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7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Question 3)

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 and 2.


Question 3: What is the theologian’s definition(s) of election?


John L. Dagg (1794–1884)

“All who will finally be saved, were chosen to salvation by God the Father, before the foundation of the world, and given to Jesus Christ in the covenant of grace.” Dagg declares:

  • “God has an elect or chosen people.”
  • “God’s people are chosen to salvation.”
  • “(E)lection of grace is from eternity.”
  • “(E)lection is of grace, and not of works.”
  • “(E)lection is not on the ground of foreseen faith or obedience.”
  • “(E)lection is according to the foreknowledge of God.”
  • “Election is ascribed to God the Father, redemption to God the Son, and sanctification to God the Holy Spirit.”
  • “Those who are not included in the election of grace, are called in Scripture, ‘the rest,’ and ‘vessels of wrath.’”[1]


James P. Boyce (1827–88)

Election as: “an act of God … of individuals … made through the mere good pleasure of God … eternal … to salvation.”[2]


E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928)

Mullins writes, “God elects men to respond freely.”[3]


W. T. Conner (1877–1952)

He writes, “Election does not mean that God instituted a general plan of salvation and decreed that whosoever would should be saved and, therefore, the man who wills to be saved is elected in that he brings himself within the scope of God’s plan. It is true that God has decreed that whosoever will shall be saved; but election is something more specific and personal than that. It means that God has decreed to bring certain ones, upon whom his heart has been eternally set, who are the objects of his eternal love, to faith in Jesus as Saviour.”[4] Conner then sums up the doctrine in two statements: 1. All saving sufficiency is of God. 2. God saves in pursuance of an eternal purpose.[5]

Reversing the typical order, Conner’s chapter on election (“God’s purpose in salvation”) is before his chapter on the work of Christ. Interestingly, Conner argues for unconditional election to salvation but argues that people must choose to follow Christ.


Dale Moody (1915–92)

Moody writes of the predestination of Christ and in Christ. Moody explains, “Christ is the Predestined One in His death and resurrection.” Also, “Ephesians 1:3–5 makes it clear that Christ is the Chosen One and we are chosen in Christ. We are in Christ by faith, but it is only in Christ that we are chosen or elected. God’s grace must be accepted by human faith. Election is a two-sided dialogue, not a one-sided monologue by either God or man.”[6]


James Leo Garrett Jr (b. 1925)

Election is “God’s choice of human beings to eternal life.”[7] He asks, “Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper-individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted by Romans 9–11, Eph 1:3–14, and 1 Peter 2:9–10? Is it not true that the major emphasis in both testaments falls upon an elect people—Israel (Old Testament) and disciples or church (New Testament)? Ought, then, the doctrine of election now be given a more corporate or collective interpretation than has characterized most of its past formulations? Is election, therefore, properly to be seen as the ‘bridge’ doctrine between the Christian life and the church?”[8]


Kenneth Keathley (b. 1958)

Keathley writes, “Election is the gracious decision of God by which he chooses certain ones to be the recipients of salvation.” Also, “The doctrine of election addresses the question of the ultimate cause of a persons’ choice to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”[9] After surveying unconditional and conditional election, Keathley advocates for a third view, known as concurrence or congruence. He writes, “The concurrent position contends the Bible teaches both that God sovereignly and unconditionally chooses the elect for salvation and that each individual person freely decides to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior.”[10]


Tomorrow, I will attempt to answer Question 4 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), 309–13.

[2]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 348–54. Rather than one concise definition, Boyce provides describes election in a series of sentences spread throughout several pages.

[3]E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (np: 1917; reprinted Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 347.

[4]W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 155.

[5]Conner, 156–57.

[6]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 341, 346.

[7]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:443.

[8]Garrett, 2:453–54. Emphasis in the original.

[9]Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 707.

[10]Keathley, 718.

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