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The Transforming Power of Grace [Paperback]

Thomas C. Oden

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Book Description

1 Mar 1993
Oden challenges modern assumptions concerning the sources and methods of the theological enterprise and calls contemporary Christians to discern what their forebears in the faith knew to be essential to the gospel: that to be a Christian is to be formed, nurtured, and upheld solely by divine grace.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A careful examination of the doctrine of grace 28 Jan 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thomas Oden, author of a three-volume systematic theology, here focuses on a careful examination of the doctrine of grace. Once again, he follows the method of presenting what he understands to be the ecumenical consensus of the church as particularly expressed in Scripture, the patristic writers, the medieval consensus, and classical Reformation theology. While he introduces this study as a contribution to Christian spiritual development, he is quite clear that it is not the experience of grace with which he is concerned but the description of God's grace in its manifold forms as presented in classical theology.
The reader is presented with the classical categories in the discussion of grace. It often seems that one is getting the Summa Theologica digested and without the objections and answers. Only on the issues of grace and freedom (Pelagius) and election (Arminius) is there extended discussion and the recognition of serious division in the "consensual tradition." There is little effort to relate to contempo­rary theological discussions or to issues about grace in the life of the Christian. In the effort to avoid the individualism and narcissism of contemporary religious life, Oden stresses the covenant character of grace and in a remarkable way relates "call" (klesis) to the community (ekklesia).
The book is a useful comprehensive summary of the classical teaching about grace as God's objective work, and, for study groups, it might provide an interesting basis for discussion involving a more contemporary and experiential exploration of the life of faith as the reception of grace.
C. Benton Kline
Columbia Theological Seminary
Decatur, GA.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 26 April 2007
By Eric N. Landstrom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 1992, fresh from completing his three volume systematic theology on the Godhead (one book for each person), Oden continued following through with his agenda for the theologian's office (that he first presented in his Agenda for Theology, 1979, now republished under the title After Modernity, What?) to produce books and helps for the pastoral office by turning his considerable abilities to produce a pastoral resource on grace. The result of that effort was the publication of The Transforming Power of Grace, 1993.

In order to set forth the doctrine of grace, Oden looks past the fragmentation of theology that has taken place since the Enlightenment. He draws on the ecumenical consensus of early Christianity that challenges modern assumptions, sources and methods and calls Christians what our forefathers knew was essential to the gospel and Christian teaching: "that to be a Christian is to be formed, nurtured and upheld solely by grace." While some may think this is a book on spiritual formation, it is not. Oden, in going about creating helps to drag his "incurably liberal denomination" (Agenda for Theology), the UMC, back to the orthodox center, does so by highlighting the theological history of grace as seen through the lens of Paleo-Orthodoxy.

Not necessarily being involved in the war to reclaim liberalized denominations, elements of the preface where Oden discusses his method and motivation may not impact readers from centered evangelical traditions but the rest of the book is a very good survey of grace written by arguably the most respected theologian working within the discipline of historical theology and who is the preeminent evangelical Methodist theologian alive today.

Those who are interested in Arminian-Calvinist debate will also greatly benefit from this book as Oden systematically sets forth doctrines of grace in a way that is sorely needed to be heard by both sides of the perennial battle.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace- it's not just for Calvinists anymore! ;- ) 28 Jan 2004
By Kevin Wayne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
OK, you've hear the historical "spins". Pelagius was condemmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. Supposedly (accodring to argumentative rhetoric) nothing less that full-on, five-point Calvinism might as well be Pelagianism.
Perhaps what is needed is not so much a well-crafted argument against certain thological notions, but a simple revisiting of the background that got us to where we are at? Far more than what happened with Pelagius must be considered, in terms of how these things were addressed by the Church in all phases of history.
Thomas Oden has been very honest and perceptive about both scripture and the history of the Church's interpretation of these issuses. In this book, he surveys the Biblical concept of Grace as it has been seen throughout Church history, discusses points of controversy such as that of Pelagius/Augustine, brings out some aspects of this not as considered, and draws a good cross-denominational "consensus theology" on how the Grace of God works in people's lives. He also goes a long way in vidicating his own Wesleyan/Arminian perspective in this light. Oden is a scholar of first rank- easily on a par with Sproul, Packer, etc. and very engaging reading. Read it, and be enlightened of the arguments you are often presented with.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for those examining predestination & Augustinianism 15 Jun 2009
By dw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was a wonderful eye-opener for me.
I had no idea that the debates of these doctrines date back to the post apostolic age and have been thoroughly critiqued by so many.

Almost all of Protestantism has solemnly rejected what has for years been classified as "Hyper-Calvinism".
This is well known.
What is scantly known however to most Christians today is that which was classified throughout centuries of Christian scholasticism as "Hyper-Augustinianism", and rejected as unbalanced, extreme and tainted doctrine, is what is we today recognize as "Fundamental-Calvinism".

Interestingly, within Augustine's later teachings on predestination, he believed that God predestined the exact number of the elect according to the exact number of the fallen angels. Biblical or extra-biblical.....you decide.

The author provides a book full of quotations from church scholastics before and after Augustine showing a continual rejection of the extreme teachings of the Jansenists, pelegianism and manicheism as well as doctrines we recognize today as double-predestination and irresistible grace. And yet, Plato's espousal of the doctrine of full DDI (divine immutability), Neo-Platonism, pelegianism, manicheism and Hyper-Augustinianism have had their effect on our view of God and our interpretation of scripture.

Some quotes from the ancients pulled out of the book:
- The principle of free moral agency is preserved in and through the doctrine of sufficient grace (Nemesius "on the nature of man")
- Sin is never unilaterally imputed, but chosen, re-chosen, and transmitted historically and intergenerationally by repeated social choice. (Ephraim Syrus "Nisibene Hymns")
- To no one, not even the recalcitrant unfaithful, does God deny grace sufficient for salvation (Clement of Rome "First Epistle Corinthians")
- God antecedently wills that salvation of all, and no one is rejected by God except through the exercise of his or her own freedom (Cassian "Conferences")
- All of the descendants of Adam and Eve have Jesus Christ as their mediator (Prosper of Aquitaine "Grace and free will")
- God compels not, for compulsion is repugnant to God, but He supplies to those who seek, and bestows on those who ask, and opens to those who knock (Clement of Alexandria)
- God enlightens all so far as in Him lies. But some, willfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. All depends indeed on God, but not so that our free will is hindered (Chrysostom)
- The sin within man has not abolished his free will but it surely has depraved it, and no inward transformation can be effected without the assent of mans free will. (Victorin Strigel "The Weimar Disputation of 1560")
- The reception of God's electing love hinges upon man's yes or no decision, foreknown by God from eternity, but without coercively predetermining their human freedom (Cyprian "treatise")
- God has neither predestined anyone to evil, nor saved anyone unwillingly (Council of Quiersy)
- The intent of God to save all does not imply that God absolutely wills to save all whether they want to he saved or not, but that God wills that all may be saved by means appropriate to the nature of human freedom and moral integrity (Irenaeus "Against Heresies")

Calvinism is much much more though than a theology or a lens through which exegesis is extruded.
Calvinism is a tree. And every tree, coming from its own seed, bears fruit after its own kind.
Instead of examining every jot and title within this theological labyrinth, I beg the reader to first critically examine the fruit.
Take a good look at the characteristics that this plant produces in the lives of its advocates.
The scripture tells us that man can honor God with his lips, when in fact, his heart is far from it.
Rather than being courted by high and lofty ingenious arguments, stand back and quietly examine the fruit.
Do you see grace and mercy or do you see self-focus, self-assurance and self-boasting.
And just remember, if you eat of the tree, you will reproduce its fruit.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on God's Grace I have Ever Read 5 Mar 2010
By J. Robert Ewbank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Thomas C. Oden has written an excellent, readable book on the grace of God. We have all read books that talk about God's grace and at least I have had some confusion about what in the world they were talking about or the distinctions between various graces of God.

This book is the best exposition of God's grace that I have read. It also talks about John Wesley's prevenient grace by going way back to the comments of the early church.

The book is divided into five sections. The first is Grace in spiritual formation, the second is The reach and depth of the forming work of Grace, the third is how grace becomes freedom, the fourth is on predestination and the permissionof recalcitrance and the last is where the history of grace meets the mystery of personal choice.

This is an excellent read for anyone who is interested in learning about the different graces of God.

J. Robert Ewbank, author, "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"
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