John Owen is my favorite Puritan and probably my favorite theologian. He is a hard read at times, but he is worth the labor of reading and understanding. He is an example of enduring a lot of personal trials in life and also being able to know God as deeply as he did theologically and I believe, quite passionately.
Before We Get Started
As we get in over our heads with this, I want us to consider this question every step of the way: “When God made man in His image and then says that ‘It is not good for man to be alone,‘ to what extent did He mean that, only physically, or spiritually as well and if spiritually, with whom should man be with?”
In chapter 4 of The Glory of Christ, Volume 1 of his works, Owen gets into the restoration of creation in the divine counsels of God, in the person of Christ. It’s a little lengthy to put into one post, so I am going to dig into it by spreading it out into 3 or 4 (possibly 5) posts to allow myself the opportunity to handle a little at a time. So here we go. Here is the first section:
1. God made all things, in the beginning, good, exceeding good. The whole of his work was disposed into a perfect harmony, beauty,and order, suited unto that manifestation of his own glory which he designed therein. And as all things had their own individual existence, and operations suited unto their being, and capable of an end, a rest, or a blessedness, congruous unto their natures and operations—so, in the various respects which they had each to other, in their mutual supplies, assistances, and co-operation, they all tended unto that ultimate end—his eternal glory. For as, in their beings and existence, they were effects of infinite power—so were their mutual respects and ends disposed in infinite wisdom. Thereon were the eternal power and wisdom of God glorified in them ; the one in their production, the other in their disposal into their order and harmony. Man was a creature that God made, that by him he might receive the glory that he aimed at in and by the whole inanimate creation—both that below, which was for his use, and that above, which was for his contemplation. This was the end of our nature in its original constitution. Thereunto are we again restored in Christ : James i. 18 ; Ps. civ. 24, cxxxvi. 5 ; Rom. i. 20.
Ok, Owen is asserting what the end of our nature was in its original design. Not only man, but all of creation, in that, all things are made with a purpose in the mind of God to be fulfilled in the way that brings Him the glory He seeks. But now, since sin entered, the way things were, seeing that it is impossible for man to get back there on his own, is something of a moot point because what was is not what is and even though what was may be restored, it will not ever be exactly what was because it has been changed.
Concluding Thoughts (for now….)
Now with all of this in mind, we must pursue the inquiry, “Was it possible for man NOT to sin? Was the fall avoidable?” I am going to assert that the answer is “No” to both questions. Only because I think this is what Owen is going to take on to prove (which I think he is right, by the way!) as we will see in the next few posts.
Thank you in advance for being patient as we get all of this out. I think you’ll see the brilliance of John Owen in this example. Also, if you are like me, you may want to read the quotes from Owen a few times to really soak up what he is saying. He will certainly stretch us!