by Peter Sammons
The concept of reprobation is anathema to many Christians. Believers don’t want to talk about it, and if they do talk about it, they have a strong emotional reaction to the very idea. Does God consign some people to hell in the same way that He elects people to heaven? These are the questions that Peter Sammons tackles in his extremely solid work on the theology of reprobation.
Sammons opens his work by laying the groundwork of the debate over reprobation, and it surrounds the issue of theodicy or the problem of evil in the world. This lies at the heart of the debate. If God is fully in charge of everything, does that by definition make him in charge of evil, and if so, does that make Him culpable for the evil in the world?
The rest of the book is a tightly-written argument for the sovereignty of God over all things, even the eternal destiny of the damned. Sammons spends time establishing the sovereignty of God over all things generally, then takes time to do a thorough and extensive exegesis of Romans 9-11. This is one of the strongest points in the book, as Sammons does an excellent job of unpacking the text and carefully answering objections to his interpretive conclusions. He also spends time answering objections to reprobation, then unpacks his view of primary and secondary causes, which he argues allows God to be the ultimate cause of evil while not being the efficient cause.
Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty has many strengths and only a few weaknesses. On the negative side, the book is very poorly edited. I know that this falls on both the author and the editor, but it needs to be mentioned because the book is very tightly argued, and the poor editing distracts from the force of the book. Another weakness is that there are a few places where the author seems to quote different theologians who have different definitions of reprobation without clarifying the terms used. This leads to some “studied ambiguity” (to borrow a term from R.C. Sproul), which stands out in a book that is otherwise very well laid out.
Other than a few minor weaknesses, Sammons has contributed an excellent piece of literature to the evangelical world. His textual work is strong. He interacts with objectors without building strawmen. He traces his doctrinal arguments through church history. Ultimately, the reader will have to interact with Sammon’s arguments and see if he finds them convincing. Overall, this is an excellent work on a hard subject and will serve as a representative text on a question that has engendered debate in the church for years.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.