John Lennox Christian arguments wrapup
Oxford mathematician John Lennox responds to atheist arguments about Bible morality, taking the Bible literally, and evidence for God.
Christian apologist John Lennox has responded to ten short atheist arguments with his own short Christian responses. This is the conclusion of a three-part series (part 1). We’ll cover arguments 8 through 10.
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“The Bible is immoral.” (The atheist argument is in quotes, and Lennox’s response is in italics.)
Lennox: With what morality do you trump the Bible’s morality?
The core of human morality came from evolution, and it’s not hard to get a consensus that many of God’s actions in the Old Testament were immoral—regulated slavery, human sacrifice, a worldwide flood, and so on. If you were president of the world, would you feel comfortable doing any of these? If not, then why give God a pass? It’s odd that mankind’s morality is more enlightened than God’s.
Lennox: Atheists often contradict themselves. Consider this by Richard Dawkins:
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
Given this, how can Dawkins question morality? He says things are evil after he’s abolished the very categories of good and evil.
I assume you’re saying that the atheist can’t point to objective good and evil (that is, moral truth that is binding whether there are humans here to appreciate it or not). But this isn’t part of the standard definitions of these words.
If you say that objective morality exists, you must demonstrate that. Here’s what I need: (1) show me moral truths that are objectively true (not just strongly or universally felt), and (2) show me that these truths are reliably accessible to all of us (not just to you). You can start with abortion and same-sex marriage and then move on to resolve society’s other frustrating moral debates.
I’ve asked Christians dozens of times over the years to justify their claim that objective morality exists and have never gotten anything satisfactory. We all know what morality is—it’s the non-objective kind that’s defined in the dictionary. When two people disagree over a moral issue like abortion, there is no reliable source they can consult to resolve the matter. We all know this—why else would there be moral disagreements? Non-objective morality is all we’ve got, and we make it work.
This Christian all-or-nothing approach to morality—objective morality or nothing—makes no sense. To see this, suppose you like ice cream. Would you push it away if it weren’t a perpetually full dish of the best flavor ever? It’d be nice to have the never-ending versions of things we enjoy, but that’s not reality. We make do with the regular kind.
That’s how morality is. It’d be nice to have the objectively correct answer to every moral question, but we don’t. We’re adults, so let’s accept this reality and move on.
9. A literal Bible
“Surely you don’t take the Bible literally?”
Lennox: Language is more versatile than that. There are more ways than that to interpret the Bible. For example, Jesus said “I am the door.” Must we conclude that Jesus is an actual wooden door?
We understand metaphor. We’re all on the same page that Jesus is a metaphorical door. But what about the six-day creation story? The Garden of Eden? The Tower of Babel? Noah’s flood?
For these examples and a hundred more, Christian interpretations are all over the place. Did God literally take six 24-hour days to create the earth and everything on it? Or is “days” an elastic idea that can be stretched into eons? Or is this just a fable tailored to pre-scientific Iron Age people?
Given this, it’s unsurprising that Christianity has splintered off major religions like Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism, Pentecostals, Christian Science, and more, plus tens of thousands of nondenominational churches. We’re back to myriad interpretations causing myriad denominations of Christianity.
“What is the evidence for God?”
Lennox: Atheists who ask this may be missing the point or even deliberately avoiding the real issue.
That we even must ask for evidence for God argues that there isn’t one. An omnipotent god who wanted a relationship with us would have a relationship with us. That’s how omnipotence works. It’s step 0 in a relationship, and it’s not hard. Humans show they exist all the time.
Lennox: The real question is this: “Suppose I could give [evidence for God], would you be prepared right now, to repent and trust Christ?”
No, the real question is this: Suppose you had the winning lottery ticket for a $100 million jackpot. What would you buy first?
Is my lottery dilemma off topic? So is Lennox’s misdirection.
Lennox’s question puts the cart immensely far before the horse. Show me compelling evidence for Christianity’s unbelievable supernatural claims and then we can discuss which god(s) I should worship. It’s amusing that Lennox is concerned about atheists demanding evidence as a smokescreen to avoid having to deal with the elephant (that is, God) in the room. That’s exactly what he does when he dismisses a legitimate request for evidence.
But let’s respond to Lennox’s question. If he provided convincing evidence of God, what would I do?
I’ve spent a decade researching the God question and have found nothing remotely convincing, so if Lennox convinced me that God exists, that would be earthshaking. But Lennox just walks past this amazing idea, seemingly unaware how different and comprehensive that new evidence would have to be. (This might explain why his ten uninspired, stock responses seemed to him worth sharing with the world.)
But set that aside. Once I see that he exists, would I worship the God of Abraham? Nope. I’ve read about him in the Old Testament, and I have better morals than he does. And I can’t imagine eagerly giving worship to a being that demanded worship. What kind of omniscient, all-good god would want that?
When we remove all the unevidenced beliefs
[from] supernatural beliefs,
we are left with naturalism.
If we remove all the unevidenced beliefs
we are left with naturalism.
— commenter Greg G.