The Death of John Owen’s Argument: a General Atonement means God failed to achieve His goal (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series the dilemma that Owen poses to those who reject a limited/particular atonement was explored. According to Dr. Owen the options are:

  • Universalism
  • Accepting that God had no purpose or intention behind the cross
  • Accepting that God had a purpose behind the cross but failed to achieve it

We left off with Owen acknowledging that others interpreted key passages differently than he did. Those who disagree argue that there is a distinction that must be made between Christ procuring spiritual blessings for all and applying them only on those that believe.

Some of them say that Christ, by his death and passion, did absolutely, according to the intention of God, purchase for all and every man, dying for them, remission of sins and reconciliation with God, or a restitution into a state of grace and favour; all which shall be actually beneficial to them, provided that they do believe

Owen vehemently rejects this view citing several reasons in Book II, chapter 4. Several of these seem to be begging the question as they are restating Owen’s conclusions.

  • this distinction (between the procurement of the blessings and the application of them) hath no place in the intention and purpose of Christ.
  • whomsoever Christ obtained any good thing by his death, unto them it shall certainly be applied.
  • [all the spiritual blessings] must be applied to all for whom they are obtained; for otherwise Christ faileth of his end and aim

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Later, in chapter 5, Owen seems to begrudgingly admit that there is a distinction.

I shall, then, briefly declare, that although these two things may admit of a distinction, yet they cannot of a separation, but that for whomsoever Christ obtained good, to them it might be applied; and for whomsoever he wrought reconciliation with God, they must actually unto God be reconciled.

Admittedly, Owen does not think it is possible for spiritual blessings to be procured for someone who will not eventually have them applied.  This, in his view is because “faith is given without condition to the elect.” But we will tackle that a bit later. Continue reading

Wednesday with Wesley: Wesley Calmly Considered

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on John Wesley.

John Wesley was born in Epworth on June 1703 to Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Living a full life he died in March of 1791, having spent most of his life preaching the Gospel and making disciples in Methodist Societies. He was well known during his lifetime, and the following was written about him in The Gentleman’s Magazine after his passing (link).

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He was noted as a zealous reformer:

He now appeared as a zealous reformer, and the great leader in a sect no way differing in essentials from the Church of England. His peculiar opinions were justification by faith, and Christian perfection; … however he might enforce its possibility, he always disclaimed having attained himself …

 

and humanitarian to the needy: Continue reading

Justin Martyr: What we do in life echoes in eternity

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on Justin Martyr.

Justin was probably a Roman Gentile, born early in the second century in the city of Flavia Neapolis located in Samaria. What we know of him comes primarily from his extant works or statements about him in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History

Justin was especially prominent in those days. In the guise of a philosopher he preached the divine word, and contended for the faith in his writings. (Eccl Hist 4.11)

Justin lived in the early 2nd century, spending most of his life under the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius.

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Living in the early 2nd century, and traveling broadly as he studied philosophy, Justin would have learned about Christianity from people who were potentially taught by the apostles. Given his travels, he also would have a good understanding of the doctrines held across numerous locations. Thus, in Justin’s writings we find important descriptions of the practices and doctrines of the early church.

There are three extant works that are generally accepted as being written by him.

  • First Apology, addressed to Antonius Pius, and generally dated between 150 and 157
  • Second Apology, often considered as part of the First Apology
  • Dialogue with Trypho, which defends Jesus as Messiah to those who are Jewish. It is usually dated around 160.

Continue reading