John Owen's Approach to Contrary Views

John Owen’s Approach to Contrary Views

In this selection from John Owen (1616-1683), the Puritan theologian describes how he approached theological viewpoints different to his own. While this example uses the question of church governance (‘presbyterian’ versus ‘independent’), Owen’s approach is useful whenever we find ourselves facing a theological view contrary to our own.

Comparing Views with Scripture

“Indeed, not long after, I set myself seriously to inquire into the controversies then warmly agitated in these nations. Of the congregational way I was not acquainted with any one person, minister orother; nor had I, to my knowledge, seen any more than one in my life. My acquaintance lay wholly with ministers and people of the Presbyterian way. But sundry books being published on either side, I perused and compared them with the Scripture and one another, according as I received ability from God.”

Examining the Strongest Arguments

“After a general view of them, as was my manner in other controversies, I fixed on one to take under peculiar consideration and examination, which seemed most methodically and strongly to maintain that which was contrary, as I thought, to my present persuasion. This was Mr. Cotton’s book of the Keys.”

“The examination and confutation hereof, merely for my own particular satisfaction, with what diligence and sincerity I was able, I engaged in. What progress I made in that undertaking I can manifest unto any by the discourse on that subject and animadversions on that book, yet abiding by me.”

Impartially Examining a Matter

“In the pursuit and management of this work, quite beside and contrary to expectation, at a time and season wherein I could expect nothing on that account but ruin in this world, with the knowledge or advice or, or conference with, any one person that judgment, I was prevailed on to receive that and those principles which I had thought to have set myself in an opposition unto. And, indeed, this way of impartial examining all things by the Word, comparing causes with causes and things with things, laying aside all prejudicate respects unto persons or present traditions, is a course that I would admonish all to beware of who would avoid the danger of being made Independents.’”

Using Scripture as the Final Rule

“And by the Scripture as our rule, we may understand both the express words of it, and whatever may, by just and lawful consequence, be educed from them.”

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