Tag Archives: ivp-academic

Review, “A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir” @ivpacademic

This is a guest post by Evan W. Rohrs-Dodge, a UMC pastor in New Jersey and a founding member of Via Media Methodists. I briefly read Thomas Oden’s memoir before I passed it on to Evan for review. In these pages can be found a great hope for the people called Methodists. While Oden is best known for his role in the Confessing Movement and in paleo-orthodoxy, what will be known after reading this book is his great love for the United Methodist Church, even if it disappoints him. Like so many of us who struggle with our membership, Oden has been there before. And he shows us a way forward.

I was eager to read Thomas Oden’s memoir, Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, as soon as I heard of its publication. My interest in Dr. Oden is not just because I am a graduate of Drew Theological School (although I was not a student during Oden’s tenure). He has been influential in my personal and professional development; I have benefited greatly from much of Oden’s scholarship, including his magnificent four-volume work on John Wesley and his three-volume systematic theology. And, I heard numerous second and third-hand stories about Oden during my studies, both of his keen intellect and his strong will. I have a had a keen interest in hearing, as it were, the other side of the story.

Change of Heart did not disappoint. Each chapter is divided up into decades (1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, and so on), and, as such, chronologically highlights his academic training and teaching, his scholarship, his theological journey, and his personal life. Perhaps most central to this book, as indicated in the title, is Oden’s move from radical thought and activism to Christian orthodoxy. Oden devotes much time to describing his interactions and friendships with a variety of notable theologians, such as Wolfhart Pannenberg, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). On Oden’s theological change, however, no relationship was more important than the Jewish scholar and fellow Drew professor, Will Herberg. Open notes in the book that Herberg was encouraged to study Judaism by the H. Richard Niebuhr, and the Jewish scholar Herberg is the very one who encouraged Oden to more deeply study the roots of his Christian heritage.

Oden’s love and defense of Christian orthodoxy is abundantly clear in this book, and is wonderfully refreshing. Despite his repeated encounters with theological radicalism within both academia and the church, he often found his students hungry for robust, historical theology. They rejected the hubris of modernity/postmodernity, and desired to drink deeply from the wells of orthodoxy. As such, Oden fondly termed them “young fogeys,” and to him, they represent hope for the future of the faith, in both the academy and the church.

If you want to learn about a passionate academic, a devoted husband and parent, and a humble child of God who writes in an accessible, engaging manner, read Thomas Oden’s memoir.

Book Notes: The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education: Forming Whole and Holy Persons

Note, Book Notes is an abbreviated Book Review.

Christian education, liberal arts, and the humanities are all considered, usually, a dead field. Indeed, the concept of a whole person, much less a holy person, does not fit into the spectrum of higher education any longer, finding a whole person replaced with a better cog. Yes, there are some higher education institutions practicing certain ideological viewpoints, such as the Reformed (as the editor and several contributors point out), but what about the Pietist view? Does the Pietist theological tradition, underpinning whole denominations and contributing significantly to many of the Wesleyan ones, have such a vision and if so, what is it? This is the aim of Christopher Gehrz’s anthology, The Pietist Vision of Christian Higher Education.

Gehrz easily separates the Pietist from the Reformed vision as one separates the mind (correct doctrine, i.e., Reformed) from the heart (transformation, i.e., Pietist) (p12). Perhaps this may rankle some Reformed Christians, but this separation is not new to Gehrz, and is quite familiar to Wesleyans (of which I am a part). This is the point of the book, to take the heart and mind and from there create a holy whole person. A historian who is a Christian. A Christian who is a scientist. The pietist view focuses on intellectualism, but does not forget the transformation of the heart.

Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705) known as the ...
Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705) known as the “Father of Pietism”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to focus on one essay, “Pietism and the Practice of Civil Discourse,” (123–33) written by Christian T. Collins Winn (PhD, Drew University). After recounting what has now become a familiar modern parable of the Civility Project, Winn addresses the interconnection between Pietism and civility. He begins with Philipp Jakob Spener who, in 1675, called for civility in the answering of others, namely Christians. This immediately won him the scorn of friends and foes alike. It is not that the argument, or conflict, that is to be avoided, only that one has a commitment to real dialogue, focusing on the topic rather than on the person. This means a practice of listening in good faith. One listens to listen, not to simply counter. Spener also included humility and love in discerning what civility looked like as well as a hopeful commitment to God’s peace. How does higher education fit into this? Because higher education should require “formal and informal interaction via a variety of actors” with those things that challenge us. Winn then presents several workable solutions as to how Christian institutions of higher learning can aid in forming the whole person to discourse civility.

If you separate Christian institutions of higher learning into four different streams, you get a pretty good idea of why the Pietist is often thought not to have a particular viewpoint. When one thinks of a Reformed college, or a Catholic school, or even a pentecostal university, immediately images spring to mind. But what about a liberal arts college founded by Pietists (or Wesleyans)? What usually springs to mind is a school remaining Christian in history only. But, these contributors aim to change that and to show why a Pietist vision of Christian higher education goes further than secular preparation, but has in its goal a personal transformation serving but the Church and the world. Overall, a book deserved to be read by deans and professors, secular and sectarian.

In the Mail, “The Church in Exile Living in Hope After Christendom” @ivpacademic

The people of God throughout history have been a people of exile and diaspora. Whether under the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks or Romans, the people chosen by God have had to learn how to be a holy people in alien lands and under foreign rule.

For much of its history, however, the Christian church lived with the sense of being at home in the world, with considerable influence and power. That age of Christendom is now over, and as Lee Beach demonstrates, this is something for which the church should be grateful. The “peace” of Christendom was a false one, and there is no comfortable normalcy to which we can or should return.

Drawing on a close engagement with Old Testament and New Testament texts, The Church in Exile offers a biblical and practical theology for the church in a post-Christian age. Beach helps the people of God today to develop a hopeful and prophetic imagination, a theology responsive to its context, and an exilic identity marked by faithfulness to God’s mission in the world.

Read more here.

Prop 8 – @ivpacademic’s “Lost World of Adam and Eve”

On facebook, I stated my concern regarding Walton’s stance on the historical Adam and Eve. I am troubled he makes these statements without support, whereas nearly every other statement he makes is supported by well-reasoned logic. There is a fallacious danger in not reading ahead as one does “read throughs,” so I have at least skipped ahead to see if Walton does give his reasons. He does, in Proposition 11. Yet, I am on Proposition 8, with only the point-of-fact statements “Adam was a real person” made in the midst of “don’t take anything else as ‘literal’.”1 He tries to separate when Genesis 2–3 speaks about a historical figure and when it speaks about an archetypal representative; however, the lines are not clear enough in my mind. If Adam is representative of humanity (or Israel as a King would be) in 8 out of 10 cases, then why are the other two revealing he is a real person? Could it be a stylistic choice or an interpolation?

Wo ist Wellhausen!?

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...
Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, this troubling statement is surrounding by an acutely canonical awareness of “formed” (as well as “rib” and “dust”) and how it plays into the story. While Walton does not mention it, his own parsing of the Hebrew reveals a Platonic caveat of soulmates (i.e., Symposium) I did not realize was there. Yet, through all of this, we are still told by the author of his belief in a historical Adam. Or perhaps, an assumption. If the forming of the two are archetypal and not related to material origins but rather symbolic of human relationships, then why are we still discussing Adam as if he is a historical person? Likewise, the author goes to great lengths to bring in St. Paul and his use of Adam in Romans and 1 Corinthians. This latter issue I find exciting and troubling.

Exciting because of the use of the entire Christian canon to work out theology. But, likewise it is troubling because if I am examining the ancient literature for what it is, I want to examine it devoid of reception during the apocalyptic discontinuity. Admittedly, however, I cannot focus too much on the troubling (to me) aspect because if Walton is doing what he did in Lost World of Genesis One, then he needs to tackle the usual Protestant Christian teaching regarding Original Sin and the Fall (even if one is because St. Augustine did not read Greek all that well).

There is a lot in this singular proposition, some of which I will detail in a follow-up post. As usual, Walton is pushing the boundaries, not of the Text itself, but of our theological facets.

  1. Joel’s paraphrase.

The Federal Headship of Adam

I am not a Calvinist, nor one who believes in St. Augustine’s error. Rather, I believe we can theologically explain the transmitted nature of sin better. However, in reading a particular book, the federal headship view was mentioned (sort of). I wanted to invite consideration and thoughts:

Transgression of the covenant commandment would result in death. Adam chose the course of disobedience, corrupted himself by sin, became guilty in the sight of God, and as such subject to the sentence of death. And because he was the federal representative of the race, his disobedience affected all his descendants. In His righteous judgment God imputes the guilt of the first sin, committed by the head of the covenant, to all those that are federally related to him. And as a result they are born in a depraved and sinful condition as well, and this inherent corruption also involves guilt. This doctrine explains why only the first sin of Adam, and not his following sins nor the sins of our other forefathers, is imputed to us, and also safeguards the sinlessness of Jesus, for He was not a human person and therefore not in the covenant of works.1

Is Adam our representative in that one particular sin?

I’m going to go ahead and give away my view of Adam. I think the story is representative of Israel’s choice to have a king, which is a federal representative in the ancient world. When the King chose to break the covenant, then all Israel fell. This was the original intent.

For now, I don’t have to justify this with St. Paul’s view…

….however, if I had too, I would say St. Paul sees Adam as the federal representative of the people of God made that by the covenant. Christ makes a new covenant that undoes the sin (the violation of the political treaty) of Adam and thus makes a new, unbreakable covenant.

But I could be wrong.

  1. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 242–243.