In honor of his 80th birthday, Christianity Today reprints a fascinating interview with Thomas Oden, a formerly liberal theologian who discovered the church fathers and who now has been advocating a historically orthodox Christianity in all of the theological traditions. In the interview, he tells about how he abandoned liberalism–largely because of the liberal stand on abortion–how reading Luther helped cure him of radicalism, why we need creeds and church history in addition to the Bible, how evangelicals need to discover the sacraments, and the impact of modernity and postmodernity. At one point, he calls himself an “ancient evangelical,” which is another interesting term.
The interview defies excerpting, so read it here: Back to the Fathers | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.
While I am happy whenever a liberal Christian (is there a contradiction there?) comes home to creedal Christianity, to the fathers of the church, and to a sacramental and liturgical piety, it always seems to go largely unnoticed in comparison to the damage done when previously faithful teachers go the other way -- espousing a Christianity lite (devoid of doctrine, fact, truth, and sacramental vitality). It is too easy for the media to jump upon those who have lost their way and to ignore those who return to the fold. Perhaps it is difficult for those with a liberal world view to imagine how anyone would sacrifice his cynicism, doubts, and scientific perspective for what many journalists deem to be little more than superstitious fancy. Whatever the reason, I hope that this replay of a twenty year old interview will continue to raise hackles in the world of the those whose business it has become to raise doubts about the certainty of Christian faith and doctrine. I just wish that those who turned back got as much time in the limelight as those who turn away.
Oden says "The term paleo-orthodoxy is employed to make clear that we are not talking about neo-orthodoxy. Paleo- becomes a necessary prefix only because the term orthodoxy has been preempted and to some degree tarnished by the modern tradition of neo-orthodoxy" (Requiem, p. 130). Oden has described his mission as "to begin to prepare the postmodern Christian community for its third millennium by returning again to the careful study and respectful following of the central tradition of classical Christianity" While I am not yet ready to welcome to the table one who is seemingly still comfortable within the contradiction that is the United Methodist Church, it does encourage me to find folks listening to the fathers and to Luther against the ravages of a skeptical modernity.