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.
Determined to Believe: Introduction - Helping Christians Contemplate the Meaning of God's Sovereignty
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!
@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.
@c3vanzyl Wow! I’m looking forward to learning from you 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.
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’. 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’. 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’…
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.
@matthew.western A barbecue sounds wonderful 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.
@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.
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.
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.
@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.
@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.
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.
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.
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! Or, maybe my sniffer does not do the candles justice; I do applaud the idea and effort, I must say.
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.
Yes quick access to all of one’s books would be very helpful for sure. That has always appealed to me. But I haven’t got one yet. I might sometime in the future get one, but for now I’ll stick to the physical book (sometimes I find myself by my bookshelf pulling random books off just to hold it in my hands, flip through it, and feel the pages! A great experience for sure).
Yess Scott! I totally agree with you. I once had a conversation with a friend about evangelism and apologetics, and she told me, in those exact words: “I don’t like to engage with non-christians in conversations about faith because I might get asked a question that I wouldn’t be able to answer.”
We should really change the way we present apologetics as the weapon to slay any questions at sight but rather as having the heart of Christ towards His children, armed with grace and truth.
That is hilarious!!!
If, or, when I purchase a Kindle, physical books will always reign supreme; for feel and smell.
Amen to that sister!
As Ravi says,
“Behind every question is a questioner.”
Questions for Discussion
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?
Dr. Lennox’s attitude of humility can set the tone for our discussions regarding areas of disagreement if we follow his example by keeping in mind the perspective of God, and humanities capacity for knowledge that Dr. Lennox discusses throughout his prologue. Thus, if we are successful in following Dr. Lennox’s example, areas of agreement, disagreement, and discovery will be enriched because we can think critically, though realistically, via Dr. Lennox’s perspective of human finiteness and the awesome mystery that is God.
He brings humanities finite limitations to the forefront of our attention on the opening page of his prologue, quoting Augustus De Morgan:
“who was issuing a warning for the scientist who tried to venture into metaphysics:” ‘When he tries to look down his own throat with a candle in his hand,’ “he said, he needs to” ‘take care that he does not set his head on fire.” (Lennox, 2017, pg. 13)
Further, we need to keep in mind that asking questions as are covered in Determined to Believe is both a duty and an act of worship as Dr. Lennox suggests saying,
“What I find encouraging in this daunting task is the fact the Scripture speaks on these topics, and it is therefore incumbent upon us – indeed is a part of our worship – to try to understand what God has revealed, as we depend on the Spirit of Truth.” (Lennox, 2017, pg. 15)
Dr. Lennox himself says, " I do not for a moment suppose that I have provided definitive solutions to these difficult questions." (Lennox, 2017, pg. 15)
What is Dr. Lennox’s main goal in writing this book?
Dr. Lennox’s primary purpose for writing Determined to Believe is to assist Christians in discussing the topics of " God’s sovereignty, human freedom, and human responsibility" (Lennox, 2017, pg. 15) by presenting his views on said topics.
What are your expectations after reading the introductory material?
My expectation is one of gratefulness, enthusiasm, and relief due to the care Dr. Lennox took discussing our incapacity to grasp all that is God. If Dr. Lennox believes he has not offered definitive answers to the questions of God’s sovereignty, freedom, faith, and human responsibility than I cannot provide a definitive answer to those same questions either and dare not try, though I should explore said questions as if I could give definitive answers. Dr. Lennox’s perspective allows for a productive and more meaningful exploration of all topics discussed within Dr. Lennox’s book by removing the temptation to burden oneself with the unrealistic expectation of knowing all there is to know about a subject, let alone God.
” The true bounds and limitations, whereby human knowledge is confined and circumscribed,… are three: the first, that we do not so place our felicity in knowledge, as we forget our mortality: the second, that we make application of our knowledge, to give ourselves repose and contentment, and not distates or repining: the third, that we do not presume by the contemplation of Nature to attain to the mysteries of God.”
(Francis Bacon, 1870, pg. 266)
“To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God.”
—(Merton, 1962, Ch. 8, pg.?)
“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
—(Saint Augustine, The Confessions, pg.?)
(1870). In F. Bacon, The Works of Francis Bacon: Philosophical works, vol. 3 (1870) (p. 795). London, England: Spottiswoode & Company.
(1961). In T. Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (pp. Chapter 8, pg. ?). New York, New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation.
(2006). In S. Augustine, The Confessions (p. 346). Penquin Books Inc.
(2017). In J. C. Lennox, Determined to Believe? The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, & Human Responsibility (p. 368). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.