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2nd Annual Conference of the Andrew Fuller Center: “The English Baptists of the 17th Century”

On August 25-26, 2008 the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies will host its second annual conference on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This year’s conference focuses on the English Baptists of the 17th century. There will be papers presented on the conference’s theme by both established and up and coming historical scholars. For a complete schedule of the conference click here. Conference speakers include R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Malcolm Yarnell, Tom Nettles, Barry Howson, and Austin Walker. For a conference advertisement listing all the speakers for the conference click here.

Everyone can attend. Registration is $80 or $40 for students (includes conference materials, and meals – 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 1 dinner). To attend, please fill out the Registration Form and mail to:

The Andrew Fuller Center Conference
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40280

Online registration for the conference will be available soon. Guest room reservations at the Legacy Center at Southern can be made by calling 877-444-7287 or by going online at Please reference Group ID#35728 when making your reservations.


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Announcement from an Elephant of Kettering Member

I received the following news from Chris Chun, member of The Elephant of Kettering blog:

He has finally submitted his PhD dissertation (260 pages). The thesis is entitled: “The Greatest Instruction Received from Human Writings: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller.” The only thing left is the oral defense (viva) of his thesis, which is scheduled in June of 2008. To add to this great news, he has been appointed professor of Church History at Golden Gate Theological Seminary in San Francisco, CA.

Many congratulations to this excellent up and coming Church historian and Fuller lover!


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Building Bridges? Try Andrew Fuller

As most readers of this blog are likely aware, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministry recently teamed up to cosponsor a major conference on the role of Calvinism in SBC life. The persons behind the conference recognize that there has been a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC in recent years, and that there is evidence this is having a polarizing effect within the convention. They were able to gather over 550 SBC pastors, laymen, and educators in an effort to build bridges between those who hold differing opinions on the value of the Calvinistic resurgence.

One of the many highlights of the Building Bridges Conference was Dr. Daniel Akin’s closing address, “Answering the Call to a Great Commission Resurgence.” Dr. Akin’s final words did a masterful job of summing up the themes which had already been discussed throughout the conference. He let it be known that the Calvinism that was in vogue in Baptist circles when the SBC was formed was an evangelical, missions-minded Calvinism. Far from being a threat to evangelism and missions, it actually acted as an impetus to these important emphases. Dr. Akin reminded his hearers:

“The modern missionary movement was launched by a Baptist. It was also launched by a Calvinist. His name was William Carey. He represents the best and healthiest stream of the Calvinist tradition and one I can enthusiastically embrace. Carey did not receive universal support in his desire to get the gospel to the “heathen” as they were called in his day. There was another tributary of Calvinism that was resolute in its opposition to the aspirations of young William. This type of Calvinism was of no value in Carey’s day. It is of no value in our day. I believe significant headway can be made as we depart from this conference if, in heart and confession, it can be said, I am a “Carey Calvinist.” I am a “Judson Calvinist.” I am a “Spurgeon Calvinist.” I am a Calvinist who embraces with my whole being our Lord’s command to take the gospel across the street and around the world.”

As students of Fuller will recognize, he could also have said, a “Fuller Calvinist.” Each of the men he mentioned would have recognized Fuller’s theology as that which informed their minds, warmed their hearts, and moved them to heroic exertions on behalf of the lost. In fact, Fuller’s name came up quite often in the papers presented at the conference. May God grant that the new-found appreciation for Fuller and his theology sparks a renewal in Southern Baptist life as powerful as that which ensued when he lived and worked among British Particular Baptists.

Paul Brewster

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Andrew Fuller on Natural and Moral Inability

The tenets of both Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism maintain that unregenerate sinners ought not to be required to perform that which they are incapable of doing. Therefore, from the Hyper-Calvinist perspective, preachers must not offer the gospel indiscriminately. They need to first look for those who have the inner warrant to come to Christ for their salvation and then preach to them exclusively, whereas the Arminians maintains that sinners ought not to be required to respond positively to the gospel unless they have the ability to do so.

However, for Fuller this dilemma existed because they did not differentiate the distinctions between natural and moral ability. The natural ability was the basis upon which “heathens” have a duty to respond in faith and repentance. The fact that they have moral inability to do so does not in any way invalidate this duty. If the unregenerate “heathens” rejected the message of the gospel, they would be choosing to do so in accordance with their own desires. Their volition simply reveals who they are, as individuals—whether or not they are reprobate or elect—should they respond positively. In either case, the unregenerate are making choices without outside constraints other than those they themselves impose; that is, their own moral inability. Fuller therefore states, “No man in the world, in his right senses, ever thought of excusing another in unreasonable hatred towards him, merely because his propensities that way were so strong that he could not overcome them. And why should we think of excusing ourselves in our unreasonable and abominable enmity to God”?

Moreover, since God used the preaching of missionaries to the unregenerate as his means of salvation, in Fuller’s thought, he was both logical and coherent in illuminating Carey to thus ensure the obligation of missionaries to offer the gospel to all.

As its secretary, Fuller’s contribution to the formation of the BMS was pre-eminent. The perception of him as “the Rope Holder” of Carey’s ministry in India is also an accurate portrait, but perhaps it was in his capacities as theologian and apologist that Fuller made his most vital contribution to the Protestant missionary movement.

[Excerpt from “A Mainspring of Missionary Thought: Andrew Fuller on Natural and Moral Inability,” American Baptist Quarterly 25, no. 4 (winter, 2006): 348-349.]


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William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and the SBC’s Foreign Mission Board

I am taking a doctoral seminar this semester in the History of Southern Baptist Foreign Missions, 1845-1945. It is one of the last two I am taking before I finish with my coursework and take comprehensive exams (the other seminar is in Post-Nicene Christian Theology). Lord willing, I will be working on my dissertation “full-time” by June.

For the paper in the missions seminar, I am looking at how the SBC’s Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) used William Carey in it’s periodical literature from 1846-1900. So far, I have identified a number of different uses. Sometimes Carey was used as a role model. This typically entails something along the lines of “and just like Carey left the friendly confines of England to work among the heathen of India, so should you be willing to leave our southern Zion and serve God through foreign missions.”

Sometimes Carey was used for educational/inspirational purposes. At least once every other year or so a basic biography of Carey will be recounted in one of the FMB’s three periodicals.

Sometimes the emphasis was more on Krishna Pal than Carey himself, often in the context of showing what happens when missionaries are successful in their preaching of the gospel. Carey’s other accomplishments are also mentioned in this context, but none carry the “magic” of a first convert who goes on to preach the gospel himself.

Many times Carey is mentioned in conjunction with Andrew Fuller (see–this post is appropriate for the blog!), typically in an article recounting the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society and/or the beginning of a missionary movement among Baptists. In this context, Fuller is naturally put forth as a role model for all the Southern Baptists who remain in the USA “holding the ropes” for missionaries through their giving and their prayers.

American Baptists in general (and Southern Baptists in particular) saw their missionary endeavors as a continuation of what was begun by Carey, Fuller, and company. For Southern Baptists at least, these men (and especially Carey) were used in promotional and inspirational literature even more than Adoniram Judson, the first missionary from America (and himself a Baptist). I will try to keep you updated with where the research and final paper eventually take me.

Oh, and if you are wondering, Andrew Fuller is mentioned at least 22 times in FMB journals between 1846-1900. Carey is mentioned around 180 times. In many ways, they were the “poster boys” for Southern Baptist foreign missions.

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Fuller on the Atonement


Fuller, in opposition to the commercial view of the atonement, consistently defines atonement as a substitutionary sacrifice that expressed divine displeasure against sin:

“…displeasure is expressed against transgression…. Thus, in the death of Christ, though he died, ‘the just for the unjust,’ yet God herein expressed his displeasure against sin…” (Works, I:362).

“…if its [atonement] grand object were to express the Divine displeasure against sin, (Rom viii.3), and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the way wherein sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it.” (Works, II:373–74).

It does that, but it does much more than that. The atonement is essential because it appeases the wrath of God against the guilty sinner by the fact that God’s wrath is directed against his substitute, the perfect sacrifice of Christ. God is not merely expressing his displeasure; his displeasure is being appeased in the atonement. The purpose of the atonement was not to reveal the offense but to remove it. Reconciliation is the grand object, yet Fuller states that the object of the atonement is two-fold: “the great ends designed were to express God’s love of righteousness and his abhorrence of unrighteousness; and these ends are answered by the obedience of sufferings of Christ…. But his obedience unto death, which includes both, gloriously answered every end of moral government, and opened a way by which God could honorably, not only pardon the sinner who should believe in Jesus, but bestow upon him eternal life” (Atonement and Justification, pp. 72–73).

Even as he limits total depravity to the moral faculty of man, Fuller restricts atonement to a moral sense, as a crime. “Sin is a debt only in a metaphorical sense; properly speaking, it is a crime, and satisfaction for it requires to be made, not on pecuniary, but on moral principles” (Atonement and Justification, p. 68). When Christ made atonement for sin, he did not resolve a debt, but satisfied the spirit of the law by a public demonstration of divine displeasure with sin.

“The sufferings of Christ in our stead, therefore, are not a punishment inflicted in the ordinary course of distributive justice, but an extraordinary interposition of infinite wisdom and love; not contrary to, but rather above the law—deviating from the letter, but more than preserving the spirit of it. Such, as well as I am able to explain them, are my views of the substitution of Christ” (Atonement and Justification, p. 71).

Fuller refused to consider the atonement in pecuniary terms, as a literal payment of a debt. An exact payment for an exact number of sinners with varying degrees of guilt would be inconsistent with free forgiveness of sin. Sinners are “directed to apply for mercy as supplicants, rather than claimants” (Works, p. 170).

“If the atonement of Christ proceed not on the principle of commercial, but of moral justice, or justice as it relates to crime—it its grand object were to express the Divine displeasure against sin, (Rom. viii.3,) and so to render the exercise of mercy, in all the ways wherein sovereign wisdom should determine to apply it, consistent with righteousness (Rom iii. 25)—if it be in itself equal to the salvation of the whole world, were the whole world to embrace it—and if the peculiarity which attends it consist not in its insufficiency to save more than are saved, but in the sovereignty of it application—no such inconsistency can justly be ascribed to it” (Works, pp. 170–71).

Fuller seems to be expressing a penal satisfaction, but he uses non-penal language, overcompensating for his opposition to a pecuniary sacrifice. He uses, instead governmental, moral expressions which give the overtone of a Grotian atonement. Fuller is reluctant to talk in terms of legal equivalents, but that is what Christ’s atonement provided for—a voluntary payment of a debt. But, of course, it was much more than that. Rolland McCune writes,
“Penal satisfaction recognizes that Jesus’s sufferings were different from that of an ordinary human being, but they were the legal equivalent to the infinite debt that sinners owed. His suffering for sin was a generic one not a numerical one. Suffering must be equal but not necessarily identical. Identical suffering must actually be by the guilty sinner himself. Dabney speaks of a stick of wood and an ingot of gold being subjected to the same fire. One is consumed and the other is melted. So the sufferings of Christ and their effects on Him differ from what they would do to the sinner himself. ‘The infinite dignity of Christ’s person gives to His temporal sufferings a moral value equal to the weight of all the guilt of the world'” (Systematic Theology Notes, p. 149, citing Dabney, p. 505).

Others may have more insight into Fuller’s view of the atonment which I would be most happy to see.

Gerald Priest


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Getting to Know Andrew Fuller . . . and Ourselves

An excellent place to begin reading Fuller is with his letters as compiled in The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller which were edited by our own Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin. After offering a brief biographical sketch, Haykin then gives the actual text of the letters, along with footnotes to describe particular people and events to which Fuller refers and with which the reader may be unaware. As one might expect, there are a number of recurring themes in Fuller’s letters. I’ve noted at least three such themes. These themes include a recognition of his own inadequacies, a sense of dependence upon the Holy Spirit and prayer, and an emphasis on the preciousness of Christ.
The forty-six letters by Andrew Fuller contained in The Armies of the Lamb are not ordered by Dr. Haykin in the chronological order in which they were written. Instead Dr. Haykin seems to have organized the letters in such a way that their content more or less follows the chronology of Fuller’s life. For example, the first two letters included were written in 1798 and the third in 1815 (the year of Fuller’s death), but all three of these letters describe various details relating to Fuller’s own conversion as a young man years earlier.
In the days ahead I would like to explore the spirituality of Andrew Fuller through looking at some of his personal letters. The reading of these letters has hopefully made an impact upon my own spiritual life. I have been convicted by my failure to recognize my own inadequacies, challenged to depend more upon the Holy Spirit and prayer, and encouraged to look to Christ and Him crucified. In the posts which follow I would like for us to see each of these themes in Fuller’s own words while making personal application of these themes to our own lives.

More to come . . .


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