In recent years, a significant attack on Christianity in the Western world and especially among the educated classes, can come from so-called “New Atheism”. Its most prominent proponent is Richard Dawkins.
Professor John C. Lennox is arguably the most prominent opponent of the New Atheism. This is unsurprising from his resume—a professor at Oxford, unapologetically Christian, albeit not a young-earth creationist (unfairly dismissed as belonging to the species called “fundamentalists”). Lennox has debated with great success against a large number of atheists: Dawkins, Laurence Krauss, and the late Christopher Hitchens among others. His books may sell far fewer copies than Dawkins, but he has sufficient notoriety that he got an invitation to ABC’s Q&A when in Australia.
Those familiar with his work should know up front—there is nothing new in Can science explain everything? As declared in the book’s introduction, Lennox’s purpose was to provide a concise and accessible form of his various arguments, which are found in greater detail in his other books. He achieved this. The book can easily be read over two evenings.
The first few chapters provide an explanation of why science and religion are not irreconcilable. Here he lays out in plain language that reason and religion are not alternatives. In fact, he demonstrates that atheists are frequently willing to act in a manner contrary to their own supposed position of rationality and impartiality, when they are defending their own faith.
The last few chapters provide a defence of the specific claims of Christianity against the main objections posed against it. He provides evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible and the resurrection. Here I found that sometimes ‘concise’ became ‘too concise’.
His description of how the Bible can be interpreted with deference to context and genre, was sometimes difficult to follow. He also summarised his idea that there is room in the first chapter of Genesis for time gaps. Anyone familiar with Genesis 1 would emerge from this discussion with more questions than answers about the idea; this book is a concise overview, so he didn’t have words to address the obvious objections.
His arguments for the resurrection were all common and well-known, but necessarily they were cherry-picked from the vast amount of speculation that exists, in order to keep the book short. I wondered whether some contemporary readers, being very ignorant of the bible, may lack sufficient background knowledge to understand some of his arguments.
In the final two chapters, Lennox covers the Gospel. He explains this first from a personal anecdote and then ensures that the uncompromised message of the gospel is given clearly, before inviting his readers to test the gospel ‘scientifically’.
The brevity of this book is both its strength and its weakness. Overall, I would recommend it as an overview of the problems with the New Atheism. If you have friends who have read Dawkins, they owe it to themselves to read this – and it won’t even take long. If they have an appetite for his longer works, however, God’s Undertaker and Gunning for God are more comprehensive.
Over the many years that Lennox has spent teaching and debating the topics of atheism and science, through his affiliation with Ravi Zacharias’ ministry, and also through his several books, he has certainly had a strong positive impact on many, many people. Equally certainly, God is able to use this book in the same way.
This article was originally posted in the Australian Presbyterian magazine, here: https://ap.org.au/2019/04/05/book-review-can-science-explain-everything-john-c-lennox/