After the death of America's best known Methodist theologian, Thomas Oden, I posted a collection here of tributes to him. There were two audio selections, one a lecture Oden gave in 1997, and a 2015 interview with Oden by Al Mohler. I didn't have time to listen to either one at that time, so I stated my intention to listen and post my impressions of them at a later date. I listened to the lecture on Friday, 4/28. However, I never had an opportunity to listen to the interview on a Friday evening until 6/9. And then it was nearly midnight when I got my chance. Earlier in the evening, I went to a Chinese restaurant for take out. I had to wait 45 minutes because they were so busy that they ran out of rice. The staff assured me this had never happened before. I stood in a corner to stay out of everybody's way. While waiting, I was able to watch an entire episode of Shark Tank. I had never seen it before. One of the entrepreneurs tried to convince the hosts to invest in their natural looking camouflage hunting jackets. Those were my adventures on Friday night. This is about as personal as I get on this blog.
The 1997 lecture is entitled The Renewal of Classic Christianity: Spirituality. It was given at Seattle Pacific University. Here he speaks of the work that consumed the last twenty years of his life, his editorship of The Ancient Christian Commentaries. He begins by declaring that the Holy Spirit has a history and the Church needs to recover that history. This recovery will come through an energetic, rigorous study of the history of exegesis, or interpretation, of Scripture. Today, the standards of biblical interpretation are based upon modern, mainly European, modes of interpretation. Modern commentators often ignore an earlier tradition of Church commentary dating from the 1st century, A.D. to around 750 A.D. Even the Catholic and Orthodox Church's have ignored these resources. These resources were available to, and were used by Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. Unfortunately, the Church's rejection of them over the past two centuries has made them hard to find. Oden claims that a return to a study of these writings will bring a revival to the Church's preaching. Oden's lecture is quite engaging; he spoke with a great deal of humor.
The interview with Al Mohler concerns Oden's autobiography, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. Oden, who grew up in a Christian home, went upon a theological journey which took him far, far away from biblical orthodoxy. He told Mohler that he fell in love with heresy and that every turn he took was to the left. He became a "movement theologian," one who thought of the Church as an instrument for radical, leftest political change. He struggled with the historicity of the resurrection. His training taught him to sound orthodox to the laity while undermining orthodox doctrine. His theological trajectory was the same as Hillary Clinton's. An encounter with a conservative Jewish scholar, Will Herberg, changed that trajectory. Herberg told him he would never be a good theologian until he immersed himself with the writings of the ancient Church. It was in this engagement with these ancient texts that Oden found the triune God and began his journey as a disciple of Jesus. Mohler asks Oden what was the source of his joy. Oden replied that it came from his reflections upon the Providences of God. Oden believed that God allowed him to become a prodigal in the first half of his life so he could rejoice as a returned and forgiven prodigal in the second half of his life.
The next two Fridays I will be listening to pod casts dealing with theistic evolution. I hope to post my impressions within the coming weeks.
For an explanation of the title, Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual, see here.