Andrew Fuller on the extent of the atonement: A surrejoinder to Drs. Allen and Caner

By Michael A.G. Haykin

I suspect it is a sign of Andrew Fuller’s greatness as a theologian that his thought should occasion differing interpretations. Because of this, the blogosphere (let alone other social media like Facebook and Twitter) is not the best of places to carry on the sort of discussion that drills down into the depths of his thought. Such a conversation is best carried on in face-to-face discussions or through such media as monographs and academic articles.

This being said, let me make one final response to Drs David Allen and Emir Caner regarding their interpretation of Fuller. First of all, let me say that I am very thankful for the thoughtful response of Dr David Allen (“Gaining a Fuller Understanding: Responding to Dr. Michael Haykin”, SBC Today) to my earlier comments on an article by Dr Emir Caner that included a discussion of Andrew Fuller’s Calvinist soteriology (“Historical Southern Baptist Soteriology, pt. 2/3: What Were the Early SBC Leaders’ View of Salvation?”, SBC Today. He is obviously drawing upon his extensive article on “The Atonement: Limited or Universal” in his and Steve W. Lemke, eds., Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2010), 61–107, where he actually refers to Fuller on three occasions. This background to Allen’s remarks may well explain elements of his reply to me: he perceives there to be theological and biblical issues at stake and he is eager to recruit Fuller to defend his position on those theological and biblical issues.

I, on the other hand, am approaching Fuller as an historian: I am not uninterested in the theological and biblical issues, but my main approach to Fuller is as an historian. I really want to understand what he is saying and why and how his historical context shapes his interaction with Scripture. To that end, in addition to reading Fuller’s thoughts, secondary sources beyond Peter Morden’s fine study of Fuller—Offering Christ to the World (Paternoster, 2003), which Caner quotes at second-hand from a piece by Allen—like Gerald L. Priest, “Andrew Fuller, Hyper-Calvinism, and the ‘Modern Question’ ” in my ed., ‘At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word’: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Paternoster, 2004), 43–73; Chris Chun, The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller (Brill, 2012), 142–182; and especially Geoffrey F. Nuttall, “Northamptonshire and The Modern Question: A Turning-Point in Eighteenth-Century Dissent”, Journal of Theological Studies, ns, 16 (1965), 101–123 are absolutely vital to read before pronouncing any sort of magisterial interpretation of Fuller on the convoluted issue of the atonement. For my own take, on this question, see “Particular Redemption in the Writings of Andrew Fuller (1754–1815)” in David Bebbington, ed., The Gospel in the World: International Baptist Studies (Studies in Baptist History and Thought, vol.1; Carlisle, Cumbria/Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Press, 2002), 107–128. So: I am writing as an historian, not as a biblical theologian. I am not trying to elucidate what the New Testament says about this issue, but understand what Fuller believed. The question of whether he was right or wrong is another issue as is the question of whether Southern Baptists are his heirs etc.

To read my 4+ page response in its entirety, please download the full PDF here.


Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.