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 3! I look forward to hearing your favorite quotes and your reflections on this subject matter.
My main takeaways were:
- this debate has been going on for much of Church history
- the ‘greater good’ argument is a form of utilitarianism
- in Lennox’s view, it is irrational to say both that God loves the world and that He predestined part of it to go to Hell. I agree. But I recognize some of our readers may not and I want you to know your perspective is welcome and appreciated
- belief in predestination can create uncertainty about whether or not you yourself are predestined - how could you know?
Questions for Discussion
- What is John Lennox’s critique of the ‘greater good’ argument? (the view that the main purpose of suffering is to be used by God for some greater good)
- In what ways does the moral argument invalidate divine determinism?
- What is the significance of recognizing that this debate between free will and determinism has been going on for a good portion of Church history?
- What are your thoughts on this Chesterton quote?
G. K. Chesterton was forthright in his assessment: The Calvinists took the Catholic idea of the absolute knowledge and power of God, and treated it as a rocky irreducible truism so solid that anything could be built on it, however crushing or cruel. They were so confident in their logic, and its one first principle of predestination, that they tortured the intellect and imagination with dreadful deductions about God, that seemed to turn Him into a demon.
It is a strange thing indeed to seek peace in a universe rendered morally intelligible at the cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.
It is not surprising to meet people who say they have become atheists because the version of theism presented to them was deterministic and contradicted their moral sense.
The moral argument is surely entirely sufficient to invalidate theories of divine determinism. The problem is, however, that those theories are often so wrapped up in biblical quotations and Christian terminology that many of the clearly unacceptable logical implications of divine determinism are shrouded in mystery – a mystery that we are not allowed to question.
Another, less charitable way of putting it is that the unacceptable implications of determinism get shrouded in intellectual fog and contradiction, in an intractable obfuscation.
the contribution suffering can make to the development of character and so on – the so-called “greater good” argument. This view is a version of utilitarianism.
must be crystal clear about the fundamental distinction between causation and permission.
astonishing position held by some that God directly causes the human evil that he expressly forbids. No amount of special pleading or theological sophistry can make such a view anything less than grotesque and completely unacceptable to a morally sensitive person.
how can we say that God loves the world if he created a good portion of it to go to hell?
Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century; Luther and Erasmus, Calvin and Arminius in the sixteenth century; and Whitefield and Wesley in the eighteenth century.
Austin Fischer, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed. Fischer tells his story with clarity, honesty, and without bitterness.
The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints § in the TULIP scheme is closely connected with the doctrine of unconditional election (U) – for obvious reasons: if God predetermines, if God elects, then (essentially by definition) the elect cannot become the non-elect; genuine believers cannot become non-believers. They will persevere.
It is one thing to believe that God predestines some to salvation and some to rejection; it is quite another to know where you yourself stand.