Tag Archives: theology

Book Announcement: Infants and Children in the Church

B&H Academic has scheduled a Nov. 15 release for a book I co-edited with my friend, Dr. Kevin Lawson of Talbot School of Theology, Biola University in La Mirada, California.

The publisher’s blurb explains:

Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry addresses an important, but often overlooked, theological and ministry issue facing the church today: How should churches receive and minister to the infants and children God has entrusted to their care?

Various Christian traditions affirm different theological views and ministry practices concerning the spiritual status of children, how they relate to God, and how churches can best minister to and promote their growing response to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. To help address this critical area of concern, the contributors to this volume provide a comparative analysis of the views and practices of five major Christian traditions.

The book begins with a brief biblical and historical overview of the church’s theological understanding of ministry to children. Then, advocates from the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Baptist perspectives each address the following critical questions as they describe their theological traditions and the ministry efforts that flow from them.

  • How are infants and children impacted by sin?
  • How does God treat people who die in their infancy or childhood?
  • When and how are children considered members of the church?
  • When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine?

The authors then respond to each of the other viewpoints, addressing areas of agreement and difference. The book closes with an examination of areas of commonality and several implications for ministry for, to, with, and by children in our churches. What we believe (theology) impacts what we do (ministry), and it is our hope that this book will help Christian leaders think more clearly and act more faithfully in regard to the infants and children God has entrusted to our churches and communities.”

Contributors include:

Kevin E. Lawson (EdD, University of Maine, Orono) serves as co-editor of this book and contributes the introduction and the conclusion. He is professor of Christian education and former director of the PhD and EdD programs in educational studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University in La Mirada, California. He is editor of the Christian Education Journal. He also served as a board member of The Society for Children’s Spirituality: Christian Perspectives from 2001 to 2012. Among other books, he edited Understanding Children’s Spirituality: Theology, Research, and Practice (2012).

Jason Foster (PhD, Durham University) advocates for an Orthodox view. He is priest of Holy Nativity of our Lord Orthodox Church in Bossier City, Louisiana. He holds master’s degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary, Cranmer Theological House, and Oxford University. His PhD dissertation is entitled “Sursum Corda: Ritual and Meaning of the Liturgical Command in the First Five Centuries of the Church.”

David Liberto (PhD, Marquette University) advocates for a Roman Catholic view. He is professor of historical and dogmatic theology at Notre Dame Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has published several articles in academic, peer-reviewed publications and is currently working on a book- length treatment of the psychological analogy of the Trinity.

David P. Scaer (ThD, Concordia Seminary) advocates for a Lutheran
view. He is professor of systematic theology and New Testament as well as editor of Concordia Theological Quarterly at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Among other works, he is the author of Infant Baptism in Nineteenth Century Lutheran Theology (2011) and contributor to Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (2007).

Gregg Strawbridge (PhD, University of Southern Mississippi) advocates for a Reformed view. He is pastor of All Saints Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is the founder and creative director of www.WordMp3.com, an online audio library of Christian worldview resources. He edited and contributed to The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism (2003) and The Case for Covenant Communion (2006).

Adam Harwood (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
serves as co-editor of this volume and advocates for a Baptist view. He is associate professor of theology, McFarland Chair of Theology, director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the author of The Spiritual Condition of Infants (2011) and Born Guilty? (2013).

Excerpted endorsements include:

“I have been looking for a book such as this for two decades—a book that drills deep into the interlinking theological issues of sin and guilt, the status of children before God, and infant baptism (and believers’ baptism)—and how beliefs on such complex issues impact how we receive and welcome children in our faith communities.”
Holly Allen, professor of family studies and Christian ministries, Lipscomb University

“In an age that trumpets abortion as a fundamental right, this book reminds us that whatever their differences otherwise, the faithful recognize children as God’s creation and the object of his love in Jesus Christ, and in the church, they should be treated as such.”
Cameron A. MacKenzie, Forest E. and Frances H. Ellis Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary

“I highly recommend this book, and hope it is the beginning of long reflection of what it means for the church to be child-like in our dependence and child-friendly in our mission.”
Russell Moore, president, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

The book can be pre-ordered here.

Book Announcement: The Spirit and the Lake of Fire

Congratulations to Dr. Rustin Umstattd, assistant professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the publication of his new book.

The publisher’s information states, “The Holy Spirit and the Lake of Fire! What does the Spirit have to do with God’s final judgment? The Holy Spirit and God’s judgment upon sin are not two topics that are often connected, but to understand the full work of the Spirit, they need to be. It is not enough to view judgment as the work of just the Father and the Son, but in full Trinitarian fashion, it must be understood as the work of all three persons of the Trinity.
In The Spirit and the Lake of Fire Rustin Umstattd establishes the Spirit’s role in judgment by connecting several symbols that are used for both the Spirit and judgment, such as fire, God’s breath, and God’s arm. Furthermore, by examining Augustine’s position that the Spirit is the mutual-love of the Father and the Son, and Luther’s position that God’s wrath is the underside of his love, Umstattd demonstrates how one comes to the conclusion that the Spirit is operative in God’s judgment upon sin.”

The foreword was written by Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell III and the book carries the following endorsements:

“In The Spirit and the Lake of Fire, Rustin Umstattd exposes, then fills, a gap in the fields of biblical studies and systematic theology on the work of the Holy Spirit. The author presents four biblical motifs to argue the Holy Spirit is the Father’s agent for righteous and loving judgment in the Son. I highly recommend this book.”
–Adam Harwood, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

“I am grateful to God to see the publication of Dr. Umstattd’s The Spirit and the Lake of Fire. It is both biblical and insightful. Reading this book will add fervency to one’s life and ministry.”
–Jason K. Allen, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

“The scriptures are clear–God is both Judge and just in his judgment. Yet many are content to only explore concepts of the love of God. Umstattd’s work masterfully connects readers to the full work of the Trinity in meting judgment on humanity. This is a much-needed addition to the theological conversations surrounding the role of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead.”
–John Mark Yeats, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

For more information or to order a copy, click here.

Theological Review of the CSB Study Bible Notes

(Image from https://csbible.com/choose-your-csb/study-bibles/)

The purpose of this essay is to analyze the new CSB Study Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017) in light of a significant theological discussion among evangelicals, namely Calvinistic theology. (Note: CSB stands for Christian Standard Bible, a new Bible translation.) Several remarks are in order before beginning this review.

First, I am writing from a friendly perspective. I consider Trevin Wax, the general editor of the CBS Study Bible, to be a friend. Several years ago, I wrote a lesson at his invitation for the Gospel Project curriculum, which he edited. I respect his scholarship and appreciate his measured tone and wisdom he has demonstrated when addressing potentially contentious theological matters. Also, I have a professional relationship with B&H Publishing Group. I have signed three writing contracts (two for books and one for a book chapter) with B&H Academic. Trevin currently serves as the Bible and Reference Publisher for B&H, and his area published the CSB Study Bible.

Second, I am addressing the study notes only, not the text of the Bible. New Bible translations deserve appropriate scrutiny. What is the philosophy of the translation, and did the translators follow that philosophy consistently? How does the translation render key theological terms and deal with gender-inclusiveness? Although related textually to the HCSB, the CSB is a new translation and thus deserves a fair and thorough examination. However, that is not my aim in this essay. I have read approximately half of the CSB in my personal devotions this year, and have found it to be a faithful and readable English Bible translation. In this essay, I am dealing with the study notes only, not the biblical text. Readers should distinguish between the two. Although study notes can aid readers in understanding the background or meaning of a biblical text, God inspired the Bible—not the study notes.

Third, despite the title of this essay, I am addressing only one doctrine, salvation. Much could be said about the theological content of the study notes related to doctrines such as the Trinity, the church, the divinity of Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Instead, I will focus on the interpretive notes on key biblical texts which are often raised in discussions of the doctrine of salvation.

Fourth, in this review I am not arguing for or against Calvinistic theology. Rather, I am analyzing selections of the newly-published work to determine whether the study notes are consistent with the interpretations of Calvinists only, non-Calvinists only, or both groups.

Fifth, the CSB Study Bible boasts an impressive list of theologically-conservative contributors. In many cases, individuals who provided study notes for a Bible book have written entire commentaries on the book, such as NOBTS colleague R. Dennis Cole (on Numbers) as well as Eugene Merrill (on Deuteronomy) and Ray Clendenen (on Malachi). Other authors, some who have made extensive contributions in the fields of biblical and theological studies, include Kenneth Mathews, Tremper Longman III, Walt Kaiser, Chuck Quarles, Stan Porter, Malcolm Yarnell III, and David Dockery. In addition, the study Bible includes helpful essays such as “How to Read and Study the Bible” (by George H. Guthrie), “The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Event—Mark 1:6” (by Gary Habermas), “Messianic Expectations—Luke 7:20” (by Craig A. Evans), and “Salvation in the Old Testament—Romans 4” (by Paige Patterson).

Sixth, some of the study notes I will address were originally written for the HCSB Study Bible, published in 2010, and simply imported into the new CSB Study Bible. After circulating an earlier version of this essay among several friends for feedback, I was pointed to this post written by one of the contributors to the HCSB/CSB notes who also raised concerns in 2010 about the study note on Rom 8:29–30. Perhaps some (even many) of the study notes addressed below first appeared in the 2010 edition. Although it would be interesting to compare how the study notes might have changed between the HCSB and CSB editions, such a task is beyond the scope of this review. Regardless, I will address study notes as they appear in the 2017 edition.

With those preliminary remarks in mind, I will proceed with the review.

In order to analyze the work in light of Calvinistic theology, I examined the study notes of six key texts, three which are often cited by those arguing for Calvinistic theology (Acts 2:23, Rom 8:29–30, and Eph 1:3–9) and three texts which are often cited by those arguing against Calvinistic theology (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4–6, and 1 John 2:2). If the study notes of other texts were selected, the results of the study might be different. These texts, in my estimation, arise frequently when evangelicals discuss the doctrine of salvation in light of Calvinistic theology.

Study Notes on Bible texts often cited when arguing for Calvinistic theology

Acts 2:23

The study note on Acts 2:23 states: “Peter’s declaration articulates a major paradox of the Christian life: Jesus’s death occurred as a result of the plan and foreknowledge of God, but it was the free (and sinful) acts of human beings that executed that plan. The Bible often affirms the reality of both divine sovereignty and genuine human choice without explaining how the two can possibly work together without conflict.”

Analysis: The study note on Acts 2:23 refers to both “the plan and foreknowledge of God” as well as “the free (and sinful) acts of human beings.” Although many people wrongly import the concept of divine determinism into the phrase divine sovereignty, the study note attempts to clarify the meaning by citing “genuine human choice” rather than the commonly used phrase “human responsibility.” Because many Calvinistic interpreters understand genuine human choice to be compatible with divine determinism, they will probably not object to the explanation of this verse.

In conclusion, the study note on Acts 2:23 should satisfy all evangelicals, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

Rom 8:29–30

The study notes on Rom 8:29–30 include these remarks (The bold font appears in the original): “Those he foreknew refers to those whom God set his electing love upon in eternity past. Predestined means that God planned from eternity that ‘those [whom] he foreknew’ would become like Christ through spiritual rebirth. Called is the effectual call in which God opens our heart so we can hear his voice (cp. Ac. 16:14). ‘Calling’ in Paul’s writing never means just an invitation. It is a sovereign summons that draws the sinner from death to life.”

Analysis: Every sentence in the quotation above from the study notes contains theological definitions and presuppositions affirmed by Calvinists only. First, the word “foreknew” (proginōskō) can mean either to know in advance or to choose in advance. (For support, consider these remarks in Louw and Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, “‘those whom he had chosen beforehand, he had already decided should become like his Son’ Ro 8:29. In Ro 8:29 proginōskō may also be understood as meaning ‘to know beforehand’” (p. 362).

Second, the concept that God in eternity past set his “electing love” on some people but not on others is consistent with Calvinistic presuppositions of eternal decrees and election to salvation. Other Christians, however, affirm that God knows in advance all things (including who will respond in repentance and faith to be saved as well as those who will not respond in repentance and faith but will be condemned) but they reject the view that God selects only some people and passes over others for salvation.

Third, verse 29 states those foreknown were predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. If foreknown means “to know beforehand” (against the explanation of the study notes), then predestination refers to the sanctification of believers, not the salvation of unbelievers (against the study notes, which refers to “those whom God set his electing love upon in eternity past”).

Fourth, the last three sentences assume a theological distinction required by Calvinistic theology but rejected by other Christians. Calvinists believe the “general call” occurs when the gospel is heard by all people, but the “effectual call” is the work of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of only some unbelievers to irresistibly call and save them. According to this view, it is not enough for a person to hear the gospel to be saved. The logic is that since not all people will be saved and the Bible refers to believers as “called,” only some people are saved because only some people receive an “effectual call.” Other Christians simply believe that some people hear the message of the gospel and are also drawn by God’s Spirit to repent and believe, but they resist the conviction of God’s Spirit and refuse to repent of sin and believe in Jesus; the failure is on their part because they resist God’s conviction of sin and call to repent, not on God’s part for failing to convict of sin and draw sinners to himself.

In conclusion, the study notes on Rom 8:29–30 are filled with Calvinistic definitions and presuppositions.

Eph 1:3–9

The study note on Eph 1:4 states: “He chose us in him: The idea of divine election flows out of the important theme of spiritual union, for election is ‘in Christ.’ The doctrine of election is one of the most central and one of the most misunderstood teachings of the Bible. At its most basic level, election refers to God’s plan whereby he accomplishes his will. The meaning of election is best understood as God’s sovereign initiative in bringing persons to faith in Christ, resulting in a special covenant relationship with him. This theme serves as a foundation for the entire opening section of Ephesians, which includes the phrases God ‘chose us’ (v. 4); ‘predestined us’ (v. 5); and ‘predestined according to his plan’ (v. 11). Paul’s focus on the Christ-centered character of election is vitally important. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This indicates the centrality of the gospel in God’s plan for history.”

Analysis: Christians should not debate whether God chose believers in Christ, but they should explore the possible meanings of such a concept. The emphasis in this explanation on God choosing believers “in him” is appropriate due to the appearance of that phrase in verse 4 as well as in Paul’s other writings. Also, emphasizing God choosing in Christ is appropriate since God the Father referred to Jesus as “my Son, my chosen (eklegomai) one” (Luke 9:35).

The study note explains that “election refers to God’s plan whereby he accomplishes his will.” Such an explanation should satisfy Christians, regardless of whether or not they define election as God’s selection of individuals for salvation (a Calvinistic interpretation).

The next sentence in the study notes was written in way that all Christians, including Calvinists, can interpret to be consistent with their view of God’s work in salvation: “The meaning of election is best understood as God’s sovereign initiative in bringing persons to faith in Christ, resulting in a special covenant relationship with him.” The sentence mentions “God’s sovereign initiative,” which all Christians should affirm because such a view does not require either (although it is consistent with) the compatibilism or the determinism required by Calvinistic theologians. Also, the comment mentions God’s work of “bringing persons to faith in Christ,” which is another carefully worded statement which could be affirmed by most Christians, because those who affirm Calvinistic theology will read the phrase with monergistic regeneration in their mind while other Christians think of an offer by God of salvation which can be freely accepted or rejected.

Finally, the mention that God’s choice of believers before the foundation of the world can be affirmed by Christians who affirm election as God’s choice of a group (corporate election) or distinguish election from salvation (election to service) as well as those who define election as God’s choice of individuals for salvation (Calvinistic interpretation). (Note: For a recent study which raises doubts that Paul conceived of election as God’s eternal choice to save certain individuals, see A. Chadwick Thornhill, The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015].)

In conclusion, the study notes on Eph 1:3–9 can be affirmed by those who affirm Calvinistic theology as well as those who reject Calvinistic theology.


Study Notes on Bible texts often cited when arguing against Calvinistic theology

1 Tim 2:4–6

The study note on 1 Tim 2:4 includes this remark: “This verse implies the universal offer of the gospel.”

Analysis: Why state an implication rather than a plain restatement of the verse, which is that God wants all people to be saved? All Christians should affirm that the gospel should be proclaimed to all people. This study note fails to restate the proposition clearly contained in the verse, that God wants every person to be saved. Such an omission is consistent with the Calvinist presupposition that God desires to save all kinds of people rather than every person.

The study note on 1 Tim 2:5–6 states: “These verses provide the theological basis for the preceding statement that God wants people to be saved.”

Analysis: The comment on those verses omits one significant word: all. This study note, consistent with Calvinistic interpretation, fails to affirm God wants all people to be saved—despite the Bible itself stating in verse 4 of the CSB that God “wants everyone to be saved.”

In conclusion, the study notes on 1 Tim 2:4–6 fail to restate plain propositions in the verses in favor of an explanation consistent with Calvinistic theology.

2 Peter 3:9

The study note on 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord has not yet returned, says Peter, because he is patient with you, not wanting any to perish. ‘You’ is variously interpreted as a reference to the letter’s Christian recipients (identified in 1:1) or else more broadly as all people. In chap. 1 ‘you’ and ‘your’ both refer back to the recipients identified in 1:1 (see 1:2,4–5,8,10–13,15–16,19–20). Peter’s later use of ‘dear friends’ (3:1,8,14,17) seems also to point back to those identified in 1:1.”

Analysis: The study note on 2 Peter 3:9 distinguishes itself in two ways. First, the note mentions God not wanting a group to perish, but fails to quote the rest of the verse, which states “but all to come to repentance.” The word perish is not discussed in the note. Is this a reference to physical, spiritual, or eternal death? Perhaps more insight could be gleaned if the rest of the verse had been quoted. Second, the note makes a strong case that the group addressed in the letter should be identified as believers. This is important for those who want to argue that the statement that God does not want any to perish refers to the same group. If that is the case, then it could be argued that this verse should be understood as a promise of security for believers (Calvinist interpretation) rather than God’s desire to save sinners (non-Calvinist interpretation). The study note includes the phrase “or else more broadly as all people,” but that does not account for the non-Calvinist interpretation, which would interpret the group God does not want to perish as sinners, not all people (which would include believers, who would not be at risk of perishing [defined in any way] at the return of Christ).

In conclusion, the study note on 2 Peter 3:9 seems to favor the Calvinistic interpretation in two ways. First, the study note fails to address a key phrase in the verse, which would strengthen the case for the non-Calvinist interpretation. Second, the argument for the group’s identity favors a Calvinistic interpretation but fails to provide a non-Calvinist interpretation. Even so, the study note does not provide a clear interpretation either way. For that reason, I am willing to grant that one could affirm the interpretation of the study note whether or not one affirmed Calvinism.

1 John 2:2

The study note on 1 John 2:2, in part, says: “The phrase for those of the whole world does not mean the salvation of all people. It does mean that, in keeping with God’s promise to bless all the nations through Abraham and his descendants (Gn 12:3), Jesus’s saving death extends the offer of salvation to all nations.”

Analysis: This explanation of 1 John 2:2 supports particular atonement (that Jesus died the sins of only the elect) rather than general atonement (that Jesus died for the sins of every person). Particular atonement, also called limited atonement, is rejected by many people who affirm other points of Calvinist theology. This study note refers only to the extent of the offer of the gospel rather than extent of the death of Christ. Those who believe Jesus died for the sins of the world (meaning every person) will not find their belief affirmed in the study notes on 1 John 2:2. Instead, the idea that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world is described as not affirming universalism. No room is given for the non-Calvinist interpretation (general atonement). Like the explanation provided for 1 Tim 2:4, this study note affirms the universal offer of the gospel—an idea which is not disputed by most evangelicals.

In conclusion, the study note on 1 John 2:2 provides an interpretation consistent with Calvinistic theology but fails to present an interpretation consistent with non-Calvinistic theology.



At the risk of simplifying a lengthy essay on a complex discussion into a chart, the work above can be illustrated as follows:

The study notes on selected texts in the CSB Study Bible are consistent with which theological interpretation?

 CSB Study Bible notes Evangelical Non-Calvinist Interpretation Evangelical Calvinist Interpretation
Acts 2:23
Rom 8:29–30
Eph 1:3–9
1 Tim 2:4–6
2 Peter 3:9
1 John 2:2

More work can and should be done on this topic. For example, additional texts on both sides of the issue could be examined (such as Rom 9, John 3, and John 6). Perhaps if the study notes of other verses were examined, or if another person analyzed the study notes, then the study notes might appear to be more balanced in their interpretations. Also, some of the biblical word studies could be examined. The study Bible includes brief treatments of hundreds of Hebrew and Greek words, including some terms relevant to this discussion, such as “decree,” “foreknow,” and “predestine.” Although this essay is only a start, my hope is that the examination of these selected study notes will aid readers interested in the theological leanings of this new study Bible.

In conclusion, any theologically conservative resource should be welcomed and appreciated by the church. The work under consideration fits that category. Even so, those who affirm that God loves every person, Christ died for every person, and God desires to save every person will be disappointed in some of the study notes in the CSB Study Bible.[1]


[1] For more on the extent of God’s love, Christ’s death, and God’s desire to save, see my article, “Is the Gospel for All People or Only Some People?” Journal of Baptist Theology & Ministry 11.2 (Fall 2014): 16–33, available here.

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)


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.


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.