“To Devote Ourselves To The Blessed Trinity”: Andrew Fuller And The Defense Of “Trinitarian Communities” -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 17:2 (Summer 2013)
Article: “To Devote Ourselves To The Blessed Trinity”: Andrew Fuller And The Defense Of “Trinitarian Communities”
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


“To Devote Ourselves To The Blessed Trinity”: Andrew Fuller And The Defense Of “Trinitarian Communities”1

Michael A. G. Haykin

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Haykin is the author of many books, including “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller As an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005), and The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007), and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011).

Introduction

It is a curious fact that although the concept of the encyclopedia has its origins within the ideological matrix of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, when it comes to conservative expressions of theology, this era was not really conducive to encyclopedic or systematic summaries of the Christian Faith. In this regard, a work like John Gill’s (1697-1771) A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1769-1770) was definitely out of sync with conservative theological trends. The other great Baptist theologian of this era, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), was more typical. Though he was entirely capable of drawing up a systematic theology, he resisted doing so until it was too late. When he finally began to write something in this vein, he had about sixteen months to live, and he never got beyond writing down his thoughts on the prolegomena of theology, the being of God, the necessity of revelation along with the inspiration of the Bible, and the doctrine of the Trinity.2 Fuller was well aware of his era’s aversion to systematizing theology, for as he noted in a sermon he gave at the annual meeting of the Baptist churches of the Northamptonshire Association in 1796: “systematic divinity … has been of late years much decried,” and that because such a way of going about doing theology was regarded as “the mark of a contracted mind, and the grand obstruction to free inquiry.”3 In other words, the Enlightenment exaltation of rational inquiry unfettered by such external authorities as divine Writ or holy Church had made a significant imprint upon the world of Christian writing. Fuller went on to note, however, that only in the realm of religious thought was such an attitude acceptable. In other spheres of thought and action, such as philosophy, agricul...

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