The Covenant Theology Of John Owen: The Belligerence Of Lee Gatiss

Posted in Covenant Theology with tags , , on February 11, 2015 by James Polk

John OwenLately there has been a bit of a scuffle on the net regarding the covenant theology of John Owen. A certain Anglican blogger has taken it upon himself to refute a claim that no one is making and he seems quite proud of himself for causing the dust up with Reformed Baptists that has ensued. The provocateur I have in mind is Mr. Lee Gatiss, a contributing author for Reformation 21.

Mr. Gatiss argues repeatedly that John Owen was not a Baptist. The problem? No one claims that he was. Despite this fact, Mr. Gatiss remains obstinate. His posts can be found herehere, and here. Brandon Adams, writing for his blog “Contrast,” does an excellent job of setting the record straight. His posts can be found here and here.

As for my part in this controversy, I want to focus on a particular statement made by Mr. Gatiss in his post entitled John Owen Was Not A Presbyterian. That’s right. Mr. Gatiss is an equal opportunity provocateur. He’s picking on Presbyterians too. He claims that he will target Nonconformists next in that he is “still committed to that promised post on how John Owen was a good Anglican.” Charming, isn’t he?

The statement I have in mind is this:

But for now, let me rather just finish off this mini-series on the great John Owen. True, he was not a Baptist. And what’s more to the point, his covenant theology was so thoroughly not Baptistic that he himself always considered it to demand, support, and promote infant baptism.

My particular interest in that quote is the statement that John Owen’s covenant theology was “thoroughly not Baptistic.” Mr. Gatiss is simply wrong. Again, I recommend Brandon Adam’s posts on this topic. He demonstrates that assertion to be false by quoting Owen’s own words regarding his view of covenant theology. But there’s more. If John Owen’s covenant theology was so thoroughly not Baptistic, why does Nehemiah Coxe, a seventeenth century Particular Baptist theologian, and a probable editor of the 1689 LBC, direct his readers to the writings of John Owen for confirmation and further elaboration of his own stated view of covenant theology?

That notion (which is often supposed in this discourse) that the old covenant and the new differ in substance and not only in the manner of their administration, certainly requires a larger and more particular handling to free it from those prejudices and difficulties that have been cast on it by many worthy persons who are otherwise minded. Accordingly, I designed to give a further account of it in a discourse of the covenant made with Israel in the wilderness and the state of the church under the law. But when I had finished this and provided some materials also for what was to follow, I found my labor for the clearing and asserting of that point happily prevented by the coming out of Dr. Owen’s third volume on Hebrews. There it is discussed at length and the objections that seem to lie against it are fully answered, especially in the exposition of the eighth chapter. I now refer my readers there for satisfaction about it which he will find commensurate to what might be expected from so great a learned person.

Nehemiah Coxe – Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ, Preface to the reader, p. 30

Falling Away

Posted in Scripture with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2014 by James Polk

fallingHeb 6:4  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
Heb 6:6  and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Heb 6:7  For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.
Heb 6:8  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

This is a favorite proof text among Arminians/synergists against the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. There are many who use this passage to prove that salvation can be lossed. But is that really what the writer to the Hebrews was teaching when he wrote verses 4 – 6? It sure looks that way, that is, until you continue reading.

Heb 6:9  Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things–things that belong to salvation.

While there is much to consider and much to discuss, (which I’m willing to do), regarding the passage in question, my purpose in this short post is to point out the elephant in the room. The writer is clear in verse 9. Despite his manner of speech, his words apply to false bretheren, not those who possess true salvation.

Judge Not!

Posted in Scripture with tags , on December 26, 2010 by James Polk

Judge not! Way too many irresponsible Bible readers wield these words like a Jedi master wields a light saber. The context is usually some theological disagreement or the condemnation of sinful behavior as such. But doesn’t Scripture instruct us to be discerning? Are we not told to use ‘right judgment?’ It sure does. John 7:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:21 & 1 John 4:1 are great examples.

So what’s the problem here. Does the Bible contradict itself. No. Even a cursory examination of Matthew 7:1 quickly reveals the problem.

Mat 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Mat 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Mat 7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Mat 7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Mat 7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

This is a classic example of how an out-of-context quotation can be made to mean whatever you like. Jesus did not say, “Judge not.” He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” We’re being told not to make hypocritical judgments. What Jesus says in the four verses after our infamous statement goes on to explain this. The standard by which you judge another will most certainly be used against you and may reveal a bigger problem in your own Spiritual walk. Again, this is not an injunction against judging and discerning. It’s a warning against hypocritical judgment. It’s a warning against placing yourself on the low end of the ‘curve’ while holding others to the high end.

So the next time someone says to you, “Judge not!” You can tell them “No, judge not, that you be not judged!”

Jesus Is Not Your Boyfriend: The Feminization of Christian Worship

Posted in Controversial with tags , , , on November 13, 2010 by James Polk

Many so-called ‘praise & worship’ songs I hear today sound like mushy gushy love songs a smitten young woman might sing for her boyfriend. A prime example can be heard here. This very effeminate ‘style’ of praise and worship music certainly generates ‘worshipful’ feelings, but at what cost? Have we forgotten that our worship is rising to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Jesus isn’t your boyfriend! He’s God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity! You wouldn’t sing some sappy romantic ode to an earthly king. How much more does the King of Kings deserve our respect? Doug Wilson is right. “The current emphasis on ‘feeling worshipful’ is frankly masturbatory, which in men produces a cowardly and effeminate result.”

Music has been one of the chief culprits in the feminization of the church. Many of the “traditional” hymns of the nineteenth century are romantic, flowery, and feminine. (I come, after all, to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.) But the recent rejection of such hymns in favour of contemporary worship music has been a step further away from a biblical masculinity. The current emphasis on ‘feeling worshipful’ is frankly masturbatory, which in men produces a cowardly and effeminate result.

The fact that the church has largely abandoned the singing of psalms means that the church has abandoned a songbook that is thoroughly masculine in its lyrics. The writer of most of the psalms was a warrior, and he knew how to fight the Lord’s enemies in song. With regard to the music of our psalms and hymns, we must return to a world of vigorous singing, vibrant anthems, more songs where the tenor carries the melody, open fifths, and glory. Our problem is not that such songs do not exist; our problem is that we have forgotten them. And in forgetting them, we are forgetting our boys. Men need to model such singing for their sons.

Doug Wilson, Future Men p. 98

The Glories Of Mary?

Posted in Roman Catholicism with tags , , , , , , , on October 30, 2010 by James Polk


I just finished listening to a lecture by John MacArthur entitled “Exposing The Idolatry Of Mary Worship” in the series “Explaining The Heresies Of Catholicism.” During the lecture John MacArthur introduces his audience to a massive tome of blaspheme and maryolatry entitled “The Glories of Mary” by St. Alphonsus de Liguori – Doctor of the Church. This library of idolatry comes complete with nihil obstat and and imprimatur of the RCC. Here are a few samples from just the first few paragraphs of chapter one. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

Sinners In The Hands Of A Merciful God

Posted in Gospel with tags , , , , , on October 9, 2010 by James Polk

On most weekday mornings my usual routine includes listening to Bill Bennett’s ‘Morning In America‘ radio show as I prepare for work. One morning this week, (I can’t remember exactly which one), Mr. Bennett read a brief quote by Jonathan Edwards taken from his famous sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God.” I have no idea why this was read. But what took me aback was Mr. Bennett’s obvious disgust for what he just read. Here’s the quote: Continue reading

Missing The Mark: Sola Scriptura Does Not Foster Disunity

Posted in Scripture with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by James Polk

I just finished listening to a debate between TurretinFan, (Presbyterian), and William Albrecht, (Roman Catholic), on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. More specifically, “Does Sola Scriptura foster disunity and division within the body?” William Albrecht takes the affirmative position and TurretinFan takes the negative position. You can find the debate here.

The charge that Sola Scriptura leads to disunity is nothing new. It has become a stock objection made by many Roman Catholic apologists. Unfortunately for these apologists, the focus of their objection is completely misplaced. Sola Scriptura, rightly understood, cannot be the source of disunity by definition.

Yes, that is a provocative statement, but I can defend it. I’ll begin by defining Sola Scriptura according to the Reformed Faith, not according to the misunderstandings of those who oppose it.

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. . .

. . .The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.

—1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith – WCF with Parallel Confessions

In other words, the Scriptures alone are the only inspired and infallible standard for all matters pertaining to the Christian Faith. Tradition and extra-biblical writings are not on an equal par with Scripture. The Bible is our final court of appeal. Sola Scriptura means that the Christian Faith has an objective standard that is subject to none.

I think with this definition in mind it’s not difficult to see the absurdity in the idea that having an objective standard leads to disunity. The problem isn’t found in having an objective standard, it’s found in what sinful, fallible men do with it. Just because people misinterpret or even twist the various parts of an instruction manual, for example, doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the manual or that it’s necessary to look for another standard. So it is with Scripture. In the same way that the role of an instruction manual as the final court of appeal in its own realm is not negated by those who misinterpret it, so Scripture’s role as the only infallible standard and final court of appeal for the Christian Faith is not negated by those who mishandle it. Sin and ignorance lead to disunity, not Scripture. The charge that Sola Scriptura leads to disunity misses the mark.

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