Thomas Oden has died. A prominent liberal theologian who replaced pastoral care with psychotherapy, Oden converted to classical, historical Christianity when he read the church fathers. An Oklahoman (whose life in many ways paralleled mine), Oden gave us the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, insightful work on postmodernism, and much more.
Please read my review of his autobiographical memoir, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir. Then read that book for an inside look at how liberal theology took over the mainline denominations and how he broke free through the Gospel of Christ.
The “orthodox, ecumenical evangelical” Thomas C. Oden—a Methodist whose deep commitment to classical Christianity defined his life’s work—died Thursday at age 85.
Oden’s vast body of theological writings includes his Systematic Theology anthology, four volumes on John Wesley, dozens of Bible commentaries, and the pages of Christianity Today, where he served as executive editor alongside J. I. Packer and Timothy George.
“The heart of my story is that the first part of 40 years of my life, I was way, way out there on a path that I had to go on in order to come back like the prodigal son to the father,” Oden told Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a 2015 interview. “But eventually I did and by my 40th year, I became deeply invested in listening carefully to the classical Christian consensus … of the ancient Christian writers and their interpretation of Scripture.”
“Tom is now with the early saints whose lives and teachings he studied so closely,” said Institute on Religion & Democracy president Mark Tooley, who called him “a dear friend and counselor, a brilliant and cheerful warrior for good causes, irreplaceable.”
“What a loss to us all is the death of [Oden]. He is a hero of orthodox conviction,” tweeted Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.