John Owen was a Funny Guy Sometimes

The following is John Owen’s summary of the Socinian John Biddle’s views in the form of a catechism, as found in Vindiciae Evangelicae (Oxford, 1655). I have modernized the English (especially the spelling) where necessary. In this, Owen demonstrates the absurdity of Biddle’s views. I found it rather humorous in a few places.


To close this whole discourse, I shall present John Biddle’s catechumens with a shorter catechism than either of his, collected out of their master’s questions, with some few inferences naturally flowing from them; and it is as follows.


1.Q. What is God?

A. God is a spirit that has a body, shape, eyes, ears, hands, and feet like us.


2.Q. Where is this God?

A. In a certain place in heaven, upon a throne, where a man may see from his right hand to his left.


3.Q. Does he ever move out of that place?

A. I cannot tell what he ordinarily does, but he has formerly come down sometimes upon the earth.


4.Q. What does he do there in that place?

A. Among other things, he conjectures at what men will do here below.


5.Q. Does he then not know what we do?

A. He does know what we have done, but not what we will do.


6.Q. What frame is he in, upon his knowledge and conjecture?

A. Sometimes he is afraid, sometimes grieved, sometimes joyful, and sometimes troubled.


7.Q. What peace and comfort can I have in committing myself to his providence, if he does not know what will befall me tomorrow?

A. What is that to me? You can see to that yourself.


8.Q. Is Jesus Christ God?

A. He is dignified with the title of God, but he is not God?


9.Q. Why then was he called the only begotten Son of God?

A. Because he was born of the Virgin Mary.


10.Q. Was he Christ the Lord then when he was born?

A. No, he became the Lord afterwards.


11.Q. Does he still have in Heaven a human body?

A. No, but he is made a spirit, so that being not God but man, he was made a God, and being made a God, he is a spirit, and not a man.


12.Q. What is the Holy Ghost?

A. A principal angel.


13.Q. Did death enter by sin, or was mortality actually caused by sin?

A. No.


14.Q. Why is Christ called a Savior?

A. Because at the resurrection he will change our vile bodies.


15.Q. On what other account?

A. None that I know of.


16.Q. How then shall I be saved from sin and wrath?

A. Keep the commandments, that you may have a right to eternal life.


17.Q. Was Christ the eternal Son of God in his bosom, revealing his mind from there, or was he taken up into heaven, and there taught the truths of God, as Mohammed pretended?

A. He ascended into heaven, and talked with God, before he came and showed himself to the world.


18.Q. What did Christ do as a prophet?

A. He gave a new law.


19.Q. What did he do in it?

A. He corrected the Law of Moses.


20.Q. Who was it that said of old, “you will love your neighbor and hate your enemy”?

A. God, in the Law of Moses, which Christ corrects.


21.Q. Is Christ to be worshiped because he is God?

A. No, but because he redeemed us.


22.Q. May one that is a mere creature be worshiped with divine or religious worship?

A. Yes.


23.Q. How can Christ, being a mere man, and now so far removed from the earth, understand and hear all the prayers and desires of the hearts of men, that are put up to him all the world over?

A. I cannot tell, for God himself does not know that there are such actions, as our free actions are, but upon inquiry.


24.Q. Did Christ give himself for an offering and sacrifice to God in his death?

A. No, for he was not then a priest.


25.Q. Did Christ by his death make reconciliation for our sins, the sins of his people, and bear their iniquities that they might have peace with God?

A. No, but only died that they might turn themselves to God.


26.Q. Did he so undergo the curse of the law and was so made sin for us? Were our iniquities so laid on him, that he made satisfaction to God for our sins?

A. No, there is no such thing in the Scripture.


27.Q. Did he merit or procure eternal life for us by his obedience and suffering?

A. No, this is a fiction of the generality of Christians.


28.Q. Did he redeem us properly with the price of his blood, that we should be saved from wrath, death, and hell?

A. No, there is no such use or fruit of his death and the shedding of his blood.


29.Q. If he neither suffered in our stead, nor underwent the curse of the law for us, nor satisfied justice by making reconciliation for our sins, nor redeemed us by the price of his blood, what did he do for us? On what account is he our Savior?

A. He taught us the way to heaven, and died to leave us an example.


30.Q. How then did he save them, or was he their Savior, who died before his teaching and dying?

A. He did not save them, nor was their Savior, nor did they ask anything in his name, or received anything on his account.


31.Q. Did Christ raise himself according to how he spoke of the temple of his body, “destroy this temple and on the third day I will raise it again”?

A. No, he did not raise himself at all.


32.Q. Has God from eternity loved some even before they did any good, and elected them to life and salvation to be obtained by Jesus Christ?

A. No, but he loved all alike.


33.Q. Did God in the sending of Christ aim at the salvation of a certain number of his elect?

A. No, but he aimed at the salvation of men in general, whether any are ever saved or not.


34.Q. Are all those saved for whom Christ died?

A. The least part of them are saved.


35.Q. Is faith worked in us by the Spirit of God, or are we converted by the efficacy of his grace?

A. No, but of our selves we believe and are converted, and then we are made partakers of the Spirit and his grace.


36.Q. Are all true believers preserved by the power of God unto salvation?

A. No, many of them fall away and perish.


37.Q. Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us for our justification?

A. No, but our own faith and works.


38.Q. Are we to receive or apprehend Christ and his righteousness by faith, that we may be justified through him?

A. No, but believe on him that raised him from the dead, and without that, it suffices.


39.Q. Are we able to keep all God’s commandments?

A. Yes.


40.Q. Perhaps in our sincere endeavors? But can we do it absolutely and perfectly?

A. Yes, we can keep them perfectly.


41.Q. What need then is there for a man to apprehend Christ’s righteousness and apply it to himself by faith.

A. None at all, for there is no such thing required.


42.Q. What shall become of wicked men after the resurrection?

A. They shall be so consumed, body and soul, as not at all to remain in torments.


About Nate Milne

Historical Theology student at Westminster Seminary California.
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