In his new book, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, Pascal Denault provocatively suggests that John Owen was a Baptist. Of course, Denault is well aware that Owen was in fact a Congregationalist. Denault’s point is that, in many respects, Owen’s understanding of the biblical covenants was closer to the Particular Baptist view than it was to the paedobaptist covenant theology represented in the Westminster Standards (or even in the Congregationalist’s own Savoy Declaration). Unlike other paedobaptists of his day, Owen did not believe that the Old Covenant, the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai, was simply another administration of the covenant of grace, a covenant one in substance with the New Covenant. Instead, Owen, more in line with the Baptists of his day, rejected the one-substance-two-administrations model of the paedobaptists and argued that the “Old Covenant was different from the New Covenant both in circumstance and in substance” (Denault, p. 19). Also like the Baptists, Owen contrasted the New Covenant with the covenant God made with Abraham, arguing that the latter included “carnal ordinances” that were brought to an end “by the actual coming of the Messiah” (John Owen, Hebrews). Owen remained a paedobaptist until his death, but perhaps only because he failed to see how his insightful commentary on Hebrews 8 might impact his position on baptism.
Luke Stamps is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University (OPS). He is also a Ph.D. candidate at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in systematic theology. Luke is writing his dissertation in the field of Christology. Luke is married to Josie, and they have three children, Jack, Claire, and Henry.