Over the past two generations, an ever-multiplying number of scholars have written hundreds of essays, dissertations, and monographs devoted to the life and legacy of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). The crowning achievement of this Edwards Renaissance is the critical edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, published in twenty-six volumes by Yale University Press. These volumes, plus an additional forty-six electronic volumes, are available online through the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale.
A smaller, yet related movement has thrived in the last three decades among scholars interested in Andrew Fuller (1754-1815). Fuller was the most influential English Baptist pastor-theologian during the final years of the "long" eighteenth century (ca. 1688-1815). New scholarly studies of Fuller are constantly being published. The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary sponsors an annual conference, publishes a scholarly journal (The Andrew Fuller Review), and has generated several forthcoming collections of essays under contract with various publishers. Much like Edwards, a sixteen-volume critical edition of The Works of Andrew Fuller is currently in preparation to be published by Walter de Gruyter, under the general editorship of Michael Haykin.
Scholars have long argued that the key theological influence upon Fuller was Edwards. The latter's works were read widely in England during the eighteenth century. Fuller frequently cited Edwards in his own writings, corresponded regularly with the New Divinity theologians who further developed Edwards's thought, and never hesitated to admit his indebtedness to the New England divine. Yet while scholars have universally acknowledged the Edwardsian flavor of Fuller's theology and ministry, until now no one has done the hard work of demonstrating the extent of Fuller's literary dependence upon Edwards. This is why Chris Chun's The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller is such a signal contribution to the literature.
Chun, who teaches church history at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, has published scholarship on both Edwards and Fuller. The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller revises his doctoral dissertation at the University of St. Andrews. In the volume, Chun demonstrates exactly how Fuller engaged Edwards. After a brief historiographical introduction, Chun divides his study into seven meaty chapters that address various theological topics wherein Fuller drew upon Edwards.
Chapters one and two focus upon the best-known intersection between Edwards and Fuller: the nature of free will. Chun summarizes Edwards's views in Freedom of the Will and then demonstrates how Fuller appropriated Edwards's thought in his own polemic against High Calvinism. While this is to some degree well-worn ground by scholars, Chun is the first to demonstrate in meticulous detail which passages from Edwards most influenced Fuller. Through Fuller's Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Edwards's distinction between moral and natural ability became commonplace among English Calvinistic Baptists.
Chapters three, four, and five examine Fuller's use of Edwards's eschatology and his emphasis on the affections. Fuller embraced the optimistic postmillennialism of Edwards, which again, has been widely acknowledged by scholars. But Chun demonstrates that Fuller was so influenced by Edwards that he even adopted an idiosyncratic interpretation of the slaying of the witnesses in Rev11 that was rejected by other postmillennialists of the era. In terms of religious affections, Fuller embraced Edwards's views and put them to use in his own polemic against Sandemanianism. The Sandemanians argued that intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel is the essence of saving faith. Like Edwards, Fuller argued that biblical faith is a repenting faith that results in a life of redirected affections toward God.
Chapters six and seven turn their attention to the most controversial elements of Fuller's theology: his understanding of the atonement and justification. Chun agrees with scholars who emphasize greater continuity than discontinuity between Edwards's understanding of the atonement and the moral government view of the New Divinity theologians. Though Fuller embraced governmental language and was accused of being an advocate of New Divinity, he was actually much closer to Edwards, who had also allowed for a governmental aspect within a primarily penal substitutionary paradigm. Chun also makes the case that Fuller's views of the extent of the atonement are in continuity with those of Edwards. Both men combined a universal sufficiency with a particular efficacy, the limitation being in God's covenantal design rather than in the nature of propitiation itself. In this construal of the atonement, both theologians were closer to the Synod of Dordt than Reformed Orthodox thinkers like William Perkins and Theodore Beza.
In terms of justification, Fuller embraced Edwards's view that justification and imputation were forensic, but representative rather than actual. Christ did not literally become a sinner, and we do not literally become righteous. Rather, God punishes Christ as though he were a sinner and relates to believers as though they were righteous. The language is metaphorical, and for both men, the central soteriological motif is union with Christ. Edwards has been criticized by some later Reformed thinkers for downplaying forensic justification. Not surprisingly, Fuller engaged in an extended controversy with his contemporary Abraham Booth over that very issue. Yet again, Fuller was thoroughly Edwardsian in his views.
It is often the case in historical theology that scholars sense facts and trends that everyone assumes but nobody has thoroughly demonstrated. This is most certainly the case with Jonathan Edwards's influence upon Andrew Fuller. Chris Chun has done scholars a tremendous service by demonstrating exactly how Fuller appropriated Edwards into his own thought and used him as a theological resource in the debates of his own generation. In Edwards, Fuller found an ally in arguing for the type of evangelical Calvinism that gave rise to the modern missions movement in the English-speaking world. The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller is historical theology at its finest. It will undoubtedly become one of the key scholarly monographs in the ongoing renaissance of Fuller Studies.