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.
`Readers of this book will find it refreshing to move in a theological atmosphere in which the leading contemporary Anglican theologians are John Stott ('Arminian'!) and J. I. Packer ('Calvinist'), and in which the current wave of liberalism is dismissed as a historically irrelevant sidetrack, detracting from the main issues of theology. This is a bold claim to make, and Dr Clifford is to be congratulated for making no concessions on this point ... an
`lucid and intelligent book ... The comparison is intelligent and cogent, and is a valuable contribution to our understanding of late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century evangelical theology in it own right.
Journal of Theological Studies
'learned study ... a model of patient scholarship, and a constructive essay in historical theology'
John L. Newton, Theology
`He has lived with his subject for a long time, and his treatment gains in attractiveness from the sense of liberation he has acquired in the course of it ... If revisionism means reclassification, here we have it, and no scholar of the period should miss the sport.'
The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
`there is much that is compelling in Clifford's argument and it may be added that he expounds some difficult and complex themes with an enviable clarity and sympathy.'
Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society
Part 1 The theologians: John Owen; Richard Baxter; John Tillotson; John Wesley. Part 2 The theology - atonement and grace: authentic Calvinism; the legacy of Aristotle; doctrinal dilemas; the meaning of the cross; the verdict of scripture. Part 3 The theology - faith and justification: the reformation heritage; Christ's righteousness and ours; the obedience of faith; Paul and James.