Being John Owen -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin
SBJT 20:4 (Winter 2016) p. 13
Being John Owen
Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Haykin is the author of many books, including “At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word”: Andrew Fuller As an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005), The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction to Biblical Spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007), Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011), and Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact (Christian Focus, 2014).
“The Puritan John Owen … was one of the greatest of English theologians. In an age of giants, he overtopped them all. C. H. Spurgeon called him the prince of divines. He is hardly known today, and we are the poorer for our ignorance.”1
“I Would Gladly Relinquish All My Learning”
Charles II (r. 1660-1685) once asked one of the most learned scholars that he knew why any intelligent person should waste time listening to the sermons of an uneducated tinker and Baptist preacher by the name of John Bunyan (1628-1688).2 “Could I possess the tinker’s abilities for preaching, please your majesty,” replied the scholar, “I would gladly relinquish all my learning.” The name of the scholar was John Owen (1616-1683), and this small story—apparently true and not apocryphal—says a good deal about the man and his Christian character. His love of and concern for the preaching of the Word reveals a man who was Puritan to the core. And the fragrant humility of his reply to the king was a virtue that permeated all of his writings, in which he sought to glorify the triune God and help God’s people find that maturity that was theirs in Christ.3
In his own day some of Owen’s fellow Puritans called him the “Calvin of
SBJT 20:4 (Winter 2016) p. 14
England.”4 More recently, Roger Nicole has described Owen as “the greatest divine who ever wrote in English,” and J. I. Packer says of him that during his career as a Christian theologian he was “England’s foremost bastion and champion of Reformed evangelical orthodoxy.”5 Despite his theological brilliance, it needs noting that Owen’s chief interest was not in producing theological treatis...
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