John Owen is one of my favorite theologians. I enjoy reading Owen for the good of my soul and to help me to feed others in the church. Over the years, I’ve found a typical response when I recommend reading the 17th-century English Puritan. People are overwhelmed. Owen’s works are dense. His sentences are long. He also frequently writes phrases in Latin and interacts with the classics. But, I’d say it’s worth it. There’s gold in the slow, methodical, careful reading of John Owen.
Over the last few years, I’ve started to change my approach. Several new books introduce the reader to Owen. In other words, these authors do a lot of the heavy lifting for you and bring the cookies down a few shelves. Below are some of my favorite books to recommend on John Owen. But, beware, they are gateway books to more Owen!
The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen, Sinclair Ferguson, 140 pages. I’ve enjoyed many of the books from The Long Line of Godly Men Series, but this is my favorite. Ferguson provides a brief biographical look at Owen and then launches into a detailed discussion on Owen’s understanding of the Trinity and prayer. It’s what I recommend as a first step into the deep end. Ferguson writes about Owen like they went to school together, he’s so familiar with his works. He’s an able guide.
Owen on the Christian Life, Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin, 306 pages. Barrett combs through John Owen’s contribution to the church in a systematic way. Readers will be treated to detailed analysis and explanation of subjects, including the glory of Christ, communion with the triune God, mortification of sin, justification, and ecclesiology. There are brief biographical chapters as well.
The Enemy Within, Kris Lundgaard, 140 pages. Many people have heard of Owen’s works on The Mortification of Sin and Indwelling Sin in the Life of the Believer. Lundgaard distills the gist of what Owen is saying and packages it in the 21st-century common language. If you are looking for a book to read and help you get after the work of putting sin to death, then this book will help you.
John Owen on the Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson, 316 pages. As mentioned above, Ferguson is quite familiar with the works of Owen. Ferguson provides a brief biography of Owen before moving into his other writings. Significant time is spent on the matters of regeneration, sanctification, and communion with God in prayer. This book is a useful resource on the subject of sanctification.