The Alabama Baptist and Dortian Calvinism: Response 2

[Note: This morning over at the Pulpit Magazine blog, Dr. John MacArthur answers the question, “Is the Doctrine of Election Unfair?“]

Continuing the response to Dr. Garrett’s treatment of Dortian Calvinism, I would like to turn your attention this morning to a short article by Dr. Michael Haykin, distinguished professor of early church history, Baptist history, and Reformed spirituality, in which he addresses Hyper-Calvinism and Andrew Fuller. Before we get to Dr. Haykin’s article, I want to provide the context and content from Dr. Garrett’s articles.

1. On Hyper-Calvinism, Dr. Garrett wrote:

“When the learned John Gill in London was teaching the tenets of Dort and some of the teachings of Hyper-Calvinism, the Particular Baptists were in a deplorable state of spiritual decline and apathy. It took a casting off of Hyper-Calvinism and an overhauling of Dortian Calvinism to bring Particular Baptists into the Evangelical Revival and to the point of leading the modern Protestant missionary movement.

Moreover it has been the evangelical or missionary form of Calvinism that in the providence of God through William Carey and Andrew Fuller and Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Leadley Dagg propelled Baptists from a tiny minority sect to a major Christian denomination. Hence the teachings of Dort do matter inasmuch as there are effects of such teachings.” (source)

Dr. Haykin’s response:

a. In the eighteenth century Gill’s teaching was not uniform throughout the English Baptist denomination.

b. To fix the blame chiefly on Gill and his “Dortian Calvinism” is an over-simplification.

i. There were ongoing legal restrictions, which effectively confined Baptist preaching to the meeting house

ii. The matter of their isolation

iii. A loss of identity

2. On Andrew Fuller, Dr. Garrett wrote:

“Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who strongly advocated repentance and faith as duties, supported only two of Dortian Calvinism’s five points limited atonement and irresistible grace.” (source)

Dr. Haykin’s response: (emphasis mine)

These remarks are very curious and have no basis in Fuller’s works. Fuller was a five-point Calvinist through and through. Yes, he did argue, against Hyper-Calvinism, that repentance and faith were duties. Hyper-Calvinists had argued that sinners are unable to do anything spiritually good, and thus are under no obligation to exercise faith in Christ. They supported their argument by reference to such texts as John 6:44 (“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”) and 1 Corinthians 2:14 (“the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”). The inability of which these passages speak, Fuller contended in response, is a moral inability, which is rooted in the sinful disposition of the heart. Men and women refuse to come to Christ because of their aversion to him. They fail to understand the gospel and the things of the Spirit because they lack the means by which such matters are understood, namely, the presence of the indwelling Spirit. And they lack the Spirit because their hearts are closed to God.

(. . .) Hyper-Calvinists argued that if repentance and faith are ascribed by the Scriptures to the work of the Spirit, then “they cannot be duties required of sinners.” As Fuller points out, though, the force of this objection is dependent upon the supposition that “we do not stand in need of the Holy Spirit to enable us to comply with our duty.” What is amazing about this supposition is that Arminianism assumes the same. For the Arminian, because faith is commanded of sinners by God, then they must be able to believe without the irresistible drawing of the Spirit. Similarly, the Hyper-Calvinist reasons that since faith is wrought by the Spirit it cannot be an act of obedience. The truth of the matter, however, is that “we need the influence of the Holy Spirit to enable us to do our duty” and that “repentance and faith, therefore, may be duties, notwithstanding their being the gifts of God.”

Haykin’s article reveals an alternative understanding that incorporates a broader ranger of culpability for the decline of Baptists in the 18th century than Hyper-Calvinism. Additionally, Haykin provides concise excerpts both from primary and secondary sources to dispel the myth that Andrew Fuller was not a five-point Calvinist. I encourage you to read the entire article, mine the footnotes, and consider the sources provided. One of the great things about discussions like this is that it teaches us that studying history matters. I look forward to learning more about Baptists in the 17th and 18th century as a result of this discussion.

[On a lighter note, Justin Taylor reminded us yesterday that there is a difference between a Hyper-Calvinist and a Calvinist who is hyper. I thought this was great (not just because I took the photo).]

Explore posts in the same categories: Calvinism, Church History, Responses, SBC

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