John Lennox on Bible and Science

A lecture entitled “Seven Days that Divide the World” by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, at the Union Club in New York City on January 31, 2013. Dr. Lennox explores a method for reading and interpreting the first chapters of Genesis without discounting either science or Scripture. “Why didn’t I ever have any math teachers like this?” šŸ™‚

A few highlights..

10:50 Lennox starts off with a cool story about attending a C.S. Lewis lecture

19:10 it is tragic that Christians fight over peripheral issues

20:10 if this was the 16th century, this lecture would address the question “does the Earth move?” when Scripture says it doesn’t move (Psalm 104:5, 1 Sam 2:8) contra Copernicus, Galileo

22:05 how is it that Christians came to believe that the Earth moves, when the Scripture says it doesn’t move?

23:05 we are not “fixed-earthers” any more… but this raises the question of how we interpret the Bible. The natural meaning should take precedence. Creation is not a metaphor. The Cross is not a metaphor. But there are many places where a literal meaning doesn’t work. E.g Christ said “I am the door”, not as a vague metaphor but as an illustration of how one approaches God. Our interpretation of anything depends on our experience of the natural world.

29:10 although there are parts of the Bible that talk about the physical universe, the Bible is clearly not a science textbook. I do not teach Newton’s Laws from Leviticus. Calvin wrote concerning the Creation account, “nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the Word. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.” [ref.] Augustine wrote: “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions ā€¦ Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn… If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?” [ref.]

34:50 Scriptural dilemmas were resolved when people realised that although you can interpret these passages about a fixed earth literally, you don’t have to. And changing this interpretation didn’t affect any of the creeds! A very similar situation applies for the question of the age of the Earth.

49:24 Gen 1:1-2 Many different meanings available, the creation of the heavens and Earth occurred before day 1. So the Scripture is not making a definite statement of the age of Earth. There are several “world ages” we may consider: the age of the universe, the age of the earth, the age of life, the age of humanity.

The original Hebrew does not use the definite article for the first 5 days (yom)… linguistically that means a figurative day, not a literal 24 hour day.

54:50 finishes with an interesting observation that on day 3 “AND GOD SAID…” is necessary for life to be created (abiogenesis), and on day 6 “AND GOD SAID…” is necessary for humans to arise (history). Also “In the beginning was the word” (John 1:1 – how something came from nothing)… and an observation that the human genome is a billion-letter “word” whose complexity defies the action of chance and selection pressure.

Primacy of mass-energy, or primacy of mind to create a universe? Lennox avers that the answer is Mind.

Follows up with Q & A. Newton’s laws describe gravity but nobody knows what it is! Quote from Feynman: “Don’t let anybody fool you. Nobody knows what energy is.” Why do you believe in energy and consciousness when you don’t know what they are? Because of their explanatory power.

Here’s an erudite review of this talk by The Aquila Report.

UPDATE: Get the book…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s