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Lennox: Atheists’ Best Objection to Theism?

David Klinghoffer

Oxford University mathematician John Lennox stars in the three-nights-only film Against the Tide: Finding God in an Age of Science, in theaters across the country on November 19, 20, 23. Get your tickets here, and don’t forget to bring family and friends! Professor Lennox has debated a number of very prominent atheists. Looking forward to the documentary’s release, he took time to answer some questions from Evolution News

What is the leading atheists’ best objection to theism and how do you answer it?

Well that’s a huge topic. I think the hardest problem that any of us face is the problem of pain and suffering. I’ve written in great detail about that but I will say one or two things. First of all, I’ve got a book called Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target and there’s a chapter in it on this problem of evil and suffering. And then there’s a short version in my recent book Where Is God in a Coronavirus World? which you can download for Kindle. It’s a very short read.

For example, earthquakes — why? I arrived in New Zealand a couple of days after the [2011] Christchurch earthquake. And I had to change all my lectures. Somebody has put up a website [with those] and you’ll find it here. The short answer to the question, and I could spend hours on it, but the short answer is this: The atheists think they’ve solved the problem by simply saying this is just how the world is and it’s quite obvious there’s no God and you just have to get used to it. Some people are lucky — this is [what Richard Dawkins says] — and some people are not and we need to grow up and get used to it. And that’s that. And at that level, they think this is the solution. 

What I point out to them is this: Well, you think you’ve gotten rid of the problem and in your own mind, you have, but you haven’t gotten rid of the suffering. It’s still there. What you have got rid of is all hope. Ultimate hope. And that is very unsatisfactory because you’re making a moral criticism of God. You’re saying this whole [world] is evil. And I want to investigate that because if you say there’s no God because of all this evil, where does the concept of evil you’re using come from? 

And here, I would quote Fyodor Dostoevsky. “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” By that he meant there is no logical concept of good or evil if God doesn’t exist. He didn’t mean that atheists couldn’t behave. Of course they can! They’re made in the image of God, from a Christian perspective. So, there’s that whole investigation philosophically. 

And then — the coronavirus book will give it all to you — at the heart of Christianity, there is suffering. And it’s the huge concept of a God who suffers on a cross. That shows that God does not remain distant from the problem but has become part of it. And the resurrection shows that he triumphs over it. 

But you know, this is a big problem. And I understand people that turn away from God because of it. Atheists think they’ve solved the problem. I don’t think they have. Christianity faces the problem, and doesn’t offer a trivial solution. I often put it this way…I think Christianity gives us a window into a solution and gives evidence of a God whom we can trust with the answers even though we don’t understand them all.

We’re looking forward to those three nights later this month. See the trailer here: