In recent years, there has been a need for a balanced, scholarly, and well-reasoned book to answer some of the more strident Calvinist apologists’ charges. In some assemblies, aggressive Calvinist authors and teachers have created baseless division and unrest. The book Determined to Believe?, written by Professor John Lennox, is exactly the kind of book that will answer this need.
Determined to Believe? is written for those who are interested in or even troubled by questions about God’s sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility. John Lennox writes with a desire of helping people to come to grips with this issue for themselves. The author with humility, grace, and boldness tackles this important subject.
Dr. John Lennox is a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford and a fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science, and a pastoral advisor at the Green Templeton College, in Oxford, England. He has authored God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? He is known internationally for his lectures on the intellectual defense of Christianity and debating New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
John Lennox for many years was associated with Dr. David Gooding in ministering the Word of God at assembly-based conferences around the globe. He has spoken at the Believers’ Bible Conference (Charlotte, NC, 2013) and in many pulpits in North America, where he is well known and respected.
Following the Tradition
Dr. Lennox has now turned his attention to exposing the weaknesses in Reformed Theology generally and the Five Points of Calvinism more specifically in his new book Determined to Believe? (2017). John Lennox joins the long tradition of British assembly writers who have turned their backs on the rigid and extreme Calvinism of early brethren leaders such as John N. Darby for a balanced non-Calvinist position. For nearly 100 years British assembly authors such as Sir Robert Anderson, W. E. Vine, C. F. Hogg, G. H. Lang, Harold St. John, Stephen F. Olford, John Phillips, and Dr. David Gooding have argued for a Biblicist, non-Calvinist position. Now Dr. John Lennox with his new book follows in this tradition.
The Scope of the Book
In this comprehensive examination of the topic of theological determinism, Lennox seeks firstly to define the problem, looking at the concepts of freedom, the different kinds of determinism, and the moral problems these pose. He then equips the reader with biblical teaching on the topic and explores the spectrum of theological opinion on it. Following this, Lennox delves deeper into the Gospels and then investigates what we can learn regarding determinism and responsibility from Paul’s discussion in Romans on God’s dealings with Israel. Finally, Lennox tackles the issue of Christian assurance. This nuanced and detailed study challenges some of the widely held assumptions in the area of theological determinism and brings a fresh perspective to the debate.
The Division of the Book
Lennox’s discussion in Determined to Believe? is divided into five parts: 1. The Problem Defined; 2. The Theology of Determinism; 3. The Gospel and Determinism; 4. Israel and Determinism, and finally, 5. Assurance and Determinism. His approach to the subject will win readers from both the Calvinist and non-Calvinist positions. Lennox shuns using typical terminology and the labels usually associated with the Calvinist debate, thereby helping his readers to think in a fresh new way. He frequently uses the word “Determinism” in place of “Calvinism” with great effectiveness. Rarely will you find the word “Arminian” or “Calvinist” in his discussion. Dr. Lennox’s style, graciousness, and knowledge of the subject will cause his readers to think more deeply about the issues at stake.
The Discussion of the Topic
Lennox is irenic in his discussion and is fair to both Calvinists and non-Calvinists throughout the book. But he is also passionate when important truths are in question. On page 123, Lennox quotes Reformed author Dr. R. C. Sproul:
The only answer to this question is that I don’t know. I have no idea why God saves some and not all. I don’t doubt for a moment that God has the power to save all, but I know that he does not choose to save all. I don’t know why…If it pleases God to save some and not to save all, there is nothing wrong with that.1
Lennox questions Sproul’s callous statement: “There is nothing wrong with that.”
In response, Lennox passionately writes:
“There is everything wrong with it if that selection is mysterious or even arbitrary. There is everything wrong with it if God is the God who so loved the world that he gave his Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. There is everything wrong with it if God is the God who inspired the apostle Paul to write, encouraging all believers to pray: ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV). There is everything wrong with it because it points to a God who hates rather than one who loves.”2
In this work, Dr. Lennox is painstaking in his desire to treat this topic in a thorough and complete manner. He discusses and quotes from some of the great theological books on this subject. He examines works such as Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. He discusses the writings of Augustine, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, Gerald Bray, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, B.B. Warfield, and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, as well as many others. Theological concepts such as determinism, synergism, human freedom, election, foreknowledge, and monergism are carefully examined. He tackles key passages such as Ephesians 1:4, Acts 13:48, and John 6:37 in a fresh and scholarly fashion. The reader will find that the topic is presented in a clear, well-written, and comprehensive manner.
It is the opinion of this reviewer that every serious Christian should purchase a copy of Dr. John Lennox’s book Determined to Believe? The author avoids the usual proof-texting approach, but rather examines carefully the issues within the scope of the whole counsel of God. The reader will find Determined to Believe? to be a very readable, biblically-based guide that tackles the important questions about election, human freedom, faith, and the sovereignty of God. If one desires to delve into this subject further, he will find great profit in reading Determined to Believe? The book is available in ebook and audio book format for those who prefer these forms of media. This book is available for purchase online at Gospel Folio Press.
1. R. C. Sproul, Chosen to Believe, (Tyndale House: Carol Stream, IL, 1986), p. 37
2. John C. Lennox, Determined to Believe?, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 2017), p. 123