If You Want to Know About John Owen

Carl Trueman is your man. I know it’s unusual to see me flogging someone else’s book. That’s   why you should pay attention when I do so. This is a really good book. Why? Because Carl is an   excellent scholar who writes well. That’s not a common combination  of  qualities. Being a good     scholar means having a command of both the primary literature (in this case  Owen’s own       writings) and the relevant secondary literature. It means being able to put Owen in his immediate social and intellectual context but it also means being able to place him in a broader context. Writers are usually able to do one (social history) or the other (intellectual history). This book does all of that.

I enjoy books that teach me something important or useful of which I was not aware or about which I was confused. Since my ignorance and confusion are boundless the opportunities for me to learn are co-extensive. This book does not disappoint. 

For example, few writers on Owen tackle his Theologoumena Pantodapa, but Carl does. His account of Owen’s view of Adam’s knowledge before the fall is exceptional. He explains clearly how Owen related the idea of innate knowledge with revelation and he connects that to Owen’s doctrine of the prelapsarian covenant of works. He writes (p. 69), “The background to Owen’s argument at this juncture is the Reformed rejection of the medieval notion of Adam as created in puris naturalibus.” He continues to explain the significance of Owen’s move, and thence the text and footnotes lead us to Turretin’s discussion and to Oberman’s explanation of the late medieval backgrounds of this discussion. I’m not quoting any more because I want you to read this for yourself.

There are a lot of Owen fans out there but there aren’t many true Owen scholars. Carl is one of the latter and he’s a gentleman too.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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3 comments

  1. Scott,

    I am glad to hear that you finally read it. 😉 That book is awesome in the fullest sense of the word.

    I have read it cover to cover three times, and several parts of it many more times than that. My only real complaint is that Carl didn’t deal with Owen’s position on the Mosaic cov’t.

  2. Well, geez Mike, it’s such a small book, no wonder you had time to read it three times….

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