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Keswick Convention: In The Beginning Part One

Professor Lennox at the Kenwick Convention

Based on a talk by John Lennox, at the Keswick Convention 2013. He is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a lecturer at the Oxford Centre of Christian Apologetics

You cannot know a God who does not exist. At this time in our culture, it's the existence of God that is being challenged. For the first time in history, we stand at a crossroads. There is enormous cultural pressure for our faith in God to be privatised in order for its abolition.

What we are going to discuss is absolutely fundamental. The first page of Genesis is the charter of all human dignity and value. In the next 5 days, we will challenge, in the name of God and the Bible, the prevailing naturalism, that is regarded as the default in our culture.

Genesis is giving us a big story, starting with the eternal infinite God who created the universe. It's the biggest story ever told. What I want to argue with you, is that it's far bigger than any of its competitors. We need to sense the grandeur of the picture of God and human beings that's given to us in the book of Genesis.
I love gazing into the galaxy of Andromeda through my telescope - there are 100bn stars. It's absolutely magnificent. It displays God's glory and gives us a sense of wonder. But it wasn't made in God's image –you were. We were made in the image of God, which immediately determines a value that you can get nowhere else. Other views say infinitely less than the view we get here in Scripture.

Every worldview starts with an assumption. The Bible starts with the assumption God exists. It's a worldview. It purports to answer the big questions.

Have you ever met anyone who has read the Bible without reason? Reason and revelation are not opposed. They are different sources. As a scientist, I studied the natural world. I like reminding our fellow scientists that we didn't put it there. I didn't put my reason there either. Scientists ought to be humble, they study a given with a given. For Christians, the Bible says love your God with all your mind… so don't insult God by not using it.

The Bible begins, and answers the most profound question –what is the nature of ultimate reality? And the answer is: God. It's on that question the worldviews are divided.

'In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth'. The Bible is a book coming from the ancient near East. That's startling. It contradicts the basic philosophy of ancient philosophies, which said in the beginning, heaven and Earth created the gods.

There's a vast gulf between the gods of the ancient world and the God of the Bible. The gods of the ancient world were all gods descended from heaven and Earth. The God of the Bible created heaven and Earth. Why is that important? Because, I've discovered, that when we talk about God in our society, don't suppose that everyone understands what you mean. Genesis helps us to get to grips with God, the nature of God. The Bible contradicts these gods of the ancient world, by saying in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, not in the beginning the heavens and the earth created god.

God is the creator. The universe is a creation. God is not a creation. God is eternal. This is immensely important. The universe began, God did not begin. John concentrates on this in the first chapter of his gospel: 'In the beginning the Word already existed… God created everything through him,  and nothing was created except through him'. This is immensely important. The Word [God] already was, he never came to be. All things that came to be including this universe came to be through him. He is the ultimate cause of all existence, without exception. If that is true, it applies logically, that there was nothing before things apart from God.

Dawkins' key argument is that if you claim God created the universe, then logically you will have to claim who created God, and then you have to ask who created that God…  Let's have a look at it. Who created God? Who or what created x? What's the assumption behind that? It's that x was created of course. So if you say, who created God? You're assuming God was created. Well, what if he wasn't? The question contains assumptions that not everyone notices. The question doesn't apply to the God of the Bible because he was not created.

The issue is not God vs science. That's a myth. Stephen Hawking about whom I will have more to say, is arguably the world's most famous scientist. But Bill Phillips is higher than Hawking in the sense that he has won a Nobel Prize, but he is an evangelical Christian. The battle is not between God and science. There is a battle, between the worldview of theism and atheism, and there are scientists on both sides. We will engage in battle, but it's not a battle with science, it's a battle with atheism. Dawkins and co will tell everyone that the only rationally intelligent position to hold is atheism. I feel the exact opposite. Atheism satisfies Dawkins' definition of a delusion. If you want to hear any more about that, you'll have to come tomorrow.

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