Crawford Gribben, “Becoming John Owen: The making of an evangelical reputation,” in Westminster Theological Journal 79 (2017), pp. 311-25 [here].

Abstract: John Owen ended his life in defeat. He died doubting his legacy, and without an explanation of what he deemed to be God’s judgment upon his people. For all his fame, he had not been an especially popular writer, and few of his titles proved to be an immediate success. Owen’s work grew in popularity after his death. In the early eighteenth century, Owen was repackaged for new audiences that appropriated some of his convictions within the context of trans-Atlantic evangelicalism.Jonathan Edwards became one of Owen’s most active American readers, while the movement of reform among English Particular Baptists was identified as “Owenism.” English publishers tended to promote Owen’s devotional writing, while Scottish publishers tended to publish his ecclesiological texts, even as many copies of Owen’s work passed through several generations of owners. As Owen’s reputation was re-engineered, his work was championed among Methodists, Presbyterians, and, eventually, “Plymouth” Brethren, being co-opted in communities that held to principles he had critiqued. Owen was, for a while, almost ubiquitous within some cultures of Victorian evangelicalism, making an appearance in J. R. Herbert’s famous painting of The Assertion of Liberty of Conscience by the Independents at the WestminsterAssembly of Divines (1844). His collected works were published in the 1860s. Their republication by the Banner of Truth provided for the recent revival of interest in Owen’s work, for the cottage industry of Owen scholarship, for his status in religious cultures of consumption, and, consequently, his standing as an evangelical.


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