"That Adam in the state of innocency, besides his natural life, whereby he was a living soul, had likewise a supernatural life with respect unto its end, whereby he lived unto God. This is called the “life of God,” Ephesians 4:18, which men now in the state of nature are alienated from; — the life which God requires, and which hath God for its object and end. And this life was in him supernatural: for although it was concreated in and with the rational soul, as a perfection due unto it, in the state wherein and with respect unto the end for which it was made, yet it did not naturally flow from the principles of the rational soul; nor were the principles, faculties, or abilities of it, inseparable from those of the soul itself, being only accidental perfections of them, inlaid in them by especial grace."
"In life spiritual the soul is unto the principle of it as the body is unto the soul in life natural; for in life natural the soul is the quickening principle, and the body is the principle quickened. When the soul departs, it leaves the body with all its own natural properties, but utterly deprived of them which it had by virtue of its union with the soul. So in life spiritual, the soul is not, in and by its essential properties, the quickening principle of it, but it is the principle that is quickened. And when the quickening principle of spiritual life departs, it leaves the soul with all its natural properties entire as to their essence, though morally corrupted; but of all the power and abilities which it had by virtue of its union with a quickening principle of spiritual life, it is deprived. And to deny such a quickening principle of spiritual life, superadded unto us by the grace of Christ, distinct and separate from the natural faculties of the soul, is, upon the matter, to renounce the whole gospel.
Here are a few reflections on the implications of Owen's theology:
1) The Donum Superadditum for Reformed Protestants
Notice that Owen makes a distinction in this passage between the "rational soul" and the "quickening principle" which was originally "concreated" with the soul of Adam and Eve. Although Owen affirms in good Protestant form that Adam was created in positive state of righteous (rather than a neutral state following Roman Catholics), the doctrine of the donum superadditum is certainly lurking in the background in these passages. At the Fall Adam lost this supernatural gift and in conversion it is once again "superadded" to us.
2) Natural Ability vs. Moral Ability
Both Owen and Edwards make this distinction which is very important in understanding the doctrine of Total Depravity. What exactly does it mean for the Apostle Paul to say that humankind is "dead in trespasses and sins"?? Does this imply (as in some crude Arminian caricatures of Calvinism) that humans have totally lost both their rational and moral abilities? Can unregenerate humanity, dead in sin, reason successfully east of Eden now that the donum superadditum has been lost??? Owen's answer to this question is very insightful- the natural ability of the rational soul is left intact even though the "quickening" principle has been lost. This does not mean that human reason has been untouched by Original Sin - such would be the heresy of Pelagius!! Owen affirms in these passages that the rational soul has been "morally corrupted" but it has not by any means been totally destroyed. Our rational faculties are still basically intact in terms of their natural abilities. What Owen is doing here (and what Edwards also does) is to make a distinction between Natural and Moral ability in formulating a doctrine of Total Depravity. Fallen men and women, according to both of these theologians, are naturally able to obey the commands of God because the rational soul is still functioning. Fallen humanity, however is morally unable to obey the commands of God because the "quickening" principle has been lost! Until that quickening principle is restored through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, humans will never use their natural, rational abilities to do what is pleasing to God. This distinction is brilliant because it preserves both the responsibility of humankind before God (we are naturally able and thus must answer to God for our rebellion!!) and the sovereignty of God in salvation (God must restore moral ability through regeneration according to His sovereign, electing, grace).
3) Christian Apologetics
The distinction between Natural and Moral ability seems to me to help focus the debate between Presuppositionalists like Van Til and Evidentialists like William Lane Craig. In reading Van Til firsthand over the past month, it seems to me that he does not clearly make this distinction and as a result embraces a rather unrealistic doctrine of Depravity that implies that non-believers are unable to reason coherently apart from Biblical presuppositions. In other words, Van Til seems to teach that fallen humanity is both naturally and morally unable. This seems to me to be a view of Total Depravity that is neither demanded by the Scripture nor evidenced in the real world, since many non-theists and deists have made significant contributions to the furthering of human knowledge without giving any credence whatsoever to the Bible or Christian theism. The distinction between Natural and Moral ability also helps me come to terms with the dialectic in Calvin's theology between his very robust doctrine of Depravity and his deep admiration of the contributions of the ancient Greek Philosophers who were clearly unregenerate. (Zwingli went so far in his bias toward renaissance humanism as to suggest that they were regenerated apart from the gospel!!).