John Lennox and a Sad Divide

Dr. Lennox’s recent book challenges biblical creation with a series of arguments that the staff members at Answers in Genesis have answered many times over.

Dr. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford (England), recently wrote a book titled Seven Days That Divide the World (Zondervan, 2011). Dr. Lennox is highly respected as an evangelical in the United Kingdom. There is no doubt he preaches the gospel and also is orthodox in his teaching of the Word of God (except when it comes to Genesis). Because he is obviously an active Christian with a very amenable disposition, he has a position of considerable influence on the conservative church in the United Kingdom, in Eastern and Western Europe, and increasingly in the United States.

Seven Days That Divide the World

Seven Days That Divide the World

His book challenges biblical creation with a series of arguments that the staff members at Answers in Genesis have answered many times over. In fact, as I read Dr. Lennox’s book, Ecclesiastes 1:9 came to mind, which says, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Dr. Lennox is a much-admired Christian professor in the UK, but sadly his book paints biblical creationists in a bad light. However, instead of writing rebuttals to his arguments, which have all been used by others against biblical creation at one time or another, I think it would be more helpful to direct you to articles written by our staff members that address Dr. Lennox’s claims. Either Dr. Lennox has never researched to ensure he read the arguments in these articles, or he has decided to totally ignore them.

We found it very interesting that Dr. Lennox referenced only one creationist article (from 1999) in his book, despite the breadth of current materials available. Answers in Genesis alone has published numerous books and articles written by experts in their fields. But Dr. Lennox instead chose to reference secularists and Christians who have compromised on Genesis. Not one of the well-known and respected biblical creationist researchers and writers (many with PhDs from respected secular universities) was referenced.

To understand where Dr. Lennox is coming from in regard to the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve, I urge you to watch this short clip of a video from 2008 where Dr. Lennox was debating the famous atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins.

On the surface, Dr. Lennox's response to Richard Dawkins makes it seem as though Dr. Lennox is prepared to allow for God to use the evolutionary process in the creation of human beings. However, in his 2011 book Seven Days That Divide the World, he makes it clear that Adam was made from the dust and not from a pre-existing creature (pp. 69–74). Regardless of which view of human origins that Dr. Lennox accepts, we suggest that Dr. Lennox has one hermeneutic (method of interpreting Scripture) for Genesis 1–11 but a different one for the rest of Scripture. There is no doubt that Dr. Lennox would not use his hermeneutical approach (taking ideas from outside the Bible to reinterpret the Genesis account of creation) when dealing with the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection.

In his book, one of Dr. Lennox’s first attacks on biblical creation is to redefine what it means to read the Bible “literally.” He writes, “When we are dealing with a text that was produced in a culture distant from our own both in time and in geography, what we think the natural reading is may not have been the natural meaning for those to whom the text was originally addressed” (pp. 22–23). Biblical creationists who believe the Genesis account of six literal days of creation are reading the Bible “literalistically,” according to Lennox.

At Answers in Genesis, we hold to a historical-grammatical hermeneutic, which Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explains in his article series titled “How Should We Interpret the Bible” Part 1 and Part 2.

Dr. Lennox tries to make his case that biblical creationists read the Bible “literalistically” by using as an example a line from Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel. Hannah’s prayer is not an account of cosmology and Dr. Lennox should know better than to claim it as such. She was using figurative language—in this case, a metaphor, which is an implied comparison:

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them. (1 Samuel 2:8)

Hannah is clearly referring to the might of God, who upholds the world by the word of His power. But Dr. Lennox sets up what is called a straw man argument (i.e., an argument by which a person misrepresents his opponent’s position and proceeds to refute that misrepresentation rather than the actual claim). He implies that young-earth creationists cannot tell the difference between passages that are figurative and those that are not. Erik Lutz, AiG–U.S., answers this specific argument in his article, “Contradictions: Hanging on Pillars of Nothing?” And, through a detailed comparison between poetic and narrative passages in the Old Testament, Tim Chaffey shows the vast differences between poetry and narrative in “Parallelism in Hebrew Poetry Demonstrates a Major Error in the Hermeneutic of Many Old-Earth Creationists.”

As the book continues, readers find out that Dr. Lennox is very concerned about the reputation of Scripture.

We don’t wish to appear scientifically illiterate and bring the Christian message into disrepute. . . . Most of us would surely agree that it is important to distinguish between matters that belong to the core message of the Bible and issues that are less central. (p. 32)

But my question for Dr. Lennox is, What about authority? If Scripture is inspired, then it contains no errors—and we can trust it as authoritative in all matters, including science. Scripture is not subject to the scientific opinions of the day. If the world reviles Scripture, let it be because the truth of Scripture is offensive, not because the world witnesses the blatant compromise going on within the church.

How do we know the Bible is inspired and authoritative? Brian Edwards deals with the canon of Scripture in his article, “Why 66?

Does science confirm Scripture? Read Dr. Jason Lisle’s article, “The Universe Confirms the Bible.”

We also suggest there is an issue here concerning how those Christians in academia are viewed by the academics of the world. One question we have been asked many times over the years, and even more so in recent times, is this: Why is it that so many Christian academics and leaders compromise God's Word in Genesis with evolution and millions of years?

Having pondered this and considered carefully the reactions when we challenge such compromisers with what God clearly states in His Word, we believe it often comes down to the issue of pride. In an era when there has been so much emphasis on college education, there has been a great deal of peer pressure to fit in with the academia of our age. It seems to us that many Christian leaders and academics are prepared to be scoffed at for believing in the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth, but they do not want to be called “anti-intellectual,” “anti-science,” or “anti-academic” (even though such claims are false) for believing in six literal days, a young earth, a global Flood, and a literal Adam and Eve.

In that sense, perhaps the words of John are fitting here? “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

Because evolution and millions of years are really the anti-God religion of this age, the secular academics intimidate Christians into adopting their ideas (as many do, thereby compromising God's Word in Genesis) to avoid being deemed “anti-intellectual.”

And it is true that it is almost impossible for a known six-literal-day, young-earth creationist to be published in the major journals of our day, whether the journals deal with science or theology.

On the issue of inspiration and authority, Dr. Lennox raises another common argument against a literal Genesis.

Genesis is, of course, a text that comes to us from a time and culture very different from our own. It is from the ancient Near East, so we cannot simply read it as if it were a contemporary Western document written to address contemporary Western concerns. (p. 43)

Of course, when such an argument is used to deny the historicity of Genesis, it totally contradicts what Scripture says about its own perspicuity (i.e., clarity)! Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

While Dr. Lennox is correct that it can be helpful to know the cultural context in which Genesis was written, many others who promote this argument wrongly believe that the Genesis account of creation originated in those pagan myths. This thinking about the ancient Near East assumes that we cannot understand Genesis without first understanding the pagan myths from the time.

For more about the ancient Near Eastern view, read Steve Ham’s (AiG–U.S.) article, “Is Genesis 1–11 a Derivation from Ancient Myths?

In regard to such arguments, most evolutionists do not believe the first humans could write. However, Genesis 5:1 states the following:

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. (Genesis 5:1)

The Hebrew word translated “book” means “written account” and is translated as “book” or “scroll” elsewhere in the Old Testament. There is no reason not to believe that Adam could write and probably did write down the account of creation as revealed to him by God, and also kept a written record of key historical events from the Creation Week until at least Genesis 5:5, which was passed down with the writings of the other patriarchs (Noah, Shem, Terah, Isaac, Jacob, etc.) eventually to Moses.

In more arguments that have been refuted multiple times, Dr. Lennox questions the meaning of the Hebrew word yom, translated “day,” and attempts to find ways to incorporate millions of years before and during Creation Week. He even offers detailed explanations of other “interpretations” of Genesis in the accompanying appendixes, including the idea that Genesis 1 and 2 allegedly contradict one another. AiG writers have refuted these “interpretations” many times before, and you can read one of the responses in the article, “Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?

For more information on the idea that Genesis 1 and 2 are contradictory, read Tim Chaffey’s article, “Do Genesis 1 and 2 Contradict Each Other?

For more on other “interpretations” of Genesis, see appendix A from Tim Chaffey and Dr. Jason Lisle’s Old-Earth Creationism on Trial. For a more in-depth biblical and historical defense of a literal, six-day Creation a few thousand years ago and a global Flood at the time of Noah, see Coming to Grips with Genesis, written by fourteen creationist theologians, including AiG’s Dr. Terry Mortenson.

As the years go by, the arguments against a literal Genesis do not seem to change. And the arguments to counter them do not change either—because God’s Word never changes. We have to be diligent in exposing the error that is prevalent even in the teachings of our churches and from fellow Christians such as Dr. Lennox. The above arguments are just some of the problems with Dr. Lennox’s book. You can read a more technical review of Seven Days That Divide the World in the Answers Research Journal.

Dr. Lennox preaches the gospel and no doubt people have been led to Christ through his teaching of God’s Word. However, that does not discount the fact that his teaching on Genesis and his compromise with evolution and millions of years undermines the authority of the Word of God in spite of his sincere intentions to the contrary. Such collective compromise by numerous Christian leaders has been a major contributing factor to the demise of the church in our Western World. In England, research indicates about two-thirds of young people do not believe in God, and church attendance plummeted from around 60% to about 5% of the population. Even though the gospel is preached in places, the big picture is one of a church that has been devastated, leading to an almost spiritually dead culture in England.

This should be a warning to America. Where England is today is where America will be tomorrow—for the same reasons. Increasing numbers of Christian academics take positions similar to that of Dr. Lennox.

Let God be true but every man a liar. (Romans 3:4)


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