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A helpful guide to Owen's thought2 Jan. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Owen has been called the greatest theologian to write in the English language, but it is safe to say he is hardly the most accessible! The long sentences and the arcane vocabulary aren't too bad once you get used to them, but it can be difficult to follow his flow of thought if you aren't familiar with the intellectual framework from which he is writing, namely Reformed Scholasticism. Reformed thinkers such as Owen adapted Aquinas's scholasticism to the needs of Reformed theology. When Owen starts distinguishing between, say, the "formal cause" of belief and the "material cause" of belief you can easily become quite confused if you don't know that he is implicitly referencing the scholastic categories. Rehnman provides the necessary background to understand this terminology.
The chapters in the book are as follows:
1. The Concept of Theology
2. Natural and Supernatural Knowledge of God
3. The Nature of Theology
4. Faith and Reason
5. Belief and Evidence
6. The Organization of Theology: A Federal Model
I have read Volumes IV (Reason of Faith, Work of the Holy Spirit) and VI (Mortification of Sin, Temptation) of Owen's works. This book serves as an excellent companion to Volume IV. Chapters 4 and 5 of Rehnman's book are especially helpful in this regard.
Volume IV of Owen's works is dominated (in my view) by a single idea: that people don't come to the point of accepting that the Scriptures are the word of God as a result of rational consideration of the content of the Scriptures, but rather because the Holy Spirit reveals to the heart and mind of the believer that this is the case. (This is, I believe, a fairly orthodox understanding of the doctrine of illumination, but I had never thought of it in quite this way.) Belief, in Owen's view, is not irrational, but it certainly transcends the reason of fallen human beings. This is important to Owen because a faith that rests on an imperfect foundation (the reasoning capacity of fallen man) must necessarily be an imperfect faith. The faith which the Holy Spirit imparts, on the other hand, is a perfect faith. This is a fascinating area of theology which I find quite inspiring. I encourage you to read Owen if you haven't done so, and Rehnman's book can help you to get more out of what you read.