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The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed Paperback – January 1, 1959
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'It is safe to say that no comparable exposition of the work of redemption as planned and executed by the Triune Jehovah has ever been done since Owen published this in 1648.'
About the Author
John Owen (1616–1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford. On 29 April he preached before the Long Parliament. In this sermon, and in his Country Essay for the Practice of Church Government, which he appended to it, his tendency to break away from Presbyterianism to the Independent or Congregational system is seen. Like John Milton, he saw little to choose between "new presbyter" and "old priest." He became pastor at Coggeshall in Essex, with a large influx of Flemish tradesmen. In March 1651, Cromwell, as Chancellor of Oxford University, gave him the deanery of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and made him Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in September 1652; in both offices he succeeded the Presbyterian, Edward Reynolds. During his eight years of official Oxford life Owen showed himself a firm disciplinarian, thorough in his methods, though, as John Locke testifies, the Aristotelian traditions in education underwent no change. With Philip Nye he unmasked the popular astrologer, William Lilly, and in spite of his share in condemning two Quakeresses to be whipped for disturbing the peace, his rule was not intolerant. Anglican services were conducted here and there, and at Christ Church itself the Anglican chaplain remained in the college. While little encouragement was given to a spirit of free inquiry, Puritanism at Oxford was not simply an attempt to force education and culture into "the leaden moulds of Calvinistic theology." Owen, unlike many of his contemporaries, was more interested in the New Testament than in the Old. During his Oxford years he wrote Justitia Divina, an exposition of the dogma that God cannot forgive sin without an atonement; Communion with God, Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance, his final attack on Arminianism; Vindiciae Evangelicae, a treatise written by order of the Council of State against Socinianism as expounded by John Biddle; On the Mortification of Sin in Believers, an introspective and analytic work; Schism, one of the most readable of all his writings; Of Temptation, an attempt to recall Puritanism to its cardinal spiritual attitude from the jarring anarchy of sectarianism and the pharisaism which had followed on popularity and threatened to destroy the early simplicity.
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Top Customer Reviews
Don't expect to read this while lounging by the fire. Owen's writing style is dense and at times difficult (especially for 21st century readers), but it's entirely worth it. What "Death of Death" has that most modern theological works lack is a distinct devotional/practical edge; Owen isn't just ranting against Arminian theology, he's pointing us toward Christ and showing how we have been and continue to be transformed by our knowledge of His sacrifice.
A must-read for every theology student; highly recommended for everyone else.
However a warning is in order here. Due to the old style of English writing, reading this book can be tedious to read. I spent a long time reading this book so think twice before you buy this. If you don't have a lot of time to spend with this book, it may be best to search for another.
I would NOT however, recommend this book to somebody who is new to the debate, and is just trying to see the "big picture" of the Calvinism / Arminianism debate. I say this for 2 reasons:
1. The book has that "Old English" feel to it, in terms of outdated grammar. So it is somewhat difficult to understand. For example, I am used to reading Matthew 17:4. Owens would write this as Matt. xvii 4. The use of the Roman numerals is somewhat annoying, and makes for a somewhat tedious read, in addition to the outdated grammar.
2. The debate over limited vs unlimited atonement or "particular redemption" vs "general redemption" really is only one tiny (and very specific) detail of the whole TULIP debate. ("Limited Atonement" of course being the "L" part of the TULIP). In order to truly understand the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate, the reader must first understand the following:
Total Depravity: Do human beings have the free will with which to choose to serve God? The Calvinist says "no". The Arminian says "yes".
Unconditional Election: The Calvinist says that if salvation were left up to the person's choice, then NOBODY would be saved. NOBODY would choose God, because EVERYBODY is totally depraved. Thus NOBODY could freely choose to serve God. This is what Martin Luther meant by "the bondage of the will"
It is only after a person understands the "big picture" with respect to free will vs bondage of the will, or monergism vs synergism, etc that the whole debate over limited atonement / unlimited atonement even has meaning in the first place.
If you embrace the Calvinist concepts of total depravity, unconditional election, monergism, irresistible grace, etc, then limited atonement is obviously the theological position that fits best into your soteriology. Likewise, if you reject these Calvinist concepts, then you would want to embrace the Arminian concept of unlimited atonement.
If you already understand these concepts, and you want a good reference book for the Calvinist position on the "L" of TULIP, then Owen's book is definitely going to be on your "must read" list. The Arminian counterpoint, from the same era, would be "Redemption Redeemed" by John Goodwin.
If you are a BEGINNER, please allow me to make some other suggestions:
Watch a youtube debate between Calvinist Dr. James White and Arminian Dr. Michael Brown
Watch Calvinist John MacArthur's Sermon from February 14, 2010 entitled: "The Atonement: Real or Potential?" (youtube) In this sermon, MacArthur argues for limited atonement, but he does it in a "big picture" way, so that the viewer (whether he agrees or not) can at least understand the framework in which Calvinists argue for limited atonement.
Watch Arminian Jerry Walls give a speech entitled "What's Wrong with Calvinism?" (youtube). In this speech, Walls argues that Jesus died for everybody, but also presents his arguments in a "big picture" way, so that the viewer (whether he agrees or not) can at least understand the framework in which Arminians argue for unlimited atonement.
Lastly, and most importantly, read and study the Bible, and ask the Holy Spirit to direct you in how to decide which camp you should fall into. I recommend studying on blueletterbible.org, so that you can click on the actual Greek word, to get the original intent of the Biblical author. (My research has shown that some Bible translations are somewhat biased in favor of either Calvinism or Arminianism, based on the beliefs of the members of the translation committee).
In any case, for a "fair an balanced" treatment from the Puritan viewpoint, you could read both Owens and Goodwin.
However, my honest opinion is that it is MUCH easier to just read contemporary authors on these topics. The contemporary Calvinists and Arminians are arguing EXACTLY the same points, based on EXACTLY the same Scriptures. The only difference is that James White is a lot easier to understand than John Owens. Likewise, I'm guessing that Dr. Michael Brown is much easier to understand than John Goodwin (Haven't read Goodwin yet, so I can't say this for sure).
Why 3 stars? I wanted to be neutral for the sake of this review, despite the fact that I do have an opinion on this topic. I didn't want to give it 1 or 2 stars (and appear to be Arminian). Nor did I want to give it 4 or 5 stars (and appear to be Calvinist).
Bottom Line: Please do NOT start with either Owens or Goodwin if you are researching this topic. It will be tedious, frustrating, and too narrowly focused to really understand the "big picture" of the TULIP debate.
If you've been studying this topic for a while and want to read the "classics" then by all means, go for it.
May God bless you on your search for truth!