A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart

A Personal and Theological Memoir

Book - 2014
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"How did a celebrated theological liberal of the mid-twentieth century 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 liberal 1950s Student Christian Movement. Ten years before America's entry into the Vietnam war, he admired Ho Chi Minh as an agrarian patriot. For Oden, every turn was a left turn. At Yale he earned his PhD under H. Richard Niebuhr. Later during his academic year in Heidelberg he 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 Barth's hospital room. Being in Europe allowed Oden to attend Vatican II as an observer and to get his first taste of ancient Christianity. He traveled with his family in a VW microbus through Turkey, Syria and Israel. But slowly he stopped making left turns. His enthusiasm for pacifism, ecumenism, and the interface between theology and psychotherapy were all ambushed by varied shapes of reality. 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. Thomas Oden's fascinating memoir walks us through not just his personal history but some of the most memorable chapters in twentieth-century theology." -- Inside Cover
Publisher: Downers Grove : IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, [2014]
ISBN: 9780830840359
Branch Call Number: 230.7609 ODEN
Characteristics: 384 pages ; 24 cm


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Feb 28, 2016

My interest and enjoyment in reading this book seemed to grow the further I got into it. This is a first half/second half of life story that is likely to be unique and fascinating for anyone who is familiar with the history of Christian churches in the USA in the 20th century, particularly since 1950. I've come to see the author as a modern hero of the faith and a model of Christian spiritual maturity that seems quite rare.

During his first 40 years of life, Thomas Oden devoted is professional activity as a writer and teacher to promoting the theological and political agenda of the leadership of mainline denominations and seminaries which came to be known as the "social gospel." His early writing and teaching has been a significant influence for a current candidate for President of the USA.

During midlife, Oden experienced a change of heart inspired by the excesses of the ecumenical movement and friendships formed with more conservative theologians and religious leaders; one Jewish rabbi in particular. His journey from that point on is characterized by a return to what he calls "Classic Christianity," the consensual teaching, practice and spirituality of the Christian Church in its first eight centuries. Classic Christianity, having stood the test of 20 centuries, has more unifying potential among Christians than the modern ecumenism of the last 100 years. Oden's second half of life work has been devoted to helping contemporary Christian students, teachers and leaders become more familiar with the writing and teaching of ancient Christian Church. He has also also devoted much time and energy more recently to helping African Christians discover appreciate their ancient heritage. The oldest and most influential Christian churches were in northern and eastern Africa.

Thomas Oden will leave a tremendous legacy of hope for ancient-future Christianity. His prolific work of writing and editing in the last 40 years are a great gift to all who would gain a deeper understanding of the historic Christian faith. He not only has a great mind but also has a great heart. Though his change of heart at midlife caused many problems for him among those who did not understand it, there isn't a hint of bitterness, condescension, or anger directed at anyone in this book. Unlike many who have experienced a radical change of heart in life, Oden hasn't made this memoir into a repudiating attack on his former views and those who still hold them. He shows nothing but appreciation and respect for everyone he has worked with during his whole life. He sees his first 40 years as valuable experience that prepared him for all he has come to do and love since. May the seeds he has sown grow far and wide.


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