Getting “Saved”: The Whole Story of Salvation in the New Testament. Edited by Charles H. Talbert and Jason A. Whitlark. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011. 324 pages. Paper, $30.00.
This book has twelve essays by six authors. “This volume of essays is concerned with soteriology. How does one gain a covenant relationship with God and remain in that relationship so as to experience final salvation?” (p. 1). Talbert writes five of the essays. Whitlark writes three essays. Four authors write one essay each: Michael W. Martin, Andrew E. Arterbury, Clifford A. Barbarick, and Scott J. Hafemann.
Talbert, Whitlark, and Arterbury are all professors at Baylor University. The other three teach at Lubbock Christian University (Martin), University of St. Andrews (Hafemann), and Pepperdine University (Barbarick).
The book is broken into four sections. The authors write about salvation, by which they mean regeneration or escaping eternal condemnation, in 1) the Pauline Corpus, 2) the Gospels, 3) the Catholic (General) Epistles, and 4) the book of Revelation.
The authors all agree that “staying in” so as to obtain eschatological salvation requires obedience and good works which God is ready to produce in all believers who cooperate with Him:
The saints’ perseverance in holiness, blamelessness, and love is a result of God’s inward working (Whitlark, p. 56).
The Pastoral Epistles see God’s grace undergirding the believer’s existence in its beginning (regeneration) (e.g., Titus 3:4-7), in its fulfillment (e.g., 2 Tim 4:8), and in its progress from beginning to fulfillment (e.g., for the individual’s defense and deliverance, enabling inheritance of the heavenly kingdom [e.g., 2 Tim 4:18] and for the Lord’s servant on mission, enabling a successful service [e.g., 2 Tim 4:17]) (Talbert, p. 71).
In Hebrews…”getting in” (the new covenant family) is grounded in God’s gracious election while “staying in” is grounded in God’s enablement of fidelity… (Whitlark, p. 72).
One “gets in” by grace and one “stays in” by grace (Martin p. 120). “In this third religious pattern, human obedience may be required, but it is divinely enabled…” (Martin, p. 120, footnote 3).
In Luke’s writings, that a person begins the process of discipleship does not necessarily mean that the person will remain on that pathway to its completion (Arberbury, p. 156).
James participates in Paul’s full-orbed understanding of grace and uniquely articulates the necessity of a gospel-empowered life from beginning to end for the realization of eschatological salvation (Whitlark, p. 215).
As newborn babies crave the nourishing milk they need for growth, so the Petrine community is exhorted to long for that which will “nourish” them and grow them into salvation…into eschatological salvation (Barbarick, p. 222).
Nowhere else in the NT do we find a more carefully argued presentation of the contours of salvation than in 2 Pet 1:3-11 (Hafemann, p. 240).
The promises of eschatological deliverance in the future are conditioned on increasing obedience in the present (2 Pet 1:8ab, 10b, 11) (Hafemann, p. 261).
Entrance into the eternal kingdom of Christ is at stake in the believer’s continuing obedience (Hafemann, p. 261).
The Revelation to John believes the major motivation for religious faithfulness is certain knowledge of future judgment with its rewards and punishments (Talbert, p. 282).
As can be seen by these quotes, many times the authors discuss E. P. Sander’s concepts of “getting in” and of “staying in.” Like Sanders, they argue that obedience is necessary to stay in God’s covenant community and that failure is possible. Unlike Sanders, they stress that the grace of God, that is, divine enablement, is that which makes obedience possible.
JOTGES readers may wonder what happened to John’s Gospel. Well, there is one chapter in this book which somewhat touches on salvation from John’s Gospel. The eighth chapter, by Talbert, is entitled, “The Fourth Gospel’s Soteriology between New Birth and Resurrection” (pp. 176-91). Yet the chapter only covers John 15:1-17 and the concept of mutual abiding, the believer abiding in Jesus, and Jesus abiding in the believer. Talbert’s point is that “it is divine grace that enables the covenants to function appropriately in the period between the disciples’ new birth and their departure from this life” (p. 191). In other words, God enables the believer to abide in Christ and if he does so he will ultimately obtain eschatological salvation. There is no discussion of John 3:16; 5:24, 39-40; 6:28-29, 35, 37, 39, 47; 11:25-27; or 20:30-31.
This book shows the current state of scholarship concerning soteriology. One has the chance to get in by grace and if he does, he then has the chance to stay in by grace. God enables. If the believer utilizes God’s enablement until death, he will persevere in obedience and gain eschatological salvation. If not, he will end up in the lake of fire, not because that is what God wanted, but because the believer failed to utilize the enablement God gave him.
The view articulated in this book is a sort of hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism.
This book is not for laypeople. It is written by scholars for scholars. I would recommend this book for pastors and parachurch workers who are well trained in Greek and in theology. But let the buyer beware that the faith-alone-in-Christ-alone message is not found in this book.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society