Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 1st, 2014 by Joel Watts

In the Mail from @ivpacademic, “A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir”

This is going to be awesome. Oden is one of the premier Wesleyan intellectuals and theologians today. I believe his work on paleo-orthodoxy and the confessions is essential in moving the UMC forward.

How did one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated liberals have such a dramatic change of heart? After growing up in the heart of rural Methodism in Oklahoma, Thomas Oden found Marx, Nietzsche and Freud storming into his imagination. He joined the post-World War II pacifist movement and became enamored with every aspect of the 1950s’ ecumenical Student Christian Movement. Ten years before America’s entry into the Vietnam war he admired Ho Chi Min as an agrarian patriot. For Oden, every turn was a left turn. At Yale he earned his PhD under H. Richard Niebuhr and later met with some of the most formidable minds of the era—enjoying conversations with Gadamer, Bultmann and Pannenberg as well as a lengthy discussion with Karl Barth at a makeshift office in his hospital room. While traveling with his family through Turkey, Syria and Israel, he attended Vatican II as an observer and got his first taste of ancient Christianity. And slowly, he stopped making left turns. Oden’s enthusiasms for pacifism, ecumenism and the interface between theology and psychotherapy were ambushed by varied shapes of reality. Yet it was a challenge from a Jewish scholar, his friend and mentor Will Herberg, that precipitated his most dramatic turn—back to the great minds of ancient Christianity. Later a meeting with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) planted the seeds for what became Oden’s highly influential Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. This fascinating memoir walks us through not only his personal history but some of the most memorable chapters in twentieth-century theology.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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