Oxford Professor and Christian apologist John Lennox presents the case that “Saving America’s Future” can only be done by tending first to the soul of the nation
John Lennox of Oxford University has doctorates in mathematics, science, and philosophy, and has contributed extensively to the fields of pure mathematics and the history of science. He is currently Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.
All very impressive, to say the least, but his deepest passion is for Christian apologetics. Recently, he crossed the ocean to present a lecture at the Fixed-Point Foundation, an apologetic powerhouse in Birmingham, Alabama headed by fellow Evangelical apologist Larry Taunton. The theme of the presentation was “Saving America’s Future.”
Everyone acknowledges that the future of America—and Europe—looks dark. Political vulgarity and corruption. The destruction of the family and the destruction of our culture by addiction. The purposeful shedding of innocent blood with abortion and the celebration of every sexual distortion. The threat of economic collapse through greed and malfeasance, and the threat of political collapse through radical Islam. And in all of this, increasing hostility of the secular state against Christians.
We look for political solutions, Lennox notes, as if getting just the right political leaders could save us from impending darkness. Not so, warns Lennox, as important as getting good people in those positions might be.
There is only one solution. Not the top-down solution of the state, but the bottom-up solution of evangelization, one soul at a time. Salvation comes from God and a life lived faithfully in the power of the resurrected Christ, not the state–not Leviathan.
Professor Lennox acknowledges the fears many Christians have. We might feel that we live in times that present us with what seem to be unprecedented difficulties, ones that only the machinery of a large political state could ameliorate—problems that only a Ceasar could face effectively.
But for Christians, he asserts, there is most certainly great hope, if we know our own history, hope from Christ not Caesar. Christianity was born into darkness, Lennox reminds us. If you think our present leaders are lamentably corrupt and our present secular state hostile to Christians, imagine living under the Roman pagan emperors Caligula or Nero as the first Christians did. That same pagan empire fed Christians to wild beasts, burned them alive, and hunted them down like animals. There was no notion of the innate dignity of every human being, or basis for ordering sexual behavior beyond purely human appetite.
The Christian response was not to turn to the pagan state for salvation, but to proclaim salvation to the pagans, as living witnesses of the startling Reality of the power and presence of the risen Christ. And that, Lennox asserts, is the only effective response on our part to a strikingly similar darkened moral and political landscape two millennia later.
So we should not despair, consoles Lennox. God has dealt with bigger issues and far darker times before. We have every good reason to hope if we act on our Christian faith, spreading the light publicly rather than letting secularism cover that light by driving Christians under private cover.
Such is the gist of Lennox’s fine lecture. The audience was treated to more reflections, both before the debate (in a tape of Larry Taunton’s appearance on Fox Network’s John Stossel show) and after (with a discussion between Taunton and Lennox).
On the John Stossel show, Taunton made clear an exceedingly important point, one that should be obvious, but is continually overlooked. Christianity makes a big difference in how people act, and so Christianity makes a very big difference if it defines a culture. Taunton offers two important examples. In terms of philanthropy, the fact is that Christians give three times as much in charity, both money and time, as non-believers, with Evangelicals giving ten times as much. On the more macabre end, the entirely atheist-defined communist cultures of the 20th century slaughtered 100,000,000 people. The reason for both is simple: if you have no belief in a God who makes moral demands, and who will call you into account in the afterlife, then you really are free (as Dostoyevsky famously states) to ignore the less fortunate and to do any evil on any scale you’d like.
The importance of Taunton’s points is made even clearer in the discussion between the two after Lennox’s presentation. We need to understand that the future of America—and Europe—is headed toward evil on an ever-greater scale. We are not standing still. The kind of darkness experienced in the previous century is a foreshadowing of what the 21st century might hold. We have already seen, with communism, how dark that future might be. Remove God, as we are increasingly doing in our liberal democratic states, and there is no intrinsic limit to the scale of the evil that might be done and the persecution that Christians might face.
As Taunton chillingly clarifies, even now Christians are being martyred at a rate of over 100,000 a year by radical Islam. “That’s 11 Christians killed per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” The current secularized governments of America and Europe do very little about it, in part because secular atheism itself is defined by its goal of eliminating Christianity, in part because secularism is so enfeebled by relativism, nihilism, and hedonism that it can offer no resistance to Islam.
Christ is the only hope for the world, which is to say, again, that our best response it to live as His witnesses, evangelizing souls, one at a time. The problem is, both Taunton and Lennox note, that Christianity has itself become enfeebled, focusing on the tepid milk of cheerful hand-holding Kumbaya-ism that neither asks nor answers the deepest questions about life. The result is that Christianity makes little cultural impact, and those urgently asking the deepest questions turn elsewhere, usually to the secular culture itself, which tells them that there is no God, they have no soul, and they’d better get all the pleasure they can right now because right now is all there is.
Lennox began his remarks with the assertion that “when a society has lost its soul, it is about the lose its future”. If there is a hopeful future for America and Europe it will be realized when the real meat of Christianity is rediscovered, and Christians thereby recover the original evangelizing zeal of the first Christians sustained by vital Christian communities living in this world as disciples submitted to Christ’s Lordship over all.