I’d like to consider myself to be a scholar, a deep thinker, and a crusader for knowledge, but I’ll be the first to admit that tackling and deciphering the concepts of the universe gives me great pause. Strike that, they scare me brainless. I find myself at a total loss when it comes to participating in discussions involving physics, chemistry, astronomy, or any of the other scientific disciplines that deal in theories and objects too small to be discerned with the naked eye. As a result, I often sit and watch television shows about “The Big Bang Theory” or listen to lectures and debates on the topic feeling utterly out of my element. I have less than two cents to contribute to the discussion.
That’s why I was eager to review God and Stephen Hawking by John C. Lennox. (It can be purchased here for the nominal price of $5.99!) As the back matter of the book states that “in lively, layman’s terms, Lennox guides [readers] through the key points in Hawking’s arguments–with clear explanations of the latest scientific and philosophical methods and theories…” Sounds like a book for the likes of me, someone who longs to understand the Almighty but lacks the intelligence to do so in the scientific arena.
John C. Lennox, is Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at the University of Oxford, and author of the bestselling God’s Undertaker. He lectures on faith and science at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He has lectured around the world, including in the United States for Ravi Zacharias; in Austria; and in the former Soviet Union. For more about John C. Lennox, please visit http://johnlennox.org.
In five chapters (The Big Questions, God or the Laws of Nature?, God or the Multiverse?, Whose Design is It Anyway?, and Science and Rationality), Lennox takes on the arguments and assertions of Stephen Hawking as stated in his latest book The Grand Design. The work itself is short, spanning just under one hundred pages, and I think its brevity is part of its appeal. There’s nothing more daunting for someone like me, someone who genuinely wants to participate in this discussion but feels like she’s coming armed for battle with a wooden sword. It isn’t comprehensive, Lennox claims as much in his concluding pages, but it is a beginning. It is a way for laypeople to get a toehold in the debate and begin to grasp the concepts being bandied back and forth.
In chapter one, Lennox asserts that Hawking does himself a disservice by claiming that philosophy is dead and proves that the world-renowned scientist has both an inadequate view of philosophy and of God, both of which set his argument up for total failure because of their incomplete matrix. One of the most interesting points Lennox makes in this chapter is near the end, and that is the fact that Hebrews long protested the polytheistic worship of creations (such as those found in ancient Greek religion) long before the Greeks themselves began to espouse them. It is incorrect, therefore, to claim that Christian belief in God is a spin-off or a derivative of polytheistic belief in gods as it predated it and hence cannot be thrown out as easily as Hawking would wish.
Chapter two is a fascinating read in and of itself. Lennox uses the time to discuss Hawking’s central premise, that gravity and the other laws of physics were what brought the world into being. Lennox gives many interesting examples to disprove the concept, claiming that physics and the law of gravity might be able to explain how it happened but not why. He writes, “The laws of physics are not only incapable of creating anything; they cannot even cause anything to happen” (41).
Using analogies such as a pool ball and cue, Lennox makes the concept of physics something that I could grasp. It helped me to understand how they cannot fully explain our universe. For instance, we can use physics to understand how the force of the cue caused the ball to move as well as what caused its trajectory to send it in the direction it traveled. However, the cue manipulated by a skilled human hand is what set the entire event into motion. There are many other excellent examples, but I will not spoil them for you here.
Chapters four and five are also enjoyable reads. Chapter four is a fascinating look at the concept of the “why question,” and chapter five explores the idea that science is not the only method by which humankind can seek to find God in the universe. In essence, it is not the only authority, and scientists are far from having all the answers. In fact, they have quite a few more questions than those of us who believe in an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God who created the world and rules over it. The chapter ends with a discussion of logic, rationality, and the concept of miracles that I plan on going back to analyze again.
The only chapter that literally left my eyes crossed was the third, the one in which Lennox focuses on Hawking’s belief in the Multiverse. With a few more reads and a world of research, I’m sure I could begin to grasp this theory. But it essentially boils down to epistemology, a discipline that questions and seeks to understand how we ascertain knowledge. Take a deep breath and uncap your highlighter before diving into this chapter!
For those seeking to broaden their knowledge of Christian apologetics, this is a fine read. It will help many begin to understand the terminology being used by those who eschew faith and instead believe in only science and reason. We can only begin to have a dialogue if both sides understand the language of the other, and that can only come through patient study and a willingness to listen. In fact, it is Lennox’s assertion that science need not be at war with faith. As he states, “For me, as a Christian believer, the beauty of the scientific laws reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine Creator. The more I understand science the more I believe in God, because of my wonder at the breadth, sophistication, and integrity of his creation” (73). I couldn’t agree more.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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