I was startled when I read the first page of this chapter. Lennox starts off with this bombshell about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (at least for me):
In a real sense they are the story, For the biblical narrative is the story of God’s sovereignty in human responsibility. (p 92)
This may strike some people as obvious, but I had never really thought about it like that before. Lennox then develops his case using the book of Daniel, selected passages from the book of Acts, and John’s Gospel. He comes to this conclusion:
- God takes the initiative.
- People are responsible to come to Jesus and capable of doing it or refusing to do so.
I would agree with these points. It seems clear to me in scripture. I was wondering, though, how would a determinist tweak his two points? Would it look something like this,
- God takes the initiative.
- People have no resistance to God’s initiative, and come to Jesus only on the basis of God’s grace.
- Not everyone will be subject to God’s initiative, and are therefore subject to their moral depravity and destined to hell.
Now, please correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems to be saying that unbelievers who die before they come to Christ are not the elect, so there was nothing they could do to come to Christ, nor did they want to (therefore determined to rebel hence the T in TULIP). And because God did not choose them before the world’s foundations, they are bound to hell because God didn’t choose them to be in heaven. Yet they are still morally responsible for their predetermined actions. How could they be morally accountable when they were hopelessly lost in their depravity in the first place? We can’t get out of it unless God elects us by his grace, not by our own choice of faith and devotion to God. I never understand how that makes people morally accountable. It’s like this: you are stuck in a condition that you can’t get out of at all by yourself. You are born in the quick sand and can’t get out unless someone helps you, namely God. But if God does not help you (and not everyone is saved), then you are morally responsible for getting stuck in the sand. Please, someone tell me where I went wrong here with my train of thought on this issue.
Lennox believes (and I with him) that God can only determine so much without violating our gift of free will: “God has clearly determined certain limits, but that does relieve men and women of the responsibility of seeking, feeling after, and finding him” (p 94). I must confess, though, that I really don’t like talking about this subject sad much as I once thought. I get very cynical because it seems as if both sides of the argument (Calvinism vs Arminianism) keep shouting past each other. A lot of the points Lennox brings up are nothing new to the discussion. But he does realize that these are “ very deep issues, and that we must not only approach them with humility but with a sense that, however profound our understanding may be, it will reach its limits and we shall be left with elements of mystery.” I totally agree, and I’m sure most Christians on either side would as well.
One other reason why I don’t enjoy discussing this topic as much as I once did is because it seems to divide the Church in deep ways. You got the Reformed churches here, and the rest over there (bordering on heresy, according to some). Jesus prays in John 17 that those that hear the apostles’ message would be one in unity.
John 17:20-23 NIV
 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
I do really like what we are doing here on RZIM Connect, though. We can have good discussions with kindness and respect.
Lastly, I’d like others to weigh in on what they thought if this remark by Lennox:
Many of the influential theologians Of past centuries were educated in classical ways of thinking before they studied theology, and stoicism has left its mark on the more extreme forms of Christian determinism, where it is arguable that the concept of God appears more Greek and Christian. (p 97).
I have not studied the different schools of philosophy, or read any of the past theologians. G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is the oldest book of theology on my bookshelf, so I’m not in any position to know if Lennox’s bold claim has any validity to it. How we see the scripture (whether through Calvinist glasses or Arminian glasses, or any other position) is very important on essential topics like the human condition, the nature of salvation, etc.
The issues at stake are not simply questions of abstract theology. They have to do with our concept of God’s person and character, and of ourselves as human beings, and they go to the very heart of the gospel itself…Nothing less then the character of God and his reputation in the world is it stake. (p 102-3)
Lennox says he will start with what bible says first, then work through different interpretations by different people, regardless of any “ism.” This is a wise course of action and I can’t wait to dive deeper in fruitful discussion.