Posts tagged John Owen
The Distinctiveness of Christian Parenting

According to John Owen, parents will feel a "natural affection," (i.e., an affection that is part of their nature according to God's creative act) toward their children and work to provide for them. Owen notes that this is not unique to human beings, but they share this inner purpose with the other creatures that bear children. Elephants, frogs, clown fish (I'm looking at you Nemo), and humans all share this instinctual concern for their offspring. It is what he calls the parental "law of operation," or what we might think of as the intrinsic purpose of parenthood. Yet, human parents do have one major difference from their animalian counterparts—they are created in the image of God and are responsible to Him for their actions. Consequently, they are not merely to provide for their children as an instinctual impulse, but as a humble act of submission and obedience to the God who created them.

This turns out to be quite a problem. Since human parents are as "naturally" opposed to the rule of God in their lives as they are "naturally" inclined to care for their children, there are bound to be conflicts. We see it on the news all the time: parents murder their children, mistreat them, neglect them. Even non-Christians are repulsed at these things, it's unnatural! Sin's power is so strong in the unregenerate person that it can overrun something as deeply ingrained as the parent's instinctual impulse to care for his or her children. Owen puts a fine point on it when he writes that indwelling sin so powerfully works to disorder and suppress this instinct that some “deal with their own children as a good man would not be hired with any reward to deal with his dog” (Works of John Owen, VI, 306). 

But we can go beyond Owen's profound insights to simply note one more thing: Christian parents are the only parents who can be parents in the true sense of the word. While non-Christians feel the parental "law of operation" and provide for their children, Christian parents surpass the fulfillment of this basic impulse and see their parenting as part of their own obedience to God. The apostle Paul commands fathers "bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). This command is the revealed will of God for all people, but only those who live their lives in obedience to Him can fulfill it. Therefore Christian parents who live in obedience to this command are the only parents on the face of the earth who fulfill, not only the "law of operation" intrinsic to parenthood, but also their responsibility to God as the Creator to Whom they must give an account.  

The Pastor's Call to Evangelism

Here are two juicy quotes on the pastor's call to evangelism from John Owen's "Sermon V," delivered on September 8, 1682 at the ordination of a man to the ministry. The whole sermon is worth reading. "Christ hath not appointed his ministers to look unto themselves only; they are to be the means of calling and gathering the elect in all ages: and this they principally are to do by their ministry" (460).

"Our work is the same with the apostles'; the method directly contrary. The apostles had a work committed to them, and this was their method:— The first workcommitted to the apostles was the convincing and converting sinners to

Image Credit: Banner of Truth Works of John Owen

Christ among Jews and Gentiles, —to preach the gospel, to convert infidels;—this they accounted their chief work...And then, their second work was to teach those [who were] disciples to do and observe whatever Christ commanded them, and to bring them into church order. This was their method. Now the same work is committed unto the pastors of church; but in a contrary method. The first object of our ministry is the church,—to build up and edify the church. But what then? Is the other part of the work taken away, that they should not preach to convert souls. God forbid" (460-461).

From The Works of John Owen, Volume IX (Repr., Banner of Truth Trust; 1965), 452-462.