Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Purpose Driven Puritan

Reading John Owen at 34,000 feet provokes some interesting thoughts. On my way to Charlotte, NC today I reread Owen's Mortification of Sin. It is such a helpful, theologically insightful and pastoral book. I was struck by how contemporary Owen sounds. Granted, "contemporary" is not a word that you would often find describing John Owen. But I am not talking about his style, but his analysis. He understands human nature and since human nature has not changed since the Fall, what this "Prince of the Puritans" has to say about it is as relevant and beneficial today as it was in the 17th century.

Comparing his understanding of the workings of sin and, consequently, the workings of the Gospel to that which is typically expressed today shows the incredible, doctrinal and spiritual downgrade that we have suffered in our generation. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
Here is simply one gem that shows just how helpful his biblical insights can be for us today. After acknowledging the widespread religious activity that characterized his day, he expresses concern about the depth and reality of much that passes under the name "Christian."
If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men's places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness, be badges of Christians, we have them on us and among us in abundance.
Sounds like an accurate assessment of the contemporary scene to me.

OK; here is the reason for the title I gave to this blog. The married couple that sat next to me on the plane were more interested in sleeping than chatting for most of the flight. As we neared Charlotte, the wife noticed my reading and marking the small paperback in my lap. Finally she asked, "What are you reading?" I showed her the cover and said, "John Owen's book on mortification; it is an explanation of how God calls people who trust in the Lord Jesus to live."

She responded very excitedly, "Oh! Our church just studied one of his books! Oh, what was the name of it....Oh yeah! It was The Purpose Driven Life!" I gently explained the mistaken identity and couldn't help but wonder if there was a rumble at Bunhill Fields in London, as old Owen rolled over in his grave!
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
HT: Rebecca Ascol, for the image


Hank said...

And I thought the comments from LU were outrageous!

That is almost too sad to be funny, almost;)

Tony K. said...

Great title for your post. I don't think mortification will ever make the top five for Warren's means of grace.

Byroniac said...

Love the name for the post!

I'm no English expert, but shouldn't there be a dash (or is it a hyphen?) between "Purpose" and "Driven?" Appreciate some English help from those in the know, because hyphenation is one of my weaknesses. I never know where to put the silly things.

(sarcasm mode: activated)
Well, belated kudos to John Owen for his book being favorably mistaken for one of Rick Warren's. Perhaps it should even be put beside PPL on every Baptist's personal bookshelf. I simply must order a copy now, to keep PPL company.
(sarcasm mode: deactivated)

Byroniac said...

Good grief. I meant PPL = PDL.

martyduren said...

GREAT book cover!

Brian Hamrick said...

John Owen has done much to teach me how to have my "Best Life Now."


Brian Hamrick said...

I heard Rick Warren had changed his appearance a bit, but didn't realize it was that drastic!

Stephen A Morse said...

Tom, I am also reading volume six of his works and am again a little amazed at how 'current' the application is and at how appropriate the subject is for my own life.

I have been reading exerpts from it to my church for the past couple of weeks and have been getting some wonderfully interested responses.
Maybe this ought to be the next Lifeway Material:
PDL= "The P-utting to D-eath L-ife!

Tom said...


I like it! It could be combined with "Forty Days of Mortification." :-)

Ian said...


Cary Loughman said...

Thanks for the chuckle, needed one after having to get in early today.

Stephen A Morse said...

How many First Baptist Churches would put that on their sign out front?

Join us for
"The Forty Days of Death!"

That is great!

Darel said...

Wow. John Owen being mistaken for Rick Warren.

You know, I homeschool my children because I have so little faith in either public education or private Christian education. But I hadn't realized that it had gone to such depths that you could study a book for 40 straight days and still not know who the author is.....


Andrew Nicewander said...

tell becca that she did a great job on the image. :-)

Clay said...

That is one of the funniest things I have heard and seen in a while. I wonder if Zondervan will come up with a Mortification Study Bible?

Stephen A Morse said...

Clay, they could also publish the 365 days of death desk calendar!

I wonder if Starbucks would add that to their coffee cup line?

Stephen A Morse said...

I am fairly certain that none of the senior ladies Sunday School class would be rushing to fill my mail box with brochures that "would be really nice to teach to our church sometime!"

Castusfumus said...

Where is the false prophet in the tin foil?

Matt Privett said...

And I had just been thinking about picking up that new one by John Owen... John Owen's Bible Study Methods... er, I mean Rick Warren. that's all over the bookstores now. Wasn't sure there was Bible study to his method but I guess I was wrong.

jbuchanan said...

Who's this Rick Warren that guys keep talking about?

Byroniac said...

Bro. Tom:

I just wanted to add my (third) comment that I really enjoy reading your blog. I am glad that the Founders movement exists, and I truly hope that SBC reform will happen (I know it is possible, because with God all things are possible, and we would not have gotten as far as we have without God's blessing).

But I just love this blog, and everyone's sense of humor!

DOGpreacher said...

Good stuff, Tom. Yeah, Hank you are right, it is ALMOST too sad to be funny!#:>)

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

Many times in our lives we all must learn that


Hopefully this talkative disciple of a famous West Coast pastor has now learned
this valuable lesson.

My wife hopes she was not a blonde!

jfile said...

How about "Communion with a Purpose"?

art rogers said...


It took me a day to get back here for this post, but well worth the effort!

It is so telling, isn't it?

Darel said...

Well, I think Owen is stepping up to the challenge:


jc said...

I received the PDL book from someone. I haven't read it. I just put it in storage. What do you think i should do with it?

a) sell it
b) trash it
c) something else

H.C. Ross said...

I love humor as much as the next guy ... especially when it involves the Puritans (see my blog, the Conventicle).

But how many folks here have actually read the PDL? How many here really know enough about Rick Warren to slander him, a Christian brother?

Here are two actual quotes from the book, both of which I believe John Owen would applaud:

Chapter 7, p. 53:
"It's all for him. The ultimate goal of the universe is to show the glory of God. It is the reason for everything that exists, including you. God made it all for HIS glory. Without God's glory, there would be nothing ..."

And this one certainly calls for reflection -- Chapter 36, p. 287-88:

[Warren is talking about the death of his own father, also a minister]:

"One night near the end, while my wife, my niece, and I were by his side, Dad suddenly became vey active and tried to get out of bed. Of course, he was too weak, and my wife insisted he lay back down. But he persisted in trying to get out of bed, so my wife finally asked, 'Jimmy, what are you trying to do?' He replied, 'Got to save one more for Jesus! Got to save one more for Jesus!' He began to repeat that phrase over and over.

During the next hour, he said that phrase probably a hundred times. 'Got to save one more for Jesus!' As I sat by his bed with tears flowing down my cheeks, I bowed my head to thank God for my dad's faith. At that moment Dad reached out and placed his frail hand on my head and said, as if commissioning me, 'Save one more for Jesus! Save one more for Jesus!'

I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life. I invite you to consider it as a focus for your life, too, because NOTHING will make a greater difference for eternity. If you want to be used by God, you must care about what God cares about; what he cares about most is the redemption of the people he made. He wants his lost children found! Nothing matters more to God; the Cross proves that. I pray that you will always be on the lookout to reach 'one more for Jesus' so that when you stand before God one day, you can say, 'Mission accomplished!'"

gracevet said...

I love the doctrines of grace as they represent a systematic and thoroughly biblical understanding of God's revelation. I'm sure the Puritans were godly people with overall some sound theology. (They also had some pretty legalistic tendencies).

What disappoints me about this blog is that it mocks one Christian brother. I'm not sure that is the way Jesus would have reacted to some who were not quite kosher in the eyes of the disciples. Did not jesus himself make mention of millstones being hung around the necks of those who might cause another to stumble?

Please - let God build his church the way he wants to and stop tearing down other brothers in Christ.