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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Thomas C. Oden is the Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at Drew University and the author of more than twenty widely read books, including Pastoral Theology, Agenda for Theology, and Kerygma and Counseling. He is also the general editor of the pioneering series The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.From Publishers Weekly:
Oden, a theologian at Drew University, explains at the end of this book that it is not simply a description of the rebirth of orthodoxy but instead a call to embrace orthodoxy. Such an explanation would have been more helpful at the outset. Instead, in the first chapter, Oden writes very little about his putative topic at all, preferring to make a series of remarkably harsh and unsupported statements claiming both the bankruptcy and demise of modern ideas. When Oden finally does begin to discuss Christian orthodoxy in earnest, he takes great pains to define orthodox ecumenism, but still fails to document its supposed rebirth. At the midpoint of the book, he discloses his own path from the radical left to orthodox belief, a personal narrative that explains his strong aversion to modern thought and his belief that any openness to modern ideas necessarily leads to apostasy. This story is another example of something readers need to see earlier. It is only in the second half of the book that Oden truly addresses the new orthodox ecumenism, and it is in just one strong, illuminating chapter that he provides any real evidence of its existence. Roger Olson's The Mosaic of Christian Belief, Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters and Colleen Carroll's The New Faithful are three better books that explore respectively orthodox ecumenism, the failures of secular modernism and the current resurgence of orthodox belief.
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