Thursday, August 27, 2009

John Owen, the Pastor

My next project (just started) is a children's biography on John Owen. Before I start any of these biographies, I always wonder, "Why is this person important to our children?" I could never write without having that thought clear in my mind, especially since my books are very simple and concise and I don't have room for non-essentials.
With Calvin, I was impressed by the clarity of his writings. Without him, it would have probably taken much longer for the Church to develop an unified, cohesive thought. Calvin's honesty and precision in writing were also particularly striking to me. As a veteran translator, I recognize and appreciate a well-thought choice of words. That's why, I believe, Calvin had (and has) so many enemies: his message is absolutely clear.
His commitment to the clear exposition of the truth in spite of tremendous obstacles, afflictions, and disappointments reveals a deep-seated love for God and His church. All this was fixed on my mind as I wrote my children's biography on John Calvin.
Augustine was also driven by an utmost passion for God and His truth, which he expressed in a more emotional and poetic language than Calvin. This commitment for the truth led him to formulate with clarity and boldness the doctrine of Sola Gratia, even when it led to the uncomfortable but unavoidable conclusion of God's predestination. He had some other amazing achievements, but these were the main point fixed on my mind while writing about him.
As I now face the immense volume of writings produced by John Owen, I have to ask myself the same question, "Why in the world am I writing about this person?" Owen had a tremendous impact on the religious and political life of his day, and his writings on the atonement, the Trinity, worship, and covenant theology are, in my view, conclusive, thorough, and comprehensive, but how can I convey this to a 7-year old?
Then I saw that Owen's motivation in writing was always pastoral. When the Socinians realized that the only way to allow man's choice as the determining factor in his salvation is to claim that God doesn't know everything, Owen saw the awful implications of this teaching on a pastoral level.
My second son, Simon, claims to be an atheist (I sympathize with Monica in her prayers for Augustine). This morning I asked my children, "What is more comforting, to think that Simon's eternal fate is entirely in God's hands, or to think that God doesn't really know what choice Simon will eventually make, so his eternal destiny is really in his own hands?" The answer was obvious even to my youngest. God is perfectly merciful, wise, and just. My son is very stubborn, impetuous, and has made a good share of foolish choices.
Seeing Owen's writings in their pastoral context makes them relevant even to our youngest children. I will be teaching Sunday School to 4th-6th graders this year, but I hope that Tricia will allow me one visit to her class (1st to 3rd graders) to read my manuscript once it's done. Children are my greatest inspiration and critics.


  1. Absolutely! Come read it for sure! :D

  2. Press on, Simonetta. I can't wait to see a children's book on Owen in print and be able to give it to my sons. Owen has often been called "England's Calvin," due to his sound theology, massive intellect, prolific pen, and pastoral concern. Definitely a giant from the cloud of witnesses in church history. It is VERY important that covenant youth know who he was.