An Exchange with Professor Wallace of the Dallas Seminary
In a previous article titled: Dallas Professor Rebuffs Common Quibble on Eis, we reviewed some material in Daniel Wallace’s excellent book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Zondervan, 1996). We identified Dr. Wallace as a “Baptist,” and we used the expression “the Baptist Dallas Theological Seminary.”
We have received a communication from Professor Wallace correcting us in two particulars.
First, he says, “I’m not Baptist.” We apologize for this mischaracterization.
Second, the expression “the Baptist Dallas Theological Seminary” is likewise incorrect. Though I knew that “Baptist” was not a part of the institution’s official title, my use of “Baptist” was intended as an adjective, reflecting my perception that the institution had strong ties and doctrinal affinities with those of the Baptist persuasion.
Nonetheless, it was misleading and I tender my regret with respect to this unintentional error.
We have made the appropriate corrections in the original article.
Wrestling with the Text
Aside from the above, Prof. Wallace takes offence at my allegation that he resorted “to other manipulations” in order to escape the obvious connection between baptism and “forgiveness of sins” in Acts 2:38.
He states that he merely was “wrestling with the meaning of the text,” but that this by no means suggested that he had adopted the concept of “baptismal regeneration.”
Of course, I made it clear that Dr. Wallace was not contending that baptism is essential to salvation.
One of Professor’s Wallace’s problems is that he has an “either/or” mentality. He feels that if one does not repudiate a cause-and-effect connection between baptism and the remission of sins, he must yield to the dogma of “baptismal regeneration.”
And that dogma, as commonly portrayed, is not a biblical proposition.(See our article on What Is Baptismal Regeneration?)
What our friend does not see is that there is solid biblical ground in-between the unscriptural theory of salvation by “faith alone,” and the mystical notion that there is innate power to effect pardon in the use of some sort of holy water, together with the intoning of certain sacred words.
The Scriptural position is that baptism, together with genuine faith and sincere repentance, is a condition of forgiveness. The act involves nothing merited or earned; rather, it is simply an expression of humble obedience by which one receives the Lord’s pardon.
Exactly what, about this concept, is so difficult to fathom?
The Seminary’s Creed
But Professor Wallace’s resistance is rather easily explained. Each year the Dallas seminary faculty is required to reaffirm their oath of allegiance to the institution’s creed, which, with reference to the matter of salvation is replicated as follows:
“We believe that, owing to universal death through sin, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless born again; and that no degree of reformation however great, no attainments in morality however high, no culture however attractive, no baptism or other ordinance however administered, can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven; but a new nature imparted from above, a new life implanted by the Holy Spirit through the Word, is absolutely essential to salvation, and only those thus saved are sons of God. We believe, also, that our redemption has been accomplished solely by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was made to be sin and was made a curse for us, dying in our room and stead; and that no repentance, no feeling, no faith, no good resolutions, no sincere efforts, no submission to the rules and regulations of any church, nor all the churches that have existed since the days of the Apostles can add in the very least degree to the value of the blood, or to the merit of the finished work wrought for us by Him who united in His person true and proper deity with perfect and sinless humanity (Lev. 17:11; Isa. 64:6; Matt. 26:28; John 3:7-18; Rom. 5:6-9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 6:15; Eph. 1:7; Phil. 3:4-9; Titus 3:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:18-19, 23).
We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ and that repentance is a vital part of believing, and is in no way, in itself, a separate and independent condition of salvation; nor are any other acts, such as confession, baptism, prayer, or faithful service, to be added to believing as a condition of salvation (John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:29; Acts 13:39; 16:31; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:22, 26; 4:5; 10:4; Gal. 3:22)."
The above statement is so fraught with errors that it would require a sizable essay to untangle the distortions of New Testament truth contained therein. There are numerous articles on this web site that address these matters. And we especially encourage our readers to review again our article, Dallas Professor Rebuffs Common Quibble on Eis, dealing with the meaning of Acts 2:38.
Conflict at Home
Having said that, let me make one final point.
In 1983, the faculty of the Dallas Seminary produced The Bible Knowledge Commentary — New Testament Edition, under the editorship of John F. Walvoord and Roy Zuck. The production was solely the work of faculty members of that institution. The author of the commentary on the book of Acts was Stanley D. Toussaint, Chairman and Professor of Bible Exposition at the seminary.
In his comments on Acts 2:38, Prof. Toussaint reviews several ideas relative to the meaning of
eis in the phrase “for
eis the forgiveness of sins.”
One view, he says, would suggest that baptism “is essential for salvation.” He immediately dismisses this concept since it is not in harmony with the idea that salvation is by “faith alone.”
Toussaint then introduces a second view, in which he says
eis may mean “on account of, on the basis of.” This is the so-called “causal” use of
eis, which, Prof. Toussaint alleges, is the “possible” significance of the preposition in this passage, though he admits this is not the word’s “normal meaning.”
This is the very viewpoint that Wallace took to the “grammatical woodshed” in his book. In his recent communication to me, though, the scholarly professor says that his “exegetical integrity” would not allow him to accept Mantey’s “causal” position (that
eis can mean “on account of”).
And yet this is the same position that his colleague offers as a possibility in The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Apparently, Prof. Toussaint’s “exegetical integrity” was not so readily challenged.
It is hardly accurate, therefore, for Prof. Wallace to allege, as he did to me, that there has been “no concession” on his part. Clearly there has been.
And for it we are grateful.