Thomas C. Oden
A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir
Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014.
Available at Amazon.com
I have to say that Thomas Oden’s autobiography will probably be one of my favourite reads of 2015. Oden recounts his beginnings as a radical lefty, a theologian into Bultmann, Freud, Nietzsche, and Marx, but then experienced a turn towards conservative theology through an encounter with the church fathers. Oden abandoned his idealistic pacifism and socialism and moved theologically after discovering the joy of learning about Christmas (incarnation) and Easter (resurrection). He calls the first forty years of his life prodigal, the second forty he considers as home coming. Several things propelled him towards orthodoxy including Barth, Pannenberg, Anglicans like J.I. Packer, and especially a Jewish colleague at Drew University named Will Herberg. It was Herberg who told him that “You will remain theologically uneducated until you study carefully Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas” (p. 137). And so began Oden’s journey into patristic literature which forever changed him.
I first came across Thomas Oden through his book Requiem which recounts demise of the mainline churches through their abandonment of orthodox theology. I love his book written with J.I. Packer called One Faith which proves that Arminians and Calvinists can get along together. Oden is probably best known for his work editing the Ancient Christian Commentary Series and his later works about early African theology.
I’ll be getting my Ph.D students to read this book as part of their program and I hope many others read it too. A great read, an encouraging read, about a contemporary theologian who realized the moral bankruptcy and theological impoverishment of liberal Christianity and who also teaches the merits of a broad consensus Christianity which is preferably to narrow and sectarian varieties.
Two thumbs up from me!