Nathan A. Finn

Historian, Theologian, Teacher, Preacher

Monthly Archive: November 2012



November 2012



Andrew Fuller Finn: What’s in a Name?

Written by , Posted in History

The Finn Family ca. November 2011

The Finn family continues to grow. Leah is currently expecting our fourth Finnling, who is due the last week of April 2013. A few days ago, we were delighted to learn that the baby is a little boy. We’ve decided that his name is Andrew Fuller Finn. We intend to call him Fuller. We love this name. In fact, it holds special significance to us for several reasons.

Andrew is a name that has been used in my family for three generations of Finn men. Fuller will represent the fourth. My paternal grandfather is Robert Andrew Finn Sr. (Our son Baxter’s middle name is Robert, in honor of his great-grandfather.) My father is Robert Andrew Finn Jr. (Dad goes by Andy.) I’m Nathan Andrew Finn. And now our son will be Andrew Fuller Finn.

Andrew is also a name that appears in Leah’s family tree. Her younger brother is Andrew Joel Phillips. He has the unusual distinction in our families of actually going by the name Andrew. So as you can see, Andrew has significance for both families. But what about the name Fuller?

Andrew Fuller

As many regular readers of this blog will know, Andrew Fuller (1754–1815) was a Baptist pastor, theologian, and missions advocate from an earlier era. Fuller has had a significant impact on my own spiritual life, ministry priorities, and theological convictions. You can read more about him in this short article written by my friend Steve Weaver. Southeastern Seminary students know that I call Andrew Fuller my “all-time favorite Baptist.” Like Fuller, I want to be a faithful pastor, a thoughtful theologian, and a tireless advocate of global missions.

Andrew Fuller has become the focus of much of my scholarly attention. I’m currently teaching a class at Southeastern on his theology, which, along with my class on the History and Theology of Revival, has become one of my two all-time favorite classes at SEBTS. I’m also writing several articles and book chapters related to Fuller that will begin coming out in 2013, Lord willing. I have also agreed to edit two volumes in the forthcoming critical edition of the Works of Andrew Fuller.

As Leah and I were considering names for our little boy, we thought of many different possibilities, some better than others. Fine names came and went, but Fuller was always near the top of our list. With Andrew being a longstanding family name, and with Andrew Fuller being such an important part of my professional life, we finally came to the conviction that the best name in the world had been obvious all along. As Leah remarked, she’s always thought that if he was a little boy, he’d be a Fuller.

Please join us in praying that little Andrew Fuller Finn will continue to be healthy, that his wonderful mother will continue to be healthy throughout her pregnancy, and that he (and the other Finnlings) will love and serve the Lord from a young age. We praise the Lord for little Fuller and look forward to meeting him in a few months, Lord willing.




November 2012



On Defining and Dating Puritanism

Written by , Posted in Books, History, Theology

Among the perennial issues for historians is defining and dating the puritan movement(s) in the English-speaking world. In terms of definitions and boundary markers, social historians tend to focus upon diversity of belief and practice, while historical theologians tend to emphasize theological commonalities. Social historians frequently argue that groups such as Quakers and Levellers should be considered puritans, broadly speaking. Some historical theologians at least suggest that puritans not named Richard Baxter were more uniformly Calvinistic than was the case. (Fortunately, recent scholarship has refined the latter interpretation. See, for example, Jonathan Moore’s fine study of the puritan John Preston, who was Amyraldian.)

In terms of dating, some scholars date the puritan movements from the 1550s to the restoration of the monarchy in 1662. This is when the public puritan project to reform the Church of England failed. Others date the end of puritanism to the Act of Toleration in 1689. This is when Dissenters became the more common term for Protestants outside the Church of England, including reformed Protestants. Still others push puritanism into the early eighteenth century in Britain and as late as the mid-eighteenth century in New England. This is especially common among historians of colonial religion in New England.

I’ve recently begun reading A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, a 1000+ page work of historical and devotional theology written by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. I’m not far enough into the book to assess its overall merits, though I have fairly high hopes based upon initial skimming and published endorsements. However, the authors’ introduction does a fine job of briefly summarizing the various debates among historians. While I take a somewhat broader view of puritanism than they do (though I’m more of a historical theologian, my doctoral mentor is a social historian), I resonate with their views on the question of dating puritanism.

Whatever the year, Puritanism has special reference to issues of church and state, theology and worship in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After 1689, all parties to the great conflicts of earlier decades laid down their weapons and began peacefully to coexist, more or less.

This is important because although Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was a Puritan in theology and piety and is sometimes regarded as the last of the Puritans, he was not a Puritan in the strict historical sense…. The Marrow men and Seceders in Scotland, the “Old Princeton” worthies, Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847), Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892), John Charles Ryle (1816–1900), Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981), James I. Packer (b. 1926), an other luminaries, although deeply sympathetic to the Puritans, cannot be regarded as Puritans in the sense that the Westminster divines were. If they were, Puritanism would lose any specific historical meaning.

See Joel R. Beeke & Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Reformation Heritage, 2012), p. 4.



November 2012



The Christian Calendar, Advent, and Waiting for the King

Written by , Posted in History, Ministry, SBC, Theology

Baptists don’t normally get very excited about the Christian Calendar. In fact, many Baptists, unless reared in a different denominational tradition, haven’t even heard that there is a Christian Calendar. Some of this is related to our roots in the English Separatist tradition, a movement which shared the general Puritan mistrust of any practice that smacked of popery. Some of it is denominational ingenuity. Southern Baptists in particular developed their own denominational calendar that included keydates from the historic Christian Calendar (Christmas and Easter), but also highlighted cultural holidays (Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving) and significant denominational emphases (Lottie Moon, state missions offerings, the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, etc.). Being Southern Baptist was an all-encompassing experience for much of the 20th century, and that experience was organized around the denominational calendar.

Those Baptist churches that did acknowledge the Christian Calendar, at least among Southern Baptists, tended to be the types of downtown First Baptist Churches where the pastor wears a robe, the choir processes and recesses, the doxology is sung every service, and the pipe organ rivaled some concert halls. Not exactly the stuff of your average smallish rural church or suburban megachurch.

For readers who are interested in learning more about the basics of the Christian Calendar, I’d recommend checking out John Shore’s Huffington Post article “The Sacredness of Time: Understanding the Christian Calendar.” It is a wonderful, brief introduction to a practice observed by many of our brothers and sisters in other Christian traditions. You may decide that that the Christian Calendar is not for you and your church. But at least you’ll have some idea about what your Episcopal Aunt Gertrude means when she mentions Trinity Sunday and why in the world we sing about the “Twelve Days of Christmas” during the Advent Season.

Speaking of Advent, Timothy Paul Jones has written an outstanding blog post titled “Advent: The Lost Art of Celebrating the Waiting.” Jones write,

Even on this side of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there is brokenness in our world that no cart full of Black Friday bargains can fix; there is hunger in our souls that no plateful of pumpkin custard can fill; there is twistedness in our hearts that no terrestrial hand can touch. “The whole creation,” the apostle Paul declared, “has been groaning together for redemption.” In Advent, Christians embrace this groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now. In Advent, believers proclaim that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come.

Poignant stuff here. I’d encourage you to read the entire post.

(Note: This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier post first published on December 3, 2010. Image credit.)



November 2012



Chronology of Jonathan Edwards’s Life and Writings

Written by , Posted in History, Links, Ministry, Theology

Last week at Between the Times, I blogged about “Jonathan Edwards for the Digital Age.” I noted some of the amazing electronic resources related to Edwards, virtually all of which are online. I concluded that post with the following words:

There has never been a better time to study Jonathan Edwards. Whether you’re electronically savvy or you prefer print books, whether you’re a web-surfer or a traditional library patron, you can find an endless supply of important writings by and about the great pastor, theologian, and revivalist from Northampton. Start reading.

From time to time, I hope to point readers to some of my favorite online Edwards resources. One of them “A Chronology of Edwards’s Life and Writings,” which is compiled by Kenneth Minkema and is available online at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. Minkema serves as the Executive Editor and director of the Works of Jonathan Edwards and Jonathan Edwards Center. The chronology, which weighs in at an extensive twenty-seven PDF pages, is an invaluable resource for those who teach and write on Jonathan Edwards.

(Image credit)



November 2012



Andrew Fuller and His Friends: Audio Now Available

Written by , Posted in Books, Conferences, History, Ministry, Missions, Theology

Back in September, I participated in a conference at Southern Seminary on “Andrew Fuller and His Friends.” The conference was sponsored by the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at SBTS. The conference audio is now available at the Fuller Center website.

The following list of lectures is copied from the Fuller Center website. I’ve removed all of the hyperlinks to the audio files with the exception of my own lecture, which was was on Robert Hall Sr. I argued that Hall was a key mentor for Fuller through his personal encouragement, theological advice, and published writings, especially Help to Zion’s Travellers (1781). The latter was Hall’s Edwardsian broadside against hyper-Calvinism that predated Fuller’s far more famous Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation by four years.

I’d highly recommend you head over to the Fuller Center website and listen to all of the lectures. Lord willing, the proceedings of this conference will be published by Pickwick Publishers in a volume to be edited by Michael Haykin.




Andrew Fuller and His Friends

 September 21-22, 2012

 Friday, September 21

8:30am  Plenary Session 1: Nathan Finn “Robert Hall, Sr.: Andrew Fuller’s Mentor” (MP3)

10:00am Plenary Session 2: Grant Gordon “John Ryland, Jr.: Andrew Fuller’s Biographer”

11:30am Plenary Session 3: Peter Morden “Recording a Friendship: Andrew Fuller and his Memoir of Samuel Pearce”

3:00pm–4:20pm Parallel Sessions

  • Dustin Benge “When a Friend Dies:  A Funeral Sermon for Andrew Fuller by Joseph Ivimey”
  • Jason Duesing “Breaking the Strong Attachment to Home and Country:  The Influence of a Friend of Fuller’s Friends on Adoniram Judson”
  • Roger Duke “A Rhetorical Reading of Andrew Fuller’s Sermon, ‘The Nature and Importance of an Intimate Knowledge of Divine Truth’”
  • Chris Holmes “‘Not the Exact Model of an Orator’:  J. W. Morris’s Assessment of Andrew Fuller’s Preaching Ministry”
  • David Pitman “Fuller’s Forgotten Friends:  A Sketch of Andrew Fuller’s Non-ministerial Friends”
  • Dave Schrock “James Haldane and the Particular Efficacy of Global Missions”
  • Jeff Straub “William Button:  Fuller’s Publisher”

8:30pm Plenary Session 4: Kirk Wellum “Caleb Evans, Andrew Fuller, and theological education”

Saturday, September 22

8:30am Plenary Session 5: Peter Beck “Trans-Atlantic friendships: Andrew Fuller and the New Divinity Men”

10:00am Plenary Session 6: Ryan West Promoting Baptist Missions: The Print Ministry of Andrew Fuller and William Ward”

11:30 am Plenary Session 7: Sam Masters “ ‘Holding the ropes’: Andrew Fuller and William Carey”