Sep 11, 2010

Andrew Fuller and Fullerism

The following quotes and comments are from an article by Gery Schmidt titled "The Theological Foundation of the Modern Missionary Movement"

"...In coming to examine the works of Andrew Fuller, the extracts which follow will demonstrate beyond doubt that Fuller did not possess the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Fuller's works are characterized by confusion and subtlety. Indeed, pervading much of his theology is an unfounded and unwarranted paranoia of antinomianism. And it is this fear of antinomianism, I am convinced, what led Fuller to pervert the good news of Jesus Christ. We shall consider first some extracts from Fuller's three sermons on justification. In his first sermon he notes the following:

Yet, to speak of sins as being pardoned before they are repented of, or even committed, is not only to maintain that on which the Scriptures are silent, but to contradict the current language of their testimony. If all our sins, past, present, and to come, were actually forgiven, either when Christ laid down his -life, or even on our first believing, why did David speak of 'confessing his transgression," and of God "forgiving his iniquity?" (Works, vol.1, p. 282).

In these words Fuller manifests several grave errors concerning salvation. First, Fuller's words represent a denial of the finished work of Christ on the cross. In fact, Fuller renders Christ's work on the cross as having accomplished nothing with respect to the forgiveness of the sins of God's people. It is clear that Fuller believes forgiveness of sin does not actually transpire until confession and repentance take place. Such a view denies that any real taking away of sin, or remission, took place when Christ died (cf. Jn. 1:29; Heb. 9:22). Secondly, since Fuller essentially declared forgiveness depends upon the confession and repentance of a sinner, the grace of God is thereby destroyed, and the dogma of salvation by works to set up in its place. Fuller turns confession and repentance into meritorious works which earn forgiveness. His appeal to the words of David are utterly inappropriate and evince he did not understand justification at all. The confessions the children of God make respecting their sins relate to their walk with God, and not to their judicial standing in his sight. The former has reference solely to the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and cannot, therefore, have any reference to the matter of justification.

Further, godly confession and repentance are the fruits of saving grace and not the procuring cause of it. Fuller errs greatly in that he confounds sanctification with justification.

In his third sermon on justification, Fuller states the following:

The acts and deeds of one may affect others, but can in no case, become actually theirs, or be so transferred as to render that justice which would otherwise have been of grace. The imputation of our sins to Christ, and of his righteousness to us, does not consist in a transfer of either the one or the other, except in their effects (Works, vol. 1, p. 290).

To this quote two more concerning the same subject, from two letters written to Dr. Ryland, must be added:

Finally, imputation ought not to be confounded with transfer ...In its figurative sense as applied to justification, it is righteousness itself that is imputed, but its effects only are transferred. So also in respect of sin, sin itself is the object of imputation; but neither this nor guilt is strictly speaking transferred, for neither of them is a transferable object. As all that is transferred in the imputation of righteousness is its beneficial effects, so all that is transferred in the imputation of is its penal effects... But perhaps, Mr. B. considers "a real and proper imputation of our sins to Christ," by which he seems to mean their being literally transferred to him, as essential to this doctrine; and if so, I acknowledge I do not at present believe it (Works, vol. 2, pp.705, 706).

In these statements Fuller manifests grave errors concerning imputation. The most glaring heresy Fuller manifests is his denial of a literal imputation of both the elects' sin to Christ, and of Christ's righteousness to the elect. The imputation respecting sin and righteousness are in Fuller's thinking merely figurative. He makes it quite clear that neither sin nor righteousness actually becomes the possession of such to whom they are imputed. And yet Fuller, having denied a literal imputation of both sin and righteousness, proceeds to argue that there is a literal imputation (or transfer) of the effects of sin and righteousness! How a literal imputation of an effect can proceed upon a figurative imputation of a cause is beyond explanation. Fuller's sentiments lead inevitably to the conclusion that Christians enter heaven without any righteousness, and with their sins still intact. Hence, Christians cannot be said to possess any real justification in the sight of God. A figurative imputation of sin and righteousness cannot lead to a literal claim to heaven. Fuller's view of imputation can only lead to a surreal, shadowy, and phantasmic atonement wherein Christ's work on the cross is portrayed as no more than a stage-play, and where no real and true transaction respecting sin and righteousness can be said to have been accomplished.

The next statements made by Fuller also come from a letter written to Dr.Ryland:

Were I asked concerning the gospel, when it is introduced into a country, For whom was it sent? I should answer, if I had respect only to the revealed word of God.. It is sent for men, not as elect, or as non-elect, but as sinners. In like manner, concerning the death of Christ. If I speak of it irrespective of the purpose of the Father and the Son as to its objects as who is to be saved by it, merely referring to what it is in itself sufficient for, and declared in the gospel to be adapted to, it was for sinners as sinners... (Works, vol. 2, PP- 706, 707)

Here Fuller manifests his heretical notions concerning the atonement and its relationship to missionary endeavor. The foundation for Fuller's concept of missionary enterprise is an abstract view of the atonement, one which has no reference to purpose or design. In other words, what we have here is an indefinite atonement. Directly connected to this abstract atonement is Fuller's idea that the gospel is to be preached indiscriminately to all, regardless of election or reprobation. But in both these points Fuller errs greatly. First, Fuller has no Scriptural warrant to speak of the atonement irrespective of a design. Indeed, the atonement of Christ is a design, one which is intended solely for the salvation of the elect. Texts like Matthew 1:21 leave no doubt concerning the purpose of the incarnation, and the design was that Jesus "should save his people from their sins." The sufficiency of the atonement extends no further than its efficiency. The statement "sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect" has no Scriptural foundation.

Secondly, Fuller has no Scriptural warrant stating that God's word declares the gospel is sent unto sinners as sinners, and not as elect or reprobate. It in true that the good news is to be proclaimed unto sinners, but it is not true that this is done regardless of election or reprobation. The fact is, God's word states in no uncertain terms that the preaching of the good news is aimed at elect sinners. In Acts 2.39 Peter declares that the promise of salvation (cf. 2:21) is restricted to "as many as the Lord our God will call to himself." The apostle Paul did not suffer from the illusions of Fuller, for he states in 2 Timothy 2:10 that he endured all he did in his ministry, not for the sake of anyone and everyone, but "for the sake of the elect." And why was the Lord Jesus Christ himself only concerned for such who were "weary and heavy-laden" (cf. Mt 11:28)? Clearly, the reprobate will never be weary and heavy-laden over their sins. These few examples show forth that true gospel preaching is discriminately aimed at the elect, and not simply at sinners as sinners, as Fuller imagines.

We move on next to consider some statements Fuller makes in his magnum opus, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. In this work Fuller labors to establish that faith is a duty incumbent upon all, whether elect or reprobate. In attempting to prove his point, Fuller establishes the doctrine of salvation by works and virtually denies total depravity. The following examples suffice to prove this.

Faith In Jesus Christ, even that which is accompanied with salvation, is there (N.T.- ed.) constantly held up as the duty of all to whom the gospel is preached ... Though the Gospel, strictly speaking, is not a law, but a message of pure grace; yet virtually requires obedience and such an obedience as includes saving faith... If faith in Christ be the duty of the ungodly, It must of course follow that every sinner, whatever be his character, is completely warranted to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation on of his soul (Works, vol. 2, pp. 345, 352).

Here again, Fuller is utterly confused concerning the doctrine of salvation. In advocating his main tenet, namely, that faith is a duty to be performed, Fuller is guilty of neonomianism. He rightly notes the gospel is a message of pure grace only to condemn himself in the same breath arguing it requires obedience. How little Fuller seemed to understand that obedience is the fruit of grace and not its cause. He clearly turns faith into a salvation-earning work. Now salvation consists of many parts such as election, justification, regeneration, faith, repentance, and so on. And salvation, from beginning to end, is of God and not man; and it is all of pure grace. Thus, since faith is a part of salvation, and is therefore of pure grace, how then can it be a duty?

Yet Fuller, in making faith the duty of all, detaches faith from the doctrine, of salvation, and consequently, removes it from the realm of grace. Further, in maintaining that every sinner is warranted to trust in Christ, Fuller evinces that every sinner has the ability to exercise saving faith, something the Scriptures declare impossible. Only the elect will ever receive the gift of faith, and thus the reprobate can never exercise what they not only do not possess, but also what God will never give to them. Fuller's sentiments represent a denial of total depravity. Elsewhere in his works, he notes the following concerning total -depravity- "If by total Mr. B. means unable in every respect, I grant I do not think man is, in that sense, totally inable to believe in Christ" (Works, vol. 2, P. 458). Here Fuller flatly denies total depravity, which denial harmonizes with his concept of faith being a duty incumbent upon all."

Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions