Wednesday, November 1, 2006

John Owen: Doxological Theology

Following the Reformation, one of the issues addressed by the Reformed orthodox was the need to hammer out a definition of theology. For example, it is during this time-frame we find the classic definitions by William Perkins (theology is "the science of living blessedly forever") and William Ames ("theology is the doctrine of living to God"). For background to this discussion, see my notes from Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.

It is no surprise that in his 'theologoumena' John Owen provides his own definition of theology. He defines theology as "the doctrine of God with regard to himself, his works, his will, his worship, as well as our required obedience, our future rewards and punishments, all as revealed by God himself [in Scripture] to the glory of his name" (Biblical Theology, trans. Stephen Westcott [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria], 16-17).

Without much elaboration, I think we can make at least the following six observations about this definition of theology by Owen.

1. Theology assumes the archtypal/echtypal distinction. This is to say that theology is not concerned with God's knowledge of God per se but the knowledge of God revealed in Scripture. It is apprehensive not comprehensive.

2. Theology is Scriptural, as it provides the basis for the knowledge of God.

3. Theology is concerned with the flow of redemptive-history (God's work, will, and revealed by God himself). This is played out in the sctructure of Owen's work which follows the main epochs of Scripture (e.g. Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, etc.).

4. Theology is theocentric, or more specifically (for Owen), it is Trinitarian.

5. Theology is pastoral, as it reflects upon the faith, worship, and obedience God requires of man.

6. Theology is doxological, as it is to the glory of God.

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