A Review of The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink.

A.W. Pink’s The Sovereignty of God is a great treatise on the Sovereignty of God and a solid defence of 5-point Calvinism. The issues Pink was dealing with in his time closely parallel those that we face today, making it a relevant book to issues ranging from Open Theism to Pelagianism. Having been written in the early 20th century the language can take a little work to understand. The Chapter on prayer is outstanding and provides a lot of application for our daily lives. Overall it is worth reading and is a resounding work on God’s sovereignty that should inspire praise and humility before the truth of who God is. When it comes to human responsibility and God’s sovereignty Pink takes up the Compatablist understanding of natural ability and moral ability, echoing the understanding of thinkers like Jonathan Edwards. The appendix on God’s will is also very useful.

On the negative side, his instance that John 3:16 refers to only the elect and that God does not love unbelievers is definitely a turn off. Reading D.A. Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” would do well to balance out this deficiency. The version I read was the Watchmaker Publishing one and so it contained the chapter on Double Predestination removed in the Banner of Truth edition.

This book gets a rating of 4/5

The Sovereignty of God loses a star because of Pink’s stance that God has no love at all for those who are not elect, Pink holds that God’s love is reserved for the elect, “Can God “love” the one on whom His wrath abides?” (pg. 180). Pink’s discussion of God’s love can be found on pages 178-189 (esp.179-180) and on pages 227-229 he discusses the use of the Greek word κοσμος (kosmos, world) in John 3:16.

Page references given are from the Watchmaker, 2011, edition of this book.

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6 thoughts on “A Review of The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink.

  1. James,
    I read this book many years ago and have the recollection that Pink explicitly rejected supralapsarianism. Is my memory faulty? Do you have a reference for Pink’s views on this subject?

    Thanks,
    jn

    • Your memory is in fact outstanding. Reading your comment I have re-read the relevant sections of the book and have to conclude that you are right and that I am wrong. The language he uses on page 72 and 74 (of the watchmaker edition) does seem to favour an infralapsarian view (“His leaving some men in final impenitency and unbelief” pg. 74). I think you are right and I am wrong, pg. 86 would seem to be quite clear on a infralapsarian position: “”Clay” is inanimate matter, corrupt, decomposed, and therefore a fit substance to represent fallen humanity. As then the Apostle is contemplating God’s Sovereign dealings with humanity in view of the Fall”. He would seem to use confusing language on 86-88 where he makes it clear that God has fitted the reprobate for destruction (usually a supra view), but he clarifies that they were formed and born for the purpose of destruction in light of the fall (86). Againt on page 89 he is quite explicit: “the doctrine of Reprobation does not mean that God purposed to take innocent creatures, make them wicked, and then damn them.” On the same page: “God’s decree of Reprobation contemplated Adam’s race as fallen, sinful, corrupt, guilty. From it God purposed to save a few as the monuments of his sovereign grace; the others He determined to destroy as the exemplification of His justice and severity.” It would appear that I was drastically wrong in my initial appraisal of why Pink rejects God’s love of all people. Along with writers such as Owen he seems to see God loving in one way (for Owen it was God’s eternal decree to show good to the elect) (see pg. 178-189 [esp.179-180,]). I can only conclude that I allowed the various articles I read attributing the Supralapsarian position to Pink to influence my understanding and see that as the reason why he rejected God’s love of all man. I was definitely wrong, thank you for noticing my mistake! (In his book “The Doctrine of Election” Pink definitely claims to be a Supralapsarian, I am currently checking to see what one was written first)

      • I still have not found the date for “The Doctrine of Election,” but in the PDF version (accessed here: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/pdf/pink_election.pdf) Pink says the exact opposite of what he states in The Sovereignty of God; “This writer unhesitatingly (after prolonged study) takes the Supralapsarian position” (pg. 38). It is interesting that someone who is supposed to have a photographic, perfect, memory would clearly contradict himself in these places.

      • The last two editions released in Pink’s lifetime of the Sovereignty of God where 1929 and in the 1940’s, both of these contained the content as cited above. This book, then, probably represents his most mature understanding of the infra/supra controversy; but whether he held to an infra or supra view he still retained, with classical Calvinist writers such as John Owen, that God does not love the elect. This would not then, as I had originally written, be a result of his supralapsarian position. (As of yet, I have still been unable to identify the date of the Doctrine of Election, but based on the dates for sovereignty of God it would seem that Election was earlier)

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough response. I have not read Pink’s “The Doctrine of Election” and was unaware of the divergent opinion stated there. My experience (very limited) is that it is not uncommon for writers to change their theological perspective but not to identify the new position as a change. At times this is frustrating as much might be learned from understanding why their viewpoint had been altered. As in this case, it can also make it more difficult to quickly determine which position is superseding the other.

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