09 January, 2007

Logic 101: John Owen on Salvation

The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
All the sins of all men.
All the sins of some men, or
Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:
That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, "Because of unbelief."
I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!"


Mark said...

Awesome quote. And just think of how many of the Reformed today would reject Owen because his hair was too long. We should all grow John Owen hair, in solidarity or something.

Anonymous said...

The Wisconson Synod says thusly

"John Owen was a serious theologian, who like all true Reformed took the Word of God very seriously, but his argument here, far from being either a puzzle or logical, is quite silly for two reasons.

There is no dilemma here because Owen's basic premise is false. His premise is that if Christ died for the sin of unbelief, no one can be damned by that sin. This is as illogical as saying that if I give you money, you must spend it, or if I give you gift, you must enjoy it. Christ died for every sin of every person, including the sin of unbelief. No one could be forgiven the sin of unbelief unless Christ paid for that sin. The person who does not persist in the sin is forgiven. This is true of every other sin as well. Christ died for the sin of adultery, but the person who persists in the sin will be damned for that sin though Christ died for it.

The sins of an unbeliever damn him, not because Christ did not die for them, but because the very nature of unbelief is that it rejects that payment for sin. An unbeliever is damned for all his sins not just for the sin of unbelief, because he has no forgiveness for any of his sins, having thrown it away.

The most serious problem with Owen's view is not just that his logic is bad, but that his logic leads him to reject the clear words of Scripture. When Owen rejects the answer "Because of unbelief" he rejects the clear words of Scripture. In John 8:24 Jesus says to the Jews who did not believe in him, "If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." Jesus died for all their sins including their unbelief, but the guilt of all their sins remained on them because they rejected their only Savior and the payment he made for them.

Hebrews 10:26 says that if we deliberately keep on sinning no more sacrifice for sins is left. Not that no sacrifice for sins was offered, but they do not have it because they have thrown it away.

2 Peter 2:1 says Christ redeemed the heretics who are damned for their heresy.

1 Timothy 4:10 says the very thing Owen rejects: Christ is the Savior of all, especially of those who believe. He is the Savior for all, but not all will benefit from it.

It is tragic when someone uses sound reason and logic to reject Scripture. It is even more tragic when someone uses unsound logic based on a false premise to reject the clear words of Scripture. This sadly is what Owen has done."

Seth McBee said...


I must humbly ask you to study the word atonement and propitiation again. To be atoned or better put in the new testament, propitiation, means to completely wipe away the wrath due.

If this is the case, Christ suffered on the cross for those already in hell at the time of the cross and also their is double payment for the sins that people commit. Not only Christ's suffering but also those going to hell...double payment is not just and God therefore is not just.

John 10 Christ says that the Shepherd dies for the sheep but not the wolves.

James 4 says that if you are not saved you are an enemy of God

John 15 says that Christ dies for His friends (not enemies)

Notice that the OT never uses the propitiation when speaking of animal sacrifice because Christ's sacrifice was superior to animal sacrifice...Heb 10.

Daniel Ritchie said...

If Christ 'redeemed' heretics why do they go to hell? Was his 'redemption' not good enough to save them?

Highland Host said...

Anon. The Synod teaches a Gospel of savabilty, Owen a Gospel of Salvation. The Synod that Christ died to secure the savability of all, Owen that Christ died to secure the SALVATION of some. Now, the great question here is, did Christ suffer in the 'room and stead' of sinners?

Of course, if one does not believe in Substitutionary atonement (that is, if Christ did not die in the place of those for whom he died) one cannot accept Owen's logic. However, if Christ died in the place of sinners, and was punished for all the sins of those for whom he died, they cannot be punished for them, as Toplady puts it:

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And fully in my place endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand,
Once at my bleeding surety's hand,
And then again at mine.
(227 in Gadsby's)

The Wisconsin Synod assumes a Universal atonement, yet logically must also affirm the Grotian or Moral Government view of the atonement (that is, that Christ did not die in the place of anyone, but as a display of God's justice. He did not pay the exact penalty for the sins of any, but an equivalent penalty. Moral Government is an objective view of the atonment, like substitution).
Logically it is not possible t have both substitution and a universal atonement