists are Christian, including over 65 percent of Nobel Prize winners in science from 1900-2000.
When asked why the prevalence of Christians in science is not more widely known, Lennox answers: “Because the atheists have done a terrific PR job and because the media have given them the space. If articulate Christians were given the same kind of space in the media it would be very different. It’s not a level playing field, and that’s because the spirit of the age is antagonistic to Christianity. People haven’t heard informed discussion of it. They haven’t been allowed to hear it.”
“My objective in life and in all my activity is to strengthen Christians …” – John Lennox
Lennox adds that the church – at least in his homeland of England – has not helped this lack of knowledge by shying away from tough questions.
“I can’t speak for Australia, but in this country [England], there was a survey done a few years ago, but I think it’s even more valid today, where people were asked, ‘why did you leave the church?’ And these respondents said, ‘Because they don’t answer our questions’ – that was the number one reason.
“So churches need to shift gear and get ministers answering questions, rather than preaching indefensible sermons from six feet above suspicion in a pulpit.”
Lennox is hoping that his new film Against the Tide will empower churches to do just that.
“My objective in life and in all my activity is to strengthen Christians and show them that they’ve got in Christianity something that is defensible, is explicable and is powerful to communicate to the world, but also to demonstrate exactly the same thing to my non-Christian friends,” he says.
“And I want to bridge that gap and give Christians something that they’re not ashamed to show to their non-Christian friends.”