John Owen is rightly considered the Prince of Theologians. His voluminous work is still read with great profit by many people today, myself included. He is regarded as one of the most influential English Puritans. As a pastor, he longed for the glory of Christ to take root in people’s lives. As a writer, he continues to encourage us toward discipline and communion with God. His high view of God and deep theological convictions flowed naturally into practical application and a zeal for personal holiness.
In Owen on the Christian Life Living For the Glory of God In Christ, Matthew Barret and Michael Haykin guide us through this seventeenth-century theologian’s life and doctrine giving us a glimpse into the majestic vision that served as a foundation for his approach to the Christian life—the glory of God in Christ. Barret and Haykin in chapter one, trace the history of John Owen. In chapter two, they look at Owen’s perspective on living by the Scripture, while in chapter three they consider what it means to commune with the Trinity. Chapter four explores the glory of God in Christ. Chapters five, six, and seven looks at Owen’s view of the atonement, salvation, justification, and Christian assurance. Chapter eight considers the indwelling Spirit, mortification of sin, and the power of prayer. Chapter nine looks at living the Christian life as the Church under the State. Chapter nine takes a journey through the legacy of Owen. The book concludes by looking at Owen as a Pastor to Pilgrims.
At the start of this year, I made it a goal to read three books of Owen slowly and digest them. This has been a very profitable exercise for me. Owen’s work is deep but eminently practical. To some people, deep means that it goes to go beyond what they already know. To others to go deep means to discuss theological topics by using theological terms. The more I grow as a theologian, the more I see the need for deep theological study and reflection. This growth has also led me to see that deep theological study and reflection leads to practical theology that impacts the way I live. Owen was a master of this. He studied and mined the depths of Christian theology through his writing but is still read today because his theology was not dry but eminently helpful and practical. In other words, Owen’s study of theology led to his practice of theology. This is on full display in Owen in the Christian Life.
Some Christians today teach that we should only focus on the practical to the neglect of deep theological study and reflection. The problem is that the parts of the New Testament are very deep and require a great deal of study to understand. Some biblical-theological topics are so deep that we’ll never understand them completely until we’re glorified because our understanding and knowledge is limited. Even so, we should continue studying because the Christian life is one where we are called to watch our doctrine and life.
When our Christian life is divorced from doctrine, our walk with God will suffer. We will wilt under the pressure of our culture resulting in capitulating to the culture. This will also lead to a feeling based Christian life instead of a faith grounded in the truth of God’s Word. This is why God calls us to a life of watching our life and doctrine. No one that I know of models this as well as John Owen. Owen’s rich theology impacted his life and continues to impact people’s lives today because his was a life that was affected by what he believed.
Owen on the Christian Life is a very helpful book. If you’ve never read Owen before I encourage you to pick up this book. Reading this book will help you to get to know the Prince of Theologians. For those already acquainted with Owen, this study will further whet your appetite to continue to read his work and profit from his teaching. I highly recommend Owen on the Christian Life. Reading this book will introduce you to one of the greatest minds the Church of the Lord Jesus has ever known. Plus it will help you to understand Owen’s important contribution to the Church on a wide variety of topics such as the Trinity, prayer, communion with God, and, in particular, sanctification. I encourage you to pick up a copy of Owen on the Christian Life for in reading it you’ll learn about why his life and his theology is so important for Christian’s today as they walk before the face of God.