Theological Review of the CSB Study Bible Notes

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The purpose of this essay is to analyze the new CSB Study Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017) in light of a significant theological discussion among evangelicals, namely Calvinistic theology. (Note: CSB stands for Christian Standard Bible, a new Bible translation.) Several remarks are in order before beginning this review.

First, I am writing from a friendly perspective. I consider Trevin Wax, the general editor of the CBS Study Bible, to be a friend. Several years ago, I wrote a lesson at his invitation for the Gospel Project curriculum, which he edited. I respect his scholarship and appreciate his measured tone and wisdom he has demonstrated when addressing potentially contentious theological matters. Also, I have a professional relationship with B&H Publishing Group. I have signed three writing contracts (two for books and one for a book chapter) with B&H Academic. Trevin currently serves as the Bible and Reference Publisher for B&H, and his area published the CSB Study Bible.

Second, I am addressing the study notes only, not the text of the Bible. New Bible translations deserve appropriate scrutiny. What is the philosophy of the translation, and did the translators follow that philosophy consistently? How does the translation render key theological terms and deal with gender-inclusiveness? Although related textually to the HCSB, the CSB is a new translation and thus deserves a fair and thorough examination. However, that is not my aim in this essay. I have read approximately half of the CSB in my personal devotions this year, and have found it to be a faithful and readable English Bible translation. In this essay, I am dealing with the study notes only, not the biblical text. Readers should distinguish between the two. Although study notes can aid readers in understanding the background or meaning of a biblical text, God inspired the Bible—not the study notes.

Third, despite the title of this essay, I am addressing only one doctrine, salvation. Much could be said about the theological content of the study notes related to doctrines such as the Trinity, the church, the divinity of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Instead, I will focus on the interpretive notes on key biblical texts which are often raised in discussions of the doctrine of salvation.

Fourth, in this review I am not arguing for or against Calvinistic theology. Rather, I am analyzing selections of the newly-published work to determine whether the study notes are consistent with the interpretations of Calvinists only, non-Calvinists only, or both groups.

Fifth, the CSB Study Bible boasts an impressive list of theologically-conservative contributors. In many cases, individuals who provided study notes for a Bible book have written entire commentaries on the book, such as NOBTS colleague R. Dennis Cole (on Numbers) as well as Eugene Merrill (on Deuteronomy) and Ray Clendenen (on Malachi). Other authors, some who have made extensive contributions in the fields of biblical and theological studies, include Kenneth Mathews, Tremper Longman III, Walt Kaiser, Chuck Quarles, Stan Porter, Malcolm Yarnell III, and David Dockery. In addition, the study Bible includes helpful essays such as “How to Read and Study the Bible” (by George H. Guthrie), “The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Event—Mark 1:6” (by Gary Habermas), “Messianic Expectations—Luke 7:20” (by Craig A. Evans), and “Salvation in the Old Testament—Romans 4” (by Paige Patterson).

Sixth, some of the study notes I will address were originally written for the HCSB Study Bible, published in 2010, and simply imported into the new CSB Study Bible. After circulating an earlier version of this essay among several friends for feedback, I was pointed to this post written by one of the contributors to the HCSB/CSB notes who also raised concerns in 2010 about the study note on Rom 8:29–30. Perhaps some (even many) of the study notes addressed below first appeared in the 2010 edition. Although it would be interesting to compare how the study notes might have changed between the HCSB and CSB editions, such a task is beyond the scope of this review. Regardless, I will address study notes as they appear in the 2017 edition.

With those preliminary remarks in mind, I will proceed with the review.

In order to analyze the work in light of Calvinistic theology, I examined the study notes of six key texts, three which are often cited by those arguing for Calvinistic theology (Acts 2:23, Rom 8:29–30, and Eph 1:3–9) and three texts which are often cited by those arguing against Calvinistic theology (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4–6, and 1 John 2:2). If the study notes of other texts were selected, the results of the study might be different. These texts, in my estimation, arise frequently when evangelicals discuss the doctrine of salvation in light of Calvinistic theology.

Study Notes on Bible texts often cited when arguing for Calvinistic theology

Acts 2:23

The study note on Acts 2:23 states: “Peter’s declaration articulates a major paradox of the Christian life: Jesus’s death occurred as a result of the plan and foreknowledge of God, but it was the free (and sinful) acts of human beings that executed that plan. The Bible often affirms the reality of both divine sovereignty and genuine human choice without explaining how the two can possibly work together without conflict.”

Analysis: The study note on Acts 2:23 refers to both “the plan and foreknowledge of God” as well as “the free (and sinful) acts of human beings.” Although many people wrongly import the concept of divine determinism into the phrase divine sovereignty, the study note attempts to clarify the meaning by citing “genuine human choice” rather than the commonly used phrase “human responsibility.” Because many Calvinistic interpreters understand genuine human choice to be compatible with divine determinism, they will probably not object to the explanation of this verse.

In conclusion, the study note on Acts 2:23 should satisfy all evangelicals, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

Rom 8:29–30

The study notes on Rom 8:29–30 include these remarks (The bold font appears in the original): “Those he foreknew refers to those whom God set his electing love upon in eternity past. Predestined means that God planned from eternity that ‘those [whom] he foreknew’ would become like Christ through spiritual rebirth. Called is the effectual call in which God opens our heart so we can hear his voice (cp. Ac. 16:14). ‘Calling’ in Paul’s writing never means just an invitation. It is a sovereign summons that draws the sinner from death to life.”

Analysis: Every sentence in the quotation above from the study notes contains theological definitions and presuppositions affirmed by Calvinists only. First, the word “foreknew” (proginōskō) can mean either to know in advance or to choose in advance. (For support, consider these remarks in Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, “‘those whom he had chosen beforehand, he had already decided should become like his Son’ Ro 8:29. In Ro 8:29 proginōskō may also be understood as meaning ‘to know beforehand’” (p. 362).

Second, the concept that God in eternity past set his “electing love” on some people but not on others is consistent with Calvinistic presuppositions of eternal decrees and election to salvation. Other Christians, however, affirm that God knows in advance all things (including who will respond in repentance and faith to be saved as well as those who will not respond in repentance and faith but will be condemned) but they reject the view that God selects only some people and passes over others for salvation.

Third, verse 29 states those foreknown were predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. If foreknown means “to know beforehand” (against the explanation of the study notes), then predestination refers to the sanctification of believers, not the salvation of unbelievers (against the study notes, which refers to “those whom God set his electing love upon in eternity past”).

Fourth, the last three sentences assume a theological distinction required by Calvinistic theology but rejected by other Christians. Calvinists believe the “general call” occurs when the gospel is heard by all people, but the “effectual call” is the work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of only some unbelievers to irresistibly call and save them. According to this view, it is not enough for a person to hear the gospel to be saved. The logic is that since not all people will be saved and the Bible refers to believers as “called,” only some people are saved because only some people receive an “effectual call.” Other Christians simply believe that some people hear the message of the gospel and are also drawn by God’s Spirit to repent and believe, but they resist the conviction of God’s Spirit and refuse to repent of sin and believe in Jesus; the failure is on their part because they resist God’s conviction of sin and call to repent, not on God’s part for failing to convict of sin and draw sinners to himself.

In conclusion, the study notes on Rom 8:29–30 are filled with Calvinistic definitions and presuppositions.

Eph 1:3–9

The study note on Eph 1:4 states: “He chose us in him: The idea of divine election flows out of the important theme of spiritual union, for election is ‘in Christ.’ The doctrine of election is one of the most central and one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Bible. At its most basic level, election refers to God’s plan whereby he accomplishes his will. The meaning of election is best understood as God’s sovereign initiative in bringing persons to faith in Christ, resulting in a special covenant relationship with him. This theme serves as a foundation for the entire opening section of Ephesians, which includes the phrases God ‘chose us’ (v. 4); ‘predestined us’ (v. 5); and ‘predestined according to his plan’ (v. 11). Paul’s focus on the Christ-centered character of election is vitally important. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This indicates the centrality of the gospel in God’s plan for history.”

Analysis: Christians should not debate whether God chose believers in Christ, but they should explore the possible meanings of such a concept. The emphasis in this explanation on God choosing believers “in him” is appropriate due to the appearance of that phrase in verse 4 as well as in Paul’s other writings. Also, emphasizing God choosing in Christ is appropriate since God the Father referred to Jesus as “my Son, my chosen (eklegomai) one” (Luke 9:35).

The study note explains that “election refers to God’s plan whereby he accomplishes his will.” Such an explanation should satisfy Christians, regardless of whether or not they define election as God’s selection of individuals for salvation (a Calvinistic interpretation).

The next sentence in the study notes was written in way that all Christians, including Calvinists, can interpret to be consistent with their view of God’s work in salvation: “The meaning of election is best understood as God’s sovereign initiative in bringing persons to faith in Christ, resulting in a special covenant relationship with him.” The sentence mentions “God’s sovereign initiative,” which all Christians should affirm because such a view does not require either (although it is consistent with) the compatibilism or the determinism required by Calvinistic theologians. Also, the comment mentions God’s work of “bringing persons to faith in Christ,” which is another carefully worded statement which could be affirmed by most Christians, because those who affirm Calvinistic theology will read the phrase with monergistic regeneration in their mind while other Christians think of an offer by God of salvation which can be freely accepted or rejected.

Finally, the mention that God’s choice of believers before the foundation of the world can be affirmed by Christians who affirm election as God’s choice of a group (corporate election) or distinguish election from salvation (election to service) as well as those who define election as God’s choice of individuals for salvation (Calvinistic interpretation). (Note: For a recent study which raises doubts that Paul conceived of election as God’s eternal choice to save certain individuals, see A. Chadwick Thornhill, The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015].)

In conclusion, the study notes on Eph 1:3–9 can be affirmed by those who affirm Calvinistic theology as well as those who reject Calvinistic theology.

 

Study Notes on Bible texts often cited when arguing against Calvinistic theology

1 Tim 2:4–6

The study note on 1 Tim 2:4 includes this remark: “This verse implies the universal offer of the gospel.”

Analysis: Why state an implication rather than a plain restatement of the verse, which is that God wants all people to be saved? All Christians should affirm that the gospel should be proclaimed to all people. This study note fails to restate the proposition clearly contained in the verse, that God wants every person to be saved. Such an omission is consistent with the Calvinist presupposition that God desires to save all kinds of people rather than every person.

The study note on 1 Tim 2:5–6 states: “These verses provide the theological basis for the preceding statement that God wants people to be saved.”

Analysis: The comment on those verses omits one significant word: all. This study note, consistent with Calvinistic interpretation, fails to affirm God wants all people to be saved—despite the Bible itself stating in verse 4 of the CSB that God “wants everyone to be saved.”

In conclusion, the study notes on 1 Tim 2:4–6 fail to restate plain propositions in the verses in favor of an explanation consistent with Calvinistic theology.

2 Peter 3:9

The study note on 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord has not yet returned, says Peter, because he is patient with you, not wanting any to perish. ‘You’ is variously interpreted as a reference to the letter’s Christian recipients (identified in 1:1) or else more broadly as all people. In chap. 1 ‘you’ and ‘your’ both refer back to the recipients identified in 1:1 (see 1:2,4–5,8,10–13,15–16,19–20). Peter’s later use of ‘dear friends’ (3:1,8,14,17) seems also to point back to those identified in 1:1.”

Analysis: The study note on 2 Peter 3:9 distinguishes itself in two ways. First, the note mentions God not wanting a group to perish, but fails to quote the rest of the verse, which states “but all to come to repentance.” The word perish is not discussed in the note. Is this a reference to physical, spiritual, or eternal death? Perhaps more insight could be gleaned if the rest of the verse had been quoted. Second, the note makes a strong case that the group addressed in the letter should be identified as believers. This is important for those who want to argue that the statement that God does not want any to perish refers to the same group. If that is the case, then it could be argued that this verse should be understood as a promise of security for believers (Calvinist interpretation) rather than God’s desire to save sinners (non-Calvinist interpretation). The study note includes the phrase “or else more broadly as all people,” but that does not account for the non-Calvinist interpretation, which would interpret the group God does not want to perish as sinners, not all people (which would include believers, who would not be at risk of perishing [defined in any way] at the return of Christ).

In conclusion, the study note on 2 Peter 3:9 seems to favor the Calvinistic interpretation in two ways. First, the study note fails to address a key phrase in the verse, which would strengthen the case for the non-Calvinist interpretation. Second, the argument for the group’s identity favors a Calvinistic interpretation but fails to provide a non-Calvinist interpretation. Even so, the study note does not provide a clear interpretation either way. For that reason, I am willing to grant that one could affirm the interpretation of the study note whether or not one affirmed Calvinism.

1 John 2:2

The study note on 1 John 2:2, in part, says: “The phrase for those of the whole world does not mean the salvation of all people. It does mean that, in keeping with God’s promise to bless all the nations through Abraham and his descendants (Gn 12:3), Jesus’s saving death extends the offer of salvation to all nations.”

Analysis: This explanation of 1 John 2:2 supports particular atonement (that Jesus died the sins of only the elect) rather than general atonement (that Jesus died for the sins of every person). Particular atonement, also called limited atonement, is rejected by many people who affirm other points of Calvinist theology. This study note refers only to the extent of the offer of the gospel rather than extent of the death of Christ. Those who believe Jesus died for the sins of the world (meaning every person) will not find their belief affirmed in the study notes on 1 John 2:2. Instead, the idea that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world is described as not affirming universalism. No room is given for the non-Calvinist interpretation (general atonement). Like the explanation provided for 1 Tim 2:4, this study note affirms the universal offer of the gospel—an idea which is not disputed by most evangelicals.

In conclusion, the study note on 1 John 2:2 provides an interpretation consistent with Calvinistic theology but fails to present an interpretation consistent with non-Calvinistic theology.

 

Conclusion

At the risk of simplifying a lengthy essay on a complex discussion into a chart, the work above can be illustrated as follows:

The study notes on selected texts in the CSB Study Bible are consistent with which theological interpretation?

 CSB Study Bible notes Evangelical Non-Calvinist Interpretation Evangelical Calvinist Interpretation
Acts 2:23
Rom 8:29–30
Eph 1:3–9
1 Tim 2:4–6
2 Peter 3:9
1 John 2:2

More work can and should be done on this topic. For example, additional texts on both sides of the issue could be examined (such as Rom 9, John 3, and John 6). Perhaps if the study notes of other verses were examined, or if another person analyzed the study notes, then the study notes might appear to be more balanced in their interpretations. Also, some of the biblical word studies could be examined. The study Bible includes brief treatments of hundreds of Hebrew and Greek words, including some terms relevant to this discussion, such as “decree,” “foreknow,” and “predestine.” Although this essay is only a start, my hope is that the examination of these selected study notes will aid readers interested in the theological leanings of this new study Bible.

In conclusion, any theologically conservative resource should be welcomed and appreciated by the church. The work under consideration fits that category. Even so, those who affirm that God loves every person, Christ died for every person, and God desires to save every person will be disappointed in some of the study notes in the CSB Study Bible.[1]

 

[1] For more on the extent of God’s love, Christ’s death, and God’s desire to save, see my article, “Is the Gospel for All People or Only Some People?” Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry 11.2 (Fall 2014): 16–33, available here.

Book Notes: A Biblical Theology of Race

Last weekend, I read an engaging study by J. Daniel Hays titled From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race. The book was published by IVP as a volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, edited by D. A. Carson. Although the book was released in 2003, the insights are fresh, and the topic seems perhaps more important today than when it was first published. I read the book as part of a graduate class I am currently teaching on the doctrine of humanity. (Professors sometimes select books for courses based on what they want to read. I had not read Hays’s book and it was relevant to the course content, so I included it among the list of books from which students could select to review for the class.) Rather than write a full review, I have provided some notes about the book.

Hays is dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University and is the author of several books. He is perhaps best known for the hermeneutics book he co-authored with colleague J. Scott Duvall titled Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Zondervan, 2001), which is in its third edition (2012).

In From Every People and Nation, Hays attempts to uncover racial elements in the Bible and apply principles to the North American context of black-white relations within the church. He makes compelling arguments that Cushites, a people group comprised of black Africans, are overlooked in the field of biblical studies but feature prominently in the biblical storyline. In addition to presence of other racial groups, he demonstrates the importance of several black characters in Scripture, such as Moses’s Cushite wife (Numbers 12), Phineas the priest (Numbers 25, 31), Ebed-Melech (Jeremiah 38-39), the Ethiopian official (Acts 8), and Simeon the Niger (Acts 13).

Hays closes his study with the following “synthesizing conclusions” (quoted verbatim and replicating the author’s capitalization):

  • The biblical world was multi-ethnic, and Blacks were involved in God’s unfolding plan of redemption from the beginning.
  • All people are created in the image of God, and therefore all races and ethnic groups have the same status and unique value that results from the image of God.
  • Genesis 10 and the Abrahamic promise combine to form a theme that runs throughout Scripture, constantly pointing to the global and multi-ethnic elements inherent in the overarching plan of God.
  • Racial intermarriage is sanctioned by Scripture.
  • The gospel demands that we carry compassion and the message of Christ across ethnic lines.
  • The New Testament demands active unity in the Church, a unity that explicitly joins differing ethnic groups together because of their common identity in Christ.
  • The picture of God’s people at the climax of history portrays a multi-ethnic congregation from every tribe, language, people, and nation, all gathered together in worship around God’s throne.

Readers interested in gaining a view of race that is more faithful to the Bible will benefit from Hays’s study. I highly recommend it.

People God Killed: Nadab & Abihu

Every Tuesday-Friday that classes meet at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, its professors gather at 7:45 AM for a brief time of faculty-led devotion and prayer. I am grateful for the opportunity to begin those days by meeting with colleagues to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord. I was asked to lead devotions this week. Tuesday’s devotion is below:

The idea for the week’s theme first occurred to me more than twenty years ago, but I have never taught on this topic. The title of the series is “People God Killed.”

My aim isn’t to be sensational. The Bible contains many instances in which a person dies, and the text indicates—implicitly or explicitly—that God killed the person for his sinful actions. In each case, we can learn things both about God and to apply to our lives.

Not everyone in Scripture who sins will die immediately, not every death is attributed to a person’s sinful actions, and it would be unwise to speculate about divine causes behind deaths today. Nevertheless, the Bible includes stories of people God killed, and those accounts are worth considering.

Our first example is Nadab and Abihu. Addressing the text in full would require reading all of Leviticus 10. For our purposes, I’ll read only verses 1-3. This is from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Lev 10:1-3,

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu each took his own firepan, put fire in it, placed incense on it, and presented unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them to do. Then fire came from the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has spoken: I will demonstrate my holiness to those who are near me, and I will reveal my glory before all the people.’ And Aaron remained silent.

Nadab and Abihu presented “unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them to do.” It’s not entirely clear what they did wrong procedurally. What is clear is they had important roles in ministry and they failed to obey God. The fire consumed them and the Lord declared he will demonstrate his holiness to those near him and his glory to the people. What does this story teach us about God, and how can we apply it to our lives?

Early each semester in theology, I warn students of the dangers of studying theology. One of the dangers of studying God academically is familiarity. At seminary, we handle holy things. We study the holy Word of a holy God with a holy name—and we are called to live holy lives. 

Students and professors can be lulled into approaching the things of God casually because of the frequency with which we read and preach the Word, approach God in prayer, or serve others in his name. For Nadab and Abihu, familiarity with holy things led them to let down their guard and disobey God. It cost them their lives. May we guard against becoming so familiar with God that we disobey his commands.

7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Conclusion)

Background

On Jan. 31 I began posting 9,000+ words of research, which had been conducted over several months and resulted in the series of posts titled “7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions.” (Click here for the series introduction. ) The morning of Feb. 7, I posted the seventh question. Later the same day, a tornado hit my community. It seemed insensitive to focus on a narrow doctrinal question when I had neighbors whose homes and churches had been damaged. The next week, I was weakened by illness—doing little more than teaching my classes. Now that my community and my body are recovering, I’ll conclude the study.

Conclusion

I was encouraged by the number of readers who checked in on the series. Thanks for reading. According to my website metrics, hundreds of unique viewers from dozens of countries clicked at least one of the posts. Based on social media feedback, many people read all the posts. More than the number and variety of individuals who peeked at the study, I was encouraged that some expressed thanks for the information. A colleague who teaches at another school mentioned that he learned more about the views of Dagg, whose writings he had not yet read. Several readers expressed gratitude for including Conner because they were previously unaware of his ministry. One reader was relieved to see in Conner a tendency to affirm theological positions which seemed at points to be both faithful to the Bible but seemingly contradictory; he was relieved because he is sometimes accused of contradicting himself when answering similar theological questions.

My overarching observation after researching the views of the seven theologians on these seven questions is they are united on matters which directly concern the proclamation of the gospel (questions 1 and 7), but they differ on all other salvation questions. In my view, those seven theologians represent Southern Baptist theological viewpoints at present. We are united on the questions which directly concern evangelism (Who initiates salvation? God. Must people repent and believe in Jesus to be saved? Yes.). But we differ on the doctrinal explanations, such as whether to affirm decretal theology and irresistible grace, how to define election and salvation, and whether God loves and desires the salvation of all people. These theological differences have been with the Church for centuries and have been with Southern Baptists since our founding. May God bless our convention of churches as we seek to serve Him by reaching out to the lost world with the message of the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).

Click here for a free PDF of the first four chapters of a new book I co-edited, Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology. This book sample is provided with the permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book can be purchased here.

7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Question 7)

Click here for the introduction to this series. The question is: What have Southern Baptist systematic theologians taught about the doctrine of salvation?

See the previous posts for the answers to Questions 1–6.

 

Question 7: Does this definition of salvation require individual and explicit repentance and faith in Jesus Christ?

 

John L. Dagg (1794–1884)

Yes. Dagg writes, “In close connection with repentance for sin, the Word of God enjoins the duty of believing in Christ; ‘Repent ye, and believe the Gospel;’ ‘Testifying repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Both the duties relate to men as sinners, and without the performance of them, escape from the penalty of sin is impossible. The requirement of faith, in addition to repentance, proves that mere sorrow for sin will not suffice; and the passages of Scripture are numerous in which faith is expressly declared to be necessary to salvation.”[1] Also, “As guilty sinners we are under condemnation, and the wrath of God abides on us. Among all the beings in the universe, no deliverer can be found, except Jesus Christ and there is no salvation possible, except by faith in him.”[2]

Dagg writes, “The method of salvation revealed in the Bible is not a human device. The preaching of Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, yet salvation by the Cross is the grand peculiarity of the gospel.”[3]

 

James P. Boyce (1827–88)

Yes, except in the case of infants. Boyce identifies the following elements in conversion:

  1. A knowledge of the true God, and acceptance of him as such.
  2. Knowledge of personal sin, guilt, and condemnation.
  3. Sorrow for sin and desire to escape condemnation.
  4. Determination to turn away from sin and seek God.
  5. Conviction of personal need of help in doing so.
  6. Knowledge of Christ as a Savior from sin.
  7. Personal trust in Christ and his salvation.

Even so, Boyce regards regeneration as prior to repentance and faith. He writes, “Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Therefore, regeneration precedes.”[4]

 

E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928)

Mullins considers repentance and faith to be first in order of experience, but incomplete without regeneration.[5] Mullins writes, “Conversion is the word employed in theology to designate the turning of a sinner from his sins unto Christ for his salvation. This includes both the forsaking of sin which we have defined as repentance, and the trust in Christ which we have defined as faith.”[6] Also, “Conversion is the result of God’s gracious action in us creating us anew in Christ. (Acts 3:26; Ps 51:10; Ezek 36:26.) It is also the result of our own free action. In conversion we choose the way of life in response to motives and appeals presented to us in the gospel. (Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38, 40–41; Phil 2:12–13).”[7]

 

W. T. Conner (1877–1952)

Yes. In his chapter titled “Becoming a Christian,” Conner mentions the conditions of salvation, which are comprised of repentance and faith.[8]

 

Dale Moody (1915–92)

Yes. Moody writes of “outward confession” due to “inward belief,” then quotes Rom 10:8–10.[9] Also, Moody distinguishes between regret and repentance. “The repentance that leads to salvation has two basic relations: toward God and from sin.” And Moody writes, “Repenting and believing are so inseparable in experience that one may include the other.”[10]

 

James Leo Garrett Jr (b. 1925)

Yes. Garrett explains that neither repentance nor faith is a “work,” but “both are necessary.” Also, “They are essential spiritual attitudes that must be wrought in sinful humans and/or assumed by sinful humans if the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is to become effective in them.” Garrett also writes, “Repentance and faith are correlatives … One centers more on sin, the other more on God or Jesus Christ. As Conner puts in: ‘The inward turning from sin is repentance; turning to Christ as Saviour is faith. Each implies the other. Neither is possible without the other. At the same time and in the same act that one turns from sin he turns to Christ.’”[11]

 

Kenneth Keathley (b. 1958)  

Yes. Keathley writes, “The message of the gospel is that a person is saved when he places personal trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”[12] Also, Keathley explains the conditions to salvation as follows: “God’s choice of us is unconditional, but our receiving salvation is not. We are required to repent and believe—twin decisions which when taken together are called conversion.”[13]

 

Tomorrow, I will conclude the study.

Click here for a free PDF of the first four chapters of a new book I co-edited, Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology. This book sample is provided with the permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book can be purchased here.

[1]John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 175.

[2]Dagg, 178.

[3]Dagg, 31. Emphasis in the original.

[4]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 380–81.

[5]E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (np: 1917; reprinted Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 368–69.

[6]Mullins, 377.

[7]Mullins, 378.

[8]W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 187–200.

[9]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 310.

[10]Moody, 312–13. Emphasis in the original.

[11]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:249. Conner quotation is from The Gospel of Redemption (Nashville: Broadman, 1946), 195.

[12]Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 696.

[13]Keathley, 727.

7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Question 6)

Click here for the introduction to this series. The question is: What have Southern Baptist systematic theologians taught about the doctrine of salvation?

See the previous posts for the answers to Questions 1–5.

 

Question 6: What is the theologian’s definition of salvation?

 

John L. Dagg (1794–1884)

Dagg does not present a definition of salvation but writes, “Faith in Christ, is faith in the declarations of the Gospel concerning Christ; and it is faith in these as coming from God. It is the receiving of God’s testimony concerning his Son; and, in this view of it, we see the great sinfulness of unbelief.” Also, “Faith in Christ is necessary to salvation. We may believe many things that God has said in his Holy Word, without believing in Christ; and we may believe many truths concerning Christ, without possessing that faith in him which has the promise of eternal life. True faith receives Christ entire, as he is presented in the Gospel.”[1]

 

James P. Boyce (1827–88)

Boyce does not provide a definition for salvation. Instead, he considers “new birth” to be comprised of regeneration and conversion. Boyce writes, “The Scriptures connect the two under the one idea of the new birth, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably accompanies regeneration. It is not strange, therefore, that they are often confounded. Yet, after all, the Scriptures also teach that regeneration is the work of God, changing the heart of man by his sovereign will, while conversion is the act of man turning towards God with the new inclination thus given to his heart.” Then, Boyce lists biblical texts which contain forms the following words: gennao, apekuesen, ktizo, and sunezoopoiesen. Next, Boyce concludes, “From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of regeneration and conversion is included under the one term regeneration.”[2]

Boyce reasons that new birth is comprised of regeneration (God’s work) and conversion (man’s response); but, he has already states that regeneration includes conversion; therefore, new birth should be understood as only regeneration. Boyce describes regeneration as follows: “God operates immediately upon the heart to produce the required change, by which it is fitted to receive the truth, and mediately through the word it its reception of that truth.”[3] Boyce writes that conversion “is the result of regeneration.”[4] Without using the term, Boyce identifies with monergism.

Boyce’s view can be illustrated as follows:

  1. New Birth = Regeneration + Conversion
  2. Regeneration = Regeneration + Conversion
  3. New Birth = Regeneration

 

E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928)

Mullins does not define salvation, but he writes, “The act of salvation and the life which follows both involve action on God’s part and on man’s part.”[5]

 

W. T. Conner (1877–1952)

Conner does not define salvation, but he writes, “Salvation is its completeness includes everything from the new birth to the final resurrection.”[6] He explains that salvation is an act of God which results in our forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation to God, adoption into God’s family, new life, and sanctification.[7] Following A. H. Strong, he regards union with Christ to be the “controlling idea” of salvation.[8]

 

Dale Moody (1915–92)

Moody does not explicitly define salvation. He writes, “The way of salvation is the road of eternal life.” He identifies Jesus Christ as “the one way of salvation.”[9] Also, “Salvation is by grace through faith. These are the two sides of salvation: God’s grace and man’s faith.”[10] There are three stages of salvation are past, present, and future. Moody explains, “The Christian has been saved from the penalty of sin, is being saved from the practice of sin, and is yet to be saved from the presence of sin.”[11]

 

James Leo Garrett Jr (b. 1925)

Garrett provides summary statements of the Old Testament teaching on salvation and also on the New Testament teaching. Regarding the Old Testament, he writes, “The most recurrent usage pertained to deliverance from one’s enemies or from dangers or troubles, and these texts are often historically specific. Less often one reads of divine deliverance from sin or from death.”[12] And, “The vocabulary of the New Testament concept of salvation, defined precisely, consists of the Greek verb sōzein, ‘to save,’ or ‘to heal,’ the noun sōtēria, ‘salvation,’ the noun sōtērion, ‘safety,’ or ‘salvation,’ the verb diasōzein, ‘to bring safely through, rescue, save,’ and the sōtēr, ‘Savior.’”[13] Also, he presents the three-tense understanding of salvation: past, present, and future.[14]

 

Kenneth Keathley (b. 1958)  

“Salvation is the work of God that delivers us from sin and its penalty, restores us to a right relationship with him, and imparts to us eternal life.”[15]

 

Tomorrow, I will attempt to answer Question 7 by quoting from each systematic theology.

Click here for a free PDF of the first four chapters of a new book I co-edited, Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology. This book sample is provided with the permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book can be purchased here.

[1]John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 177. Emphasis in the original.

[2]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 373–74.

[3]Boyce, 375.

[4]Boyce, 379.

[5]E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (np: 1917; reprinted Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 368.

[6]W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 187.

[7]Conner, 201–215.

[8]Conner, 215–18.

[9]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 308.

[10]Moody, 309.

[11]Moody, 311.

[12]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:310.

[13]Garrett, 2:311–12.

[14]Garrett, 2:317.

[15]Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 686.

7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Question 5)

Click here for the introduction to this series. The question is: What have Southern Baptist systematic theologians taught about the doctrine of salvation?

See the previous posts for the answers to Questions 1–4.

 

Question 5: Does the theologian understand God’s grace to be resistible, irresistible, or something else?

 

John L. Dagg (1794–1884)

Those terms are not found in his systematic work, but his acceptance of covenant theology suggests Dagg affirms some view of God’s grace as irresistible grace for those whom God has elected to salvation. Dagg writes: “The gospel calls all who hear it to repent and believe. This call proceeds from the Holy Spirit, who qualifies the ministers of the gospel for their work, and gives them the written word. But men resist and disobey this call of the Spirit, and remain under condemnation” (Acts 7:51–52; 2 Thess 1:7–8). Also, “Besides the call which is external, and often ineffectual, there is another, which is internal and effectual. This always produces repentance and faith, and therefore secures salvation” (Prov 1:24; Matt 20:16; 2 Tim 1:9; Rom 8:30; 1:7; 1:6; 8:28).[1] So, the calling of the non-elect is external, ineffectual, and resisted. The second calling of God is internal and effectual only for those whom God has elected to salvation.

 

James P. Boyce (1827–88)

Boyce contrasts the outward calling and the effectual calling. He explains that the gospel is commanded to be preached to all. This outward call, which is not effectual, consists of declarations of the nature of salvation and an offer of salvation upon faith and repentance. This failure of the outward call is not due to any deficiency in the gospel but due to something sinful in either the human heart or the will. In contrast, the effectual call comes through the agency of the Holy Spirit and results in people repenting and believing. This agency of the Holy Spirit is required due to man’s “blind” and “dead” moral condition. Boyce explains that God is sincere is making an outward call but providing efficient grace only to some people. Boyce’s first line of defense is to assume the position is true. He writes regarding the two calls, “If they be taught in the Scripture, it is impious and blasphemous to doubt God’s sincerity.” Also, Boyce states that God shows “partial grace” to all people. Also, “acceptance (of the gospel) depends simply upon the willingness of each man to take it.”[2]

Regarding the question above, Boyce writes, “The attempt has been made by Lutheran theologians, and adopted by some others, to harmonize the sincerity of God’s External Call with the salvation of some only, by supposing that God gives equally to all his Spirit, which makes salvation effectual in some, but that those who reject the gospel resist the Spirit given to them, and thus refuse, while the others yield to it, and thus are saved.” In reply, Boyce calls this concept of yielding to God’s grace as “merit and work.” Also, Boyce writes, “But if some do not resist and others do, however much of grace there is, there is certainly some merit in those not resisting by which they can boast over others who resisted.” Boyce concludes his case for reprobation by writing that “the salvation of the saved is distinctly based in the word of God on the election of some” and quoting Eph 1:4–6.[3]

 

E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928)

As quoted above, Mullins writes, “Christ died for all. God is willing to receive all who will come. God knows that some will not accept. Indeed, he knows that all will refuse unless by his special grace some are led to believe.”[4]

After addressing God’s initiatives in salvation, Mullins writes, “The Holy Spirit operates most effectively through the use of means. Hence the means of grace are necessary for the effectual propagation of the gospel of the grace of God.”[5] These means of grace are calling and conviction of sin, which are “prior to God’s saving act in the soul.” Rather than divide this into two callings, one which is outward/ineffectual and another call which is inward/effectual, Mullins writes of one calling. He explains, “Calling is the invitation of God to men to accept by faith the salvation in Christ. It is sent forth through the Bible, the preaching of the gospel, and in many other ways. Nothing can be clearer from the teaching of Scripture than the fact that the call and invitation are universal and that there is a free offer of salvation to all who hear and repent and believe.”[6] Mullins places responsibility for any final state of lostness on human sin and freedom. Mullins writes, “Human sin and human freedom are factors in God’s problem with man. His grace goes as far as the interests of his moral kingdom admit. His omnipotence does not enable him to do a moral impossibility.”[7]

 

W. T. Conner (1877–1952)

Conner explains: God “has provided salvation for every man in Christ. He gives him the invitation. He brings influences to bear on him into the way of life. All this is grace. If in spite of these things the sinner will not some, he has nobody to blame but himself. As long as he is unwilling to receive the grace that God offers him, he cannot complain because God does not give him more grace. … If he wants to come, he can come. The difficulty is on his part, not God’s.”[8]

Chapter one is titled “Man’s Capacity for God.” Conner writes about Jesus, “Men aligned themselves for and against him. He appealed to the wills of men. They must choose to follow Him.”[9] Also, he writes, “Only, then as an intelligent and free being, with power to know and choose, can man respond to and accept the gospel of Christ.”[10]

 

Dale Moody (1915–92)

Moody denies that God issues an irresistible calling of grace. He writes, “When calling is considered in the New Testament writings, free from the creeds of Calvinism, there is no need for the refined distinctions between an external call in general revelation and the preaching of the gospel in an ‘effectual, irresistible call.’ There is only one call from God in general revelation and in the preaching of the special revelation in Scripture, and whenever man hears the call is can be made effectual when there is the response of repentance and faith (Acts 20:21).”[11]

 

James Leo Garrett Jr (b. 1925)

Garrett does not answer this question. However, he writes this about the means of regeneration: “In addition to the gospel as the primary means, theologians and exegetes have often added as secondary means the Bible, Christian baptism, the church, proclamation, personal testimony, and the like.”[12]

 

Kenneth Keathley (b. 1958)  

Keathley rejects both irresistible and prevenient grace in order to affirm overcoming grace. Regarding irresistible grace, he concludes, “The problem with this view is that it freely accepts the notion that God offers salvation from eternal damnation while at the same time withholding the ability to accept it. The irresistible grace position ensures a purely gracious salvation but does so at a high cost. The logical conclusion is that those who reject the gospel remain lost because God wants them lost.”[13]

Keathley also rejects the Arminian explanation of prevenient grace, because “it seems to render the doctrine of total depravity irrelevant.”[14]

Keathley explains that the overcoming grace view is an attempt to provide a “mediating” view between the previous options. This view “sees the convicting and enabling work of the Holy Spirit accompanying the preaching of the gospel and believes this work is accomplished in every believer. Unlike prevenient grace, which is considered “universal or permanent,” overcoming grace is “limited and temporary.” Unlike irresistible grace, “Tragically, God’s grace can be resisted.” Also, the Holy Spirit convicts the world, rather than only the elect, of sin, righteousness, and judgment. In this way, “The gospel is genuinely available to all, including those who ultimately turn it down.”[15]

 

Tomorrow, I will attempt to answer Question 6 by quoting from each systematic theology.

Click here for a free PDF of the first four chapters of a new book I co-edited, Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology. This book sample is provided with the permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book can be purchased here.

[1]John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 331–32. Verses listed were cited for support by Dagg.

[2]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 367–72. Quotations from p. 372.

[3]Boyce, 373.

[4]E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (np: 1917; reprinted Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 354.

[5]Mullins, 364–65.

[6]Mullins, 365.

[7]Mullins, 366.

[8]W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 164.

[9]Conner, 22.

[10]Conner, 22. Also, Conner writes, “Man thirsts for God … All men of all races and climes have cried out for God.” This craving for God (Ps 42:1) is answered by the revelation of Christ as the light of the world, bread of life, and way, truth, and life (John 9:5; 6:35; 14:6). “Man’s nature was made for God, and apart from God man misses his true destiny” (pp. 22–23).

[11]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 316.

[12]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:285.

[13]Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 725.

[14]Keathley, 725.

[15]Keathley, 726–27.

Bible-Driven Theology

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