Response To J. Matthew Pinson’s “Thomas Grantham’s Theology Of The Atonement And Justification” -- By: Rhyne Putman

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 08:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Response To J. Matthew Pinson’s “Thomas Grantham’s Theology Of The Atonement And Justification”
Author: Rhyne Putman


Response To J. Matthew Pinson’s
“Thomas Grantham’s Theology Of The Atonement And Justification”

Rhyne Putman

Mr. Putman is Instructor in Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The silence on Thomas Grantham in Baptist theological and historical studies is deafening. Even more remarkable is the lacuna created on the bookshelves of pastors, theologians, and historians who have little or no access to one of the most important texts in Baptist history. Many seem to believe that Grantham lost his relevance with the turn of the seventeenth century. In his article, “Thomas Grantham’s Theology of the Atonement and Justification,” Matt Pinson encourages us to think otherwise. He argues that General Baptist thinkers like Grantham can help us rethink the often superficial and hastily generalized categories of “Calvinism” and “Arminianism.”

Pinson’s article is commendable both for its labor in these texts and for its application to ongoing soteriological debates. As an exercise in historical theology Pinson does not evaluate the propriety of Grantham’s exegesis or understandings of Pauline thought. Rather, he successfully employs Grantham, Goodwin, and Arminius to illustrate that, despite some claims to the contrary, Arminianism presents us with no single, monolithic soteriological scheme—especially with regards to the nature of the atonement itself. Much like Roger Olson, Pinson is interested in distinguishing between “myths and realities” in Arminian theology.1 Pinson also successfully demonstrates that Arminians like Grantham, and Arminius before him, do in fact belong to a Reformed tradition that embraces central Reformation tenets such as forensic justification sola fide and penal substitutionary atonement. The recognition of our shared Reformation tradition is an important step toward removing straw men in the Calvinist-Arminian conversation.

As the earliest known systematic theologian in the Baptist tradition, Grantham modeled a practice of pastoral theology that was apologetic, biblical, irenic, and culturally engaged. He concerned himself with external cultural challenges such as Islam, skepticism, and deficient

views of Christ’s humanity and divinity. Grantham handled the more internal, polemical issues, such as Calvinistic doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement or Hugo Grotius’s controversial views of the atonement with dignity and grace, yet with an unwavering commitment to biblical authority. Grantham also penned one of the most significant early treatises on religious liberty, seen in the third ...

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