Andrew Fuller and Southeastern Seminary: A Tradition

As regularly readers probably know, the major emphasis in my scholarly research right now is Andrew Fuller and his circle of friends in the Northamptonshire Association, ca. 1760–1820. In 2007, I wrote an article for the Midwestern Journal of Theology on Robert Hall Sr., a British Baptist pastor who mentored Fuller, William Carey, and their friends. In 2011, that article was reprinted as the introduction to a new edition of Hall’s Help to Zion’s Travellers (BorderStone Press), which I edited. This volume was one of the first broadsides against hyper-Calvinism published by a British Particular Baptist. Hall’s views influenced Fuller’s own arguments in the latter’s important treatise The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation (1785; second edition published 1801). I’ve also published one journal article on William Carey, with a second essay currently under review with a journal.

More recently, I’ve turned my attention to Fuller himself. Lord willing, in the next couple of years I will publish a journal article and a couple of book chapters related to Fuller (they’ve all been written and are forthcoming). I’m also editing two volumes in the critical edition of The Works of Andrew Fuller. I hope to complete the first volume, a critical edition of Fuller’s Strictures on Sandemanianism (first published 1810), by the end of 2014. If you’ve never heard of the Sandemanians (or Glasites) before, check out this Wikipedia entry. Other possible Fuller-related projects are still in the planning stages.

In studying Fuller’s life and thought, I’m actually standing in a long line of Southeastern Seminary scholars that dates to our earliest years. Pope Duncan taught church history at Southeastern from 1953–1960 before serving as the president of two colleges in South Georgia (God’s Country!) and Stetson University in Central Florida. Duncan wrote a Th.D. dissertation at Southern Seminary in 1917 titled “The Influence of Andrew Fuller on Calvinism.”  John Eddins, who taught systematic theology at Southeastern from 1957–1993, also wrote his Th.D. dissertation on Fuller at SBTS. The title is “Andrew Fuller’s Theology of Grace.” James Tull taught systematic and historical theology at Southeastern Seminary from 1960–1985. Though his influential dissertation at Columbia University was on Landmark ecclesiology, Tull wrote a chapter on Andrew Fuller’s theology for his book Shapers of Baptist Thought (Judson Press, 1972; reprint, Mercer University Press, 1984).

Though he is better known for his tenure as president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Phil Roberts taught evangelism at Southeastern from 1990–1994. During that time, he wrote the chapter on Andrew Fuller in Baptist Theologians (Broadman, 1990), edited by Timothy George and David Dockery. That chapter was reprinted in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (B&H Academic, 2001), a condensed version of the earlier book also edited by George and Dockery. Fuller also factored heavily into Roberts’s dissertation at the Free University of Amsterdam, which was published as Continuity and Change: London Calvinistic Baptists and the Evangelical Revival, 1760–1820 (Richard Owen Roberts, 1989).

The tradition has been renewed in recent years. In 2007, my friend and sometime doctoral classmate Paul Brewster defended a widely praised dissertation at SEBTS titled “Andrew Fuller (1754-1815): Model Baptist Pastor-Theologian.” Brewster’s thesis was revised into a monograph titled Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian (B&H Academic, 2010). You can read my review of Brewster’s excellent book at the Credo Magazine website. Brewster, himself a model pastor-theologian in Indiana, has also published journal articles on village preaching by Fuller and other British Baptists and Fuller’s theological method. He also has written several forthcoming articles and book chapters related to Fuller. In addition to his pastoral duties, Brewster teaches for Liberty University and serves as a Fellow of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, a think-tank affiliated with Southern Seminary.

I’m also excited about current and prospective doctoral students at Southeastern who are interested in Fuller and related topics. One of our current Ph.D. students, who completed his M.Div. at a sister seminary, intends to write a dissertation on Fuller’s understanding of preaching. Two prospective doctoral students, one from SEBTS and one from a sister seminary, are applying into our doctoral program this fall with the intention of studying topics related to Fuller’s thought and legacy. Lord willing, these fellows and others will continue the six-decade tradition of Southeastern Seminary faculty and doctoral students studying the life and thought of Andrew Fuller.

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