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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
But Owen's thesis, that Christ did, in fact, save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), is nothing less than pure, undiluted Gospel-truth, and shall remain so as long as God Himself is Truth.
There is no work written by any Calvinist throughout the ages that can begin to compare with Owen's treatment of the death of Christ, and His procurement of eternal redemption thereby. And there is no work written by any Arminian throughout the ages that can begin to answer Owen's book. To do this, it would be necessary to show that the Scriptures present Christ's death as obtaining a mere possibility of redemption, instead of having actually obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12), an absolute impossibility.
Owen's argumentation and exegesis are simply outstanding. Before reading this book, I had actually never read an exegesis of John 3:16. He spends ten pages of a detailed, Puritan examination of that passage alone. He also examines virtually every text cited by the Arminians in this controversy, coming to the same inescapable conclusion every time: "No Universalism Here."
J.I. Packer's "Introductory Essay" is not to be missed, either: It's already considered by many to be a classic, a "masterpiece in miniature."
But the "Essay" is undoubtedly the easiest reading in this volume. Owen was a 17th century Puritan, and can be difficult reading. It's definitely not a book to give your non-theologically-minded Arminian friends to convince them of Particular Redemption. But for an in-depth study of the doctrine, this book cannot be missed.
Despite the claims of others, this book as in all reality remained unrefuted since it was written. Many have tried, and many have been declared triumphant. However, those books pale in comparrison to Owen's work. Why? Because they all fail to do address him on the level of the biblical text. In other words, they have no exegesis! It is amazing that many will argue that Calvinists argue the system to defend their beliefs. However, virtually all of those who seek to refute Owen do not engage in strong exegesis, but argue in broad terms, from the vantage point of their own systems. Talk about calling the kettle black! Perhaps the worst of these so-called responses are Dave Hunts's book, "What Love is This?" and Norman Geisler's, "Chosen But Free." Both are filled with historical inaccuracies, misquotations, and worst of all very little exegesis. Regardless of our positions in this "in-house" debate, we must above all be biblical in our arguments, and, unfortunately, that seems to be missing from those arguing on the other side.
Lest, I appear to make unfair assertions that are unsupported, check out James White's "The Potter's Freedom" for a truly devastating critque of "Chosen But Free."
Owen's thesis asserts that in the death of Christ salvation of sinners was actually accomplished. Christ came to the earth to seek and to save those who were lost. Through his oblation, being the entire humiliation of his life and death, he has secured perfectly the redemption of those for whom he died. Therefore the salvation of sinners was completely secured through the death of Christ. This stands in direct contrast to the Arminian and Amyraldian understanding of a universal redemption, which makes salvation only possible or hypothetical.
Owen divides his work into four books. The first book sets forth his thesis that the work of Christ on the cross was made for the full and complete salvation of those whom God intended to save. The work of salvation is a work of the triune God. God the Father stands as the author of salvation and the sender of Christ. He is the one who from before creation elects and chooses some to be saved. Christ is the sent one that became incarnate and offered himself up for death, was resurrected and intercedes in heaven for those whom he died. The Spirit was the helper to Christ in his earthly ministry and is the applier of salvation.
In the second book Owen argues that the supreme purpose of Christ's death was to bring glory to the Godhead. The subordinate purpose of his death was to bring salvation to sinners chosen by God. Scripture shows that in Christ's death God intended to save sinners and that the effect of his death actually secured their salvation and that those for whom Christ died are therefore chosen elect. Consequently, the impetration or securing work of salvation cannot be separated from the application of salvation. Christ's death (impetration) was intended for the elect only although being of infinite worth. His death brought about their salvation and the Spirit then applies that salvation to their account. Therefore Christ's death through the Spirit's application is a perfect and complete act of salvation.
In the third book Owen sets forth sixteen arguments against the doctrine of a general ransom. His arguments are primarily set against Arminians and Amyraldians who hold to a general or universal atonement, which claims that God makes salvation possible or hypothetical for the whole world. He debunks the view that the cross work of Christ only made salvation possible and sets forth positively the view that on the cross Christ made salvation effectual and actual. Owen also helpfully shows the logic of such a view of the atonement stemming from the biblical doctrine of election. If God chooses sinners from before the creation of the world then it is only those chosen sinners to whom Christ has died for and to whom the Spirit applies salvation.
In the last book Owen examines the various exegetical arguments set forth for a universal atonement. Owen exegetes at length several texts which speak of a general intent of the death of Christ, those which suggest that Christ's death was ineffective and lastly those which seem to declare a general offer of salvation. He also provides careful exegesis of Biblical texts, which use the words "world" and "all" along with texts, which seem to speak of those perishing for whom Christ died. Owen ends the work by taking Thomas More's work to task and then refutes various theological arguments proffered by universal redemptionists.
The most important point of this work is what is often missed in the present debate over unlimited vs. limited atonement. Owen's thesis is that Christ's death on the cross actually saved. The current debate focuses much on whether his death was for the elect or for the world, but I believe that the question is answered when it is framed in the matter of determining whether Christ's death actually saved or only made salvation possible. As Scripture shows, and Owen proves, the primary (sole?) emphasis is on the actual accomplishment of salvation. Those for whom Christ died are saved; they are regenerated, justified, sanctified, etc. Christ's work is perfect and that which he sought to accomplish has been fulfilled.
Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is in many ways the authoritative work on the effectual death of Christ. Through careful theological arguments and sound exegesis Owen establishes his thesis that the death of Christ actually saved sinners as opposed to the Arminian and Amyraldian schemes which only allow for a potential or hypothetical salvation. This work of Christ was primarily for the glory of God and secondarily for the salvation of sinners. Owen's work helps regain a better understanding of the Biblical Gospel, which truly exalts God and saves sinners. While nonetheless a polemical work, The Death of Death is written for the safekeeping of the gospel that God may truly be glorified and that the sinners may be confronted with the truth of the gospel and be saved. The preservation of the true gospel in Owen's work is therefore to be most appreciated.