Did Millard Erickson Recently Revise His View of Salvation via General Revelation?

I have been a member of a group since 2003 and my wife has never attended one of its meetings—until this week. The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) will hold its 66th annual meeting in beautiful San Diego, California, on November 19-21, 2014. Laura has agreed to join me for this year’s gathering, and I look forward to visiting San Diego with my best friend.

ETS self-identifies as “a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research.” Also, it “is devoted to the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” According to this Baptist Press article published last week, there are currently 4,400 members, and professors and students from all six Southern Baptist seminaries are scheduled to make presentations at this year’s meeting. Its peer-reviewed publication, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, is one of the premier conservative, biblical-theological journals in the world. I frequently read and cite JETS articles in my research and teaching.

The annual ETS meeting is a three-day marathon of paper presentations in the areas of biblical studies, biblical archaeology, systematic theology, ethics, and philosophy. This week’s 600+ presentations are listed in this downloadable program.

This year, I will present a paper titled “Did Millard Erickson Revise His View of General Revelation and Human Responsibility in Christian Theology, Third Edition (2013)?” The essay is 4,100 words. I will have 40 minutes to read the paper and field any questions from the listeners. In the paper, I compare statements in Baptist theologian Millard Erickson’s second and third editions of his systematic theology textbook, Christian Theology (CT2 and CT3). My thesis is: “I will attempt to demonstrate that Millard Erickson’s view of general revelation and human responsibility in CT3 includes a stronger case than CT2 for the possibility of general revelation inclusivism, a term coined by Christopher Morgan for the view that people ‘can respond to God in saving faith through seeing him in general revelation.'”

A layman’s explanation of the paper is as follows: General revelation refers to the knowledge that all people have through creation and conscience that God exists. Inclusivism is the view that some are saved by God without hearing the message of the gospel. In the second edition of his systematic theology, Erickson explores—but rules out—the possibility that people can be saved through general revelation without hearing the message of the gospel. In his third edition (published in 2013), Erickson strengthens his case for the possibility that people can be saved through general revelation and no longer rules out this possibility. In neither edition does Erickson claim that some people will be saved in this way, only that it is possible.

I document several changes between the second and third editions of his textbook on this issue. Consider one example. In CT3, the word “ordinarily” is added to this sentence which appeared in CT2: “General revelation evidently does not ordinarily enable the unbeliever to come to the knowledge of God.”[1] In this sentence, “does not” in CT2 becomes “does not ordinarily” in CT3. In context, the phrase “knowledge of God” seems to refer to saving knowledge of God. The result is a change between CT2 and CT3 on the matter.

Dr. Erickson does not plan to attend the meeting, but he graciously provided feedback on the paper via email. I have made minor adjustments based on his comments. My goal is to represent accurately and to assess fairly what appears to be slight changes between the second and third editions of Christian Theology by this influential theologian on an important and difficult doctrinal issue.

After I present the paper and it receives further scrutiny from the wider academic community, I plan to submit the paper for consideration to a peer-reviewed theological journal.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 137. Emphasis mine.

New Article & Videos of Bible Translation Event

Baptist Press

Last month, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) hosted a colloquium on Bible Translation as Missions. Today, Baptist Press released this article on the event.

Here is a link to some of the video presentations: NOBTS Events.

We are currently rendering and uploading the presentations from the colloquium to this YouTube account. All of them will be available in the coming weeks. Consider subscribing to the YouTube channel to be notified when other presentations are uploaded.

Guest Post: Ph.D. Defense of “The Text of the Acts of the Apostles in the Writings of Origen”


(The image is the Greek text of Acts 1:15-2:14, from a nineteenth-century facsimile of Codex Vaticanus, available on the site of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_03/Vaticanus-Scripture-Index.pdf. The original fourth-century manuscript is located in the Vatican Library.)

By Adam Harwood:

Recently, I observed the defense of a Ph.D. dissertation in New Testament at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), where I am a professor. I did not serve on this student’s committee, but sat in on the defense due to my interest in the research. After witnessing the presentation and defense of his dissertation, I invited the student to submit a description of his research as a guest post on this blog.

The student is Stanley N. Helton, Senior Minister at First Christian Church, in Hammond, Louisiana. Stan holds a BA (Oklahoma Christian University), MS, MDiv, DMin (Abilene Christian University), and ThM (NOBTS). Stan is a member of: Society of Biblical Literature, North American Patristic Society, Stone-Campbell Scholars Community, and Disciples of Christ Historical Society. He is married to Patricia and they have one child, Rachel.

Before Stan summarizes his research, I will describe the work leading up to a Ph.D. defense. The defense of a Ph.D. dissertation is the culmination of years of work. After completing a master’s degree and gaining entrance into a Ph.D. program, students must complete years of seminar work, which involves reading and reviewing stacks of books and presenting and defending lengthy research papers in each seminar. In order to successfully complete this stage, many programs also require students to pass an oral examination, which is conducted by their professors to test the students’ knowledge of their field of study. After 2-3 years and reading and writing in the seminar stage, students enter the dissertation stage. In consultation with their professors, students will draft a proposal for research in their field which contributes original research to the field. Proposals which pass committee review go forward. At this point, students begin to write their dissertation. They will check in periodically with their committee chairperson, but the burden for research and writing falls on the students. Writing a dissertation can require several months—perhaps years. After writing their dissertation, students must then present and defend it before their committee of professors. The total invest of time in a Ph.D. program varies, but it can require 3-7 years.

By Stanley N. Helton:

On October 24, I defended my Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Text of the Acts of the Apostles in the Writings of Origen.” This text-critical project follows the basic protocols as developed in the Society of Biblical Literature’s New Testament in the Greek Fathers series.

The purpose of this dissertation was to ascertain the textual identity of the text of Acts as used by the church father Origen. I framed my dissertation around a thesis and a working hypothesis, which in the case of this research proved to be incorrect.

The thesis advanced in this research was that an analysis and evaluation of Origen’s citations and allusions of Acts can provide the basis for reconstructing and analyzing Origen’s text of Acts and thereby locating his text of Acts within the history of the transmission of the New Testament.

The working hypothesis was that Origen’s text of Acts was most akin to the text found in MS 1739 with intermittent Western readings and a few Byzantine readings. The assumptions of previous scholars—such as Kirsopp Lake, Silva New, James H. Ropes, and others—suggested this hypothesis.

The dissertation contained an introduction, 5 chapters, a conclusion, and 6 appendices. The table of contents follows:




Chapter 1 begins with Origen himself. Reconstructing the life of Origen is an essential task for placing this research within its proper historical context. Thus, in this first chapter, the sources and scholarly concerns about those sources are examined before presenting a history of Origen. This history focuses on Origen’s relationship to his books and especially NT manuscripts (MSS). Careful attention is given to Origen’s own production of books, particularly those works that gave substantial materials for the present research.

Chapter 2 presents the state of research regarding. First, the scholarly quest for Origen’s text of the NT is presented. Second, a more focused concentration on the quest for Origen’s text of Acts is explored. In the context of this latter focus on the quest for Origen’s text of Acts, a summary on the current state of studies on the text of Acts is presented.

Chapter 3 is devoted to methodology, which follows closely on the heels of the state of research, since the methodology grew out of the history of research. The text-critical methodology used here has been developed and refined by such notable scholars as Ernst Colwell, Gordon Fee, and Bart Ehrman. Perhaps the most influential here is Fee, who has worked out a clear procedure for gathering, presenting, evaluating, and using the evidence for the NT text from the church fathers.

Chapter 4 presents the raw data for reconstructing Origen’s text of Acts. Following this presentation, this chapter offers a “reconstituted” text of Origen’s Acts of the Apostles extracted from the raw data. The chapter concludes with full textual apparatus comparing Origen’s text against NT MSS as presented in the Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies Critical Apparatus.

Chapter 5 presents the analysis and results from a Quantitative Analysis (QA) used to compare Origen’s text of Acts against the various representative MSS of known textual affinities. To a degree, the quantity of data and nature of that data controlled the information included here.

A concluding chapter revisits the working hypothesis and offers a correction to it. The results of this research demonstrated that Origen’s Text of Acts is most akin to Codex Vaticanus (B03), following closely other Primary Alexandrians, P74 and ℵ01, with no distinct Western readings (in the Greek evidence). Origen, in some cases, showed knowledge of readings that reappear later in some Secondary Alexandrian and Byzantine manuscripts.

Various appendices make the information discovered more useful to those who use the standards tools of text critical research.

Appendix 1: Textual Basis of Origen’s Greek Writings. Each of Origen’s works were transmitted in the same way that NT MSS were transmitted. Therefore, knowing something of the history of transmission of Origen’s writings is essential to using the critical editions of Origen’s works.

Appendix 2: Origen’s Text of Acts from Alexandria. This appendix contains all of the raw data for reconstructing Origen’s text of Acts as he would have experienced that text before his move to Caesarea.

Appendix 3: Origen in NA28 and UBS4/5. This appendix offers suggestions, corrections, and confirmations to readings related to Origen as found in the critical apparatus of these editions of the Greek NT.

Appendix 4: Significant Variation Units. This appendix lists the significant variants used in the QA for ascertaining the textual affinity of Origen’s text of Acts.

Appendix 5: Corrections to Biblia Patristica. Similar to Appendix 3, this appendix offers corrections to the listing for citations of Acts in Origen as found in Biblia Patristica.

Appendix 6: Complete Data Set. I consider this the most important appendix. One can find within it all the evidence from Origen (Greek, Latin, Catenae, and dubious texts), for his text of Acts in a verse-by-verse format.

Finally, an extensive selected bibliography lists the critical texts of Origen’s writings, sources for Origen’s life, and other works pertinent to the topics of this dissertation.

Stan anticipates receiving his Ph.D. in New Testament at NOBTS in December of 2014, and can be reached at: DrStanFCC (at) gmail.com.

Does God hate sinners?


Does God hate sinners? Certain biblical texts in the poetic sections contain those statements. Consider, as examples (quotations from the NASB, emphasis in bold is mine):

Psalm 5:5-6, “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.”

Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.”

Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

Consider also the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Do we read Luke 14:26 as a command to hate our parents, wife, children, and ourselves? No. Instead, proper hermeneutical methods lead us to an interpretation which is more faithful to the meaning intended by the original author. In this case, a command to hate our parents would contradict clear commands by God to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). Similarly, a command for a husband to hate his wife would contradict clear commands to love her (Ephesians 5:25-33). Similar texts could be cited which contradict the notion of hating one’s children and yourself.

When seeking a faithful interpretation of any biblical text, it is necessary to recognize literary devices and types of literature. In this case, we understand hating our family to be a literary device which makes a statement of comparison—a call to be more devoted to God than to our family. This is the view of Darrell Bock on Luke 14:26, “Here ‘hate’ is a rhetorical term. It means that a person’s loyalty to following Jesus has priority over family or acceptance by them.”[1] Bock affirms that the word “hate” is used in this verse as a literary device. If Luke 14:26, which states that we are to hate people, is better understood another way, then is it possible that the statements about God hating sinners in the poetic material is better understood another way?

The poetic material in the Bible is a type of literature which is a gift from God because in those texts, God accurately portrays human emotion. This gives us permission to be honest with God. In the poetic material, however, some statements occur which were not intended to be doctrinal affirmations or commands to obey. That is not the nature of this type of literature. For example, David asks in Psalm 13:1 how long God will forget him. Do we think David despaired because God had literally forgotten him? No. David closes Psalm 13 with praises to the God who saves him and has dealt bountifully with him (verses 5-6). Instead, we understand Psalm 13:1 to be David’s declaration that he felt as if he had been forgotten by God.

Similarly, the Psalmist prays a blessing on the one who dashes Babylonian infants on the rocks (Psalm 137:9, “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”). Do we read this as a command to be followed? Do we regard this to be a proposition concerning the nature of God? In answer to both questions, no. The poetic material includes community laments or imprecatory psalms, of which Psalm 137 is an example. This material captures the community’s grief expressed to God, but this text would not justify killing our enemies’ infants because of the many New Testament commands to love our enemies.
These examples are not meant to imply that there are errors or that we cannot trust the Bible. Instead, these examples remind us that the Bible is comprised of a variety of literary devices and types of literature. We must recognize different types of literature and literary devices in the Bible and interpret them accordingly.

Rather than reading the statements of God’s hatred for sinners literally, they are better understood as instances of anthropopathism, a figure of speech denoting analogically a truth about God. As Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology explains, “Anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms are figures of speech that transmit theological truths about God to humankind. Only when taken literally are they misconstrued.”[2] The statements that God hates sinners are rare in the Bible, occur only in the poetic sections, and are misunderstood when they are interpreted literally.

It is necessary, however, to take seriously God’s righteous indignation against sin and sinners. Millard Erickson writes, “Although God is not the enemy of sinners nor does he hate them, it is also quite clear that God is angered by sin.”[3] God’s wrath (orgē) is “revealed from heaven against godlessness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18, ESV). Notice that His wrath in these verses is not against godless and unrighteous people, but against their godlessness and unrighteousness. In this way, it would be accurate to say that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

According to Romans 3:25-26, the Cross of Christ demonstrates God’s righteousness. According to Romans 5:8, the Cross of Christ demonstrates God’s love, not His hatred, for sinners. In John 3, we learn that God sent His Son into the world to save the world, not to condemn the world (v. 17). God’s wrath is already on all people because of their sin; and only those who believe in the Son will have eternal life (v. 36). But God’s wrath should be distinguished from this idea that He hates sinners. Wrath is God’s settled disposition against sin, which flows from His righteousness and holiness. In this way, our condemnation is already set because of our sin. But out of love for these objects of wrath, God acted to rescue those who were already perishing and under His condemnation.

At the Cross, God judged His only Son, one who had no sin. He did so out of love for sinful people. These are the actions of one who loves sinners, not one who hates them.

[1]Darrell Bock, Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 279.

[2]Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, s. v. “Anthropomorphism.”

[3]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 552.

Bible Translation as Missions | October 20, 2014

BibleTranslationFacebookBoostPost3On October 20, 2014, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) will host a colloquium on Bible Translation as Missions. This free event will be open to the public. Videos of the presentations will be available free of charge through YouTube and iTunes.

The goal of the colloquium is to educate people about the nature and status of Bible translation work globally and to network with individuals interested in translating the Bible for the purpose of Christian missions.


Monday, October 20, 2014

8:30 AM        Coffee & Muffins (HSC 219)

9:00 AM        Dr. Adam Harwood, Welcome

9:10 AM        Dr. Bill Warren, “The Text, Variants, and Translations”

10:10 AM      Dr. Michael Walrod, “Words are Overrated: The Functional Load of Discourse Markers in Shaping the Emergent Meaning of a Translated Text”

11:10 AM      Dave Brunn, “Form and Function in Bible Translation: Where Theory Meets Practice”

Noon            Lunch (NOBTS Cafeteria)

1:10 PM        Dr. Grant Lovejoy, “Story Together: A Precursor to Bible Translation”

2:10 PM        Dr. Bryan Harmelink, “Translation as Transmission: Global Connections”

3:10 PM        Dr. Perry Oakes, “Open Bible Stories”

4:10 PM        Dr. Larry Jones, “The Role of the Church in Twenty-First Century Bible Translation Ministry”

5:10 PM        Dr. Charles White, “Accelerated Bible Translation and Exegetical Checking”

6:00 PM        Conclusion

Speaker Biographies:

WarrenDr. Bill Warren, Professor of New Testament and Greek, NOBTS

Since 1978, Bill Warren has been a pastor, a professor, or both. From 1983-89, he served as a professor and missionary in Colombia. As a professor with full teaching responsibilities at NOBTS, he travels regularly to Spanish-speaking countries to train pastors. Also, he pastors a church, publishes for the both the church and the academy, and directs the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies at NOBTS.


Dr. Michael Walrod, Founder and Past President, The Canada Institute of Linguistics 

Mike Walrod has authored two books on discourse analysis, as well as other articles and magazine columns on linguistics, translation, and cross-cultural work. He served as Associate Director for Academic Affairs of SIL Philippines, on the Board of Directors of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada and of Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), and as Chair of the linguistics department at TWU. Mike was founder and President of the Canada Institute of Linguistics until May 2014. Mike and Verna did translation work for two decades in the Ga’dang language, Philippines.



Dave Brunn, International Translation Consultant, New Tribes Mission

Dave Brunn served as a missionary-translator in Papua New Guinea for 21 years, facilitating the translation of the New Testament into the Lamogai language. Currently, he serves as an International Translation Consultant and teaches Bible translation at the NTM Missionary Training Centers in the USA, Canada, and Australia. Dave is the author of One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? (IVP Academic, 2013).



Dr. Grant Lovejoy,  Director of Orality Strategies, International Mission Board

Grant Lovejoy taught homiletics and biblical hermeneutics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2004, he became Director of Orality Strategies for the International Mission Board (IMB). He works on strategy development, training, and advocacy for oral peoples. He leads a team that trains IMB missionaries to develop heart language Scripture resources in appropriate media.



Dr. Bryan Harmelink, International Translation Coordinator, SIL International

Bryan Harmelink worked with a team of translators in Chile on the Mapuche NT, published in 1997. After completing his Ph.D. in Hermeneutics and Biblical Interpretation at Westminster Seminary in 2004, he served as Americas Area Translation Coordinator. Since 2007, he has served as SIL’s International Translation Coordinator. At the end of 2014, he will begin working as Global Consultant for Bible Translation & Collaboration with Wycliffe Global Alliance. He and his wife Joan reside in Colmar, Pennsylvania.



Dr. Perry Oakes, Bible Translator, Wycliffe Associates

Perry Oakes served for many years with Wycliffe Bible Translators as a linguist and translator in Panama and as a translation consultant in Guatemala. He currently works with Wycliffe Associates developing translation strategies for peoples unreached by current methods and teaches Biblical Hebrew at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas, Texas.



Dr. Larry Jones, Senior VP of Bible Translation, The Seed Company 

Larry Jones has served as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators since 1976. He and his wife Linda worked for 27 years in Asia, both in Bible translation ministry to the Yawa people of Indonesia and in missionary leadership. He has served in senior leadership in The Seed Company since 2008, and is currently their Senior Vice President for Bible Translation.



Dr. Charles White, Professor of Christian Thought and History, Spring Arbor University

Chuck White was educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston universities. He has taught environmentalists in Michigan, physicians in Mexico, pastors in Canada and Jordan, university students in England and Australia, Muslims in Nigeria, evangelists in India, missionaries in the Philippines, and church planters in Iraq. He has published two books and several academic articles. Chuck has served as an exegetical consultant on translations of every NT book except 1 Thessalonians and 1 & 2 Peter in four African languages.

Please join me in asking God to use this event to raise up workers so that people might hear and read God’s Word in their language.

Not One Word


According to Wycilffe Bible Translators, 180 million people have no Scripture in their heart language. Not one word.

A nation with 180 million people would be the 6th or 7th most populated in the world. Such a nation would have more people than Russian or Japan. It would be larger than the populations of Germany and the United Kingdom combined.

These 180 million people scattered throughout the earth have no Scripture. They have no creation account. Or Noah’s ark. Or story of the exodus. Or Psalms. Or prophets. Or teachings of Jesus. Or story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Or letters to the churches. Or account of the return and final victory of Jesus. Not one word.

What would we know about God without a Bible in our language? What would we know about Jesus?

My family has more than 15 Bibles in our home. And I have twice that number in my office. How many Bibles do you have? How many Bibles do we need? The American Bible Society estimates there are about 900 translations and paraphrases of the Bible in English. I am thankful for the variety of English translations–especially since English is a popular language for global commerce. Even so, 180 million people have no Scripture in their language. Not one word. That must change.

On October 20, 2014, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will host a colloquium on Bible Translation as Missions. This will be a free event and open to the public. Sessions will be recorded and posted online. The goal of the colloquium is to educate people about the nature and status of Bible translation work globally and to network with individuals interested in translating the Bible for the sake of these 180 million people.

Will you join me in praying that God uses this event to raise up individuals who will join the task of getting God’s Word into other languages, so that every person on the planet can hear of God’s love for them in Christ Jesus?

Bible-Driven Theology

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