Ethelbert William Bullinger, that indefatigable dispensational theologian and voluminous writer, was born on December 15, 1837, and lived until June 6, 1913. He married Emma Dobson, who was 13 years his senior. His career in the ministry spanned nearly 30 years in the Church of England while also being a clerical secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society for nearly 50 years. On top of that, he was editor for 20 years of a monthly journal called Things to Come, which had as a trustee his good friend Sir Robert Anderson. He’s known for not only his Companion Bible, which was brilliant, but also classic books like The Witness of the Stars, Great Cloud of Witnesses, Number in Scripture, and his Commentary on Revelation. A thorough examination of his life and teachings may be found at the Grace History Project (lessons 67-69, plus 76-81).
“Bullingerism” was a phrase coined for his early teachings that the church today, the Body of Christ, began mid-Acts to which we wholeheartedly agree. Many of his early works, such as The Mystery, were solidly mid-Acts. He was also the first, as far as we know, to advocate that water baptism should not be practiced today, which is a mainstream view amongst mid-Acts dispensationalists. It’s clear through his writings that Bullinger came to realize from Paul’s letters the all-sufficient work of the cross and our complete identification through salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. For example, here’s a quote from his 1902 book, which is unfortunately not available here, called The Church Epistles:
“As to baptism, there is the same remarkable reference to ‘as many as were baptized,’ and while in Romans we are taught the dogmatic truth as to our death with Christ, expressed ‘in the likeness of His death,’ the old man being put off having been ‘crucified with Christ;’ here (in Gal. 3:27) the baptism with the Spirit is referred to whereby Christ, the New Man is put on, i.e., that those, who are risen with Christ ‘in the likeness of His resurrection,’ wherein they are to exist (Rom. 6:5) stand covered with Him and His righteousness as with a garment. No longer reckoned as being in the first Adam, but standing before God on new ground, resurrection ground, ‘in Christ,’ having thus ‘put on Christ’ not by baptism in water, but by burial and resurrection with Christ. When the exhortation is given to ‘put on Christ’ it can mean only that we are to reckon ourselves as having died and risen in Christ. How else can it be? Truth, to be practical, must be practicable. In what way can we mortify the flesh? Not by controlling it. Controlling is not killing, and the word rendered ‘mortify’ means to put to death. By what act, then, can we put the flesh to death, except by reckoning ourselves as having died, according to Rom. 6:11, and by knowing that our old man was crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6)? This is the knowledge which is given in Romans and the practical outcome of it is seen in Gal. 2:20.”
Bullinger was certainly a "Bible corrector" and was sometimes accused of being a “hyperdispensationalist” or an “ultradispensationalist” most likely due to his change in position shortly before his death that the church began after Acts 28 to which we would respectfully disagree. The only known work in which Bullinger advocated his new Acts 28 position is The Foundations of Dispensational Truth, which we’ve reluctantly made available here. If you’re going to read that, we would suggest you also read Pastor Ross’s reactions to Bullinger’s various points in lessons 76-81 over at the Grace History Project. We don't feel that all of his works should be dismissed or invalidated because of an errant conclusion he made toward the end of his life. He was many things but he was certainly a tireless student of His Word who refused to be bound by the traditions of men.
Also - if you love E.W., you should treat yourself to the new book by Pastor Bryan Ross, "Rightly Dividing E.W. Bullinger: Assessing His Life, Ministry, and Impact." I loved it. You can buy a copy in print or download it onto your Kindle.
- Joel, FBC Librarian