John Lennox Says Science Is Faith

We found this brain-bender at the website of the Christian Post, which describes itself as “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website.” They have a comments icon, but we can’t get it to work. Their headline is Science cannot bury God but it can bury atheism: John Lennox . Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Science cannot bury God, as some atheists claim, but it can bury atheism, according to an emeritus professor at Oxford University with a Ph.D. in mathematics.

John Lennox isn’t officially a Discoveroid, but he participates in many of their revival meetings. The last time we wrote about him was Discoveroids: Hawking Was Wrong. The Christian Post says:

Gathered before hundreds at the Museum of the Bible Thursday for a Socrates in the City event hosted by author Eric Metaxas in the lead-up to Colson Center’s annual Wilberforce Weekend, Irish mathematician John Lennox engaged the question: Has science buried God?

Metaxas is a Discoveroid fellow traveler. The last time we wrote about him was Discoveroids Return to Bizarro World. Now that we know who the players are, the event sounds like a creationist revival meeting. The Christian Post tells us:

Atheism, theism, pantheism have been around for millennia, Lennox said, when asked by Metaxas about when the idea crept into to mainstream Western thought that science and Christian faith were at odds. Isaac Newton “laid out the universe beautifully in terms of mathematics and discovered that mathematics gave a brilliant description of how things work, and it led to the idea that the universe was essentially a mechanical artifact. And then people began to think ‘Well, it seems to run very well on its own and we are able to research it without referring to any concept of someone who set it going.’ So the idea of God setting it going started to recede into the past,” he said.

By the 18th century, deism — the belief that God exists but He is largely uninvolved in the affairs of humanity — was prevalent and subsequently followed by the Enlightenment, where the thinkers of the day replaced God with human reason.

That’s reasonably accurate. This article is a long one, so we have to skip a lot to focus on creationism. After a few paragraphs, they get around to the God of the gaps:

When Lennox was growing up in Ireland and would refer to God, people knew he was speaking of the Creator God in the Bible. Yet atheists like Steven Hawking think Lennox is speaking of God who resembles an ancient Greek deity like Zeus and then automatically assume Christians default to the God of the gaps, the “I can’t explain lightning so I invent a god when you do some atmospheric physics that god disappears.”

“The most important thing to realize is that the God of the Bible is not a god of the gaps,” Lennox stressed.

Then what is it? Lennox explains:

The first sentence of the Bible — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” — linguistically is a merism [What?], which includes the bits we do and don’t understand.

We never encountered that word before. Wikipedia has an article on it — see Merism. We still don’t get it, but let’s see what Lennox says:

“If you understand art, you can follow the details of a Rembrandt painting better than I can. The more you understand, the more you admire the genius, and that is just so important. And so Newton’s faith and my faith, being in God, increases, because the heavens are constantly and increasingly declaring his glory,” he stressed, alluding to Psalm 19.

Yeah, right. Let’s read on:

But the reason he thinks that science can bury atheism is because science can be done, Lennox said. [What?] If you start believing that there is a rational intelligence behind the universe, then doing science is reasonable, and the Christian has a rationale for doing science, he said.

There’s a lot more in the article, but that was probably the “best” paragraph. If you can do science, then you must acknowledge the existence of the intelligent designer — blessed be he!

Now we’re skipping an ark-load more and getting to the end, which is a brilliant quote from Lennox:

“We’ve been hugely miseducated to think that there is science here and faith there,” he said, gesturing as if the two were completely distinct categories. “Science involves faith. [Hee hee!] You don’t do science unless it can be done. More precisely, you don’t do it unless you believe the universe is at least in part rationally intelligible.”

Okay, dear reader. If you understand that what was all about, please explain it to us, because we don’t get it at all.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “John Lennox Says Science Is Faith

  1. Karl Goldsmith

    What a shame the IDiots have never been able to show the opposite. “If you can do science, then you must acknowledge the existence of the intelligent designer”

  2. Eddie Janssen

    You cannot make heads or tails of a merism?

  3. Richard Bond

    I find it odd that Christians invoke the authority of Newton. Perhaps they are unaware of a couple of significant points. For a start, Newton did not believe in the divinity of Christ, which would disqualify him in the eyes of many christian sects. Then he only invoked God when he was stuck: his response to his inability to account for the stability of the solar system is classic God of the gaps.

  4. Michael Fugate

    As usual, their history is as bad as their science.

    “The social situation in England was such that when you got to the time of [Charles] Darwin and [Aldous] Huxley it was more to it than simply using science to bury God. Huxley, who was very famous, he was furious at the existence of amateur scientists, some of them were very brilliant … who challenged him.”

    It was Thomas Huxley not Aldous – who was Thomas’ grandson. Huxley was not born to wealth and argued for professional scientists – so they could get paid – not because he was famous. He thought anyone could learn science and taught courses for working class individuals.

    The rest is just wishful thinking.

  5. “we don’t get it at all”
    That’s because you’re an unbeliever, dear SC. It’s what you wrote – we humans can understand (parts of) our natural reality, so an Intelligent Agent made sure it’s understandable. Of course this still is a god of the gaps, no matter what Lennox says:

    Science can’t explain why our Universe is understandable, hence god.

    It’s technically not creacrap though, because this principle can also be applied to evolution theory. Of course Lennox will not say that to the IDiots from Seattle; so much for his intellectual integrity.

  6. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
    Many Hebrew scholars consider this a misleading translation. They prefer someting like “In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth”, or “When God began to create the heaens and the earth” or “When God first created the heavens and the earth.”
    And the text goes on to say that at that beginning, there had been a chaos of deep water with a wind blowing over it. There is no mention of where that stuff came from. Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible does it mention creation “from nothing”.

  7. Michael Fugate

    Since a human mind can’t make a universe, a mind made the universe. This is from someone who claims to be trained in logic?

  8. BTW, the “merism” in Genesis 1:1 is the phrase “heavens and earth”, an expression which is taken to mean “the totality of alll things includng the heavens and the earth”

  9. Michael Fugate

    @TomS,
    One needs to try really, really hard to make the Bible stories match modern conceptions of God and creation. Humans clearly weren’t created from nothing in Genesis. Hebrews 11:3* claims that seen things were made of unseen things – atoms are pretty small – just saying.

    Lennox the great logician claims that in order for his god to be good, then humans need free will – as if all the bad in the universe is caused by humans. I would trust a monkey’s brain over his any day.

    *Hebrews 11:3—”Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

  10. @Michael Fugate
    Yes.
    About free will – are we shorn of free will in heaven? On the other hand, did God make man with the knowledge that man would , of necessity, sin?

  11. Dave Luckett

    What we have here is a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation. God is a reasonable and rational being, who created a Universe that can be understood, except where He isn’t, and when His thought is as far above ours as the Heavens are above the Earth. As when, for example, He created Man with an ineluctable propensity to sin and required a perfect blood sacrifice to expiate His own rage sufficiently to allow Him to forgive it – provided that the penitent has forgiven others without requiring a sacrifice.

    So when study of that Universe yields understanding, it’s heads. When contemplating the mysteries, of the Universe or of God, it’s tails. I win, you lose. Sucker.

  12. At the Socrates in the City event, Metaxas talked out of his ass while Lennox talked complete s**t, thereby establishing a linguistic merism that sums up the totality of theism.

  13. Stephen Kennedy

    The computers we use today are vastly different from the ones that existed when I was in college 45 years ago. For one thing, just about everybody has at least one while the University I graduated from had exactly two for a student and faculty population of over 20,000 people.

    Does any one remember Cray Supercomputers who were big in the 1980? The computers that you can buy at any consumer electronics outlet for a few hundred dollars are orders of magnitude more powerful than those multi-million dollars machines.

    I am not aware of anyone individual who purposely directed the development of . today’s computers. It was to a large extent a random unguided process in which many individuals and organizations working independently made incremental improvements that rapidly spread through the entire industry. This is how the primitive first computers of the 1950s evolved into today’s modern computers..

  14. “a random unguided process”
    According to creationist terminology, that is. According to proper terminology it wasn’t, as you explain yourself (guided by many individuals and organizations whose actions and decisions weren’t random at all).

  15. Stephen Kennedy

    In the development of today’s computers, I think that the market played a role similar to natural selection in evolution, Many different entities attempted to develop products that would make computers of the time better and more attractive to potential purchasers, Those individuals and organizations that developed something that made computers more marketable flourished while those who offered goods or services that were not well received by the market often became economically extinct.

    I can not believe that nobody who Lennox supposedly asked would they trust a computer that emerged from a random unguided process did not explain to him the computers we have now are so much better than the first ones because it was not a guided process and random only in the sense that it is impossible to know in advance how well received a new development will be by the market,

  16. “I think that the market played a role similar to natural selection in evolution.”
    So do I. My point is rather that it’s creationist terminology to call this an “unguided, random process”.

    “I can not believe that …..”
    Given Lennox’ sympathy for IDiots I’m totally willing to believe that he’s strongly influenced by their crap.

  17. Retired Prof

    Stephen Kennedy’s comments illustrate how creationists get things exactly backwards in saying extremely complex features (e.g. the human immune system, the bacterial flagellum) simply had to be designed by an intentional agent. In fact, the more complex a system is, the more likely it arose from a variety of influences. Good engineers design systems to be as simple as possible and to operate without wasted motion, to conserve energy. The swimming pool at the Y has smooth walls and sides and specific fixed locations for water to enter and exit readily described and multiply replicated with Euclidean geometry. The swimming hole I used to enjoy in Sugar Creek had a shifting gravel bottom, messy undercut banks cluttered with tree roots, and an overall shape impossible to replicate over and over in different places. in my mathematical ignorance I understand dimly that Fractal geometry can generate similar designs, but that they will differ from one another in random ways.

    Any engineer who studies the system by which the malaria parasite reproduces, requiring alternating stages of life to be sequestered in mosquitoes and humans, with trillions of larval individuals squandered in the competition for hosts, could only conclude that the Grand Old Designer is a lousy example of the profession.

  18. Michael Fugate

    Lennox seems to be saying that science works because God makes it work. Nothing is random – it only appears that way – God is moving each atom individually in a chemical reaction so that mimics a random process. No wonder some people think the universe is a simulation.

  19. @Retired Prof
    Agreed.
    But there is another fault in the rhetoric about a non-natural design. Of course, the ID-ers try their best to cover this up, by not telling us anything about their design or designers. Design involves solutions which take account of the natural properties of things. Design is about the natural world.
    Unless the advocates of ID can be bothered to describe what they mean by design, it just doesn’t make any sense to speak of a omnipotent designer. The omnipotent is not faced with a problem to be solved, to be designed aroudn. And any kind of ineraction between the supernatural and the natural takes place by the rules of the natural. (Unless, of course, the ID-ers could be bothered to tell us what they are talking about.)

  20. Michael Fugate

    (Unless, of course, the ID-ers could be bothered to tell us what they are talking about.)

    It is because they have no idea what it is they are talking about. Lennox claims his god is in control of everything except human actions – hence free will. No unguided random processes exist – they are either guided by his god or by human brains. Somehow I don’t see the logic – if there is any.

  21. “Somehow I don’t see the logic.”
    You’re not the only one.

    “It is because they have no idea what it is they are talking about.”
    ‘Cuz god is unknowable, mysterious ways bla bla bla – and still apologists and theologians can’t stop talking about him/her/it.