In May 2016, Oxford Mathematics Professor John Lennox visited Spain to speak at the national ‘Apologetics Forum’ in Tarragona. There he had a conversation with Evangelical Focus, GBU Spain (IFES) and Fundación RZ.
The scientist reflected about the fall of the so-called New Atheism, the definition of ‘faith’, the importance of dialogue and the need of understanding the Bible.
Question. What have you learned from all the public debates and personal conversations with atheists in the last years?
A. It was very interesting debating Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer and a number of other leading atheists. I suppose that Dawkins is unique because he is the angriest of them all, and I found it difficult to create any sort of relationship with him, like going out for a meal with him afterwards.
But with Hitchens, Singer and others, I could have a good conversation afterwards. So, during the debate they would be very tough with me, but then we could talk afterwards.
I suppose that the main thing I learned is the weakness of the atheistic arguments, but I knew that before I debated them, because I read all their books.
I take atheism seriously. The sad thing is that I find they do not take what I have got to say seriously. They have come to the conclusion, completely falsely, that ‘faith’ is a religious term and that it means ‘believing where there is no evidence’. So they meet me, I am a man of faith, which means I believe where there is no evidence. So, there is no point in discussing with me. That, to my mind, is a very cheap intellectual cop-out. It is sad, because it means that they are behaving as anti-intellectuals: they are not prepared to consider evidence.
It was an interesting experience. I do it because I think that if no one does it, they win by default. The public think they have everything, and we [Christians] have nothing. That’s the main reason for doing it.
I am very encouraged by the response, particularly on the internet. Many people have come to faith through watching these debates.
Q. There is a trend of authors called the “new” New Atheists, who believe Dawkins and others have been too aggressive. What do you think about this new friendly face of atheism?
A. Well, it is all very foolish. New Atheism and ‘new’ New Atheism, because the so-called ‘new’ New Atheism is just the old atheism.
I have many atheist friends who are academics in many universities around the world. And what is very interesting is that many would say to me: “Please do not confuse us with Richard Dawkins”. The problem here is that Richard Dawkins is very vocal, but he is representative of a small minority.
People say to me, “Why do you interact with him, since he is not completely representative”. And I say, “You are quite right, but he is the most influential”.
Most of my atheist friends are people who have a respect for the truth. They do not agree with me, but they respect my right to hold my views, and so we can have a discussion.
I think that many atheists are beginning to see that this loud, aggressive kind of attitude is not working.
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(c) Evangelical Focus, used with permission