By Brian Miller @BrianKenMiller
On June 25, professor of Mathematics at Oxford in Britain and noted Christian apologist John Lennox delivered a speech for the National Prayer Breakfast at the Houses of Parliament entitled “God and Society: Belief in God in 21st Century Britain.”
Lennox, a gifted speaker who has debated such notable atheists as Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer, and Richard Dawkins, is no stranger to making a powerful case for the Christian faith. Knowing that his audience is representative of an increasingly secular and non-religious country, Lennox argued that the virtues of our civilization cannot be preserved without also preserving its religious foundation.
The former student of C.S. Lewis told his audience that, “There is no necessary conflict between science and God. The real conflict is between worldviews.”
He anticipated the obvious question from an unbeliever, “Why do we bother with all this?” His answer: Ideas have consequences. He then referenced a recent article by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who argued that only Religion can save us from the new barbarians.
Both the Chief Rabbi and Lennox pointed to the writings of Nietzsche, who the Chief Rabbi says knew better than anyone that “losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality. No more ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’; instead the will to power. No more ‘Thou shalt not’; instead people would live by the law of nature, the strong dominating or eliminating the weak.”
The Chief Rabbi continued by pointing out the costs such a philosophy has had on our culture:
“Marriage has all but collapsed as an institution, with 40 per cent of children born outside it and 50 per cent of marriages ending in divorce. Rates of depressive illness and stress-related syndromes have rocketed especially among the young. A recent survey showed that the average 18- to 35-year-old has 237 Facebook friends. When asked how many they could rely on in a crisis, the average answer was two. A quarter said one. An eighth said none.”
Lennox also expounded on this phenomenon by arguing that if we abolish any duty to God and each other, all that is left is a duty to ourselves. “If we abolish the transcendent and absolute,” Lennox said, “we are inexorably driven to the personal and subjective. Girl guides no longer pledge allegiance to God, instead they pledge to be true to themselves.”
Lennox then pointed out statements by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins, who has argued that there is no justice or hope in the world, but only blind luck. Lennox called this belief the “true opium of the people” because it allows individuals to console themselves into believing no justice awaits them in the next life for the actions they take in this one.
In the wake of the grueling murders of a British soldier in the middle of a street, both the Chief Rabbi and the Professor condemned the actions of religious fundamentalists who would use force to impose their beliefs. However, each of them then argued that we are naïve if we think the answer to such fundamentalism is individualism and relativism, or worse the abolishing of all religion. On the contrary, the Chief Rabbi said, “Defeating them will take the strongest possible defense of freedom, and strong societies are always moral societies… I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honor, obligation and trust on the other. A century after a civilization loses its soul it loses its freedom also.”
Lennox similarly argued that those who would impose their will by force cannot be said to be true followers of Christ. He pointed out that when Christ told Pontius Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world, he was affirming that truth cannot be imposed by force, and that true Christianity stands at the polar opposite of fundamentalism, both religious and secular.
Lennox closed his speech by imploring his audience to realize that “We are a country with a Christian heritage, and we should no be afraid to say so. No one in this country seems to have the slightest problem with doing atheism in public, let us therefore not be ashamed of doing God.”
Brian Miller is a student at George Mason University Law School.