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Title: The doctrine of the Christian life in the teaching of Dr. John Owen (1616-83)
Author: Ferguson, Sinclair Buchanan
ISNI:       0000 0001 3460 3457
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1979
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This study arose out of an obvious hiatus in the history of the development of reformed theology. Studies of the doctrine of the Christian life in Calvin's thought have already been made. But no such study seems to have existed of a major English Puritan's view of this extensive and important area of dogmatic and pastoral theology. Chapter one. The life of John Owen is sketched from his birth in 1616 until his death in 1683. Chapter two. It is necessary to preface the exposition of Owen's teaching proper with an introduction to the Covenant Theology milieu in which his own views took root. Chapter three. Owen's understanding of the beginnings of Christian experience cannot be properly assessed without recourse to his view of man in sin. His teaching on regeneration and conversion is grounded in his view of the total depravity of man by the fall. Chapter four. The first great privilege of the inauguration of grace, namely fellowship with God. Owen consequently gives lengthy consideration to the doctrine of assurance, and in that context his own contribution to the seventeenth century discussion on the 'seal of the Spirit' is examined. Chapter five. The obverse of fellowship with God is the renunciation of fellowship with sin. It is axiomatic in reformed theology that the grace of God overcomes the dominion but does not banish Presence of sin in the believer. The corollaries of this, the reality of temptation and the necessity of mortification are therefore studied in some detail. Chapter six. The context of Christian growth is the fellowship of the saints in the church. In any study of the Christian life, some place must be given to considering how the individual Christian is related to other Christians. Chapter seven. In the context of hts spiritual experience, the Christian is supported by a number of infra-structures. Four of these are singled out for reference because of the attention which Owen devoted to them: Scripture, Sacraments, Prayer, and Ministry. These are the primary, and largely public means of the Christian's edification. Chapter eight. Owen, like many of his contemporaries, was conscious of the dangers besetting the pilgrim on his journey through life to the heavenly Jerusalem. There lies before him the danger of apostasy, and Owen dispenses for it the antidote of spiritual-mindedness, and the biblical teaching on the perseverance of the saints. But he does not lose sight of the goal. In this life the goal is Christian character, a life lived to the glory and honour of God. In the world to come, the goal set before the believer is that of eternal glory. The measure to which the Christian has seen that 'far-off goal1 is itself the measure of the quality of the Christian life he may be expected to live. Chapter nine. Owen's own theology purported to be biblical, reformed, and evangelical. In order to provide constructive criticism of his teaching, this theological tradition, in its various dimensions, has been employed as the foil against which Owen's teaching on the Christian life should be discussed. His merits speak for themselves. Here criticism is offered of Owen's basic formulation and employment of the covenant idea, and in its outworking in the key ideas of the Christian life, the ordo salutis, union with Christ, sanctification, and grace. It is concluded that Owen's great strength - his concentration on subjective experience - proved to be an Achilles' heel when it was not moulded by a right understanding of the relationship between the objective and subjective aspects of the gospel revealed in the Covenant of Grace.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available