Peter Sammons is the managing editor of The Master’s Seminary Journal and director of Academic Publications at The Master’s Seminary. In this volume he tackles the heavy theological, often avoided and frequently misunderstood topic of reprobation, which he defines as “the eternal, unconditional decree of God for the non-elect” (p. 47) and “that eternal decree of God whereby He has determined to pass some men by, with the operations of His special grace, and to punish them for their sin, to the manifestation of His justice” (p. 119). “Reprobation includes two elements: on the negative side is preterition, or the denial of grace not due, and predamnation, on the positive side, meaning the appointment of punishment due” (p. 122). What Sammons is attempting to do is to address the issue of theodicy, the problem of evil: “How does an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God exist and interact with in the world?” (p. 13). The “purpose of this book is twofold: to properly define reprobation and explore God’s use of secondary causes in this doctrine… [and] to define, clarify, and explain a biblical view of reprobation against misunderstandings of it” (p. 15).
The author provides a detailed exegesis of Romans 9:19-23 for support of double predestination (pp. 94-103). However, his argument relies heavily on the doctrines of causality and compatibilism. By compatibilism Sammons means that human desires determine their choices, which occur through divine determinism (p. 134). He believes that “humans will always choose according to the strongest desires of their hearts” (p. 202). Quoting from John Gerstner: “You, being a rational person, will always choose what seems to you to be the right thing, the wise thing, the most advisable thing to do” (p. 207). This implies that God can govern the human will without nullifying human responsibility and that the human will is never neutral (p. 207).
But compatibilism is just one of several secondary causality means God uses to bring about His will (p. 14). Suggesting two overarching models of causality, the domino and authorial models (chapter 14), Sammons identifies several secondary causes: divine abandonment through restraints and giving people over to their desires, withholding grace, hardening of heart, self-hardening, evil people, evil spirits, and the truth (pp. 228-259). A helpful chart is found in the Appendix pp. 275-281. Of course, there are many objections to the doctrine of reprobation such as the accusation that it is fatalism; it limits the sovereignty of God; it demeans God’s justice; and that it makes God the author of sin and evil. The author anticipates all these objections in chapters 11 and 12, and answers them in chapter 13.
Reprobation and God’s Sovereignty is intense theology and will demand careful attention. The reader will appreciate the charts found throughout that help crystalize the author’s points, such as the one on reprobation and its parts found on p. 127. Sammons writes from a Calvinistic perspective and accepts the Reformed understanding that regeneration precedes and produces faith (pp. 86, 116), which he does not prove biblically. Nevertheless, the author states and defends reprobation admirably. It is not a doctrine most gravitate towards or understand well, but it is one that needs to be studied. Sammons does a fine job of aiding his readers in these goals.
by Peter Sammons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022) 296 pp, paper, $25.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel