I was not alone in really appreciating John Lennox’s preaching and teaching at the recent European Leadership Forum in Hungary. As someone who has been focused on debating Richard Dawkins and other “new atheists” in recent years, Dr Lennox has a lot to say about faith and apologetics. He points to a foundational plank in Richard Dawkins’ logic, his erroneous definition of faith. I’m quoting from memory, but essentially faith, according to Dawkins, is belief in something where you know there is no evidence. Consequently it is not possible to really discuss reality with a “person of faith” since by definition they know they are committed to that for which there is no evidence. It is sad to see the strategy Dawkins has created for his own purposes, but perhaps even sadder to see some Christians rushing headlong into the illogical snare.
The critical role of fact. Faith is a response to fact. If the facts are shaky, so is the faith. If the facts are the tall tales of an untrustworthy teenager, then the faith is relatively worthless. But if the facts are genuine facts, then faith in response to those facts is not so easily dismissable. The Christian faith is founded on fact. The central fact is that of the resurrection of Jesus, interestingly the central feature of early apostolic preaching (when there were plenty of eye-witnesses still around to corroborate or to refute the preaching).
As preachers we have a key role in being able to help our hearers understand that their faith is founded on fact. Yet Lennox points to two common errors, as he sees it, in contemporary Christianity:
1. The tendency to present faith as a leap in the dark. We hear this from uninformed testimonies where the person speaking is nervous at having so many eyes trained on them and quite naturally feels unable to fully and eloquently explain the whole Christian faith and so simply pulls out the “I don’t really get it, I just took a leap in the dark and now I can testify that something has changed in me” card. While it would be nice to hear testimonies that are somewhat better informed, there is something compelling about a testimony that is still a work in progress, someone who stands like the blind man in John 9 and cannot compete with the theologians, yet can speak with the authority of personal experience. However, as preachers we need to make sure we are not giving more of this “leap in the dark” error through our preaching, or even implying it. Christian faith is a response to fact.
Tomorrow I’ll share Dr Lennox’s other concern in how we preach faith today.