Wayne Grudem is an evangelical theologian, and a smart man—I have read stuff from him before in the course of research—but this quotation of his on the idea of theological disagreements blows my mind (and not in a good way):
“I’m thankful that believers who differ on the issue of baptism can still have wonderful fellowship with one another across denominational lines, and can have respect for each other’s sincerely held views. I certainly do not put the question of baptism in the same category as the denial of penal substitutionary atonement…because that seems to me to be a denial of the heart of the Gospel…But differing views on baptism…do not have serious consequences of that type.”
So basically, accepting a view of the atonement that centers on penal substitution is more important than baptism. What?
It has become a trendy thing for Christians to want to distance themselves from penal substitutionary atonement, which I think is unfortunate, because the Bible definitely and repeatedly affirms that Jesus Christ was punished in our place as part of the atonement (John 1.29, Romans 3.21-26, 2 Corinthians 5.21, Galatians 3.13, Hebrews 9.29, 1 Peter 2.24).
However, I am aware of nowhere in the New Testament where possessing the single, correct understanding of the atonement is tied to an individual’s salvation or the forgiveness of sins (which is a good thing, because although Christ’s substitution for us was part of the atonement, the Bible indicates that there was more to it than just that). On the other hand, there are plenty of scriptures that link baptism to salvation and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38, Acts 22.16, Romans 6.1-4, 1 Peter 3.21).
I think Grudem is mixed up on this one.