Some contemporary Baptists (Medley and Kharlamov) argue that the conservative Baptists in North America need to incorporate the concept of deification into their traditional soteriology because they failed to present the continual and transforming nature of salvation. However, many leading conservative Baptist systematicians (Garrett, Erickson, Demarest, and Keathley) demonstrate their concern about a possible pantheistic connotation of the doctrine of deification. Unlike the conservative Baptists, I argue for the necessity of working with the concept of deification in the traditional Baptist soteriology. The concept of deification is not something foreign to the Baptist tradition because Keach, Gill, Spurgeon, and Maclaren already demonstrated the patristic exchange formula ‘God became man so that man may become like God’. They considered the hypostatic union of two natures in Christ as the source and model of becoming like God or Christ, the true Image of God. Christians are called to be united with the glorified humanity of Christ by their adopted sonship and participation in the divine nature. Christification speaks of the real transformation of Christians in terms of a change in the mode of existence, not in nature. The four Baptists taught that Christian could participate in the communicable attributes of God, but not in the essence or incommunicable attributes of God. Therefore, Christification never produces another God-Man. Conservative Baptists do not have to compromise their traditional commitment to sola scriptura and the forensic nature of justification in their employment of the theme of deification. This paper concludes with four suggestions for contemporary Baptist discussions on deification.
I argue that the bishop of Hippo taught sola fide, declarative justification, and the divine acceptance of sinners based on faith alone although he presented these pre-Reformational thoughts with strong emphasis on the necessity of growth in holiness (sanctification). Victorinus and Ambrosiaster already taught a Reformational doctrine of justification prior to Augustine in the fourthcentury Latin Christianity. Therefore, the argument that sola fide and justification as an event did not exist before the sixteenth-century Reformation, and these thoughts were foreign to Augustine is not tenable. For Augustine, justification includes imputed righteousness by Christ’s work, which can be appreciated by faith alone and inherent righteousness assisted by the Holy Spirit at the same time of forgiveness in justification. Nonetheless, the sole ground of the divine acceptance does not depend on inherent righteousness, which is real and to increase. The salvation of the confessing thief and the remaining sinfulness of humanity after justification show Augustine that faith alone is the ground of God’s acceptance of sinners. Augustine’s relatively less frequent discussion of sola fide and declarative justification may be due to his need to reject the antinomian abusers who appealed to the Pauline understanding of justification even when they do not have any intentional commitment to holiness after their confessions. Augustine’s teaching on double righteousness shows considerable theological affinity with Bucer and Calvin who are accustomed to speak of justification in terms of double righteousness. Following Augustine, both Bucer and Calvin speak of the inseparability and simultaneity of justification and sanctification. Like Augustine, Bucer also maintains a conceptual, not categorical, distinction between the two graces of God in their doctrines of justification.