“The Sovereignty of God” by A.W. Pink – Why Two Editions and Are They Really That Different?

A few times a year I’ll have someone inquire about the two editions of A.W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God. One edition is from Banner of Truth (hereafter BOT) and the other is from Baker Books. This past week I had a customer call and she was upset after reading that her edition was not what Pink had originally written. “Is this right?” she asked. She had the Banner of Truth edition. The purpose of this post is not to weigh the merits of Pink’s case in either edition but to simply explain the difference between the two.

Let’s start with just a brief history. Pink wrote the book in 1918. This was followed by editions in 1921 and 1929. A fourth edition was done in 1949 which is substantially the same as the 1929 edition. This edition was produced prior to Pink’s death in 1952. BOT  produced a revision of the 1929 edition in 1961. In the “Publisher’s Preface” they state the following:

“Before this British edition was printed, the text of the American edition was carefully read over by several friends and ministers who are familiar with A. W. Pink’s works, and who love the truth which he here sets forth. As a result it was unanimously agreed that the contemporary value of the book could be increased by certain minor revisions and adjustments. Although Mrs. A. W. Pink’s health is such that she was not personally able to supervise such a revision, she graciously gave her permission for us to adopt this course.” (2-3)

One phrase in particular requires our attention: “certain minor revisions and adjustments.” I don’t know what you think of when you read “minor” revisions and adjustments but this severely understates what actually happened. To begin with the BOT edition removed three entire chapters and all four of the appendices. The three chapters removed were “The Sovereignty of God in Reprobation,” “God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility,” and “Difficulties and Objections.” The four appendices were “The Will of God,” “The Case of Adam,” The Meaning of Kosmos in John 3:16,” and “1 John 2:2.” As if this were not bad enough numerous other paragraphs and sentences were removed from what survived the chapter cuts.

BOT’s justification for their revision is that Pink had changed his mind in his later years and the final BOT edition more accurately reflects his mature thought. Given the amount of revision made by BOT this would seem to reflect a considerable shift in his thinking. This scenario, however, runs contrary to the fact that Pink was alive when the 1949 edition was published and he expressed no need for a revision. In fact, in the Forward that he wrote to the 1929 edition (also missing in the BOT edition) he wrote, “But it is with unfeigned thanksgiving that we find it unnecessary to either change or modify any doctrine contained in the former editions.”

Some of the BOT changes do seem to be an attempt to soften Pink’s rhetoric. That hardly seems necessary when that is one of the features which readers of Pink enjoy. To cite one example, in the original edition Pink wrote “multitudes will be tormented forever and ever” whereas in the BOT edition this reads “not all are made partakers of that grace.”

If you want to know what Pink wrote in its entirety you will want to purchase the Baker Books edition. For more details on the deletions and changes made by BOT see here. For a contribution by Paul Helm on the matter of BOT’s alleged charge that Pink changed his theology see here.

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About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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