Tag Archives: John Owen

Communion with Christ

I’m sure we have  heard that all men naturally have an insatiable desire to search for something to satisfy their soul, which in observing the world,  appears to be true. However, not everyone goes about their search in the same way. One person might fix themselves on one certain end, such as a relationship, or even religion. Another might pursue some end without really knowing what it is they seek. They might start down one path with the aim of satisfying their soul, but then become discontent, only to take up a new object that might bring relief. Such is the argument that John Owen makes in his work Communion with God (a fascinating work wherein Owen argues that true communion with God is one that involves all three persons of the God-head, by thinking upon their distinct roles and turning our affections toward the Father, Son, and Spirit). In one particular section, Owen attempts to address both parties, those who are fixed on an end, and those who seek satisfaction without any idea of where it might be found. He writes of Christ,

Behold here a fit object for your choicest affections,—one in whom you may find rest to your souls,—one in whom there is nothing [that] will grieve and trouble you to eternity. Behold, he stands at the door of your souls, and knocks! Pray study him a little; you love him not, because you know him not. Why doth one of you spend this time in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time,—perhaps debauchedly? Why doth another associate and assemble himself with them that scoff at religion and the things of God? Merely because you know not our dear Lord Jesus. Oh, when he shall reveal himself to you, and tell you he is Jesus whom you have slighted and refused, how will it break your hearts, and make you mourn like a dove, that you have neglected him! and if you never come to know him, it had been better had you never been. Whilst it is called To-day, then, harden not your hearts.

You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves,—hath Christ his due place in your hearts? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things ‘loss and dung’ for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?

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Hands Lifted, Knees Strengthened

I know I haven’t posted anything in a long time and I hope to resume when I graduate in about a month. But let’s skip the pleasantries because this was encouraging to me and it was too long to tweet.

I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul’ and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and a habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered; but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold the Lord Christ, who hath all fulness of grace in his heart, all fulness of power in his hand: he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is a sufficient provision in him for my relief and assistance: he can take my drooping, dying soul, and make me more than a conqueror.

John Owen, The Mortification of Sin, (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2003), 163.

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Arminianism Shmarminianism

I was digging through my Complete Works of John Owen v. 10 today and found a very interesting work by him called A Display of Arminianism where it is his aim to show why Arminianism is silly, inconsistent, and not Christian. The great thing about John Owen, whether you agree or disagree with him, is that is unbelievably thorough in his analysis and treatment of views contrary to his. When he sat down to write, he did so as if the souls of men were on the line.

Owen explains the reason for his work in the preface:

The fates of our church having of late devolved the government thereof into the hands of men tainted with this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of praise and preferment, and quickly prevailed to beat poor naked Truth into a corner. It is high time, then, for all the lovers of the old ways to oppose this innovation, prevailing by such unworthy means, before our breach grow great like the sea, and there be none to heal it.

If it is not clear by this that Owen despises Arminianism, then that will become clear shortly. What strikes me is Owen’s lack of political correctness and “respect” for opposing views. He simply calls the view a poison to the church. A note of clarification is necessary here because like there are differing views within Calvinism[1], there are also different views within Arminianism. The strand of Arminianism that Owen is dealing with is something along the lines of the mutated baby of Classical Arminiamism[2] and Rationalism[3]. It was Arminianism with a very strong Pelagian[4] aftertaste. To be clear, Owen would oppose any form of Arminianism, however the predominant strand of Arminianism in his day was heavily influenced by Rationalism. In his work, Owen introduces his case against Arminianism:

The soul of man, by reason of the corruption of nature, is not only darkened with a mist of ignorance, whereby he is disenabled for the comprehending of divine truth, but is also armed with prejudice and opposition against some parts thereof, which are either most above or most contrary to some false principles which he hath framed unto himself. As a desire of self-sufficiency was the first cause of this infirmity, so a conceit thereof is that wherewith he still languisheth; nothing doth he more contend for than an independency of any supreme power, which might either help, hinder, or control him in his actions… Never did any men more eagerly endeavor the erecting of this Babel than the Arminians, the modern blinded patrons of human self-sufficiency…

From here on out I am only going to outline what Owen says about what Arminianists believe and what they deny.  Hopefully this will spur you on to read what he has to say.

1)  To exempt themselves from God’ jurisdiction,—to free themselves from the supreme dominion of his all-ruling providence…[so] to have an absolute independent power in all their actions.

1) They deny the eternity and unchangeableness of God’s decrees

2) They question the prescience or foreknowledge of God

3) They depose the all-governing providence of this King of nations, denying its effectual power in turning the hearts of men

4) They deny the irresistibly and uncontrollable power of God’s will, affirming that oftentimes he seriously wills and intends what he cannot accomplish

2)  To clear human nature from the heavy imputation of being sinful, corrupted, wise to do evil but unable to do good; and so to vindicate unto themselves a power and ability of doing all that good which God can justly require to be done by them in the state wherein they area proud Luciferian endeavor!

1) They deny that doctrine of predestination whereby God is affirmed to have chosen certain men before the foundation of the world… for this doctrine would make the special grace of God to be the sole cause of all the good that is in the elect

2) They deny original sin and its demerit.

3) They will claim that if you charge our human nature with repugnancy to the law of God, they will maintain that it was also in Adam when he was first created, and so comes from God himself. (In other words, it is God’s fault that we are in our corrupted state).

4) They deny the efficacy of the merit of the death of Christ.

5) They grant some to have salvation apart from Christ.

6) Having thus robbed God, Christ, and his grace, they adorn their idol free-will with many glorious properties no way due unto it.

7) They do not only claim to their new-made deity a saving power, but also affirm that he is very active and operative in the great work of saving our souls.

 


[1] Simply defined as a theological system that is centered around the Sovereignty of God. Basic tenants: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (TULIP)

[2] Developed mainly as a response to Calvinism. Where as Calvinists see predestination as an unconditional action of GOd in electing individuals to salvation, Arminianism teaches that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge in seeing whether an individual would freely accept of reject Christ.

[3]  A reliance on reason, rather than revelation (Scripture) for the establishment of Truth.

[4]  Taught by British monk Pelagius (354-415) who emphasized human effort and merit as the means of salvation, thus divine grace was unnecessary (Strongly opposed by Augustine).

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Communion with God

For those whose stories God has graciously given us in His word, we can see that people who have truly communed with God were different. They lived, and many died in order to spread the name of the one true God. Looking at these stories leads me to ask the questions of myself, have I every truly communed with God? Is communion with God something a lot of people, even believers, can miss out on in their lifetime? Is it possible that a person be redeemed by the blood of Christ, be united with Him, and be brought into the family of God, yet never experience the fullness of that community?

In his book Communion with the Triune God (with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation), Puritan Pastor John Owen writes about the believer’s communion with the God-head and here focuses on Communion with the Son (I had to read it slowly but don’t miss what he is saying):

The souls of men do naturally seek something to rest and repose themselves upon,—something to satiate and delight themselves withal, with which they [may] hold communion; and there are two way whereby men proceed in the pursuit of what they so aim at. Some set before them some certain end,—perhaps pleasure, profit, or, in religion itself, acceptance with God; others seek after some end, but without any certainty, pleasing themselves now with one path, now with another, with various thoughts and ways like them,—because something comes in by the life of the hand, they give not over though weary. In what condition soever you may be (either in greediness pursuing some certain end, be it secular or religious; or wandering away in your own imaginations, wearying yourselves in the largeness of your ways), compare a little what you aim at, or what you do, with what you have already heard of Jesus Christ: if anything you design be like to him, if any thing you desire be equal to him, let him be rejected as one that hath neither form or comeliness in him; but if, indeed, all your ways be but vanity and vexation of spirit, in comparison of him, why do you spend your “money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” […] You that are, perhaps, seeking earnestly after a righteousness, and are religious persons, consider a little with yourselves,— hath Christ his due place in your heart? is he your all? does he dwell in your thoughts? do you know him in his excellency and desirableness? do you indeed account all things “loss and dung” for his exceeding excellency? or rather, do you prefer almost anything in the world before it?

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