Archive: The Progress of a Theological Pilgrim

By Charles W Keysor, Editor, Good News Magazine

Please read carefully “What is Theology Coming To?” . This article is condensed from an exciting and important new book, Agenda for Theology. It indicates that historic Christianity, long in eclipse in “mainline” churches, may be being born again. Also, this book reveals with clarity and utter frankness the terrible price theological education (and the church) has paid for its addiction to faddism, particularly in the last 20 years.

Much credit is due the author of this daring new book! Dr. Thomas C. Oden, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, identifies himself as a reformed “movement theologian.” He admits that he, like so many seminary professors, has climbed aboard just about every bandwagon rumbling down seminary road. Radical feminism … Bultmanian existentialism … tarot cards … neo-orthodoxy … free choice abortion. You name it and Dr. Oden has been there. His 30-year pilgrimage through this wasteland of faddism and modernity has been sometimes exhilarating, but also largely empty of ultimate meaning. That is why this pilgrim professor has been rediscovering his roots in historic Christianity. Praise God! Brilliantly and with eloquence he affirms the central importance of that traditional, mainstream faith of the Church—that faith rising from the wellsprings of Holy Scripture and illuminated by 1,700 years of Christian thought and devotion.

It is exciting to read about his spiritual/intellectual journey. And it is equally exciting to learn that others, like Dr. Oden, grow weary of modernity’s vacuity and are lifting their eyes to the higher ground of historic Christianity. The number is small, Dr. Oden says. But he thinks this may be the tiny seed that will grow, eventually, into a significant theological climate—change in our churches and seminaries. May God speed the day!

Dr. Oden writes from outside the Good News camp. In fact, he had no contact with us until after this book, his 17th, was published. So here is another voice questioning the soundness of seminary education today. More and more people are joining the chorus and perhaps the most creditable criticism now comes from one who speaks out of three decades of experience inside the system. Such a voice will be hard to discount.

A full review of Dr. Oden’s important new book will appear in the next issue of Good News. This is being written by Rev. John Collier, Chairman of the Good News Task Force on Seminary Life. Meanwhile, I urge you to rush out and buy a copy of Agenda for Theology. It belongs in your mind and on your bookshelf, along with What New Creation? by Drs. Paul Mickey and Robert Wilson. Together, these two books provide a deeper, fuller understanding of why our church is the way it is—and how we can survive without compromise, even as we work for constructive changes in our church and its seminaries.


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