Friday, January 6, 2017

THOMAS ODEN, 1931-2016

Thomas Oden, the best known American Evangelical theologian from the Wesleyan-Arminian branch of the Church, died last month. He was already a professor of theology when he came to faith in Christ after studying the early Church Fathers. His 3 volume systematic theology was required reading at Wesley Biblical Seminary. His theological method was not to create something new. He applied the wisdom of the historic Church, from the early Church to the Reformation, to our understanding of scripture, the Christian life, and to the Church's mission in today's world. He sought out the truths that have been acknowledged by all branches of the Church from its beginning as the standard by which we discover the source of this wisdom. (Oden acknowledged that Scripture has greater authority than Church teaching.)   Oden's method is often referred to as Classical Consensual Christianity. Oden referred to it as paleo-orthodoxy. Oden also sought to locate the place of Wesleyan theology and spirituality within the greater Church tradition. Recently, he had been educating the Church on the roots of African Christianity and its place in Church history. I never met Thomas Oden. However, many of my professors at Wesley Biblical Seminary were taught and mentored by him. I would like to think that my classmates and I were influenced by Oden through them and help carry on his legacy in the ministry and in the classroom. Here is a collection of articles on Oden that appeared after his death. I hope you take some time to gain some perspective on one of the 20th century's theological giants from a variety of theological viewpoints.

Before examining Thomas Oden's theology and impact, here is a humorous personal account of what kind of person Oden was by C. Michael Patton, a Calvinist. (HT: Kevin Jackson's Wesleyan-Arminian blog).

Andrew Dragos of Asbury Seedbed gives a short account of Oden's life and importance.

This article from Christianity Today was linked to more than any other by those who wished to bring attention to Oden's life and work after his death. It features praise for Oden and his contributions to theology from theologians of many perspectives. For instance, J.I. Packer is quoted as saying that Oden's work on classical Christianity was needed by the Church for centuries.

Here, in Oden's own words is a short account from of his journey from spiritual futility to a robust faith in Christ. (HT: A short article on Oden from Mark Tooley, President of the Institute On Religion and Democracy, on the Caffeinated Thoughts blog. Here is a tribute to Oden written by Tooley after Oden's death. (HT: The Gospel Coalition.)

 Here is a short but useful article from Ben Witherington of Asbury Seminary explaining Oden's contribution to theology with a lament that Oden was not able to produce more on Wesleyan theology. 

Here is a article that links to a great interview by Ray Nothstein of Oden. It is a wide ranging interview covering not only classical Christianity, but its application to such subjects as poverty and social witness, ministry to prisoners, immigration, and suffering. The link to this interview appeared in an article on the Acton Institute blog by Joe Carter.  Here is a link to another interview with Oden, this time with Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Its not as wide ranging as the interview with Nothstein. It focuses almost exclusively on Oden's theological and spiritual journey. The link to the original audio for this interview is provided below.

Michael J. Kruger, of Reformed Theological Seminary, learned seven lessons from Oden's life story.

Short tributes to Oden by Stephen Beard of Good News Magazine and Jason G. Duesing

Here is a examination of Oden's theological method from the SUMMA PHILOSOPHIAE blog. This is not an article that can be understood through speed reading.

You can read reviews of Oden's autobiography , A Change of Heart, on Amazon .com . (HT: Gene Vieth.)

Here is a lecture given by Thomas Oden. I haven't had time to listen to it yet. It was given at Seattle Pacific University. It is entitled The Renewal of Classic Christianity:Spirituality (HT: Kevin Jackson's Wesleyan-Arminian blog). When I recommence blogging in earnest, one of my first posts will be my impressions of it, along with the interview with Mohler mentioned above.

Here is a post with a very short video of Oden. However, after it is over, links to longer interviews appear. From Terry Mattingly's On Religion blog.

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