The Holy Spirit—The Helper (Complete Works of John Owen, Volume 7)


The Holy Spirit—The Helper. The Complete Works of John Owen, Volume 7 (Crossway, 2023). 

This volume is one of the first entries in Crossway's republication of John Owen's complete works. Several features of this initial volume illustrate the value of this series and also the fittingness of this volume as one of the first new issues to be published. 

The book itself has a classic look and feel with readable text and user-friendly headings and chapter breaks. Editor Andrew Ballitch provides a helpful historical orientation to Owen's social and theological context. He specifically focuses on the issues and groups that Owen responds to in the works included in this volume. For example, Ballitch describes the Roman Catholic church in England during this period and the debates about the use of church tradition. He also surveys the various sectarian groups that were active and influential (e.g., the various groups of Baptists & Quakers). 

Ballitch explains that Owen navigates between the over-use of reason, the uncritical deference to church tradition, and the alternate over-emphasis on experience. Owen's work in this area of theologial method articulates the necessity and authority of Scripture alongside a modified use of reason, tradition, and experience. 

The two works included in this volume are The Reason of Faith (1677) and the Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God (1678). Both of these works are meant to be viewed in light of his larger project on the person and activity of the Holy Spirit. After establishing who the Holy Spirit is, Owens addresses two particular issues that relate to the Spirit's illumination of the Scriptures. 

Why does a believer affirm the Scriptures to be the true and authoritative word of God? And second, 

How does a believer understand the meaning of the Scriptures themselves? 

In answering these questions, Owen develops some of the main components of a special hermeneutic. The answer to both questions involves the work of the God himself. 

There are "external" tools and evidences that can support and enhance our understanding and conviction about the inspiration and meaning of Scripture. However, they are not ultimate & cannot lead us to a saving faith in God's word and the truth of the gospel. As Owen articulates several times, these other sources of theology are "helpers of our joy" but can never be "lords of our faith" (95). 

As Owen insists, "All real useful knowledge of the 'wonderful things' that are in the Scripture is an effect of God's opening our eyes by the illuminating grace of his Holy Spirit." 

This volume is a helpful entryway into Owen's doctrine of Scripture as well as a strong start to this new edition of Owen's complete works. 

Some Notes: 

Book Review
January 12, 2024


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