The Passing of Thomas Oden (1931-2016)

I just heard the news that American Methodist Theologian Thomas C. Oden has passed away.

Oden was a former liberal who turned “orthodox” after discovering the church fathers. He was deep in liberalism, writing his dissertation on Freud and Bultmann – kerygma and counselling. But the church fathers turned him towards the light of the evangelical and apostolic faith, for which he became a key advocate. He exposed the suicide of liberalism in his book Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements which is the best critique of liberal theology I’ve ever read (the second best is Thomas Reeves, The Empty Church). I will remember Oden for his attempt to advocate a form of “consensual Christianity,” which is basically C.S. Lewis’ “mere Christianity” reading the church fathers and John Wesley. The result was not a new fundamentalism, but what he called paleo-orthodoxy. Tom Oden and J.I. Packer teamed up to write a terrific book called One Faith which is proof – no matter what you’re told – that Calvinists and Arminians really do have a common faith and can work together in the cause of the gospel. The final decades of his life were committed to editing a series of patristic commentaries and excavating the rich Christian history of North Africa.

If you read one book by Oden, I would recommend his autobiography, A Change of Heart, absolute brilliant and so encouraging. I get my doctoral students to read it, esp. after the depressing account of G.E. Ladd’s life in the biography by John D’Elia.

May he enjoy Christ’s presence until he rises in glory!

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