All posts by Adam Harwood

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife (Laura) and I were married in 1995, and we have four children (Anna, Nathan, Jonathan, and Rachel). Currently, I serve as Associate Professor of Theology (occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology), Director of the Baptist Center for Theology & Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. Previously, I served for 13 years in church staff positions in Oklahoma and Texas. Prior to being elected to the faculty of NOBTS in 2013, I taught at three other institutions. I hold a B.A. (1996) in History Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and a M.Div. (2001) and Ph.D. in Theology (2007) from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thank you for visiting my site.

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.

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.