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The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity [Hardcover]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.3" Width: 6.36" Height: 0.95"
Weight:   1.02 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2003
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  006009785X  
EAN  9780060097851  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
As the materialistic and political ideologies of our postmodern era wane, traditional faith is blossoming anew. Why is Christian orthodoxy making a comeback? Offering a penetrating look at this new movement, Oden explores the reasons why Christians of all denominations are reclaiming their faith heritage, practicing classic spiritual disciplines, and rebuilding their communities around ancient beliefs. 256 pages, hardcover from HarperSanFrancisco.

Publishers Description

Thomas C. Oden notes a stark reversal in our time: as modern secular and political ideologies continue to wane, communities of traditional faith are flourishing now more than ever. In Christianity, this resurgence shows itself in widespread efforts to reclaim the classic spiritual practices: the close study of scripture, daily prayer, regular observance in a worshiping community, doctrinal integrity, and moral accountability. This rebirth is characterized by a return to orthodoxy that is gathering across denominational lines, rejecting the old partisan battle-lines of the past.

This emerging and vibrant new orthodoxy is evident across the spectrum of Christian communities -- Evangelical, Mainline, Orthodox, and Catholic -- and is paralleled in Jewish communities as well. It is grounded in an acceptance of the historical consensus of scriptural interpretation, tempered by the openness to diversity contained in tradition itself, and enlivened by the freedom that comes from centered belief and practice. Its harbingers are neither the jaded power brokers and policy wonks of the old liberal Ecumenical establishment, nor their isolationist counterparts on the politically active fundamentalist right, but instead are lay believers emboldened by the rediscovery of ancient and relevant truths.

Oden contends the challenges of the new millennium are less political than spiritual and moral. He sees the coming years as a pivotal period of opportunity, recovery, and rebuilding in which our faith heritage will regain relevance and power, despite its having been long disdained by media managers and the knowledge elites. "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy" is at once a description of a movement already underway, as well as a statement of its essential features.

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More About Thomas C. Oden

Thomas C. Oden 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.

Born Thomas Clark Oden (October 21, 1931) he is most reknown for his work as an American United Methodist theologian and religious author. He was born in Altus, Oklahoma. He has a B.A. degree from the University of Oklahoma (1953), a B.D from Southern Methodist University (1956), an M.A. from Yale University (1958), and a Ph.D. from Yale University (1960).

Oden is best known as a proponent of paleo-orthodoxy, an approach to theology that often relies on patristic sources. He has published a series of books that he says are tools for promoting "classical Christianity." Oden suggests that Christians need to rely upon the wisdom of the historical Church, particularly the early Church, rather than on modern scholarship and theology, which is often, in his view, tainted by political agendas.

He has written, "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 says his mission is "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" (After Modernity...What?, p. 34). Oden is also active in the Confessing Movement in America, particularly within the United Methodist Church. He serves on the board of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Thomas C. Oden has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Classic Christian Readers
  2. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Meh - it could use some editing, but the overall point is a good one  Oct 2, 2006
The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity was written by Thomas C. Oden. It was published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2003.
Thomas Oden is a professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University. He is a well-known theologian and an ordained United Methodist Elder. He received his Master of Arts at Yale in 1958, and a Ph.D. from Yale in 1960, as well as a Doctor of Literature from Asbury College. He professes to liberal roots, and having once been overly concerned with the political possibilities of social change in ministry rather than actual theology. He now calls for a renewed look at the historical church after being let down by the shallow nature of the 1960's radical church movement. He is also the author of approximately forty books and eighty articles, including The Justification Reader; After Modernity, What? Agenda for Theology; and Pastoral Theology, which includes The Living God, The Word of Life, and Life in the Spirit.
Based on the word usage and the author's assumption of knowledge, it appears that Oden wrote this book for the educated layperson. The purpose of the book is to reveal what the orthodox movement is, what it looks like, what its alternatives are, and how they compare. Most importantly, Oden hopes to encourage the reader to allow orthodoxy to be "reborn" within them.
To begin with, Oden compares the ideas of modern ecumenism with much older ideas. He also exhorts orthodox Jews and Christians to look at their similarities. He begins the second half of the book by giving a personal testimony on his own path to orthodoxy, followed by his definition of orthodoxy, and examples of orthodoxy.
Oden assumes that his readers are very familiar with Christianity. He assumes that, even if they are not familiar with the particular theologians, they are familiar with doctrine. Based on his language, he also assumes dissatisfaction with modern Christianity and an understood want for some kind of change. One would not be hard-pressed to conclude that only the orthodox would agree with this book.
The second half of the book is much stronger than the first. The second half begins with Oden's personal journey from liberal modernism to orthodoxy, which would have been useful to hear before he spent the first half of the book in harshly criticizing liberal modern Christianity. In addition, he clearly defines orthodoxy in the second half, something which should have been much earlier to avoid confusion and frustration on the part of the reader. Including the account of Vincent as he did at the end was an excellent move, but as with the definition, should have been done earlier.
The content, overall, supported Oden's purpose. The chapters that so harshly criticized the liberal church could have be omitted without losing the idea that it was not compatible with orthodoxy. The idea remained embodied in the text, and he demonstrated it sufficiently in his testimony. The tone causes the text to lose some of its credibility, distracts from the purpose of the book, and conflicts with the honest, frank, and yet gentle tone of the rest of the text. Oden also does well to talk about Jewish and Christian Orthodoxy together, and not as mutually exclusive. He does not delve into it very much as the work progresses, but its inclusion is nice.
Oden is a brilliant man, and his ideas are worth listening to. This book articulates many of those ideas, and presents them in a form the lay-people he hopes to reach can grasp. In that sense, this book is a significant work, particularly because in the book, he supports the work of the laity in the church and as defenders of orthodoxy.
A Birdseye View of the Landscape  Apr 15, 2006
In this work, I think Thomas Oden is onto something that has been happening within the larger realm of Christianity (and Judaism) in the last 20 or more years. Protestants and Catholics (the Orthodox have, for the most part always been there) have turned their attention to what Oden calls "Classic Christianity." A rebirth of orthodoxy is what Oden calls it (thus the title of this book).

Oden describes certain trends that have taken place within Catholicism and Protestantism and how these changes have affected the overall landscape of Christianity. Oden believes that many are moving away from their liberal and modern mindset into a more classic mindset; classic meaning the early Church Fathers, theirs views and theology, and their way of ecumenical dialogue. This is what Oden calls the "New Ecumenism." In all reality, this new ecumenism is merely going back to the Early Church Fathers and using their methods, so to speak (this of course is a simplistic way of putting it). The problem with the "Old Ecumenism" (not old as in Early Church old, but old as in prior to this new shift towards classic Christianity) is that it is steeped in modernism and its liberalism has become heretical; Oden gives John Shelby Spong, Jacques Gaillot, Raymond Hunthausen, Walter Sullivan, and others as examples of those who have gone far too liberal for their own good and ended in heresy.

This text provides a good overview of the current landscape, and makes certain predictions of how things might continue to move. At times Oden is a bit ambitious, I think this is best seen in his chapter titled "Rediscovering the Classic Ecumenical Method, where Oden describes St. Vincent's rule. The problems inherent in this "rule" (of Vincent) are how it is interpreted, and I don't think Oden has taken this into account in delineating it. However, one of the best chapters is titled "Transforming Character" where Oden details his own background. He details his movement into liberal thinking and parallel's his thought with that of Hillary Clinton. He also details how he progressively moved away from this type of thinking, which he actually calls "demonic" into a more classic form of Christianity.

Another brilliant chapter is titled "Recentering the Mainline." I think this is the strongest chapter in the book and it probably is since Oden himself comes from this background. In this chapter Oden details how modernism and liberalism has severely hurt the Mainline Churches. Moreover, Oden details how this modernist and liberal trend is now turning full face and marching in the other direction, more toward a classic form of Christianity.

Overall this is a good book. If you enjoy reading ecclesiological history (especially current events and trends within this history) hen you will enjoy this book. It is a bit ambitious at times, and at other points it seems obvious that Oden is not as familiar with certain groups (i.e. the more conservative groups within Protestantism), but the book is certainly worth the read.
A MUST READ!!  Feb 11, 2006
For a good summary read Landstrom's review down below. He covers all the bases very nicely. This is the first book that sees the picture of the "new" criticism for what it is. It is high time we had a scholar express these views. And to be urging all scholars back to the early theological classics with an open mind. There are no new arguments, only old ones in new bottles! Thankyou professor Oden.
Uncovering the Theological Roots  May 3, 2005
The Rebirth of Orthodoxy is a good study of the current interest to uncover the theological, liturgical, and spiritual roots of Christianity. This is a quest that will take the student back to biblical times, and from there forward through the first five centuries of the Church's history. Oden is unabashedly conservative (formerly left-wing), and his book will probably attract some of the ultra-right evangelicals. But he condemns Fundamentalism, pointing out that it is not real Christian orthodoxy, but the product of the late nineteenth century. His distrust of Enlightenment ideology and individualism is sometimes overstated, and as a scholar of the writings of the ancient church fathers he sometimes gives the impression that he regards any current theological work which does not reflect their ideas and thoughts as less worthy of consideration. But all in all, he does an excellent job of explaining the reasons behind the current interest in the ancient church. In fact, his referrals to the ancient writings compelled this reader to purchase a small Penguin classic containing excerpts from a few of them. At any rate, I would recommend Oden's book for all serious, or simply curious students of modern religious trends.
This will only convince people who are already orthodox  Dec 17, 2003
I was required to read this book for work, and I found it to be highly disturbing.

Firstly, I found much of the book both insulting to non-orthodox Christians and hypocritical. Oden claims that modern idealogues or "modern chauvanists" are incapable of being open to orthodox thinking, and, in fact, automatically dismiss any thoughts that originate before 1789. However, it becomes obvious during the retelling of Oden's own spiritual journey from leftist liberal to extreme orthodoxy that he is equally incapable of accepting any influence from modern thought. It is even suggested that anyone open to such ideas may also be risking apostacy. He uses harsh and insulting terminology and erroneous assertions, even claiming that the scientific community is rapidly turning away from Darwinism. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Secondly, the book contains quite a lot of religious metaphor and analogy, not clearly putting forth the ideas he wants to communicate. While this may be easy to understand or at least interpret for those with frequent exposure to religious babble-speak, it completely loses anyone else, and thus loses some of Oden's potential converts.

If person were to pick up this book to reaffirm his/her decision to become more religiously orthodox, it serves its purpose. As for the rest of the population, the book is good for a laugh.


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