John Lennox points to a specific passage from Romans 1 to back up his claim that sin doesn’t completely blind us from God like the T in TULIP suggests. Romans 1:19 says:
Romans 1:19 NIV
 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
I agree with Lennox that this does seem to show that sinners are “perfectly capable of seeing what God has taken the initiative to show them” (p 149). God has created this world and has left his fingerprints all over it. To me, this is obvious. I heard a story from William Lane Craig on his podcast where a woman who was a staunch nihilist gave birth to her first child, and strongly questioned her nihilism until she abandoned it because she couldn’t accept that her child’s life was meaningless. That existential evidence was stronger than any philosophical argument for meaning could ever do.
Total depravity means that there is no possible way we could ever respond to God’s creation unless God himself gave us the means to do so (he regenerated us so that we could have faith). But, as Lennox points out, we cannot be “intellectually blind” because we are “without excuse” if we reject the evidence. We will be held accountable. Lennox is right when he says that “God’s judgement is right just because it has been deserved” (p 151). As Romans 2 expounds, we have the moral law written on our hearts. I believe this is very strong evidence that we can’t be so spiritually dead that we are without a moral pulse whatsoever. I could go a lot deeper on this subject but I need to move on with my review of this chapter.
He goes on to criticize regeneration before faith with this important logical problem:
If a person is regenerate by an act of God, are they not there for a member of the kingdom of heaven and already in recipient of salvation? (p 154)
This is a fair question. The Spurgeon quote backs up his point. Isn’t Spurgeon a Calvinist (excuse the label)? I thought he was. Anyway, from my experience, when a person receives Christ, the changes don’t always come right away. Here’s an example: say that a person was a heavy drinker, and their life is completely in shambles. Then one day they go see a Christian speaker, and after the event there is an alter call and he is one of the many that go to the front and commit their lives to Jesus. After that, he joins a church and after a year or so is completely over his addiction. His regeneration in that area obviously came after his commitment of faith, not before. Maybe you could parallel this with pride, anger, lust, etc. Those spiritual sins that poison the heart take time to overcome. If God preordained that a person would have faith in Jesus after visiting a certain speaker, how come his pride, anger, lust, or addictions were still apart of his daily routine before he listened to the speaker? Wouldn’t it be consistent if those sins were all gone before he visited the speaker and had faith is Jesus, not after? Is this a fair thing to ask those who believe in regeneration before faith? I think so.
I love Lennox’s next argument using the Story of Adam and Eve. He begins by giving the theistic determinist view of the Fall:
Some theistic determinists put a confusing gloss on what happened in Eden. They said that, yes, Adam fell into sin by using his freedom, but what they mean by freedom is not what most people typically understand by that term. They mean only the freedom of spontaneity. They hold that Adam was free to do what he wanted to do, but they believe that he was not free to do anything other than he actually chose to do, since he was predestined to disobey God’s command. (p 155)
Even Calvin believed it to be “a horrible decree.” I don’t see how 1 Corinthians 10:13 supports libertarian free will, though. Can’t God determine to “not let you be tempted beyond what (he predetermined) you can bear”? That’s how I see it. Anyway, back to Genesis. Lennox points out Adam and Eve must have had free will in the garden because 1) God explicitly commanded them not to eat of the one tree in the garden, and 2) once they disobeyed God, “they experienced a sense of shame, unease, and alienation from God that impelled them to hide from God. (p 157)” this brings up the response that God has two wills (the contradicting narrative that God’s “prescriptive will,” where God openly tells Adam not to eat from the tree, is not the same as his “decretive will,” where Adam was determined by God to disobey his prescriptive will). If this “two wills” interpretation is true, why then does God punish Adam and Eve for disobeying a command they were set up (by God) not to obey? This reminds me how much I dislike any kind of determinism. Reading the quote Lennox pulls from a book by Calvinists on Adam struck me as weird (bottom of p 157). How could Adam not have sinned if he didn’t have free will? Then he quotes a sentence that is he says is just two paragraphs later:
God sovereignly decreed that sin would enter the world, and Adam was responsible for freely sinning. (p 158)
How does that make any sense? If Christianity is true, you wouldn’t think one has to bend the rules of logic to fit it into reality.
Lennox points out in Genesis that when Adam and Eve sinned, they became spiritually dead because they’re relationship with God was broken. Yet they were still aware of God in the garden and hid from him. They could even could hear him speak to them and reply back. According to Calvinism, they shouldn’t be aware of God in any way. They would have ignored God or be completely unable to hear God in the garden. This is a very good insight by Lennox. He points out that Adam wasn’t even morally dead in this new state. I loved the CS Lewis quote on pages 161-2:
Or could one seriously introduce the idea of a bad God, as it were by the back door, through a sort of extreme Calvinism? You could say that we are fallen and depraved. We are so depraved that our ideas of goodness count for nothing; or worse than that – the very fact that we think something good is presumptive evidence that it really is bad. Now God has in fact – our worst fears are true – all the characteristics we regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty. But all these blacks (as they seem to us) are really white. It’s only our depravity that makes them look black to us…
Finally, if reality at its root is so meaningless to us – or, putting it the other way around, if we are such total imbeciles – what is the point of trying to think either about God or about anything else? This knot comes undone when you try to pull it tight.
I never knew that Lewis talked about Calvinism! How cool! Like most quotes from Lewis, this one is profound. I believe he is on point when he says that if Calvinism is true, our idea of goodness counts for nothing. Throughout the book, Lennox has made similar statements when he says that if divine determinism is true, morality would have no meaning. These problems are some of the strongest reasons why I am not a Calvinist (along with different interpretations of key passages like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 that are coherent with the rest of scripture).
I do disagree with Lennox, though, when he says that regeneration before faith can be an excuse to stop evangelizing to unbelievers. I think most Calvinists would agree that God can use their efforts in Evangelism to help with a person’s regeneration. That seems pretty straightforward to me.
Lastly, I’d like to mention John 3:14, which Lennox goes through himself.
John 3:14 NIV
 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Isn’t this verse straightforward? It’s not like Jesus said all whom he predetermines to believes will look at the Son of Man. I remember when I read the passage Jesus refers to from Numbers 21. If anyone notices, but the snake symbol has been a defining characteristic on the side of ambulances for awhile. It’s called the star of life.
Overall I think John Lennox did a great job critiquing this view of regeneration before faith (to be fair not all Reformed folk hold to this view as Greg Koukl said on his podcast earlier this year that he he believes scripture teaches otherwise).