John Lennox’s latest book, Seven Days That Divide The World, launches next month. In it, he sets out to answer one of the most fiercely debated questions of our day: can science and the Bible co-exist? Writing for a popular audience, Lennox examines the Genesis account of creation and addresses some of the issues that typically arise when trying to understand the Biblical narrative in light of contemporary science.
A Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a recent visitor to New Zealand, Lennox argues in Seven Days that science and faith can in fact peacefully co-exist and that Darwinian evolution and young-earth creationism are not the only two positions available to Christians.
Talking to The Christian Post about his book, Lennox explains:
“I think that sometimes people have been taught there are only two possibilities: Possibility one is that if you are being faithful to Scripture, you have to be a young earth creationist. Otherwise you’re an evolutionist or a theistic evolutionist, and you’re not faithful to Scripture. I don’t think that is the case…”
“…it’s not a quest of trying to keep up [with science], but it’s a quest of looking at what God has revealed of Himself in nature, and looking at what God has revealed of Himself in the Bible and trying to make sense of those two.”
The central contention of Seven Days is that the Genesis account proposes a more complex process to the creation of the world than what is often thought. According to Lennox, the account was deliberately written, first of all, to be comprehended, not comprehensive:
“If the Biblical explanations were at the level, say, of twenty-second century science, it would likely be unintelligible to everyone, including scientists today. This could scarcely have been God’s intention. He wished His meaning to be accessible to all.”
To illustrate, Lennox cites Jesus’ own teaching in the New Testament:
“Jesus told parables about farming, building and fishing, not about factories, aviation and jungle exploration … His parables are accessible to anyone in any age. Similarly with Genesis.”
Seven Days is organized into five chapters with five appendices that explore, in greater depth, issues such as the cultural and literary background of Genesis, John Walton’s cosmic temple view of Genesis 1, the convergence of Genesis and science over the fact that space-time had a beginning, whether Genesis 1 and 2 are in conflict, and, finally, theistic evolution and the God-of-the-gaps arguments.
In presenting his own view of Genesis, Lennox believes “that the beginning of Genesis 1:1 did not necessarily take place in day one as is frequently assumed. The initial creation took place before day 1.” On such an interpretation, he believes there is much greater scope for the place of science in uncovering explanations for how the earth and the universe came to be.
Lennox, however, does not see any room for human evolution in the Biblical account:
“Genesis seems to go out of its way to imply a direct special creation [to make man], rather than suggesting that humans arose, either by natural processes or…out of preexisting hominids.”
The origins debate is one of primary flashpoints between the church and culture and in Seven Days, Lennox underscores the danger for Christians in withdrawing from the debate. If we fail to seek to reconcile the Bible and science, he suggests we risk giving the impression that science deals with reality while Biblical beliefs are fantasy.
In fact, Lennox argues that this isn’t the first time that the church has had to reconcile scripture with science. In the first chapter of Seven Days he describes how the discovery that the earth moved through space challenged the common sixteenth-century interpretation of the Bible. Yet, today, this scientific finding is no longer a source of conflict for the church and Lennox is confident that the same will happen again with the present debate:
“We’ve coped with controversy in the past where people have been split and we have resolved it so that virtually nobody I ever met…believes that the earth is fixed.”
Seven Days That Divide the World comes out on August 9.