Bishop George Bull's doctrine of justification
George Bull was a key figure in the vanguard of the High Church party who was a staunch defender of trinitarian orthodoxy within the Restoration Church of England; yet, the doctrine of justification described in his earliest scholarly works has met with substantial criticism. Scholars continue to question the orthodoxy of Bishop Bull's views on justification and to condemn the moralism that allegedly pervades his theology.
Bull argued for a forensic understanding of justification from within a covenantal context. His description of the relationship between faith and works restored earlier Augustinian emphases within the Church of England. In the process, he sought to purge the church of error by rejecting excesses intrinsic to both the Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions. His insistence that justification can never be considered sola fide sine operibus , his undisguised anti-Calvinism, and his unrelenting repudiation of the imputation of Christ's alien righteousness in justification made him a lightning rod for controversy, but this project contends that Bishop Bull's rejection of justification by faith is one of nuance and emphasis when examined within the context of the English Reformation.
Chapter 1 provides a brief biographical sketch of Bishop Bull's life and ministry and outlines the methodology of the dissertation. Chapter 2 provides an exegesis and analysis of Bull's earliest scholarly publications. Chapter 3 sheds light on the content and character of the theological debates that shaped Anglican views on justification antecedent to the Restoration era. In addition to the formularies of the Church of England, this chapter contrasts Bull's thought with the teachings of a representative group of sixteenth-century English divines including Thomas Cranmer, William Tyndale, Robert Barnes, Hugh Latimer, John Hooper, and John Jewel.
Chapter 4 examines Bull's teachings in contrast with those of a representative group of seventeenth-century divines who remained within the established Church of England. That group includes Richard Hooker, John Davenant, William Forbes, William Hammond, and Jeremy Taylor. Chapter 5 concludes the study and evaluates the strength of allegations that Bull was a theological innovator whose doctrine of justification deviated from the teachings of earlier English Protestants.