John Owen: Heretic (1)

Dr. Curt Daniel writes the following concerning the man who is regarded by many to be the “Prince of Puritans” (not exactly a compliment):

John Owen (1616-1683). Independent. Chaplain to Cromwell, London pastor, leader of the Independents, vice-chancellor (President) of Oxford University. Entered Oxford at 12, earned Master’s degree at 19. Important in drawing up the Savoy Declaration. Often preached before the Long Parliament. Second only to Perkins in influence, second to none in scholarship. Prolific writer on systematic, Experimental and Biblical theology: Commentary on Hebrews (7 vols.); The Death of Death (the standard on limited atonement); The Holy Spirit; A Display of Arminianism; The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded, others. Of Welsh ancestry. Often in controversy with Baxter. Detailed, prolix writing style” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism, “The Major English Puritans”).

John Owen wrote:

“Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed” (John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, chapter VII, “Imputation, and the Nature of It,” Banner of Truth, Works, Vol. 5, 163-164).

Really Owen? What about Romans 10:1-4? Are those justified by that righteousness which they are ignorant of? Are those justified by that righteousness that they are not submitted to? Are those submitted to a righteousness they do doctrinally deny (cf. Romans 10:3)?

[How about an atheist (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris) being presently saved by the God they do deny to exist? Why not?]

“Brothers, truly my heart’s pleasure and supplication to God on behalf of Israel is for it to be saved. For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

That quote by John Owen blatantly contradicts what Paul writes here in Romans 10:1-4. From the quote by Owen one must conclude that in his blinded eyes there is no such thing as a lost heretic. Evidently Owen’s Big Tent was SO BIG that the only kind of people who would be excluded from it would be the apostle Paul and those who believe like him. In other words, the only people who would NOT join in Owen’s Big Tent Revival are those who have left the camp of self-righteous religion in order to follow Christ and bear His reproach:

“We have an altar of which those serving the tabernacle have no authority to eat. For of the animals [whose] blood is brought by the high priest into the [Holy of] Holies concerning sins, of these the bodies are burned outside the camp. Indeed, because of this, in order that He might sanctify the people by His own blood, Jesus suffered outside the gate. So let us go forth to Him outside the camp bearing His reproach.” (Hebrews 13:10-13)

A while ago one brother in Christ commented on that staggeringly heretical quote by John Owen that was favorably quoted by John Piper:

C-Dunc gave an excerpt from John Piper’s The Future of Justification in which Piper included a surprising quote from John Owen. Well, I looked it up in my hard copy of Owen’s works, and it is, in fact, true that John Owen, of all people, said that “Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed.” Incredible, huh? We knew Owen espoused heresy, but I didn’t realize he would have said something like that, considering what he said about Arminians. Just another lesson for us all.

I also found Owen’s Works online here: . I went to to find the quote. The following is the entire paragraph in which this quote is found, to give you context:

==However, the weight and importance of this doctrine is on all hands acknowledged, whether it be true or false. It is not a dispute about notions, terms, and speculations, wherein Christian practice is little or not at all concerned (of which nature many are needlessly contended about); but such as has an immediate influence into our whole present duty, with our eternal welfare or ruin. Those by whom this imputation of righteousness is rejected, do affirm that the faith and doctrine of it do overthrow the necessity of gospel obedience, of personal righteousness and good works, bringing in antinomianism and libertinism in life. Hereon it must, of necessity, be destructive of salvation in those who believe it, and conform their practice thereunto. And those, on the other hand, by whom it is believed, seeing they judge it impossible that any man should be justified before God any other way but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, do, accordingly, judge that without it none can be saved. Hence a learned man of late concludes his discourse concerning it, “Hactenus de imputatione justitiae Christi; sine qua nemo unquam aut salvtus est, aut slvari queat”, Justificat. Paulin. cap. 8; — “Thus far of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; without which no man was ever saved, nor can any so be.” They do not think nor judge that all those are excluded from salvation who cannot apprehend, or do deny, the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as by them declared; but they judge that they are so unto whom that righteousness is not really imputed: nor can they do otherwise, whilst they make it the foundation of all their own acceptation with God and eternal salvation. These things greatly differ. To believe the doctrine of it, or not to believe it, as thus or thus explained, is one thing; and to enjoy the thing, or not enjoy it, is another. I no way doubt but that many men do receive more grace from God than they understand or will own, and have a greater efficacy of it in them than they will believe. Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed: for the faith of it is included in that general assent which they give unto the truth of the gospel, and such an adherence unto Christ may ensue thereon, as that their mistake of the way whereby they are saved by him shall not defraud them of a real interest therein. And for my part, I must say that notwithstanding all the disputes that I see and read about justification (some whereof are full of offense and scandal), I do not believe but that the authors of them (if they be not Socinians throughout, denying the whole merit and satisfaction of Christ) do really trust unto the mediation of Christ for the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God, and not unto their own works or obedience; nor will I believe the contrary, until they expressly declare it. Of the objection, on the other hand, concerning the danger of the doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, in reference unto the necessity of holiness and works of righteousness, we must treat afterwards.==

Will you “Kiss the Son” (Psalm 2:12)? Or will you kiss the vain and virulent boots of John Owen (cf. Ezekiel 13:10-16; 2 John 9-11)? Do you love the redemptive glory of God revealed in Scripture, or do you love to slavishly shine the glory of John Owen’s theologically heretical boots (cf. John 12:43)?