Thursday, July 7, 2016

Trinitarian Doxology: A Paper by Dr. Ryan McGraw

Dr. Ryan McGraw, GPTS's recognized expert on the Puritan theologian John Owen, has published a paper entitled "Trinitarian Doxology: Reassessing John Owen's Contribution to Reformed Orthodox Trinitarian Theology."

The paper was published in Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, the journal of the Church History Society of South Africa, late last year. It was first published in the Westminster Theological Journal.

Dr. McGraw is professor of systematic theology at Greenville Seminary and a research associate at University of the Free State in South Africa. His lecture on Owen at the 2016 GPTS Spring Theology Conference has been configured as an article in an upcoming issue of Reformation Today. The article is entitled "John Owen’s Trinitarian Legacy: A 400th Anniversary Appreciation."

John Owen
Reformed orthodox theologian Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) referred to the doctrine of the Trinity as ‘the foundation of fundamentals’. Richard Muller notes that if any dogma comes close to achieving such status, it is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is thus surprising that most modern treatments of trinitarian theology assume that sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformed orthodoxy had virtually nothing to contribute to this vital doctrine. The recent Cambridge Companion to the Trinity and the Oxford Handbook of the Trinity both reflect this assumption. This article addresses how Reformed authors tried to harmonise the historical doctrine of the Trinity with their principle of sola scriptura. It does not treat positive developments or applications of the doctrine. The void left in the secondary literature has not adequately probed the bold claims of Voetius or the scholarly reflections of Muller. John Owen (1616-1683) is a growing exception to this trend. Both historians and theologians are starting to recognise his significance as a theologian in general and a trinitarian theologian in particular, but they often stop short of observing how he intertwined his trinitarian theology and piety throughout his writings. This article will reassess Owen’s contribution to Reformed trinitarian theology in two major segments. The first does so by critiquing two recent treatments of his work. The remaining material explores the theological foundations of Owen’s trinitarian doxology followed by the theological and practical conclusions that he drew from his theology in relation to Scripture, spiritual affections, covenant theology, and ecclesiology. Owen illustrates that one of the primary contributions of Reformed orthodoxy to trinitarian theology lies in its integration into Reformed soteriology and piety. This article reassesses Owen’s contribution to trinitarian theology and provides clues for scholars to trace the significance of the Reformed contribution to trinitarian theology in other authors within that tradition.