Several of us had the privilege of hearing John Lennox at the Pascal Lectures this week. His evening lectures were: “Cosmic Chemistry: Do God and Science Mix?” and “The Hard Question: God and the Problem of Evil.” I didn’t make it to his afternoon seminar, “Do Science and Miracles Mix?” but was fortunately able to make both evening lectures. I appreciated the fact that, in spite of his impressive accomplishments, brilliant mind and multiple degrees, Professor Lennox wasn’t so cerebral that I couldn’t keep up with him.
(On an aside, while I was desperately trying to scribble notes in my tiny notebook, I envied Tom Fenske, sitting beside me with his laptop open, relaxed and casually typing away. He looked like a contemporary university student. I looked like exactly what I am – a throwback from the 1980s whose only tools were paper and pen. To make matters worse, I could barely see what I was writing because of my aging eyes; the page was blurry and shifting around. It was like taking notes at the bottom of a swimming pool! And why are those seats so tiny and jammed together?)
My poor eyesight and sad note-taking experience notwithstanding, it was inspiring to hear and see John Lennox speak. He was clear, succinct, quick-witted, personable and humorous. In his affable manner, he dropped names like C.S. Lewis (Professor Lennox attended Lewis’ last lecture), Richard Dawkins (there’s a famous debate between them), Stephen Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, etc., all with whom he has discoursed or debated. I was in awe of Lennox’s experiences and keen intelligence but, even more so, I was struck by how much he loved the Lord.
I had a few aha moments, some duh moments, and many huh? moments. I was relieved to hear, at the end of the last lecture, that videos of his talks will be posted within a couple of weeks on the Pascal Lectures website so I can take more time to process some of his points. If you get around to watching any of these videos, pay attention to his thoughts on violence in the “God and the Problem of Evil” lecture. He used the illustration of Simon Peter’s attempt at sword-fighting (John 18:10) and the lesson learned from this.
The first lecture (“Do God and Science Mix?”) was packed but fortunately the organizers had the foresight to prepare an overflow room. Learning from the fantastic turnout at the first lecture, they wisely prepared two overflow rooms for the second lecture (“God and the Problem of Evil”), with live-feed video. This was how well-attended the lectures were. I’m looking forward to next year’s speaker and hope she or he will be as riveting.
Some of the points John Lennox discussed included:
- How did we get from Newton who blended faith and science, and Hawking who says you must choose between faith and science?
- The more you understand science, the more you understand God
- Who created God?
- Blind faith is dangerous; faith is a response to evidence, not a rejoicing in the lack of evidence
- Why atheists are increasing in number
- You can find 5,000 people whose lives have been positively transformed by faith in Jesus Christ. Can you find 5,000 people whose lives have similarly been positively transformed by atheism?
- On the subject of pain, intellectual clarity does not break through the veil of tears
- Two sources of evil / pain: 1) moral – inflicted upon one another; 2) natural disasters
- Life is a mixed picture of beauty and barbed wire
- You cannot impose truth with violence. You cannot take up arms to defend Christianity, which is made utterly clear in the Gospels
On a more personal note, what impressed me was the fact that some of our Westheights Church students attended the lectures. No, the parents didn’t drag them along; they elected to come. They were the youngest in the lecture hall but didn’t seem fazed by their surroundings. At Coffee Culture afterward and during our drive home, they had many thought-provoking questions. Never underestimate the inquisitive minds of our students.