reprint: Gale Ecco, 2011; London, Thomas Parkhurst, 1702.

Summary: Howe was a brilliant Puritan non-conformist, much admired by Shedd. The first volume of the Living Temple closely argues the ontological argument in its Anselmic form, likely in response to Descartes’ flawed reformulation. In the second book, he then takes Spinoza to task for his pantheism. Essentially, the issue is that if God is not a person than Spinoza should not be a person or as Howe summarizes:

Pg. 87, “You must also know, that whatever Being is not of it self, hath no Excellency in it, but what was in that Being that was of it self before. And therefore, it had in it, all the Excellency that is in such things as proceeded from it (unabated because in it necessarily) together with the proper Excellency of its own Being, whereas the other sort of Beings, have but their own deriv’d Excellency only. Wherefore this, also, is most evident, that , this World had a Maker distinct from, and more excellent than it self, that changes not, and whereto that Name most properly agrees, I AM THAT I AM.”

We can put this in to more contemporary terms: Dawkins is a contingent being. Contingent beings draw their qualities and capacities from the beings that came prior to them. Dawkins is an intelligent, living being, therefore his ultimate cause is also a intelligent living person. Since God is not a contingent being (witnessed by the I AM statement), God must be intelligent, etc.

Dawkins and Spinoza might try to work around this with a non-caused material cause, requiring that from nothing came something, but this is essentially irrational.

After having washed his hands of materialism, Howe then argues for Anselm’s view of the atonement and lays out a brilliant argument that God created man to be his physical temple. When Adam rebelled against God, the Spirit of God was withdrawn from man as an element of his creation. The Spirit has been progressively restored among those who have faith. The Old Testament saints claim to the Spirit was tentative (cf. Ps. 51: 11), because the legal transaction between God the Father and the God the Son had not yet occurred.  While those under the Mosaic covenant who believed had the Spirit, it was only when “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’-so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Having paid the penalty for man, the Spirit of God was then let loose upon the believing community as the legal seal of their final perfection (cf. 2 Cor. 2:21-22; Ephesians 2:19-22).

Benefits: An incredibly thought provoking book. I am still processing the theological arguments on the Holy Spirit, but I am inclined to accept the general outline as to the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation history.

As a taste of his more pastoral rather than philosophical work:

Pg. 467: “Look to EMMANUEL; consider Him in the several Capacities, and in all the Accomplishments, Performances, Acquisitions, by which He is so admirably fitted to bring it about, that God may have his Temple in your Breast. Will you defeat so kind, and so glorious a Design? Behold, or listen, Doth he not stand at the Door, and knock?”

Detriments: My copy was essentially a photocopy of the 1702 original. Orthography is not only archaic, but often blurred. I couldn’t read most of the Greek. The book is not accessible on many fronts.