The Renovation of Man’s Nature: John Owen on Preaching as the Means of Reinstating the Imago Dei

John Owen’s (1616-1683) theological anthropology is closely knit together with his theology of communion with God. According to Owen, to have communion with the triune God, man’s likeness or image of God needs to be restored. Due to sin, mankind loses their ability to know God naturally, making natural theology alone forever inadequate to image God and to have communion with Him. Man is no longer able to perceive divine truth from God – making him no longer able to image God. However, according to Owen, there remains an innate sense in fallen man – an indwelling urge to know God. This indwelling urge exists in fallen man because there remains the faculty (the ability) of mind, will, and affections for spiritual things. However, these faculties remain dry because God’s glory, which originally possessed these spiritual facilities, was lost due to the original sin of Adam. The purpose of this paper is to articulate how Owen understood the Imago Dei and how it is restored through the preaching of God’s Word – the exhortation of God’s special revelation. Preaching, for Owen, is intended to show the light of the Gospel to be seen by faith. Owen appeals to the doctrine of the beatific vision to show the glory of God through preaching. The light of the Gospel, which reinstates the Imago Dei in individual persons, is the glory of God seen in and through the Son of God. When the glory of God is beheld through the preaching of God’s Word, the spiritual faculty of man is filled with the light of the Gospel, rightly enabling him to reflect and have communion with God through the saving knowledge of the Son. The preaching of God’s Word by the Spirit enables man’s mind, will, and affections to once again reflect the glory of God for worship.

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