Determined to Believe: Introduction - Helping Christians Contemplate the Meaning of God's Sovereignty

(SeanO) #1

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 - let’s dive in :slight_smile: For this first post, I wanted us to discuss who Lennox’s target audience is and how he is approaching this topic. From the introduction, we learn a few very import things:

  • this book is intended for Christians
  • Dr. Lennox is going to spend a limited amount of time discussing naturalistic determinism, though he will address it
  • Dr. Lennox does not claim to have definitive answers and is approaching this topic with humility
  • Dr. Lennox clearly acknowledges that God is sovereign, but believes that we need to think carefully about what that word means Biblically

As good readers, the first thing we want to understand are the author’s intended audience, goals and how they will approach their topic. That can help set the stage for a more fruitful discussion as we engage the material. Below are some questions for discussion.

The Lord Jesus bless and guide us :slight_smile:

Questions for Discussion

  1. Dr. Lennox is approaching this topic with great humility. How can his attitude set the tone for our discussion if we encounter statements with which we disagree?
  2. What is Dr. Lennox’s main goal in writing this book?
  3. What are your expectations after reading the introductory material?


Philosopher Thomas Nagel in The View from Nowhere wrote: “I change my mind about the problem of free will every time I write about it…”

I have decided to concentrate on the issues raised for me and my fellow Christians by theological determinism.

I am aware that a Christian reader may well raise a principled objection to such a procedure, by saying there is a danger that we shall end up framing God in our own image, based on our convictions about the nature of human freedom. I accept the point, but awareness of the risk diminishes it; and

This book is written mainly for Christians who are interested in or even troubled by questions about God’s sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility.

I do not for a moment suppose that I have provided definitive solutions to these difficult questions.

the issue for Christians is not whether it teaches the sovereignty of God – it does as one of its essential doctrines – but what the sovereignty of God actually means as revealed in Scripture.

Q&A Panel: Key questions for Christian Apologists in the 21st century
(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #2

I’ll try to get my hands on a copy of this book soon but it’ll probably be about 1-2 weeks before I can join in (because of shipping).

(SeanO) #3

@O_wretched_man No worries - we’re not going to be flying through it. One chapter a week. That is one reason I really like a Kindle - just download it and there it is…

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #4

For some reason, a kindle just isn’t that same for me. I need to have the physical book in my hand, with its awesome new book smell, for me to be able to enjoy it. I also love to underline sentences and mark up the margins in my books, so it just wouldn’t be the same experience.

(SeanO) #5

@O_wretched_man I can definitely understand. Having a book in your hands and being able to mark it up does add to the experience. Making notes in Bible software like Logos is just not the same as actually highlighting text or putting notes in the margins…

(Mitzi Witt) #6

As for your discussion question #1, I see he begins with a couple of quotes, very humorous, and yet with purpose in the quotes. Not merely for laughs but more for easing into difficult things , foregoing an “in your face” attitude. Invites the hearer along with a couple sayings that provoke a smile and a deeper thought too.

(christopher van zyl) #7

This will be my third time working through this book. It is one of my favorites, and I look forward to engaging and discussing these ideas on a deeper level with you all!

(SeanO) #8

@mitwit Great point! I agree John Lennox is really welcoming us to join him on the journey as humble pursuers of truth in the face of a profound mystery.

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(SeanO) #9

@c3vanzyl Wow! I’m looking forward to learning from you :slight_smile: You will certainly be the one who has ruminated the most on these words and so I’m sure you’ll have some great thoughts to add to the conversation.

(Matt Western) #10

This is great Sean, and I think very important. One of the reasons I find Dr Lennox’s style very attractive, is his humility and he comes across as very laid back and relaxed. I have watched quite a few debates on youtube. Perhaps this appeals to me as an Australian, because we don’t like to get too up in arms about things - ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie, she’ll be right’. :slight_smile: Perhaps it appeals to me because a ‘real’ Christian who is quite senior in years and has so much life experience just packs in the information when he talks - and I enjoy listening to other senior men of the faith. I don’t know it’s just something attractive about the love of Christ in another person’s life.

I also like his writing style in all his books because he writes so that the everyday man can understand what he is saying…

Obviously he is one of my favourite authors, and I have to be really careful not to say ‘I am of Lennox’. :slight_smile: As it says in 1 Corinthians 1 and 1 Corinthians 3, it was happening in the early church too, with people saying ‘I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos’ etc. Paul says ‘seriously, we are not to be divided, and are all on the same team and each with different jobs to do’… :slight_smile:

12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed,Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

To have unity, we need a huge amount of humility. I know I do. with the aim of ‘reaching the questioner behind the question’…

Also, in the intro this short paragraph struck me, in particular: ‘We need to be careful not to frame God in our image’.

However, I have thought it sensible first of all to look at free will and determinism from the point of view of our human experience and from a philosophical perspective, in order to set the discussion in a broader space than that of Christian theology. I am aware that a Christian reader may well raise a principled objection to such a procedure, by saying there is a danger that we shall end up framing God in our own image, based on our convictions about the nature of human freedom. I accept the point, but awareness of the risk diminishes it; and I hope that what I have done will prove useful, in that it at least broadens understanding of what these issues mean to those who do not necessarily share the Christian worldview.

Lennox, John C. Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith and Human (p. 14). Lion Hudson. Kindle Edition.

(SeanO) #11

@matthew.western A barbecue sounds wonderful :slight_smile: I also really like that last quote from Lennox - there is such a danger of making God in not only our image, but the image of our local Church or the theological camp to which we belong. And on this particular issue, we must be very careful not to say ‘I am of Calvin’ or ‘I am of Arminias’ or ‘I am of Molinism’. I think there is a very real danger of labeling the other ‘camp’ as not giving God the glory or of turning God into a monster or of making salvation works instead of grace based.

Let us all be one in Christ in this discussion and prayerfully, humbly consider what our brother Dr. Lennox has to say, recognizing that we can disagree on this issue and still be fully committed to serving the King together.

Poll: Which book should we read next? Cast your vote
(Jennifer Wilkinson) #12

@O_wretched_man, I’m on the same page as you, quite literally. A Kindle isn’t the same as a wonderful book with crisp, clean pages that I can caress without leaving ugly fingerprints. Kindle books don’t smell as good either!

If you want to get started with us, you can read the introduction on the Google Books Preview. I’m counting on the online book previews to get me through until my paperback arrives.

(Kelly) #13

I love what he wrote on Page 15: “What I find encouraging in this daunting task is the fact that Scripture speaks on these topics, and it is therefore incumbent upon us – indeed is part of our WORSHIP – to try to understand what God has revealed, as we depend on the Spirit of truth.” John Lennox

When you speak of addressing each other with humility, how can we not if we take this same attitude?! He approaches this as part of worship! Arguing and disrespect towards one another has no place in worship. As for the main goal of why John Lennox wrote this book, for me, this quote embraces this question as well. What a privilege that God would make Himself available to be known by those who have a heart to seek Him. In the writing of this book, we are exploring and seeking to understand what God has revealed about Himself.

I so look forward to the insights of this post as I am still pretty new to apologetics.

(Sara Isaac) #14

I am so excited about this book!! It really tackles some of the most, not exactly contoversial, but rather difficult verses and topics that I, personally, never answer standing on a solid ground. As, he said

…the all too prevalent danger of dealing with deep theological questions by the simple expedient of affixing labels on the representatives of the various positions taken and then conducting a seemingly endless discussion of what those labels might mean."

Lennox is soooo soo humble though very very knowledgeable. One time, in a Q&A session, he was among other scholars, including Paul Copan and two others, when it came to an end, he adressed the audience, who were mostly youth and told them that they must be amazed at how he and his collegues are able to give immediate responses to the questions asked without any hesitation and that this must be frustrating as they study and study a topic and after a while they forget it. He assured them and told them to struggle perosnally with the questions, to ask their friends, and if they were asked and they don’t the answer to reply ‘give me a week to find an answer and let me get back to you.’ And if you return and they have another question, tell them the same and go and study.

(SeanO) #15

@kelelek Great point - it is a blessing when we dwell together in unity and the world will know that Jesus is who He claimed to be by our love for one another. May it be so among us!

I also like that quote a lot because it points out that part of what it means to love God is to love Him with our mind - to grow in understanding and knowledge.

(SeanO) #16

@saraisaac Such great advice - God does not expect us to have all the answers and not all of us have the same ability / time to memorize responses. But if we are faithful to study as best we are able and answer each person with humility that we encounter, the Lord will use us.

(Scott Dockins) #17


I believe John Lennox’s advice, quoted above, not only relieves laity (non-scholars and clergy within the Church body) of the unrealistic expectation (whether from self or others) of having expedient answers to every question presented to them, but also builds repertoire between the parties engaged in dialogue, whether that be Christians and non-Christians, or, conversations amongst believers by facilitating integrity through sincerity.

(Scott Dockins) #18


I have often said that we, Christians should be able to disagree as respectfully, honestly, and passionately as we agree with each other.

Disagreement amid ourselves and with others does not void the Greatest Commandments.

(Scott Dockins) #19

@O_wretched_man, @Jennifer_Wilkinson,

Nothing replaces the experience of a real book from my perspective either.

Though I have wanted a Kindle since they do not require lights for nighttime reading, expedient delivery (downloading the book), quick access to all owned books, and negates the need for bookshelves; which is the biggest draw for me due to my lack of bookshelves and room needed for their use.

Have you seen the candles that purport to smell like old books?
I don’t recommend them! :confused: Or, maybe my sniffer does not do the candles justice; I do applaud the idea and effort, I must say.:clap:

(Jennifer Wilkinson) #20

Scott, thanks for the laugh! I have not seen those candles, but I’ll trust your non-recommendation, and I won’t try them. Guess I’ll have to stick with my old book habit to get the smell.