How have the writings of John Owen shaped your theological development?

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FERGUSON: If you went back seventy years or so, you would be struggling to find a Christian in the world who knew who John Owen was. Then his works began to be republished in the late 1950s, and his whole works began to be republished in 1965.

I was seventeen in 1965, a first-year student at university, and I encountered the first reprints of John Owen’s works. They were big—six hundred pages per volume, and there were twenty-four volumes. I was able to buy them for fifteen shillings a volume, which is about eighty cents or something like that. When you are Scottish and young and you can get six hundred pages for under a dollar, you buy it. Of course, I’m being humorous. But when I started to read him, I realized this was a different order of teaching altogether. Owen’s works were so theologically rich and spiritually profound that they made some of the other things I was reading seem very superficial. So, that was how I started reading John Owen, and I have kept reading him ever since.

If somebody asked me, “Which theologian taught you to think?” I would say John Calvin because I bought his Institutes when I was a teenager as well.

BINGHAM: Was it expensive or cheap?

FERGUSON: I got them cheap. However, they were more per volume than John Owen. I probably got my first set of Calvin’s Institutes for about $4.50. But Owen helped me to apply theology and to see the way biblical theology flows out into the experience of the church and the Christian life.

Some of Owen’s books in particular helped me, and the one I have treasured most is his book Communion with God, which focuses on communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are also helpful volumes in his complete works. He talks about Christ in volume one, sin in volume six, and justification in volumes four and five. There are twenty-four volumes. I go back to reading him and sometimes think, “Why do I bother reading anybody else?” It is so rich. He is not an easy read, but it’s worth persevering.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.