John Lennox describes his experience of talking faith and science with Russian intellectuals.
When I went to Russia I was very well aware of their history, and so were they – especially the intelligent among them, of whom there were many because their educational system was phenomenal. Their schools, their elite schools for mathematicians and so on, were just like nothing I’d ever seen in the West, because they regarded these like they regarded sport, as very important fields.
And you had a sense in which there had been real oppression. They were, many of them, completely impoverished – they had to have two or three jobs, the university would empty at harvest time because the professors were all out harvesting or helping on their little dachas and all this kind of thing.
And the thing was that they’d been left in ignorance about Christianity. They didn’t know. The most telling evening, I think, was one of the early evenings where I gave a lecture on science and Christian belief. And I said to them about Newton, Kepler, Galileo, and so on all being believers in God. And I watched – it was packed out – anger growing, real anger of the distinguished professors, particularly in the front row. And I don’t like people being angry with me, so I stopped and I said, well, why are you angry? And one of them stood up – why are we angry? But we were never told that Galileo and Kepler and Newton and Clark Maxwell were believers. And he was furious. He said, why weren’t we told? I said, can’t you guess? The ideology you were sold was that Christianity was anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and now you’re learning actually it’s the other way round. Why weren’t we told?
And therefore a lot of it was the question of information. I remember one man who said to me, when I asked him, do you ever talk about God? And his answer was, well tell me about England, do you talk about green cows? And I said, no we don’t actually. And he said, why not? Well, I said, because green cows don’t exist. He said, precisely. And when you started to say there was evidence for belief in God, that just staggered them. Evidence?! There isn’t any evidence, there can’t be any evidence. So the idea that Christianity might have some kind of intellectual underpinning was totally new. And so you had to proceed very, very slowly indeed. But they were fascinated by it and they just lapped it up, particularly in those early days.