Edwardsean and Fullerite Scholarship to Date

October 5, 2003 marked the tercentennial of the birth of Jonathan Edwards. Since the publication of Perry Miller’s intellectual biography in 1949, there has been a rediscovery of Edwards in North America and Britain. Today, exhaustive reading of secondary sources in the field of Edwards is virtually an impossible endeavor. The most significant sources contributing to contemporary Edwardsean scholarship are those from the Yale University Press edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards. These volumes incorporate previously published and unpublished writing from Edwards’ manuscripts and the editor’s critical introductory essay. Perry Miller served as a general editor until 1963. His successor, John E. Smith, served until 1991, when general editorship then passed to Harry S. Stout. Prior to the Yale edition, scholars and general readers had to rely on nineteenth century editions and reprints, most notably the edition of Edward Hickman reproduced by the Banner of Truth. There are numerous interpretations of Edwards’ writing, oftentimes contradictory in their opinions. In the view of some, Edwards is a saint, and their treatments approach in hagiography while others see him as a dreadful intellectual who preached hell, fire and brimstone. Edwards is perceived as philosopher, theologian, scientist, apologist, revivalist and a leader of a contemporary charismatic movement. Edwards’ theology of the aesthetic has been celebrated, and his views on freedom, sin, and his soteriology has been examined from various perspectives as well as the renowned theocentric lifestyle that derives from his theology.
In comparison to the depth of Edwardsean scholarship, the secondary sources for Andrew Fuller are, however, very much more limited. As a matter of fact, attaining a comprehensive understanding in this field can be accomplished within a relatively short period of time. Michael Haykin, a general editor of forthcoming critical edition of Fuller’s Works observes this scholarly neglect when he says, “C.H. Spurgeon once described Fuller as the ‘greatest theologian’ of his century. Yet, it is amazing that such an important figure in the history of British Evangelicalism has been largely overlooked by historians of this movement since Spurgeon’s day.” Although there are a number of journal articles, chapters in larger books, and unpublished doctoral dissertations, the few published book-length secondary treatments on Fuller exist solely in those from recent decades. Among the monographs, Peter Morden’s Offering Christ to the World (2003) is the most carefully researched work on the life of Fuller. However, insofar as Fuller’s thoughts are concerned, the most thoroughgoing theological treatment was perhaps done in 1963 by E.F. Clipsham, until it was recently superseded by collective essays edited by Haykin in 2004. Nonetheless, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in Fuller by the evangelical Baptists in North America and Britain. In North America, through the Founder Journal and recent initiatives in Calvinistic Baptist life taken by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—along with other seminaries in North America interest in Fuller has been revitalized. In Britain, the Paternoster Press, through their new series on Studies in Baptist History and Thought, has published some outstanding scholarly resources covering all facets of Baptist history and theology. In the series thus far, volumes 1, 6, 7, 8 and 11 include material on Fuller. The Reformation Today magazine, which adheres to London Confession of Faith (1689), also contains helpful journal articles on Fuller. However, the most notable evidence of this is the current undertaking to reproduce the modern critical editions of the entire corpus of Andrew Fuller’s work through Paternoster Press. This project, estimated to be completed in 2012, is expected to comprise at least fourteen volumes.
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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Edwardsean and Fullerite Scholarship to Date

  1. Steve Weaver

    Welcome aboard, Chris! Good overview of primary and secondary sources for Edwards and Fuller! I look forward to your contributions about Edwards influence upon Fuller. That is a great research topic, I’m sure you’re thrilled to have the opportunity.

  2. Chris Chun

    Steve,

    Thank you for your kind words – they are much appreciated. I’m glad to be part of these discussions.

    Kindly,
    Chris

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