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Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology Hardcover – 1 Aug 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 916 pages
  • Publisher: Bravo Ltd (1 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061449717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061449710
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 958,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Thomas C. Oden (PhD, Yale) is Director of the Center for Early African Christianity at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania and Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University. He is an ordained Methodist minister and the author of many books, including The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, Doctrinal Standards in the Wesleyan Tradition, and Classic Christianity. Dr. Oden is also the general editor for the widely-used Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This is a compilation of Thomas Oden's 3 volume Systematics now conveniently placed in one volume. I highly recommend this for those seeking an introduction to systematic theology from an Evangelical AND patristic perspective. Oden studiously avoids making any new contributions to theology by relying heavily on the ancient church fathers, especially the eight doctors of the Eastern and Western Catholic church (Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus in the East & Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and Gregory the Great in the West). Medieval scholastics are also cited as are Protestant reformers and then only later theologians of the modern era. The danger with this work is that one might gain the impression that there is a greater degree of consensus regarding certain issues than there actually was or is. So, for instance, Oden might quote St. John Chrysostom along with a passage from the Helvetic Confession regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Upon closer exmanination the careful student will discover that Chrysostom and Reformed confessions from the Reformation area had different concerns and emphases despite the similarity of language. But I still recommend this work because it serves as a wonderful introduction to systematics via the ancient church fathers as they relate to the Protestant tradition in particular. Oden studiously avoids contentious issues such as baptismal regeneration, though he repudiates this doctrine, as well as failing to discuss predestination (Oden is something of a nuanced Arminian) or the presence of Christ in the eucharist, which is curious given his penchant for the Church fathers. Still this is a wonderful complement to Alister McGrath's introduction to systematics for those who appreciate an historical slant and as you will also see with McGrath's "Introduction to Theology" history is not a luxury if one wants to understand theology and present concerns in context.
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Helpful handbook, well worth using even if like me you don't agree with all its conclusions
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 31 reviews
65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good Introduction to the Basics of Systematic Theology via the Ancient Ecumenical Consensus 31 Aug. 2010
By Quentin D. Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a compilation of Thomas Oden's 3 volume Systematics now conveniently placed in one volume. I highly recommend this for those seeking an introduction to systematic theology from an Evangelical AND patristic perspective. Oden studiously avoids making any new contributions to theology by relying heavily on the ancient church fathers, especially the eight doctors of the Eastern and Western Catholic church. Medieval scholastics are also cited as are Protestant reformers and only then later theologians. The danger with this work is that one might gain the impression that there is a greater degree of consensus regarding certain issues than there is in reality. So, for instance, Oden quotes St. John Chrysostom along with a passage from the Helvetic Confession regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Upon closer exmanination the careful student will discover that Chrysostom and later Reformed confessions from the Reformation area had different concerns and emphases despite the similarity of language. (This problem notoriously appeared when Otto Pesch wrote a 900 page work detailing how St. Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther used virtually similar language when discussing "justification.") But I still recommend this work highly because it serves as a wonderful introduction to systematics by way of the ancient church fathers as they relate to the Protestant tradition. Oden studiously avoids contentious issues such as baptismal regeneration, though he repudiates this doctrine, and predestination, though he himself is a sophisticated and nuanced Arminian.

Oden himself considers himself something of an enigma and concedes that he risks suffering from a case of "mistaken identity" as he merges the consensual voice of the church fathers, ecumenical councils and his own Wesleyan Methodist Protestant tradition. Having immersed himself in the fathers for some ten years before writing this systematics he comes across to some Evangelicals as a very Catholic evangelical, Ecumenists consider him an antiquarian sort of ecumenist, Liberal mainliners consider him a liturgically conservative Anglo-Catholic Evangelical, Charismatics consider him a traditional Protestant who believes in the witness of the Spirit, Arminians consider him an old Protestant scholastic, but if Oden were allowed to define himself he "experiences himself as an orthodox ecumenical evangelical."

The driving force behind this 3 volume systematics is the notion that there was and continues to be a great deal of consensus amongst Christian of all ages despite the dissimilarities. The Epilogue at the end of volume 3 explains how Oden has "struggled to identify a proximate consensus even while there remain many dissenting voices." Oden sought to listen to the seven ecumenical councils as well as regional councils that have gained wide consent and recognition over the centuries. More narrowly Oden has listened most to the 8 doctors of the Church. Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus and John Chrysostom in the East and Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory in the West. Oden argues these "eight are with few exceptions consensually reliable clarifiers of the mind of the believing church." Oden himself has come to this conclusion only after years of study and comparative reading of the fathers. Moreover Oden laments that "more is known today of the development of Christian doctrine than of the continuities within those developments. A huge literature exists on the varieties of Christian teaching, and a very small literature on centrist orthodox consent." Consnsus is not abolished for Oden if a few detractors arise here or there, for then there would be no general agreement in the Church at any time. Oden also recognizes the dangers of a universal consensus in a given time or place that is a false consensus and a deviation from the historic ecumenical consensus. Thus Puritan intolerance or the medieval Catholic Church's abuse regarding the selling of indulgences are aberrations that depart from the genuine consensus of the Church. Even today we risk arriving at a false consensus given that much of modern day ecumenism is driven by liberal Protestant assumptions rooted in the Enlightenment or that post-Vaticn II Roman Catholic theology is sometimes too enamored with innovation. Nevertheless Oden believes a universal consensus based primarily on the consensual exegesis of the Fathers is the surest way to establish what is truly orthodox. Oden concludes the Epilogue with an invitation to potential critics: "Nothing would please me more than that this modest study be followed by a rigorous phase of criticism that would argue for or against its principal thesis that there is indeed a consensus of classic Christian teaching, and a distinct method of consensual exegesis."

In this sense Oden breathes the spirit of our age where many long for unity and harmony over against dissent and fractiousness. Since Oden's topics are broad (the doctrine of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church and the End times) there is much that Christians of various faiths will discover they have in common with one another.

A very fine and relatively easy to read introduction to systamtic theology that is free of technical terminology and the vast array of Patristic citations as well as quotes from various church councils and later Protestant confesssions is impressive.

Oden's "Classic Christianity" is the fruit of many years of research, reflection and study - an encapsulation of his proposed theological method spelled out in his mature works such as "After Modernity?" and "Requiem." In this simple and highly readable intro to classic Christian theology Oden has performed a real service, especially for Evangelical Christians who are only now discovering the Great Tradition.

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For more insight into Thomas Oden's theological vision see the following insights offered by Landstrom, a fellow reviewer:

Thomas Oden's Paleo-Orthodoxy

After suffering through the demise of western thought, the logic of absolutes, Thomas Oden wants to lead the Christian community back to study the Word of God as it has been understood by historical Christian exegetes. In this journey Oden wants "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."

In consideration of our pivotal age, Oden has a deep concern about "how the faith once delivered to the saints is to be rightly guarded, reasonably championed and wisely advocated in our special historic situation."11 He writes, "Few would quarrel with the idea that advocacy of Christian truth is the central responsibility [of the Christian]. But suppose we took as our subject of advocacy not modern theological opinion[s] about Christianity but the common faith of the ancient ecumenical church gathered repeatedly in general council in its first millennium, a consensus fidelium that understood itself to be grounded in the heart of early Christian scriptures."

Oden's Goal

Oden's Paleo-Orthodoxy has three primary goals: "the renewal of Christian preaching based on classical Christian exegesis, the intensified study of Scripture by lay persons who wish to think with the early church about the canonical text, and the stimulation of Christian historical, biblical, theological and pastoral scholarship toward further inquiry into the scriptural interpretations of the ancient Christian writers."

Oden's hope is not that we will all come out orthodox on the other side, but that by listening we will be engaged in the tradition that has sustained the Christian faith from the very beginning. His ultimate concern, therefore, is not right doctrine via a reassertion of ancient orthodoxy, but a Christian faith that is historically self-aware and thereby humbly open to God's continued leading in the future.

"Oden predicts that the sign of hope in 21st century Christian thought will be its preoccupation with the rediscovery of boundaries in theology." Musing, Oden says, "I am looking, like Diogenes with his lamp, for a seminary where some heresy exists. I would love to find a seminary where a discussion is taking place about whether a line can be drawn between faith and unfaith." Oden is looking for such foundational dialogue because to contend against the spirit of this age he believes that "ministry will have to learn a new skill that once was taken for granted but now has become long forgotten: the ability to distinguish between doctrinal authenticity and phoniness."

Should we pursue Oden's challenge, we will quickly learn as our motto that faith disrupts and where public disruption isn't observable, faith hasn't occurred. If as "believers" we nevertheless protest that we have faith, then we are theologians; if we know how to describe faith, we are poets; if we weep in describing faith, actors. But only as we witness for the truth and against untruth are we actually possessed of faith.

After many years of listening intently, Oden has come to understand that "the church 'does not err, so long as it relies upon the rock Christ, and upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles.'" Confident in the Lord's leading, at length, Oden calls us to remember that "the Church's future is finally left not to human will or chance, but to the work of the Spirit and divine grace. Many branches of the seasonally changing vine may drop off in varied storms and seasons of cultural histories. Once-vital ideas and institutions may become dysfunctional and atrophy. But the Church as Body of Christ will be preserved till the end of time."
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common ground 1 Mar. 2011
By Cory Howell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this excellent theological text, Thomas Oden appeals to the ancient roots of Christianity, to find common ground that unites Christians. Oden is not trying to map any new territory here, but rather is exploring the territory that has been covered for centuries of Christian faith. A comprehensive study of the most fundamental truths of the faith.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource for Orthodox Christian Theology 3 May 2013
By Kalt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for $2.99 upon one of my former professor's recommendation. LOVE IT! Oden does a fantastic job citing all kinds of ancient writers - from the earliest Christians up to Bonhoeffer. For anyone who is interested in reading ancient Christian authors, many, many references are cited throughout this work so you know exactly which book by which author to look for on specific topics. While some books on doctrine work better as a reference work, this is surprisingly enjoyable to read. The information is presented in an almost conversational tone, which makes it easy to digest. You don't feel like you're just reading facts. You're learning more about faith and its particularities in an engaging way.

I noticed one other person said the Kindle version has no table of contents. That's untrue. While the Kindle version has no link to take you to the table of contents, it does have an active table of contents to take you to the various chapters and the sections within each chapter. It's laid out very well and this book would be miserable to read on Kindle without this.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good information on Basic Christian Foundational Beliefs 14 Jan. 2014
By Thomas H Galloway - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Revisiting this after 15 years, and I find some really good solid material. Oden takes the basic components of the Apostle's Creed and deconstructs, piece by piece, what makes this a living document for a 21st century Christian.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Systematic Theology book ever! 8 Jan. 2014
By Andrew - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I used Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book in undergrad, and it was pretty good. We used this one at Asbury Seminary, and it has proved useful over and over again. Keep in mind that Thomas Oden is kinda hard to read, at least quickly, because of the density of how he writes, but there is a wealth of knowledge within these pages. I HIGHLY recommend this book!
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