Why we like John Owen so much, by Prof. Renihan
We have said many times that John Owen is our favorite theologian.In my introduction to Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ I wrote:
We have chosen to include John Owen’s comments on Hebrews 8:6-13 alongside Coxe’s work, for several important reasons. We know, of course, that Owen was a lifelong paedobaptist, and briefly defends that view in his other writings. We do not intend, in any way, to imply that Owen would have endorsed Coxe’s (or our) objections to the paedobaptist position. Nevertheless, it has seemed good to incorporate his views into this work. The reader will notice that Coxe, in the preface to his Discourse, indicates that he was preparing materials for a subsequent volume to be written on the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, but was “happily prevented” by the publication of Owen’s volume on Hebrews chapter 8. So far as the Baptist Nehemiah Coxe was concerned, John Owen’s work on this part of Hebrews clearly articulated the things that Coxe himself would have said (and he recognized that Owen said them better as well). This does not imply that Coxe endorsed every jot and tittle of Owen’s work, but simply indicates the massive agreement between the two. Owen, for his own part, exegetically demonstrates that the New Covenant is profoundly different from the Old-it is characteristically new. For Coxe (and confessional Baptists who agree with his theology; it must be remembered that he is the most likely candidate to have served as editor of the Second London Confession of 1677/1689), Owen’s emphasis on the newness of the New Covenant is a helpful step forward in the discussion.
Now, another voice helps to make the case. Carl Trueman, in the fifth of his excellent lectures on John Owen says this (see time index 31:00 through 32:10)
There are strong tendencies in Owen’s thinking on the Covenant of Grace to restrict it just to Christ and his elect. Owen is a paedobaptist. But there is a lot in Owen’s thinking that I think pushes in a Baptistic direction. For Owen, the visible manifestation of the Covenant of Grace is not entirely clearly worked out in terms of children being embraced (as I read him). It’s not an area I have looked at in great detail, but I see tendencies in Owen’s ecclesiology and his understanding of the covenants that push it in a Baptistic direction.
And all the Reformed Baptists say, Amen!