Covenant and justification in the thought of John Owen, 1616-1683
This study demonstrates the thesis that John Owen's covenant theology profoundly influences his doctrine of justification by faith. Owen's belief that all true theology is based on a covenant is entirely consistent with his exposition of the Protestant doctrine of solafide. Associated to this thesis were three further objectives. First, in researching Owen, it was important to better understand the sixteenth and seventeenth-century theological contexts; in particular, the place of covenant and justification. Moreover, there was a need to look in detail at his doctrine of justification by faith, since at present there is no detailed exposition of this doctrine in his thought. Last, it is hoped that studying a figure of the stature of Owen will help us to better understand his theological influence not only in the seventeenth-century, but up to and including the twenty-first century theological context. The covenant, in Scripture, is used as a structural concept for understanding God's redemptive purposes in history. As redemptive history unfolds, so too does the covenant concept. This biblical doctrine finds its fullest clarification in the Reformed theological tradition. Owen is part of this tradition and makes extensive use of the covenant concept in his voluminous writings, particularly in his exposition of the epistle to the Hebrews. Historically, Reformed theologians have noted three, sometimes four, covenants in Scripture. They are 1) the covenant of grace; 2) the covenant of works; 3) the covenant of redemption; and 4) the Sinai tic covenant. Owen held to the view that there were four basic covenants in Scripture. In the covenant of grace, which is antithetical to the covenant of works, and is based upon the pre-temporal covenant of redemption, there is a progressive unfolding of God's redemptive purposes that culminate, with the greatest clarity, in the new covenant. The aforementioned covenants all impact his doctrine of justification. One of the blessings associated with the covenant of grace is the doctrine of justification through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone. Owen upholds the classic Protestant doctrine of justification that emphasizes the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He expounds this doctrine in the larger context of his theology of the covenant. All four covenants bear decisively on his exposition of justification to such a degree that his exposition would be unintelligible apart from understanding the covenant concept. This thesis is substantiated contextually through Owen's life and theological training; historiographically through his sources and influences; and textually through his writings. As one of the most eminent theologians in the Christian tradition, this study will seek to make a significant contribution to on-going Owen studies, especially in the area of covenant and justification.
- Theology