Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 21:2 (Summer 2017) p. 111
Debated Issues in Sovereign Predestination: Early Lutheran Predestination, Calvinian Reprobation, and Variations in Genevan Lapsarianism. By Joel R. Beeke. Reformed Historical Theology 42. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017, 252 pp., 65,00 €.
Joel Beeke sets out to trace the doctrine of double predestination in sixteenth-century Lutheranism and in John Calvin and his successors in Geneva through the eighteenth century. He also contributes to the scholarly debates surrounding these issues.
In part 1, Beeke states, “by way of analyzing Article 11 of the Formula of Concord in its historical/doctrinal germination, formulation, comparison, and reception, I hope to show that its role in historical theology’s development of a scriptural doctrine of predestination is by no means negligible as commonly assumed” (16). The germination took place with Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. While Luther affirmed double predestination, some of his theological distinctions, and especially his emphasis on consolation, sowed the seeds of later confessional single predestination. Beeke defends Melanchthon against charges of synergism, but notes his refusal to separate reprobation from foreknowledge does open his teaching up for misunderstanding. A distinctly Lutheran formulation of predestination emerged in the controversy between Johann Marbach and Jerome Zanchi in Strasbourg and was codified in the Formula of Concord. For confessional Lutherans, predestination is singular, election is the historical outworking of salvation, and the doctrine can only be considered in Christ for the comfort of God’s people. Thus, there is no place for reprobation. Beeke contrasts this with the Canons of Dordt and then shows that “Lutheran history confirms that monergistic, single predestination is neither a biblical or rational solution; repressed reprobation must end in repressed election” (74).
Part 2 focuses exclusively on reprobation in Calvin’s theology. After defending his isolation of the doctrine of reprobation, Beeke argues that “Calvinian reprobation is replete with inherent tensions, but Calvin utilized such tensions to present a uniform doctrine that accords with Scripture’s
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presentation and balance” (92). His approach first examines Calvin’s method and then moves to his historical development as a young theologian, during his time in Strasbourg, and throughout his second tenure in Geneva. As Calvin defended double predestination in various polemical battles, he drew the distinction between proximate and remote causes to explain how man’s will is the cause of sin and God’s the cause of damnation. How these two fit together is a mys...
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