Priesthood of Christ in the atonement theology of John Owen (1616-1683)
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Tay, Edwin E.M.
This thesis is an attempt to remedy the neglect of John Owen's atonement theology despite wide acclaim for him as the leading representative of the Reformed doctrine of limited atonement. Its main proposition is that Owen's conception of Christ's priesthood in terms of Christ's united acts of oblation and intercession, performed in his twofold state of humiliation and exaltation, lies at the heart of his atonement theology. Chapter One surveys the current literature on Owen and sets out the method and scope of the thesis. A case study of Owen's main constructive work on the atonement, Salus Electorum Sanguis Jesu, or The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (1647), yields the finding that his atonement theology is built around three doctrinal loci: the triune God, Christ the Mediator, and the doctrine of sin's satisfaction. These loci establish the scope of the thesis and are reflected in the content of the ensuing chapters. Chapter Two examines Owen's view of the triune God as the Agent of redemption in the context of the Reformed orthodox teaching on the works of God (opera Dei). Owen is found to be thoroughly trinitarian in his application of the principles inherent in the trinitarian orthodoxy of the West to his conception of the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis). Concern for Christ's priestly mediation understood in the context of his twofold state dominates his exposition of this covenant. Chapters Three to Five explore Owen's understanding of Christ's mediatorial work as the means of redemption. Chapter Three examines Christ's mediatorial office in general. It reveals the distinctively Reformed character of Owen's Christology and his use of the mediatorial category to expound it. Chapter Four narrows the focus to Christ's priestly office. The central importance of Christ's priesthood is shown from three vantage points: Owen's reading of the state of controversy with his universalist opponents; an examination of the views of his universalist opponents; the development of Owen's formulation of Christ's priesthood in his early and mature writings. Chapter Five probes the significance of Owen's formulation of Christ's priesthood in his understanding of sin's satisfaction. The bearing of his formulation is seen in his decision for the satisfactory value of Christ's whole obedience and in his explication of the nature and fruits of Christ's death. In the final chapter, Owen's understanding of the end of redemption is examined in its twofold form: the ultimate end of God's glory and the intermediate end of the elect's salvation. Owen's exposition of both areas reveals, once again, the central importance of Christ's priesthood.