This is a book study on John Lennox’s book ‘Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, and Human Responsibility’. Lennox openly acknowledges that he has not provided definite solutions to these deep questions of the faith and that there is mystery involved. He clearly acknowledges that God is sovereign, but that we need to think carefully about what the word ‘sovereign’ means Biblically. This book, per my understanding, is an invitation for Christians to spend time thinking deeply about what the Bible means when it describes God as sovereign.
Greetings fellow bookies (@Interested_in_book_studies) - we are now on Chapter 19! I look forward to hearing your favorite quotes and your reflections on this subject matter.
My main takeaways were:
- Lennox believes that these passages in Hebrews cannot be describing Christians because all Christians mess up and God does not kick us out every time we mess up - we have a high priest interceding for us
- God does not threaten us with loss of salvation
Questions for Discussion
- Do these passages in Hebrews discuss true believers falling away or unbelievers with high exposure to truth rejecting Christ? How come?
- If believers can fall away, what do you think that looks like? Is it just one sin or is it a turning of the back on God?
Critique - Straw Man + False Dilemma
In this chapter I believe Lennox has misrepresented the position that Christians can lose their salvation. I hold this position and know others who do and I would never say that God threatens us with loss of salvation or that a believer loses their salvation every time they sin. I would agree those are both not Biblical. His stories about preachers who used this position to threaten others are - to me - an emotional argument from experience that does not take into account the breadth of views that exist.
Lennox also presents a false dilemma, a choice between this straw man view of the position or the position that believers cannot lose their salvation. However, there are more nuanced positions.
For example, I believe that while a believer is not kicked out of God’s family every time they mess up, that it is possible for a believer to choose to turn their back on God. I think it is rare and sad and terrible and tragic, but I think it can happen.
I think the reason it is impossible to renew them to repentance is because they have rejected the witness of the Holy Spirit, so there is no longer any means by which they can come to the truth. Like those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, they have chosen to reject God Himself. Hebrews says they were sanctified by the blood of the covenant - to me that is quite a clear indicator of salvation. I understand Lennox’s basic line of argument and respect his position, but I think there is plenty of textual space for the alternative position.
Hebrews 10:29 - How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Some Additional Thoughts
On this basis the passage has been used by some pastors and ministers to keep Christians in order, by warning and sometimes even threatening them with loss of eternal life.
Their argument is that, if you teach believers that they can be sure of salvation, this will lead to carelessness of lifestyle.
This cannot be the correct interpretation, for the simple reason that all believers experience rough patches, spiritual low points, worldliness, giving in to temptation,
They cannot be the people described in Hebrews 6 since, I repeat, whoever these people are, it is impossible to renew them to repentance.
We conclude that enlightenment, though a necessary pre-requisite for salvation, is not sufficient for salvation.
The sad reality is that seeing evidence for the deity of Christ, being enlightened, and even experiencing the power of God’s Holy Spirit in one’s own body, is still not the same as salvation. The letter to the Hebrews has yet more to
very specific sin that concerns a person of Jewish background who has received the knowledge of the truth, perhaps made a profession of Christianity, but has then repudiated the deity of Christ with the implication that his blood is common, and his sacrifice and covenant therefore meaningless.
Sadly I have personally heard austere preachers tell a congregation that, even if believers serve the Lord faithfully for a lifetime, and then at the end trip up and fall even once, they might well forfeit their salvation.
These preachers told me that this was the only way to keep people on their toes – threaten them with loss of salvation.
But God is not like that. Hebrews warns of the danger of not being genuine, but it does not threaten genuine believers with loss of salvation.