John L. Dagg on Opposition to Sovereign Election
John L. Dagg was, according to Mark Dever, the first writing Southern Baptist theologian. His Manual of Theology was published in 1857 which was also the first published systematic theology in the South. Dagg provides an excellent chapter on the doctrine of election in which he addresses its nature and handles several proposed objections which are often brought up even today. Here is how Dagg began his chapter on the doctrine of election:
The doctrine of election encounters strong opposition in the hearts of men, and it is therefore necessary to examine thoroughly its claim to our belief. As it relates to an act of the divine mind, no proof of its truth can be equal to the testimony of the Scriptures. Let us receive their teachings on the subject without hesitation or distrust; and let us require every preconceived opinion of ours, and all our carnal reasonings, to bow before the authority of God’s holy word (309).As Dagg rightly asserts, it is the testimony of Scriptures we must square our theology. Following his introduction, Dagg shows how the Scriptures: 1) “clearly teach, that God has an elect or chosen people” (309) 2) “teach expressly, that God’s people are chosen to salvation” (309) 3) “plainly teach that the election of grace is from eternity” (310) 4) “teach that election is of grace, and not of works” (311) 5) “teach that election is according to the foreknowledge of God” (312) Concerning election based on foreseen faith, Dagg writes:
From the views which have been presented, it necessarily follows, that election is not on the ground of foreseen faith or obedience. On this point, the teachings of Scripture are clear. They are chosen not because of their holiness, but that they may be holy; not because of their obedience, but unto obedience. As the discrimination made in effectual calling is God’s work, and antecedent to all holiness, faith, or acceptable obedience; the purpose to discriminate could not be on the ground of acts foreseen, which do not exist as a consideration for the execution of the purpose. The discriminating grace which God bestows, is not on the ground of faith and obedience previously existing, bur for a reason known only to God himself. This unrevealed reason, and not foreseen faith and obedience, is the ground of election (312).I think many Southern Baptists do not realize that the doctrine of unconditional election (along with the entire doctrines of grace) is historic Baptist theology. Yet it is to no one’s surprise that the doctrine of election received a considerable amount of opposition as it does today. As a follow-up to Dagg on election, I will share how he handles the issue of reprobation and double predestination. If you want to read his chapter on election yourself, here is the link.