George Beasley-Murray On The Meaning And Practice Of Baptism -- By: Justin Nalls

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 15:1 (Spring 2018)
Article: George Beasley-Murray On The Meaning And Practice Of Baptism
Author: Justin Nalls


George Beasley-Murray On The Meaning And Practice Of Baptism

Justin Nalls

Justin Nalls is Next Generation Team Leader at Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. [email protected]

Editor’s Note: This article is a modified version of his PhD completed in 2017 at University of Wales (Spurgeon’s College) in London, England, titled “A Bombshell In The Baptistery: An examination of the influence of George Beasley-Murray on the baptismal writings of select Southern Baptist and Baptist Union of Great Britain scholars.” A version of this essay will appear in the forthcoming book by Nalls titled A Bombshell In The Bapstery, to be published by Wipf & Stock in 2019.

In 1963, George Beasley-Murray (1916–2000) published Baptism in the New Testament.1 The book, in which he argues that baptism in the New Testament period was a means of divine grace, was neither his first nor his last on the subject. However, it was quickly recognized as a significant contribution in the area of baptismal theology. In a review of the book in 1963, Dale Moody wrote,

There is little doubt that the publication of Baptism in the New Testament by G. R. Beasley-Murray, Principal of Spurgeon’s College in London, will mark a new stage in discussions that relate to baptism. This will be especially true among Baptists, who for the most part came late to the debate, but world Christianity is not likely to ignore a work so genuinely ecumenical and so scholarly composed. Southern Baptists, among whom much of this material was presented, are sure to profit as much as they may be amazed by a book of this type.2

Five years later, Moody referred to Baptism in the New Testament as “the best one volume on New Testament baptism.”3 That same year, William Hull referred to it as a “bombshell in the baptistery.”4

Though a number of Baptist scholars, including some Southern Baptist scholars, have affirmed much of Beasley-Murray’s view of the meaning of baptism, and even more have recognized the significance of his work, not all have agreed with him. His contention that in the New Testament God worked in the act of baptism to unite the baptized person to Christ continues to be controversial. Nevertheless, his emphasis on baptism as an expression of faith in response to the gospel should be a point that Southern Baptists can agree on. It should also encourage Southern Baptists to affirm the importance of...

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