John Owen: Heretic (2)

The following damnably heretical quote comes from Owen’s work on (supposed) “spiritual mindedness” which was originally published in 1681, just 2 years prior to his death (this is what some would call Owen’s “mature thought,” since it was written so close to the time of his death in 1683):

“If a man have a weak, small faith in this life, with little evidence and no assurance, so that he doubts of all things, questions all things, and hath no comfort from what he doth believe; if afterward, through supplies of grace, he hath a mighty prevailing evidence of the things believed, is filled with comfort and assurance; this is not by a faith or grace of another kind than what he had before, but by the same faith raised unto a higher degree of perfection. When our Savior cured the blind man and gave him his sight, Mark viii., at first he saw all things obscurely and imperfectly, — he saw “men as trees, walking,” verse 24; but on another application of virtue unto him, “he saw every man clearly,” verse 25. It was not a sight of another kind which he then received than what he had at first; only its imperfection, whereby he “saw men as trees, walking,” was taken away. Nor will our perfect vision of things above be a grace absolutely of another kind from the light of faith which we here enjoy; only what is imperfect in it will be done away, and it will be made meet for the present enjoyment of things here at a distance and invisible. Love shall have its perfection also, and the least alteration in its manner of operation of any grace whatever; and there is nothing that should more excite us to labor after a growth in love to God in Christ than this, that it shall to all eternity be the same in its nature and in all its operations, only both the one and the other shall be made absolutely perfect. The soul will by it be enabled to cleave unto God unchangeably, with eternal delight, satisfaction, and complacency. Hope shall be perfect in enjoyment, which is all the perfection it is capable of. So shall it be as unto other graces” (John Owen, On Spiritual-Mindedness).

Owen says that the KIND OF FAITH that staggers by unbelief (e.g., “doubts of all things, questions all things…”) is the SAME KIND OF FAITH that stops doubting and questioning since it has now had or experienced “a mighty prevailing evidence of the things believed.” For Owen, the difference between UNBELIEF and BELIEF is NOT a matter of the difference between BLACK and WHITE (or a difference between STAGGERING BY UNBELIEF and FULL PERSUASION that God is able to perform that which He promised), BUT a matter of “degrees of perfection.” The necessary implication of Owen’s doctrine is that there are “UNBELIEVING BELIEVERS” who begin their “spiritual Christian life” with the unregenerate mustard seed of unbelief, and eventually “progress” into a large and flourishing tree of faith.

Using a verse like 1 John 5:9-12 to illustrate these aforementioned “degrees,” Owen suggests that those making God a liar are merely “WEAK IN THE FAITH.” These alleged “weak ones” eventually progress (“by a mighty and prevailing evidence”) to a “pious acknowledgement” of His veracity and truthfulness. Owen would have true Christians start out with “a small seed of faith” that calls God a liar, and then as the Christian “matures in his faith” he ceases calling God a liar by questioning and doubting all things. Owen himself says above that this so-called “faith” is NOT of “another kind than what he had before, but by the same faith raised unto a higher degree of perfection.” In stark contrast to Owen’s self-righteous dung, here is holy Scripture on the matter:

“And being about a hundred years old, not weakening in faith, he did not consider his body to have died already, nor yet the death of Sarah’s womb, and did not stagger by unbelief at the promise of God, but was empowered by faith, giving glory to God,and being fully persuaded that what He has promised, He is also able to do” (Romans 4:19-21).

Owen’s rendition says those who STAGGER BY UNBELIEF simply possess “a small faith” that is NOT a different kind of faith than that which is FULLY PERSUADED. Paul describes “staggering by unbelief” and “being fully persuaded” as completely opposite mindsets. They are ANTITHETICAL to one another. They are completely different in KIND: One mindset is FAITH (or BELIEF), and the other mindset is UNBELIEF. In Romans 4:19-21 to have faith is to have assurance (full persuasion) and to have doubt is to stagger by unbelief.

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; because this is the witness of God which He has witnessed about His Son: The one believing in the Son of God has the witness in himself. The one not believing God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning His Son. And this is the witness: that God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son. The one having the Son has life. The one not having the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12).

For Owen, the difference in the kind of faith that calls God a liar and the kind of faith that does not is merely a difference in DEGREE. Apparently to Owen a “weak believer” calls God a liar and a “strong mature believer” does not. For additional exposition on this subject see Marc Carpenter’s article,

“Faith Is Assurance”