From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George




Page 4 of 195

Reversed Thunder: A Tribute to Thomas C. Oden (1931-2016)

By Timothy George
December 13, 2016

Thomas Clark Oden (1931–2016) was born when Herbert Hoover was president and died after the election of Donald Trump. His long and productive life cut a major swath across the landscape of American social, political, and religious history. He was one of the most consequential evangelical scholars and theologians of our time.

A son of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, Oden grew up singing the songs of Woody Guthrie to the strums of his five-string banjo. He cared deeply about the things Guthrie sang about: social injustice and radical politics. As a young Methodist minister, Oden read the Bible out of modern naturalistic premises, assuming that religious truth could be reduced “to economics (with Marx) or psychosexual motives (with Freud) or self-assertive power (with Nietzsche).” By the 1960s Oden had become one of the most prominent figures of the American religious left, embracing ecumenism, pacifism, Rogerian psychologism, and (what he would later call) the “fantasies of Bultmannianism.”

What drew Oden from this world to become one of the most influential advocates of classical Christianity in our time? There were several pointers along the way, including teachers like Paul Ramsey and Albert Outler, evangelical friends like Carl Henry and J. I. Packer, and his beautiful wife Edrita, “who helped me hear God’s footsteps,” he said. But no one had more influence than his “irascible, endearing Jewish mentor” and Drew University colleague Will Herberg. Oden recounted a key moment in their relationship in his 2014 autobiography: “Holding one finger up, looking straight at me with fury in his eyes, [Herberg] said, ‘You will remain theologically uneducated until you study carefully Athanasius, Augustine, and Aquinas.’ In his usual gruff voice and brusque speech, he told me I had not yet met the great minds of my own religious tradition.”

This encounter propelled Oden of down a road of recovery and retrieval. For the first time now, he began to work through “the beautiful, long-hidden texts of classic Christianity.” Until then, Oden had been like the prodigal son, wandering in the nether parts of the far country, “going away from home as far as I could go.” Now his life was “unexpectedly turned around by an outpouring of grace.” Oden said, “My redirection is in part a hermeneutical reversal by which I learned to listen to pre-modern texts… listen in such a way that my entire life depended upon hearing.” From then on, Oden’s life was reversed thunder. Read the rest at Christianity Today.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, December 13, 2016
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Bonhoeffer at Ettal: Advent 1940

By Timothy George
December 12, 2016

For three months during the early years of World War II, from November 1940 through February 1941, Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) lived at Ettal, in a historic Benedictine monastery that is still a tourist attraction today. Nestled in the picturesque Bavarian Alps, Ettal became a sanctuary for Bonhoeffer as he found himself zwischen den Zeiten—still officially a pastor of the Confessing Church charged with training ordinands for ministry, yet drawn inexorably into a conspiracy against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.

At Ettal, Bonhoeffer experienced firsthand the gracious hospitality of the Benedictine life in which every guest is treated like Christ. He took meals with the brothers in the refectory, he was given access to the monastic library where he worked on his book Ethics, and he walked and skied on the snow-covered hills. In the company of his friend Eberhard Bethge, who came from Berlin for a long visit, he sang and made music. He bought Christmas presents for his family and friends back home, including the wife of Martin Niemöller, a fellow Confessing Church pastor being held in a concentration camp. He spent time with local school children, including his nephew, whom he personally nursed during a bout with influenza. In the midst of all this, he made ready for yet another season of Advent.

Bonhoeffer loved Advent and saw in this holy season of waiting and hope a metaphor for the entire Christian life. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, December 12, 2016
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The Passing of Thomas Oden

I write to share with you the sad news that our wonderful friend, Professor Thomas C. Oden, has left this world for a better one.  At the age of 85, he died yesterday at his home in Oklahoma City.  Tom Oden was a special friend, mentor, and colleague to many of us.  He was a founding member of the Beeson Divinity School Board of Advisors.  Over the years, he visited our school a number of times to present lectures, speak at conferences, and teach short-term courses.  The story of his remarkable life and surprising mid-life shift from liberal Protestantism to the evangelical faith is recounted in his 2014 memoir, A Change of Heart.  I have been asked to write a brief tribute about Tom Oden for Christianity Today, which will be published next week.  Please join me in remembering his family and loved ones in your prayers.

Timothy George

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, December 9, 2016
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