Dropping Unadvised Speeches

From John Owen’s A Display of Arminianism (from the chapter entitled, “WHETHER SALVATION MAY BE ATTAINED WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OF, OR FAITH IN, CHRIST JESUS”). John Owen writes:

“It shall shut up all this discourse concerning the meritorious cause of salvation, with their shutting out of Christ from being the only one and absolutely necessary means to bring us unto heaven, to make us happy. This is the last pile they erect upon their Babylonish foundation, which makes the idol of human self-sufficiency every way perfect, and fit to be sacrificed unto. Until these proud builders, to get materials for their own temple, laid the axe to the root of Christianity, we took it for granted that ‘there is no salvation in any other,’ because ‘there is none other name under heaven given unto men whereby we must be saved,’ Acts 4:12. Neither yet shall their nefarious attempts frighten us from our creed, nor make us be wanting to the defense of our Savior’s honor. But I shall be very brief in the consideration of this heterodoxy, nothing doubting but that to have repeated it is fully to have confuted it, in the judgment of all pious Christians.”

Owen continues (underlining mine):

“It is true, indeed, some of the ancient fathers, before the rising of the Pelagian heresy — who had so put on Christ, as Lipsius speaks, that they had not fully put off Plato — have unadvisedly dropped some speeches seeming to grant that divers men before the incarnation, living meta logou, ‘according to the dictates of right reason,’ might be saved without faith in Christ; as is well showed by learned Casaubon in his first exercitation on Baronius. But let this be accounted part of that stubble which shall burn at the last day, wherewith the writings of all men not divinely inspired may be stained.

Notice what Owen is reasoning above. Since a Christian is not the apostle Paul, Peter, or John, then a Christian may confess things and write things that are completely antithetical to the essential life-and-death teachings of the apostles. This reasoning allows for regenerate persons “not divinely inspired” to deny that the gospel of CHRIST is the power of God to salvation for EVERYONE BELIEVING. Evidently it was the apostle Paul who dropped the unadvised speech in Galatians 1:8-9 since he anathematizes both the “stubble” AND the heretic, while Owen says that only the heretical “stubble” will be burned.

To reiterate, Owen thinks that the “ancient fathers” teaching that “divers men before the incarnation…might be saved without faith in Christ” is mere “stubble which shall burn at the last day.” According to Owen these helpless heretics who make exceptions to the Romans 1:16, John 14:6, and Acts 4:12 rule are just merely “stained.” Their damnable denial of the gospel as the power of God to salvation to EVERYONE BELIEVING IN CHRIST is just imperfect “stubble.” John Owen is speaking peace to inclusivist heretics, here; he is daubing this wicked wall with untempered mortar.

“According to God’s grace given to me, as a wise master builder, I laid a foundation, but another builds on it. But let each one be careful how he builds. For no one is able to lay any other foundation beside the One having been laid, who is Jesus Christ. And if anyone builds on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, straw, the work of each will be revealed; for the Day will make it known, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire will prove the work of each, what sort it is. If the work of anyone which he built remains, he will receive a reward. If the work of anyone shall be consumed, he shall suffer loss; but he will be saved, but so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

The “ancient fathers” said that some might be saved without faith in Christ. These “ancient fathers” are the foolish builders laying a foundation OTHER THAN the One having been laid. The alternate foundation that these ancient heretics laid instead of Christ was the ignorant heathen “living according to the dictates of right reason.” John Owen extenuates damnable heresy into innocuous stain and stubble.

More from John Owen (underlining mine):

“… it was well said of Bernard, ‘That many laboring to make Plato a Christian, do prove themselves to be heathens.’ And if we look upon the several branches of this Arminian novel doctrine, extenuating the precious worth and necessity of faith in Christ, we shall find them hewed off by the two-edged sword of God’s word.”

To adapt that Bernard quote to many tolerant Calvinists of today: “That many laboring to make [C.S. Lewis] a Christian, do prove themselves to be heathens.” To adapt another line concerning those ministerial agents animated by that glittering devil (2 Corinthians 11:12-15; cf. 2 John 9-11).

“You got the [Calvinist] clergy working overtime to widen the narrow way.”

John Owen concluded (underlining mine):

“If the ancient people of God, notwithstanding divers other especial revelations of his will and heavenly instructions, obtained not salvation without faith in Christ, much less may we grant this happiness without him to them who were deprived of those other helps also. So that though we confess the poor natural endeavors of the heathen not to have wanted their reward (either positive in this life, by outward prosperity, and inward calmness of mind, in that they were not all perplexed and agitated with furies, like Nero and Caligula; or negative in the life to come, by a diminution of the degrees of their torments — they shall not be beaten with so many stripes), yet we absolutely deny that there is any saving mercy of God towards them revealed in the Scripture, which should give us the least intimation of their attaining everlasting happiness. For, not to consider the corruption and universal disability of nature to do anything that is good (‘without Christ we can do nothing,’ John 15:5), nor yet the sinfulness of their best works and actions, the ‘sacrifice of the wicked being an abomination unto the LORD,’ Proverbs 15:8 (‘Evil trees cannot bring forth good fruit; men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles,’ Matthew 7:16, 17); the word of God is plain, that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6; that ‘he that believeth not is condemned,’ Mark 16:16; that no nation or person can be blessed but in the Seed of Abraham, Genesis 12:3. And the ‘blessing of Abraham’ comes upon the Gentiles only ‘through Jesus Christ,’ Galatians 3:14. He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life,’ John 14:6. ‘None cometh to the Father but by him.’ He is the ‘door,’ by which those that do not enter are ‘without,’ with ‘dogs and idolaters,’ Revelation 22:15. So that ‘other foundation’ of blessedness ‘can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ,’ 1 Corinthians 3:11.

In brief, do but compare these two places of St. Paul, Romans 8:30, where he showeth that none are glorified but those that are called; and Romans 10:14-15, where he declares that all calling is instrumentally by the preaching of the word and gospel; and it will evidently appear that no salvation can be granted unto them on whom the Lord hath so far poured out his indignation as to deprive them of the knowledge of the sole means thereof, Christ Jesus. And to those that are otherwise minded, I give only this necessary caution — let them take heed, lest, whilst they endeavor to invent new ways to heaven for others, by so doing, they lose the true way themselves.

The ancient heretics above were indeed “otherwise minded.” Some of these heretics were the “ancient fathers” who had “unadvisedly dropped some speeches seeming to grant that divers men before the incarnation, living meta logou, ‘according to the dictates of right reason,’ might be saved without faith in Christ.” But WHY the “necessary caution,” Owen? Why do you say, “let them take heed”? According to you, inventing new ways to heaven for others is to “be accounted part of that stubble which shall burn at the last day, wherewith the writings of all men not divinely inspired may be stained.”