John Owen (theologian)

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John Owen
John Owen by John Greenhill.jpg
Born
John Owen

1616
DiedAugust 1683 (aged 6667)
Occupation Theologian, pastor, academic administrator
Notable work
Communion with God, The Mortification of Sin, The Divine Power of the Gospel, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
Spouse(s)Mary Rooke
Theological work
Era17th century
Tradition or movement Nonconformist Puritan Reformed Theology
Notable ideasIndividual and distinct worship of each of the persons of the Trinity as found in his book, Communion with God; his undisputed work on the extent and purpose of Christ's atonement in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

John Owen (1616 24 August 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.

Nonconformist Protestant Christians in Wales and England who did not follow the Church of England

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians, plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.

University of Oxford university in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly called 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Contents

He was briefly a member of parliament for the University, sitting in the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 to 1655.

A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the voters to a parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title. Member of Congress is an equivalent term in other jurisdictions.

Oxford University was a university constituency electing two members to the British House of Commons, from 1603 to 1950. The last two members to represent Oxford University when it was abolished were A. P. Herbert and Arthur Salter.

First Protectorate Parliament

The First Protectorate Parliament was summoned by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell under the terms of the Instrument of Government. It sat for one term from 3 September 1654 until 22 January 1655 with William Lenthall as the Speaker of the House.

Early life

Of Welsh descent, Owen was born at Stadhampton in Oxfordshire, and was educated at Queen's College, Oxford (B.A. 1632, M.A. 1635); at the time the college was noted, according to Thomas Fuller, for its metaphysicians. A Puritan by upbringing, in 1637 Owen was driven from Oxford by Laud's new statutes, and became chaplain and tutor in the family of Sir Robert Dormer and then in that of Lord Lovelace. At the outbreak of the English Civil War he sided with the parliament, and thus lost both his place and the prospects of succeeding to his Welsh Royalist uncle's fortune. For a while he lived in Charterhouse Yard, troubled by religious questions. His doubts were removed by a sermon preached by a stranger in the church of St Mary Aldermanbury where he had gone intending to hear Edmund Calamy the Elder. His first publication, The Display of Arminianism (synergism) (1642), was a spirited defence of Calvinism (monergism). It was dedicated to the committee of religion, and gained him the living of Fordham in Essex, from which a "scandalous minister" had been ejected. At Fordham he remained engrossed in the work of his parish and writing only The Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished until 1646, when, the old incumbent dying, the presentation lapsed to the patron, who gave it to someone else. [1]

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Stadhampton village and civil parish in South Oxfordshire, England

Stadhampton is a village and civil parish about 5 miles (8 km) north of Wallingford, in South Oxfordshire, England. Stadhampton village is on the A329 road and close to the River Thame.

Oxfordshire County of England

Oxfordshire is a county in South East England. The ceremonial county borders Warwickshire to the north-west, Northamptonshire to the north-east, Buckinghamshire to the east, Berkshire to the south, Wiltshire to the south-west and Gloucestershire to the west.

In 1644, Owen married Mary Rooke (d. 1675). The couple had 11 children, ten of whom died in infancy. One daughter survived to adulthood, married, and shortly thereafter died of consumption. Eighteen months later, he married Dorothy D'Oyley, the wealthy widow of Thomas D'Oyley, a member of the landlords' family at Stadhampton. [2]

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Career

On 29 April he preached before the Long Parliament. In this sermon, and in his Country Essay for the Practice of Church Government, which he appended to it, his tendency to break away from Presbyterianism to the Independent or Congregational system is seen. Like John Milton, he saw little to choose between "new presbyter" and "old priest." [1]

Long Parliament English Parliament which lasted from 1640 until 1660

The Long Parliament was an English Parliament which lasted from 1640 until 1660. It followed the fiasco of the Short Parliament which had convened for only three weeks during the spring of 1640, and which in turn had followed an 11-year parliamentary absence. In September 1640, King Charles I issued writs summoning a parliament to convene on 3 November 1640. He intended it to pass financial bills, a step made necessary by the costs of the Bishops' Wars in Scotland. The Long Parliament received its name from the fact that, by Act of Parliament, it stipulated it could be dissolved only with agreement of the members; and, those members did not agree to its dissolution until 16 March 1660, after the English Civil War and near the close of the Interregnum.

Presbyterianism Branch of Protestant Christianity in which the church is governed by presbyters (elders)

Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.

Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or "autonomous". Its first articulation in writing is the Cambridge Platform of 1648 in New England. Among those major Protestant Christian traditions that employ congregationalism are those Congregational churches known by the Congregationalist name that descended from the Independent Reformed wing of the Anglo-American Puritan movement of the 17th century, Quakerism, the Baptist churches, as well as the Congregational Methodist Church. More recent generations have witnessed also a growing number of nondenominational churches, which are most often congregationalist in their governance.

He became pastor at Coggeshall in Essex, with a large influx of Flemish tradesmen. His adoption of Congregational principles did not affect his theological position, and in 1647 he again argued against Arminianism in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, which drew him into long debate with Richard Baxter. He made the friendship of Fairfax while the latter was besieging Colchester, and addressed the army there against religious persecution. He was chosen to preach to parliament on the day after the execution of King Charles I, and succeeded in fulfilling his task without directly mentioning that event. [1]

Coggeshall town in Essex, Britain

Coggeshall is a small town of 4,727 residents in Essex, England, between Colchester and Braintree on the Roman road of Stane Street, and intersected by the River Blackwater. Although Coggeshall has a market and is a market town, the vast majority of the residents, some of whom are third or fourth generation Coggeshall, insist on referring to it as a village. The population increased to 4,727 at the 2011 Census. It is known for its almost 300 listed buildings and formerly extensive antique trade. Many local businesses, such as the White Hart Hotel and the Chapel Inn, have been established for hundreds of years. A market has been run every week on Market Hill since 1256, when a charter to do so was granted by Henry III.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

Richard Baxter English Puritan church leader, poet, and hymn-writer

Richard Baxter was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymnodist, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen". After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist Presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the Nonconformists, spending time in prison. His views on justification and sanctification are somewhat controversial and unconventional within the Calvinist tradition because his teachings seem, to some, to undermine salvation by faith, in that he emphasizes the necessity of repentance and faithfulness.

Another sermon preached on 29 April, a plea for sincerity of religion in high places, won not only the thanks of parliament but the friendship of Oliver Cromwell, who took Owen to Ireland as his chaplain, that he might regulate the affairs of Trinity College, Dublin. He pleaded with the House of Commons for the religious needs of Ireland as some years earlier he had pleaded for those of Wales. In 1650 he accompanied Cromwell on his Scottish campaign. In March 1651, Cromwell, as Chancellor of Oxford University, gave him the deanery of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, [3] [4] and made him Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in September 1652; [5] in both offices he succeeded the Presbyterian, Edward Reynolds. [1]

During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into "the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology." Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina (1653), an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God (1657), Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance (1654), his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656), an introspective and analytic work; Schism (1657), one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation (1658), an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity. [1]

John Owen in a frontispiece. JohnOwenFrontispiece.jpg
John Owen in a frontispiece.

Political life

Besides his academic and literary concerns, Owen was continually involved in affairs of state. In 1651, on 24 October (after Worcester), he preached the thanksgiving sermon before parliament. In 1652 he sat on a council to consider the condition of Protestantism in Ireland. In October 1653 he was one of several ministers whom Cromwell summoned to a consultation as to church union. In December, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Oxford University. In the First Protectorate Parliament of 1654 he sat, for a short time, as the sole member of parliament for Oxford University, and, with Baxter, was placed on the committee for settling the "fundamentals" necessary for the toleration promised in the Instrument of Government. In the same year he was chairman of a committee on Scottish Church affairs. He was, too, one of the Triers, and appears to have behaved with kindness and moderation in that capacity. As vice-chancellor he acted with readiness and spirit when a Royalist rising in Wiltshire broke out in 1655; his adherence to Cromwell, however, was by no means slavish, for he drew up, at the request of Desborough and Pride, a petition against his receiving the kingship. Thus, when Richard Cromwell succeeded his father as chancellor, Owen lost his vice-chancellorship. In 1658 he took a leading part in the conference of Independents which drew up the Savoy Declaration (the doctrinal standard of Congregationalism which was based upon the Westminster Confession of Faith). [1]

On Oliver Cromwell's death in 1658, Owen joined the Wallingford House party, and though he denied any share in the deposition of Richard Cromwell, he preferred the idea of a simple republic to that of a protectorate. He assisted in the restoration of the Rump Parliament, and, when George Monck began his march into England, Owen, in the name of the Independent churches, to which Monck was supposed to belong, and who were anxious about his intentions, wrote to dissuade him. In March 1660, the Presbyterian party being uppermost, Owen was deprived of his deanery, which was given back to Reynolds. He retired to Stadham, where he wrote various controversial and theological works, in particular his laborious Theologoumena Pantodapa, a history of the rise and progress of theology. The respect in which many of the authorities held his intellectual eminence won him an immunity denied to other Nonconformists. In 1661 the celebrated Fiat Lux, a work by the Franciscan friar John Vincent Cane, was published; in it, the oneness and beauty of Roman Catholicism are contrasted with the confusion and multiplicity of Protestant sects. At Clarendon's request Owen answered this in 1662 in his Animadversions; and so great was the success of that work that he was offered preferment if he would conform. Owen's condition was liberty to all who disagreed in doctrine with the Church of England; nothing therefore came of the negotiation. [6]

In 1663, Owen was invited by the Congregational churches in Boston, Massachusetts, to become their minister, but declined. The Conventicle and Five Mile Acts drove him to London; and in 1666, after the Great Fire, he, like other leading Nonconformist ministers, set up a room for public service and gathered a congregation, composed chiefly of the old Commonwealth officers. [7] An 1862 source says "this congregation was distinguished more for the rank and worth of its members than for its numbers" and gives as examples John Desborough, the soldier who married Cromwell's sister; James Berry (Major-General), another soldier; Charles Fleetwood, the soldier who married Cromwell's daughter; Bridget Bendish, Fleetwood's stepdaughter; Sir John Hartopp and his wife, Fleetwood's daughter Elizabeth; Mary, Lady Abney of Abney Park, next door neighbour to the Fleetwoods; and Lady Haversham. [8]

Meanwhile, Owen was incessantly writing; and in 1667 he published his Catechism, which led to a proposal, "more acute than diplomatic", from Baxter for union. Various papers passed, and after a year the attempt was closed by the following laconical note from Owen: "I am still a well-wisher to these mathematics." It was now, too, that he published the first part of his vast work upon the Epistle to the Hebrews, together with his Practical Exposition upon Psalm 130 (1668) and his searching book on Indwelling Sin. [7]

In 1669, Owen wrote a spirited remonstrance to the Congregationalists in New England, who, under the influence of Presbyterianism, had shown themselves persecutors. At home, too, he was busy in the same cause. In 1670 Samuel Parker's Ecclesiastical Polity attacked the Nonconformists with clumsy intolerance. Owen answered him (Truth and Innocence Vindicated); Parker replied offensively. Then Andrew Marvell finally disposed of Parker with banter and satire in The Rehearsal Transposed. Owen himself produced a tract On the Trinity (1669), and Christian Love and Peace (1672). [7]

On the revival of the Conventicle Acts in 1670, Owen was appointed to draw up a paper of reasons which was submitted to the House of Lords in protest. In this or the following year Harvard College invited him to become its president; he received similar invitations from some of the Dutch universities. When King Charles II issued his Declaration of Indulgence in 1672, Owen drew up an address of thanks; Owen was one of the first preachers at the weekly lectures which the Independents and Presbyterians jointly held at Princes' Hall in Broad Street. He was respected by many of the nobility, and during 1674 both King Charles II and his brother King James II assured him of their good wishes to the dissenters. Charles gave him 1000 guineas to relieve those on whom the severe laws had pressed, and he was able to procure the release of John Bunyan, whose preaching he admired. In 1674 Owen was attacked by William Sherlock, Dean of St Paul's. From this time until 1680, he was engaged on his ministry and writing. [7] He had Alexander Shields as his amanuensis for a while.

Later life

The chief of these were On Apostasy (1676), a sad account of religion under the Restoration; On the Holy Spirit (1677–78) and The Doctrine of Justification (1677). In 1680, however, Stillingfleet having on 11 May preached his sermon on "The Mischief of Separation," Owen defended the Nonconformists from the charge of schism in his Brief Vindication. Baxter and Howe also answered Stillingfleet, who replied in The Unreasonableness of Separation. Owen again answered this, and then left the controversy to a swarm of eager combatants. From this time to his death he was occupied with continual writing, disturbed only by suffering from kidney stones and asthma, and by the absurd charge of being concerned in the Rye House Plot. His most important work was his Treatise on Evangelical Churches, in which were contained his latest views regarding church government. He died at Ealing, just twenty-one years after he had gone out with so many others on St Bartholomew's day in 1662, and was buried on 4 September 1683 in Bunhill Fields. [7]

Theological influence

The theology of justification as taught by John Owen was used by the Dutch minister Alexander Comrie (1706–74) of Woubrugge in his own polemics against what he saw as Dutch neonomians. Just as Owen, Comrie stresses the point that before God gives faith to the sinner, He looks to the merits of Christ. It is because of the merits of Christ that the sinner receives the gift of faith to believe in Christ for salvation. For Comrie, Owen was a theological authority who he could well use for his own theology of justification by faith.

Works in print

As of 2007, the majority of Owen's voluminous works are still in print:

Secondary works

A number of popular and scholarly analyses of Owen's theology have been published recently, indicating the continued interest in and applicability of his insights. Examples include:

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chisholm 1911, p. 392.
  2. Oliver, Robert W. (2002). John Owen--The Man and His Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: Evangelical Press. p. 35.
  3. Salter, H. E.; Lobel, Mary D., eds. (1954). "Christ Church". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 228–238. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  4. Horn, Joyce M., ed. (1996). "Deans of Christ Church, Oxford". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: volume 8: Bristol, Gloucester, Oxford and Peterborough dioceses. Institute of Historical Research. pp. 80–83. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  5. "Previous Vice-Chancellors". University of Oxford, UK. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  6. Chisholm 1911, pp. 392–393.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Chisholm 1911, p. 393.
  8. Anderson, James (1862). Memorable Women of the Puritan Times. London: Blackie and son. p. 389. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  9. Kevin Giles The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology 0830839658 2012 p.188 "John Owen (1616–1683) is widely recognized as the greatest of the seventeenth-century Puritan theologians. ... A Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, as also of the Person and Satisfaction of Christ (1669).81 In these two works, one of Owen's primary concerns is to establish by appeal to Scripture the preexistence and eternity of the Son.82 He directs most of his arguments to John Biddle, a Socinian who is often called "the father of English Unitarianism" ."

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References

Academic offices
Preceded by
Edward Reynolds
Dean of Christ Church, Oxford
1651–1660
Succeeded by
Edward Reynolds
Preceded by
Daniel Greenwood
Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University
1652–1657
Succeeded by
John Conant