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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.


  1. doug sayers doug sayers

    Did I miss the conclusion?

    • Adam Harwood Adam Harwood

      No. It will go up this morning. Thanks for your note, Doug.

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