Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology, 1640-1790 : an Evaluation
This book examines and compares the theological views of Dr John Owen (1616-83), the Puritan pastor and theologian, and John Wesley (1703-91), the evangelist and founder of Methodism. Protracted doctrinal debate occurred during the period under review over the doctrines of atonement and justification, Owen and Wesley respectively representing the Calvinist and Arminian interpretations of the controversy. Dr Clifford demonstrates that the Arminian reaction to scholastic high Calvinism might have been avoided had theologians like Theodore Beza and John Owen pursued the relatively moderate theological formulations of John Calvin and the Anglican Reformers. Instead Owen buttressed his orthodoxy by resorting to Aristotelian logic and metaphysics, especially in his doctrine of limited atonement. Clifford indicates here that the suspected via media of Richard Baxter (1615-1619) and Archbishop Tillotson (1630-1694) is much closer to original Calvinism than has been allowed hitherto, confirming his verdict that, in several respects, Calvin's theology received a more authentic expression in Wesley's Arminianism than in Owen's high Calvinism. In this study Clifford seeks both to assess the various areas of the debate within the context of historical theology and to evaluate them according to the criteria of biblical exegesis. He offers for the first time a critical, in-depth discussion of the philosophical foundations of the ultra-orthodoxy of John Owen, and also expounds a positive solution to a controversy which was shelved rather than solved, and which continues to vex those who seek a coherent biblical grasp of the Reformed Faith.
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