Overcoming Sin and Temptation: Three Classic Works by John Owen, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006.
I have to admit it: I have struggled to read John Owen. This is not exactly the best thing for a church history professor who has an abiding interest in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology. And yet, like many, I found Owen’s sentence and argument structure to be so long and convoluted that I gave up in despair ever truly accessing his theological and pastoral insights.
Until I received a copy of this newly edited version of his three classic works on sin and temptation. Kelly Kapic (from Covenant College) and Justin Taylor have done believers a great favor in producing this edition of Owen’s Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It; and Indwelling Sin. Unlike other editions of these works that either modernized the language or rephrased Owen’s main theological points in different words, this edition is straight Owen—with important differences.
In terms of form and style, the editors helpfully defined nearly every archaic word at the bottom of the page (I swear sometimes Owen makes up these words!); Justin Taylor provided a helpful introduction at the beginning of each treatise that summarizes the argument; and they provided are very helpful outlines in the back of the book to assist the reader follow the flow of the argument (necessary for Indwelling Sin especially). Most helpful to me was the way the editors italicized Owen’s main points and broke up long paragraphs to make the reading much easier. All of this made Owen much more accessible for the struggling modern reader.
In terms of substance, Kelly Kapic’s marvelous introduction was both inspirational and informational. Not only did Kapic highlight key themes with a light and masterful touch, but he demonstrated why Owen is worth all the trouble. And of course, Owen himself was rich, reminding us “to be killing sin or sin will be killing you” (p. 50). I found him making pithy observations on sin and sanctification that I would subsequently write into my journal for meditation and future use.
One hint from my own experience that may prove useful: I made it my determination to read ten pages from Owen every day as part of my morning worship. That set a good limit for what my mind could absorb and consider throughout the day, but it also provided a natural pace through the book. It took me the better part of two months to complete, but the net result was worth it. However you go about reading this book, for the good of your soul, please do.