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7 Southern Baptists on 7 Salvation Questions (Question 4)

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 1–3.


Question 4: Does the theologian understand God to love all people and want all people to be saved?


John L. Dagg (1794–1884)

No. Dagg writes the following about the will of God:

  1. God wills whatever He does.
  2. God does whatever He wills to do.
  3. Whatever God does is according to a purpose that is eternal, unchangeable, perfectly free, and infinitely wise.[1]

Also, Dagg raises the following objection: “If God purposed the final condemnation of the wicked, he made them on purpose to damn them.” In reply, Dagg describes God’s final judgment of the wicked and the righteous and writes, “Is there anything in the transactions of that day which is unworthy of God? Is there anything which the holy inhabitants of heaven, throughout their immortal existence, can ever remember with disapprobation? Not so.” Also, “The sentence pronounced will be, in the judgment of God, for just the sufficient cause.”[2] What Dagg has done is presuppose that God selects particular individuals for salvation and advise his readers to imagine questioning at the final judgment this action which Dagg has already attributed to God. But it is not God who is in question; rather, it is the actions being attributed to God by theologians such as Dagg.

Also, Dagg mentions God’s love under the attribute of God’s goodness. Dagg does not write that God loves all people, either in the section on the attributes of God or in the sections on Christ and His offices. Dagg focuses on the duty of man to love God, not on the idea that God loves man.


James P. Boyce (1827–88)

In his chapter titled “Reprobation,” Boyce provides four proofs to support his viewpoint. The first proof is, “The decree to reject some.” Boyce clarifies, “This is involved in the doctrine of election. The choice of some and not of the whole, involves the non-election and thus the rejection of others.”[3] Even so, Boyce affirms “the sincerity of God” and quotes 1 Tim 2:4, which notes God “willeth that all men should be saved.”[4] Elsewhere, Boyce affirms a distinction between “the secret and the revealed will of God.”[5] Perhaps this is how Boyce reconciled God willing that all men be saved without electing all men to be saved.


E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928)

Yes. 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.”[6] Also, “It is clear that God desires the salvation of all, although he does not efficaciously decree the salvation of all.”[7]


W. T. Conner (1877–1952)

Yes. He writes, “We can safely say that God does all that he can consistently with his own nature, the nature of man, and the moral order of the world to save all men.”[8]

Also, “Does God’s election of one man to salvation imply that he passes over the one not elected simply because he does not desire his salvation? No; he desires the salvation of all. But it should be remembered that God does not save the sinner, because of the sinner’s perverse and stubborn unbelief. Hence it follows that the reason God purposes not to save the sinner was because of the sinner’s foreknown unbelief.”[9]


Dale Moody (1915–92)

Moody does not explicitly address this question, but he rejects particular points of Calvinism throughout his work. For example, he rejects infant regeneration via the covenant and regeneration prior to faith.[10]


James Leo Garrett Jr (b. 1925)

Garrett affirms that God “desires that all sinners should repent (2 Peter 3:9).”[11] Also, he affirms a general view of the atonement.[12] And Garrett’s section on the church includes a chapter titled “Mission of the Church(es).” He details the universalist elements, nations attracted to the faith of Israel, and Israel’s identifiable mission to non-Israelites in the Old Testament. He also notes the teachings on mission in the New Testament.[13]


Kenneth Keathley (b. 1958)  

Yes. Keathley teaches “five corollaries” resulting from an affirmation of the “congruence of divine predestination and human freedom.” The second corollary is that “in a real and genuine way, God desires the salvation of all humanity.” He continues, “The passages of Scripture that assert God’s universal salvific will can be affirmed at face value without detracting from God’s sovereignty (e.g., Ezek. 18:23; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).”[14]


Tomorrow, I will attempt to answer Question 5 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), 102.

[2]Dagg, 107, 109.

[3]James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 358.

[4]Boyce, 372.

[5]Boyce, 112.

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

[7]Mullins, 366.

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

[9]Conner, 164–65.

[10]Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 322.

[11]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 1:242.

[12]James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:65.

[13]Garrett, 2:482–95.

[14]Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 722. Emphasis his.

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