Book Review: Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty

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.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty”

  1. I believe in election according to foreknowledge. This leads to reprobation according to foreknowledge. “Jacob have I loved Esau have I hated.” I clearly don’t fully understand this. I am locked in time and God is not. He is far beyond me and I will not pretend to explain Him, nor should I. I believe about God what He has revealed about himself in His word. He is good and righteousness and just. Will not the God of all the Earth do right?

    1. dempseybrian14

      Hey Jim,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’ve struggled with this for a while. I was raised on the Arminian foreknowledge argument, and never really questioned it until about twenty years ago. I was in a Sunday School class on 1 and 2 Peter, and we read over the verses that describe foreknowledge, and the question just kind of popped out, “foreknowledge of what?” The teacher replied, “foreknowledge of who would accept Jesus as Savior.” Another question, “On what basis would I in my sin choose Jesus while someone else would not?” That question kind of got me shut down, so I started working through it on my own. The same word for “foreknowledge” is used in 1 Peter 1:2 and 1:20. It would be grammatically odd to use the word in two different ways in the same text without a contextual indicator. Also, the Arminian understanding of foreknowledge in 1:2 cannot fit 1:20. Whatever one’s understanding, the dangers are the ditches on either side of this debate: Hyper-Calvinism, which manifests itself in a lack of evangelistic fervor, and a borderline fatalistic view of God’s sovereignty on one side. On the other side, there can be such an emphasis on the “free” will of man (I believe this term is an unbiblical concept) that evangelism becomes all about emotional appeals (let’s sing fifteen verses of “Just As I Am” and guilt people to respond). There is room here for disagreement and debate, provided neither crosses the lines of clear commands in Scripture.

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