University News

Visiting speaker connects belief in God with happiness

An Oxford professor gave a lecture Friday prompting discussion of life’s biggest questions

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Offering insight on big questions surrounding God, Life and the Pursuit of Happiness, John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, led an interactive discussion Friday with students, faculty members and community members. The event was hosted by the Veritas Forum and co-sponsored by the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.

The talk began with interactive engagement from the audience about the topics at hand — the moderators asked attendees questions regarding the purpose of life. Audience members then texted their answers to a provided number and the responses appeared on the screen, ranging from thoughtful to humorous.

Some responses included, “ To not do harm and maybe even some good” and “get money, get paid.”

Linford Fisher, assistant professor of history, began the discussion by asking Lennox why he discusses and debates about God, religion, life’s purpose and the meaning of happiness.

Lennox went on to explain that while his upbringing as an Irish Christian  contributed to his views, his curiosity and drive in finding truth were what instigated him to talk to leading atheists about what made them tick. Lennox said he wanted to expose his worldview to zealous questioning, as he believes that Christianity has been downgraded intellectually by the rational view of naturalism.

Happiness was another big topic in the discussion. Questions ranged from “How much should we invest in our pursuit of happiness?” to “What is the ultimate happiness?” Lennox delved into this topic by establishing that happiness is, by definition, subjective. He went on to explain that there are various levels of happiness when interests grow throughout the aging process.

“God gives us a magnificent universe,” Lennox said. “He doesn’t truncate our joy when we are happy. He’s not a killjoy.”

He elaborated on happiness by claiming that while joy comes and goes, “God is not a theory, he is a person — we can have a relationship with him — that is the highest level of happiness,” he said. Lennox connected the satisfaction and joy with which one’s relationships with friends and family provide to one’s relationship with God. When questioned by moderators during the lecture, audience members rated family and friends as the greatest sources of happiness.

The discussion about happiness naturally transitioned into a discussion about God, especially after Lennox defined ultimate happiness as contingent upon a belief in God. Moderators then asked audience members, “How do nonbelievers find happiness?” Lennox responded by explaining that all people, whether they believe or not, have the potential to find happiness.

The discussion about God progressed to focus on the evidence of the existence of a god. Lennox began by asserting that different worldviews support the existence of a god and it is up to individuals themselves to decide.

“There is no default worldview. Each one of us has to decide which one to espouse,” he said, adding that people have their own reasons for believing what they do. He also pointed out that “evidence is not proof” — evidence only provides reasons.

Lennox stated that nature itself gives evidence of God. “Evidence for believing in God is that science can be done. If naturalism was true, it would in itself be undermining as men become more scientific because they expected more of nature.”