Monday, June 12, 2017

Owen on the Pastoral Benefits of Reflection on God's Decree and Foreknowledge

From the conclusion to last Sunday afternoon’s sermon on God’s Decree and Foreknowledge (from the 1689 Baptist confession, chapter three, paragraph 2):

In 1642 John Owen wrote a treatise with the title “A Display of Arminianism” in which he responded point by point to the objections of Arminianism to the Biblical doctrine of election. The subtitle, in good Puritan fashion reads, in part: “A discovery of the old Pelagian idol free-will, with the new goddess contingency.” Thus, the Arminian idea that God’s decree is contingent or conditioned by man’s response, Owen declared to be a “new goddess,” that is, a “false goddess.”

Chapter 3 is titled “Of the prescience or foreknowledge of God, and how it is questioned and overthrown by the Arminians.” His point is that God knows all things not because he anticipates various contingencies but that he has sovereignly decreed all things.

Owen closes that chapter with a meditation on the pastoral benefits of rightly understanding God’s decree and his foreknowledge:

Amidst all our afflictions and temptations, under whose pressure we should else faint and despair, it is no small comfort to be assured that we do nor can suffer nothing but what his hand and counsel guides unto us, what is open and naked before his eyes, and whose end and issue he knoweth long before; which is a strong motive to patience, a sure anchor of hope, a firm ground of consolation (Works, Vol. 10, p. 29).

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