Intellectually Fulfilling Faith: Lessons from C.S. Lewis - page3




Intellectually Fulfilling Faith: Lessons from C.S. Lewis
by John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College

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And the importance of this cannot be exaggerated in our time where the new atheists have persuaded many people that faith in God means believing where there is no evidence or grounding in reason.

Lewis’s marshalling of arguments resonates powerfully with the scientist in me even though Lewis was no scientist. He admits, “I could never have gone far in any science because on the path of every science the lion Mathematics lies in wait for you.” Of my own field, algebra, he had this to say, “I read algebra (devil take it!).” He failed the dreaded Responsions exam in 1917. The war then intervened, and he was able to resume his studies after the war when he was exempted from having to re-sit. It’s sobering, isn’t it, to think that lack of mathematical ability nearly kept Lewis out of Oxford, and thereby probably depriving us of one of the intellectual giants of Christian history.

However, he loved geometry, and he made much imaginative use of it. For instance, he writes:

God has a positive structure which we could never have guessed in advance, anymore than a knowledge of squares would have enabled us to guess at the cube. He contains “persons” (three of them) while remaining one God, as a cube contains six squares while remaining one solid body. We cannot comprehend such a structure anymore than the Flatlanders could comprehend a cube. But we can at least comprehend our incomprehension, and see that if there is something beyond personality it ought to be incomprehensible in that sort of way. The Pantheist, on the other hand, though he may say “super-personal” really conceives God in terms of what is sub-personal – as though the Flatlanders thought a cube existed in fewer dimensions than a square.

The brilliance of such explanations is not so much that they bring us nearer to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity but that they show us that we don’t need to be embarrassed by our incomprehension any more than a Flatlander need be embarrassed for failing to understand the cube.

I have fun with my scientific colleagues around the world when I ask them, “What do you do your science with?”, and they often tell me about some very expensive machine and I say, “No, no, no; I don’t mean that, I mean….”

“Oh, you mean my” — and they’re about to say “mind” when they remember that there is no such thing as the mind — and they say “my brain.” (I actually do believe that mind and brain are to be distinguished, but that’s another topic.)

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