John Owen, Baptism, and the Baptists (Crawford Gribben)
March 20, 2015: Dr. Crawford Gribben, @GribbenC (Professor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfast and author of the recently published academic biography John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology)) was the guest lecturer at the Strict Baptist Historical Society Annual Lecture which took place in Kensington Place, London. His lecture was titled, “John Owen, baptism & the Baptists.” The lecture was later published in By Common Confession: Essays in Honor of James M. Renihan.
Gribben addresses, amongst other things, the oft-cited tract “Of Infant Baptism.” He notes this was not published until 1721. It was never published in Owen’s lifetime.
(41:00) “Asty does not explain when this tract of infant baptism was written, whether it was intended to be separately published, nor why Owen did not publish it within his own lifetime. The reality is, simply, that Owen may not have been its author. Many of the texts within this edition were taken from manuscripts in Owen’s own hand. But many other items in this volume were taken from auditor’s notes. The tract’s abbreviated form and lack of intellectual development suggests that it may have its provenance in notes of a sermon or presentation Owen made upon this theme. But despite the lack of information about the provenance of the tract, some recent defenders of Owen’s infant baptismal theories have argued that he wrote it very precisely in 1657 or 1658 simply on the basis that Asty’s edition juxtaposes this brief, abbreviated, untraceable tract with a response to John Tombes book “Antipaedobaptism” which was published in 1657. The argument of significance of Owen’s only title focusing on infant baptism is based on some very uncertain presuppositions. The only thing we can be sure of about “Of Infant Baptism” is that Owen did not publish this tract within his own lifetime, that it did not circulate as representing his thinking on this issue for almost 40 years after his death when it appeared in a volume alongside many other texts reconstructed from sermon notes taken by an auditor.”