The limits of scepticism

Just watched a great debate between John Lennox and Michael Shermer:

When asked:

“why would you choose to worship a creator God who forbade man to eat from the tree of knowledge, one from which you have obviously eaten from as you are a knowledgeable man…way would you choose to worship this god?”.

Lennox replies:

“This is a  good question. I’ll tell you why it is a good question. It was asked originally by a snake!”

After quickly stating that he is not implying any offence at all, he talks about how that very question was asked in the garden of Eden. The first temptation to sin was that God was holding out on the first humans. They could eat from every tree except one. One forbidden tree was actually the minimum condition for man to have the freedom of moral choice. Yet the snake twisted it to make God look like he was mean and holding out of them.

When Lennox pointed out that it was the “tree of the knowledge of Good and evil”, not simply of knowing things and truth in general, the guy asking the questions said that it was a “tree of knowledge” not a “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Lennox said he was not aware that the terms good and evil were not there in the passage. Very humbly and graciously he said he stood corrected. But when I went to the Hebrew there were two terms translated “good thing” and “bad, evil”. I wish I knew Hebrew to be sure but it looks to me that all the major translations are indeed correct. I can’t wait to get going with this language.

Anyway, Lenox ends magnificently. After explaining how God gave his son to die for us so that we could know and enjoy his friendship, he ends with this: “the notion that God is trying to keep us down is the original lie”.


“We have been faced with someone talking who is a distinguished sceptic. As I understand it the word sceptic is a great word. It means to check from a distance. And scepticism is very important and Michael has demonstrated in many of his books the pseudo sciences that we need to get out of our thinking. But ladies and gentlemen we may start with a sceptical approach to Christianity. That would be wise. To check it all out from a distance. But there comes a point when you have to give up your distance. You see if I had been sceptical about my wife all my life she would have never become my wife. I did check her out at a distance to start with but then, in order to make that profound commitment that has now lasted 40 years, I gave up my distance and approached a person. And belief in God is not belief in a theory. Because you can keep approaching theories from a distance. Belief in God is in the end commitment to a person and you can never know the reality of that kind of commitment unless you give up your scepticism and on the basis of the evidence you have accumulated you start to commit yourself to a person. You won’t know everything, but I have tried to argue that there is enough basis in science, in philosophy, in God’s self revelation, to be at least a platform from which we can begin to give up our scepticism and enjoy a positive relationship with the God who created us to enjoy himself eternally.” Lennox


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