Life By His Death [Review]

Title: Life By His Death
Author: John Owen
ISBN: 0 9505476 3 8
Copyright: 1992 by Grace Publications Trust pgs. 87

John Owen is a Puritan of note. He is stand out among some of the greats including Watson, Manton, John Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress) Thomas Boston and so on.

Puritan writings have influenced generations Christians and are read from a very diverse denominational backgrounds. At one time I used to think only the Reformers read Puritan literature but such is not the case. They’re accessible in Christian bookstores, online bookstores and of course free E-books, basically wherever you can find good books

While there is some debate about the Puritan era, what they believed and practiced is, at least in my opinion, worth searching out. While even amongst the Puritans themselves there were variations in their beliefs they still made a notable contributions to church history and their writings still speak to the hearts of many even in this generation and will  certainly continue long after I’m gone.

While only eighty-six pages this was a slow read for me. This book dealt primarily with the doctrine of election, a polemic against universal redemption – that Christ died for ALL men.

He covers a number of arguments commonly used in the matter of universal redemption. He deals with the word all and world and covers associated verses used in various arguments concerning this subject.

For example, the classical approach in the use of the word all meaning simply all. Or said more forcefully, ALL MEANS ALL! without making distinction in its various contexts. Owen tackles this and  breaks down the various uses and their context showing that there are distinctions that need to be considered. In other words, you can’t make a blanket application like many do.

I would add that if it was that simple this debate would have ended before it began. So there is certainly something more to it. This why it is good to read what the other side is saying about their own beliefs. I realize for many this would be considered a no- no, but I believe it should be done for clarity and understanding. But hey who am I?

I have read a number of books on the subject and researched other platforms and also spoke face to face with Reformers. This seems to me anyway the clearest articulation of the arguments surrounding this topic.

Here are just three of the many considerations given by Owen regarding the word all and its context.

1. John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. Have ALL men been drawn unto Christ? Certainly not!

2. Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: Certainly no one believes that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon ALL flesh.

3. Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. If you approach this text with the standard response, ALL MEANS ALL, then you have a clear case for universalism. No one on either side of the aisle would take that position.

Owen argues that the majority of uses for the word all refers to, “those of every sort”.

There are a total of four parts not including the preface and intro. For example, Part Three of his book gives sixteen arguments on why Christ did not die for the salvation of all men. Part Four covers his arguments against universalism. Overall an interesting read. I certainly plan to review several of the sections to gain a clearer understanding of his arguments.

At the end of the day the debate concerning Calvinism and Arminianism isn’t going away. This subject has been hotly contested for centuries and will continue on until the Lord comes.

One of the more notable contests was the one between Wesley and Whitfield, while very much the opposite of each other in the area of free will and predestination, were friends. While they had there theological differences Wesley was still asked to preach at Whitfield’s funeral. Both these men acknowledged the value and fruit of each other’s work. A good example on brothers having charity towards each other.

We are living in dangerous times doctrinally and there are many fronts to this war. Many of the ancient heresies are making there way back into mainline denominations, there is more skepticism concerning the word of God and its inerrancy and the doctrine of the atonement is under attack.

The waters of theological soundness have been muddied thereby creating a crisis in many denominations. This crisis warrants a return back to a basic doctrinal teaching and a bold stand against heresy. Studying these and other issues will certainly foster a sharpness in our understanding of soteriology and other doctrinal themes.

Well I’m done here. While I realize much more could be said and said better, I am parting ways here – SALUTE!