Recent Trends in Andrew Fuller Studies, Part One

December 10, 2012 by Nathan Finn

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Historians have long noted the importance of Andrew Fuller within the Baptist tradition. Baptist history textbooks always discuss Fuller’s rebuttal of hyper-Calvinism and his role, alongside his friend William Carey, in forming the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792. However, until relatively recently, only a few significant works had focused upon Fuller since the turn of the twentieth-century. Over the course of three blog posts, I hope to discuss some recent trends in Andrew Fuller Studies. For the sake of space, I’ve chosen not to discuss works that are focused upon William Carey or the formation/history of the Baptist Missionary Society, since virtually all of them inevitably also treat Fuller to varying degrees.

I’m confident that I’ve missed some key works here and there. Please let me know if this is the case. I’d also love to hear from you if you’re currently writing a thesis or dissertation on Fuller. These blog posts represent a condensed version of a forthcoming historiographical essay that will be published in 2013. That essay will include footnotes and thicker descriptions and analysis of the most important works that are referenced.

A handful of helpful works in Fuller Studies were published during the twentieth century. A steady trickle of writings hit the shelves prior to 1980. Two full biographies were written: Andrew Fuller: Pastor, Theologian, Ropeholder (Carey Press, 1942) by Gilbert Laws and Arthur H. Kirkby’s Andrew Fuller (Independent Press, 1961). Both are now long out-of-print. Significant dissertations included Pope Duncan’s (Southern Seminary, 1917) and John Eddins’s (Southern Seminary, 1958) respective studies of Fuller’s soteriology. ThM theses included Harlice Keown on Andrew Fuller’s preaching (Southern Seminary, 1957) and Edwin Allen Reed’s comparative study of Fuller’s atonement theology with that of John Gill, John Smyth, and Thomas Helwys (Golden Gate Seminary, 1958).

Articles or chapters related to Fuller were published by Kirkby, G.F. Nutthal, Ernest Payne, J. Milner, W.R. Ward, and E.F. Clipsham. Perhaps the most influential articles were a series of four scholarly essays written by Clipsham on “Andrew Fuller and Fullerism” for Baptist Quarterly in 1963–1964. E.A. Payne wrote about Fuller’s role in the famous “Prayer Call” of 1784 in Payne’s 1941 book on the subject. J.A. De Jong discussed Fuller’s postmillennial eschatology in De Jong’s 1970 study of the relationship between millenarianism and missions. Michael Watts discussed Fuller in his 1978 monograph dedicated to Dissenters from the Church of England prior to the French Revolution.

Beginning in the early 1980s, a new generation of scholars began to focus their attention on the life and theology of Andrew Fuller. A spate of fresh dissertations were written in the 1980s, most of which focused on aspects of Fuller’s soteriology or missiology. Noteworthy studies in North America included Doyle Young’s exploration of Fuller’s contributions to the modern missions movement (Southwestern Seminary, 1981), Tom Ascol’s comparative study of the soteriology of Fuller and John Gill (Southwestern Seminary, 1989), and Thomas South’s study of Fuller’s engagement with Sandemanian theology (Mid-America Seminary, 1993). Key British theses included Robert Oliver’s study of the rise of the anti-Fullerite Strict and Particular Baptists (London School of Theology, 1986) and Roger Hayden’s study of evangelical Calvinism at Bristol Baptist Academy in the mid-eighteenth century (University of Keele, 1991).

During the 1980s and 1990s, scholars such as Nuthall, Tom Nettles, Michael Haykin, T.H.S. Elwyn, L.G. Champion, John Steely, Alan Sell, and Phil Roberts published helpful material related to Fuller, mostly in the form of book chapters and journal articles. Other scholars such as David Bebbington, Alan Clifford, D.W. Lovegrove, Timothy George, Bruce Shelley, and James Leo Garrett made note of Fuller’s importance or interacted with the theologian’s thought without writing works dedicated specifically to Fuller. Though not as scholarly, George Ella contributed polemical writings criticizing Fuller’s theology and legacy from a High Calvinist perspective. His key work is Law and Gospel in the Theology of Andrew Fuller (Go Publications, 1996). Martin Lloyd-Jones’s 1967 address on Sandemanianism, which focused heavily on Fuller, was published in an anthology of Lloyd-Jones’s writings on the Puritans and their successors (Banner of Truth, 1996).

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3 Responses to “Recent Trends in Andrew Fuller Studies, Part One”

  1. Dr. Haykin has asked that I do a paper on the controversy between Vidler and Fuller for the conference next year. I have already started doing the prelim research and find it most interesting.

    sdg

    rd

  2. Nathan Finn says:

    Roger,

    You should email Chris Chun at Golden Gate Seminary. Chris is currently working on this very topic. He might be able to point you to some helpful resources as you prepare your paper.

    NAF

  3. Dr. Haykin pointed me in that direction on the git-go. I have already spoken with him and he is most helpful. Got me off in the right direction for sure. Thanks for the head’s up.

    sdg

    rd

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