John Owen on Apostasy – Part Six

V. Darkness and ignorance another cause of apostasy


“THE second spring or cause of defection from the gospel in any kind, is that spiritual darkness and ignorance which abides in the minds of men under the profession of the truth. The gospel may fall under a double consideration: First , Of the things themselves that are contained, revealed, and proposed therein; — these are the material objects of our faith. Secondly , With respect unto the doctrinal way of their declaration.”[1]


Owen’s initial focus in chapter five is to show what it is exactly that the individual does that brings him to apostasy. In doing so, he shows the purpose of God revealing Himself to mankind so that they can renew themselves into the image of God and not that of their own sinful nature.  Owen then moves into the truths of the gospel that bring comfort to the believer: 1. Being Chosen, and 2. Being Preserved. However, without the Spirit – and therefore only having head knowledge of these things – often (actually, in most cases) this all brings out what Owen calls skepticism. Halfway through this chapter Owen digs into the core of the issue, being that the reason of apostasy is man’s ignorance due to having no experience of the actual gospel doctrines in their heart. For this very reason man easily can fall away from the gospel – that which they had thought they knew, but have never been saved by. It is hard to discern things in the world when the “new nature” of a believer is only in the head and has not shaped and formed the person’s heart. The conclusion of this chapter is where John Owen then shows that it is the Holy Spirit that does this very work of placing the gospel in the center of one’s life, heart, and of living, which keeps them from falling away from it.


I. Spiritual Darkness Causes Apostasy

A.   The Purpose of the Gospel

1.     To See God’s Glory

2.     To Know Gods Glory

B.    No Spirit Leads to the lack of Knowing Truth

1.     Truths to Comfort Believers

2.     God has Chose His People

3.     The Natural Mind Leads to False Religion

4.     The Truth Leads to Right Religion

C.    Man’s Ignorance

1.     Head Knowledge of the Word

2.     Gospel Gives True Knowledge of Word

     [1] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 7 (Banner of Truth Trust: London, 1965), p. 102. 


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