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.”
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.”
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.” Boyce writes that conversion “is the result of regeneration.” Without using the term, Boyce identifies with monergism.
Boyce’s view can be illustrated as follows:
- New Birth = Regeneration + Conversion
- Regeneration = Regeneration + Conversion
- 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.”
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.” 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. Following A. H. Strong, he regards union with Christ to be the “controlling idea” of salvation.
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.” Also, “Salvation is by grace through faith. These are the two sides of salvation: God’s grace and man’s faith.” 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.”
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.” 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.’” Also, he presents the three-tense understanding of salvation: past, present, and future.
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.”
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.
John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1990), 177. Emphasis in the original.
James P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 373–74.
E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (np: 1917; reprinted Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2000), 368.
W. T. Conner, Christian Doctrine (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937), 187.
Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1981), 308.
James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 2:310.
Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 686.