John Owen’s Pastoral Theology
Lectures by Dr. Derek Thomas
Here are the valuable lectures of Dr. Derek Thomas on the Pastoral Theology of John Owen delivered at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary this past Spring. They are here posted with the kind permission of Dr. Thomas and the President of PRTS, Dr. Joel Beeke. Here you can stream the audio through this page or download the lecture audio files. The course description and objectives are below.
Lecture 1 (1:33:29, 37.5 MB) download
Lecture 2 (1:21:15, 37.3 MB) download
Lecture 3 (1:33:58, 43.1 MB) download
Lecture 4 (1:27:10, 40.0 MB) download
Lecture 5 (1:20:11, 36.8 MB) download
Lecture 6 (1:28:23, 40.5 MB) download
Lecture 7 (1:23:48, 38.4 MB) download
Lecture 8 (1:31:14, 41.8 MB) download
“I owe more, I think, to John Owen than to any other theologian, ancient or modern” (J.I. Packer).
John Owen (1616-1683) was perhaps the weightiest of the Puritan theologians, often mentioned in the same breath as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards as one of three greatest reformed theologians of all time. Remarkable though it is that he lived through the period of the Westminster Assembly without ever having been asked to take part in it, Owen nevertheless towers over this period, rising to the post of Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.
His thoughts are massive, even intimidating; but a closer reflection reveals a man absorbed by the demands of piety and Christ-likeness, a truly humble man who could say “I hold myself bound in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of anyone article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it, in its spiritual sense, that I may be able, from the heart, to say with the psalmist, ‘I have believed, and therefore have I spoken.'”
The course will focus on those aspects of his theology which relate immediately to concerns of spiritual piety, including Owen’s view of the Christian life and the demands of mortification.
Initially lectures on Owenian theology will be given in order to introduce the student to the finer points of Owenian/Puritan theology and distinctives. At some point (to be determined) the format will assume the form of a seminar where participation (involving some preparation) will be expected.
According to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Owen on the whole is difficult to read” (Preaching and Preachers, London, 1971, p. 175). Similar sentiments are expressed by J. I Packer when he says, “There is no denying that Owen is heavy and hard to read” (Introductory Essay to The Death of Death, London, 1959, p. 25). But this need not be the case. Recalling that Owen wrote for teenagers at Oxford university, and that, in the main, his concerns were pastoral and eminently practical, Owen can be read, if not with ease, then with profit. A rule of thumb here may be to avoid beginning at the beginning! Several volumes contain some of Owen’s sermons (and it needs to be recalled that much of Owen was at one time sermonic in nature before being committed to writing); these might seem an ideal place to start. Choosing volumes for special study for this course has been difficult since there is a desire perhaps to obtain some knowledge of the whole range of Owen’s corpus. But we shall concentrate on a little with a view to the student gaining sufficient skill and interest to make the rest of Owen a lifetime’s study.
In a nutshell, you are to enjoy this course. Owen is one of those figures that will take a lifetime to master (and then some!). My hope is that I will whet your appetite to make him a companion who will accompany you on the journey of service for our Master.