JOHN OWENS' CLASSIC QUESTION
John Owen - (1616 - 1683)
Puritan theologian committed to the congregational way of church government. Educated at Queens College, Oxford, he became sympathetic to the cause of Puritanism within the Established Church. After his ordination he saw himself first as a Presbyterian Puritan, but after careful study he adopted the congregational way and became its chief exponent for the rest of his life. He was a parish minister at Fordham and then Coggeshall in Essex from 1643 to 1651. During this period he accompanied Cromwell with the armies of Parliament first to Scotland and then to Ireland. In 1651 he was appointed dean of Christ Church, Oxford, a position which allowed him to seek to train godly and learned ministers for the Cromwellian state church, of which he was the senior architect. He added to this duty that of the vice-chancellorship of the university from 1652 to 1657. The 1650ís saw Owen very influential not only at Oxford but also in matters of state in London. His commitment to congregational church government is seen in the part he played in the writing of the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order (1658). With the change of political and religious direction in England in 1660, Owen was ejected from Christ Church and became a Nonconformist. He felt unable to minister within the national church, for not only did he reject episcopacy but he also rejected the idea of a written liturgy. For the next twenty years he was a leader of English Nonconformity and a pastor of a congregational church in London.
He is remembered today not primarily because of his important career as an educator and statesman but because of his theological writings, which were numerous and spread over forty years. He wrote on the major themes of high Calvinism (particular redemption, divine election, etc.), of traditional Catholic orthodoxy (Trinitarianism and Christology), of church polity, and of the pursuit of holiness. While he has great depth and insight as a writer, his style is heavy and his thoughts are complex.
Bibliography. P. Toon, God's Statesman, the Life of Dr. John 0wen and (ed.).
The Correspondence of Dr. John Owen
For Whom Did Christ Die?
"The Father Imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for either:
1. All the sins of all men.
2. All the sins of some men,or
3. Some of the sins of all men
In which case it may be said:
a. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so none are saved.
b. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
c. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?
You answer, Because of unbelief. I ask is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!"
Dr. John Owen, Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell and Vice Chancellor of Oxford University