John Owen and John Locke: Confessionalism, doctrinal minimalism, and toleration

Manfred Svensson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present article compares John Locke’s and John Owen’s approaches to toleration. Owen, a towering figure of the Puritan revolution and a Protestant scholastic whose work is still the object of significant appreciation in Reformed circles, was Locke’s dean during his time as a student in Oxford. There is a number of treatises on toleration by Owen, especially during the mid-1640s, and later again after the Restoration, in his role as a nonconforming divine. There has also been some speculation regarding the involvement of both Owen and Locke in the circle around Shaftesbury. Together with their writings against Parker and Stillingfleet, this would seem to draw Owen and Locke quite close to each other. Both authors are, however, divided in their approach to Christian doctrine: Owen represents classical confessionalism and Locke modern doctrinal minimalism. The article explores the ways in which these oppositional approaches to doctrine relate to their views of toleration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-316
Number of pages15
JournalHistory of European Ideas
Issue number4
StatePublished - 19 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Confessionalism
  • Doctrinal minimalism
  • Fundamental doctrines
  • John Locke
  • John Owen
  • Toleration


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