“… And Yet be Loth to Die?” Death and Dying in the Theologies Of John Owen And Richard Baxter -- By: Herman J. Selderhuis

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 20:4 (Winter 2016)
Article: “… And Yet be Loth to Die?” Death and Dying in the Theologies Of John Owen And Richard Baxter
Author: Herman J. Selderhuis

“… And Yet be Loth to Die?” Death and Dying in the Theologies Of John Owen And Richard Baxter

Herman J. Selderhuis

Herman J. Selderhuis is professor of Church History at the Theological University Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and director of Refo500, the international platform on projects related to the 16th Century. He wrote his PhD on “Marriage and Divorce in the Thought of Martin Bucer” (1997) and is the author and editor of several books, including John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life (IVP Academic, 2009) and Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography (forthcoming, 2017). Dr. Selderhuis is also president of the Reformation Research Consortium (RefoRC), president of the International Calvin Congress, and Curator of Research at the John A. Lasco Library in Emden, Germany.

Image And Facts

The Puritans were gripped individually and collectively by an intense and unremitting fear of death, while simultaneously clinging to the traditional Christian rhetoric of viewing death as a release and relief for the earth-bound soul.1

This quotation from Stannard’s book The Puritan Way of Death summarizes well the general idea about how in puritan tradition death was seen and dealt with. Even apart from the question of whether there ever existed something like “the Puritans,” it may be asked what the sources are for the first part of the statement. The conclusion of this paper, at least, is that neither Richard Baxter (1615-1691) nor John Owen (1616-1683) can be used as witnesses to confirm this “intense and unremitting fear.” I’m afraid most of the other

puritan authors won’t be suitable to support the standard image either but that is something for other papers and books that still have to be written.2 For now we will focus first on Owen and then on Baxter after which an evaluation will be given of their thoughts.

John Owen


An example of the place death and dying take in Owen´s work, is found in Randall C. Gleason’s comparison of John Calvin and John Owen on the topic of mortification.3 He devotes a paragraph on Calvin’s view on the meditatio future vitae, but does not write a parallel section on Owen’s view. In Sinclair Ferguson’s book on Owen’s View of the Christian Life, there is only one quotation devoted to the death of the Christian.4 The reason for this absence is that death and dying are hardly a top...

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