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

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: Clint Bass

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

Clint Bass

Dr. Bass is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK, and author of Thomas Grantham (1633–1692) and General Baptist Theology (Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, 2012).

Though a fair number of anti-predestinarian Baptists Socinianized in the eighteenth century, Pinson’s essay suggests that those living in the latter seventeenth century held a considerably traditional view of justification and the atonement. In fact, their views of justification and the atonement were much closer to Reformed Orthodoxy than were the views of some contemporary Independents, such as John Goodwin, or even some Puritans, such as Richard Baxter. This was demonstrated through Pinson’s judicious comparison of Goodwin’s thought to that of the principal theologian of the General Baptists, Thomas Grantham. The essay presents, for the most part, an accurate picture of Grantham’s position.

Pinson concluded that “the most practical difference” between Grantham and Goodwin was “for Grantham, salvation consists totally in Christ’s righteousness, whereas for Goodwin, it hinges on the individual’s faith.”1 But such a conclusion seems to exaggerate the differences between them and it neglects Grantham’s emphasis on human volition. Grantham argued that “God imputes Righteousness to Men without Works” and that “what is thus imputed, is not acted by us, but expresly [sic] reckoned as a matter of free Gift, or Grace.” But to what extent did he understand justification as a gift? He acknowledged that the possibility of salvation was an undeserved blessing as was the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness.2 But what about the means of receiving these undeserved blessings? Was faith a work in any sense or was faith a gift in every sense? It was Grantham’s view that the righteousness of Christ was “reckoned as ours through believing.” Grace was inseparable from faith and yet man played some role in having faith. This is nowhere more obvious than in Grantham’s order of causes. Proponents of Reformed Orthodoxy asserted that justification was by faith and that the formal cause of justification

was the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness.3 Grantham’s explanation was radically different: “The formal Cause is believing and obeying the Truth through the Spir...

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