Item description for The Justification Reader (Classic Christian Readers) by Thomas C. Oden...
Overview Oden uses a broad brush to paint his narrowly focused subject---salvation by grace through faith. Athanasius, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Basil, Jerome, and Augustine are just some of the figures Oden cites---church fathers whose teachings were restated nearly verbatim by 16th-century Reformers. An accessible and detailed search for the core of this theological linchpin.
Publishers Description The Justification Reader sets out the classic Christian teaching of "salvation by grace through faith." Distinguished theologian Thomas C. Oden, well known for retrieving the riches of church tradition, here gathers together the early Christian sources on the theme of justification.
Ranging broadly through Christian history and across all branches of the church, Oden cites the writings of such major figures as Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom in the East and Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great in the West. Although Oden presents all the relevant historical texts on justification, the book also includes his own insightful explication of the doctrine. His work shows that what these church fathers teach on justification was restated almost verbatim by the sixteenth-century Reformers and can still be confessed in good conscience by Christians from every communion. Thus this volume both provides a compendium of a central belief of the faith and demonstrates its ecumenical potential.
The first volume in a new series, this book will be an important sourcebook for readers from every tradition.
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.98" Width: 6.38" Height: 0.51" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2002
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Series Classic Christian Readers
ISBN 0802839665 ISBN13 9780802839664
Availability 0 units.
More About 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...
Classic Christian Readers
Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching
Reviews - What do customers think about The Justification Reader (Classic Christian Readers)?
A Good Effort But Not Good Enough Apr 10, 2008
In many ways I respect what Thomas Oden is trying to do here. In this book Oden proposes that if Catholics and Protestants are to find common ground, they should go beyond the 16th century debates and to the church fathers. This I would concede is definitely true. At the time of the church fathers views that later Roman Catholics accepted had not been developed. This involved the medieval views of transubstantiation, Mariology, the infallible Papacy, and the infallibility of Church tradition. The church fathers were not Roman Catholic, nor were they protestant. If the Roman church would go back to the views of the church fathers I would support ecumenicalism between the Roman and protestant church. However, this is not the case, and unfortunately I do not believe will ever be. Thus I think Oden's ecumenical efforts are admirable but unfortunately flawed. Now, beyond this, I believe his efforts at trying to interpret the fathers is wrong. He does admit that there was no unanimous view of what justification is in the early church, however through out the book he seems to quote every church father one could think of as if they did all believe in a protestant doctrine of justification. This simply is not true. He did not have a discussion of the process of deification which many of the fathers held. He did not have a big discussion on the Latin translation of Iustificare, which played into views held by later fathers. His book is a set of random quotes of fathers with no context offered. It is much like the attempts of Roman Catholics trying to prove the papacy by taking any random quote they can find that says good things about Peter. I would like a good scholarly book which studied the views of certain fathers showing that the protestant understanding is not a new one but was held by several (but not all) of the fathers, although they can be inconsistent with themselves. Ambrose, Chrysostom, Hilary and Augustine come at least very close to what would later be termed a "Lutheran" understanding of Paul and the doctrine of justification. Unfortunately I do not think such a book exists. Oden tries to prove too much in this small book and I think fails.
Ecumenical Agenda: A Good Thought, Yet No Foundation Jan 28, 2008
I was excited to read this short book when I bought it a few days ago. I do believe that Dr. Oden clearly communicates his underlying goal: ecumenicalism. Yet the book, in all its quotes, does little to convence me that the Patristics were anything like the Reformers on their views of Justification. Most Christians know that a Mormon or Roman Catholic saying "I'm saved by grace through faith" is much differant than an Orthodox Protestant saying the same thing. Its easily understood as double talk since we're saying the same formula yet meaning completely different things. All you really get from the quotes is that the Patristics weren't full-blown Pelagian.
It's not difficult to understand that even today, most traditions (whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox) will say they believe in "Grace through Faith for Justification." Yet do they mean the same thing? Obviously not. Most books written today take 200 pages to qualify what they mean by "faith alone". By doing this, it should be clearly understood as a faith plus viewpoint (though this is also qualified, such as the extra conditions aren't primary, aren't works, etc).
Though this is a major flaw in the book, this book achieves a minimum in what it sets out to do - give some sense of unity by way of ecumenicalism. What it does best is the format in which it was written; it is very concise, well organized, easy to follow, and a quick read at that.
Though Dr. Oden already mentioned this in the introduction, I feel that this type of subject, being so lightly visited in Reformation/Post-Reformation history, should have been met with much greater depth. The biggest problem is that (as other reviewers have stated) the historical context in which the Patristics (as well as the Reformers) wrote, is devoid from this work. Also, there is only brief interplay with Catholic/Orthodox views. The book (because it was published by a Protestant press, as Oden states in the Intro) is really weak in the interplay with the Catholic/Orthodox traditions, and continually makes the false jump from Patristic writer's view on Justification to the Reformer's views on Justification. They seem to be saying very different things, though on a surface level Oden basically wants us to conclude they are saying the same thing.
I believe this book falls short, but I do give thanks that a scholar is attempting to give us sources from this vital period in Christian History (seen best through his Ancient Christian Commentary Series). While seeking an ecumenical stance Oden attempts to paint a picture of unity. However, he has failed to prove that unity by his brief quotes, lack of depth, and lack of historical context. The greatest cost to the church here is the blurring of the major differences between the Reformer's understanding of Justification by a Forensic Imputation of Christ's Righteousness to our account, and whatever the Patristics meant by their statements (since we have no context its hard to tell). Because the Patristic's quotes are not developed at any length, we get an unclear picture of what they truly believed (at least the majority of them).
I hesitate to recommend this work since a much more in-depth look must be written to convince anyone that the patristics were saying anything close to the Reformers regarding Justification. Oden essentially disagrees with McGrath, Warfield and a host of other Orthodox Evangelicals on the nature of the historical discussion of the doctrine of Justification. If he is going to disagree with McGrath (and the majority of Church Historians) that we must retreat further back than the Reformation period to bring the historic unified voice on Justification to light, he needs stronger proof and clear context to prove his point. I don't believe this reader will convince discerning Christians that what the Reformers taught was even near what the Patristics taught. Much more work must be done in this area if we want to find our roots in the Fathers instead of the Reformation.
Disappointed Dec 11, 2007
On page 1 of his introduction, Oden says, "As a former addict of fad theology, I have now come home to ancient ecumenical Christianity." Unfortunately, his personal journey predetermines his conclusion. By selective use of quotes from writers of the first 5 centuries, he arrives at his fore-ordained goal. There is no attempt to help the reader understand how the writers of the first 5 centuries differed from the Judaizers Paul condemns in Galatians. There are no quotes relating the views of Augustine, Chrysostom, etc., on how baptism, communion, being a catechumen relate to their teaching on justification. This is not an objective view of the early professing Christians' teaching on justification, but a biased, selective collection of quotes chosen to force the reader to the author's predetermined ecumenical position.
Way Too Ambitious Apr 11, 2006
I actually did not know what to expect from this book. I had not read any reviews of it, had not heard anything about it, nor had anyone given me their opinion of it. I simply saw the book, read the contents and back cover, and decided to buy it; albeit I do like Thomas Oden, and the topic matter was something I had currently been researching. I thought is very unusual that Michael Horton would endorse the book (on the back cover) and call it "At once edifying and ecumenical." This, I must admit was very strange. However, after reading the book, I can see how Horton could safely make such a claim.
To preface this book, Oden makes several claims; first he declares that he is not intending to offer anything new in the field of academia with this issue (i.e. justification), second, he declares (as a promise) that he will demonstrate that Christians of all times and places believe the same thing about justification. This is how Oden words the second claim, "I will ask whether there is indeed an orthodox consensual Christian teaching of salvation to which Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox (Greek), charismatic, and Pentecostal can all confidently appeal, without denying their different historical memories." (p.17) Oden then goes on to claim that he can demonstrate this very thing.
So, as I am reading along to see how Oden is going to demonstrate such a hugely bold claim, I notice several things going on in this text. First, Oden, when referring to the early Church Fathers, quotes from their works, but then concludes with his own thoughts that what he just quoted is definitive proof that these Church Fathers taught things such as sola fide (faith alone) or imputation, when in fact the verbiage that the early Church Fathers used (that he quoted) was clearly NOT faith alone, or imputation. The verbiage that these early Church Fathers used, whom Oden quoted, was "we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, not by our own efforts. This grace and faith was given by God so that we might be saved, etc." No terminology like "alone" or "imputation" was used, and yet Oden would claim that this was evidence for sola fide, etc. This was, to say the least, a slight of hand or an equivocation on the terminology. And this was the trend throughout the whole text.
Oden spent too much time taking what the Reformers, during the actual Reformation, declared and trying to make it apply to the early Church Fathers. Moreover, Oden would take current ecumenical meetings between Lutherans and Catholics, or other Protestant denominations and apply the writings of these meetings to what the early Church Fathers wrote. However, Oden never considered the historical context in which the actual Reformers wrote, Oden never took into consideration current exegetical research, Oden completely ignored current findings and research regarding First Century, Second Temple Judaism, and Oden almost always seemed to misapply Reformation (Protestant) creeds and confession to the early Church Fathers.
Therefore, this whole text ended up being a major fiasco. Oden certainly did NOT prove what he declared he was going to at the beginning of this work. And this is why I gave the book three stars (which, by the way I think is pretty generous). However, I would give the book four stars (and mean it) if Oden had not made certain claims about the books content and the issue of "universal justification" (for lack of a better term) and merely delineated what Protestants taught regarding justification (since this, in all reality is how the book turned out).
For those of you who are serious students of the issues of justification I do NOT recommend this book. Alister McGrath's "Iustitia Dei" is a much better and more honest work.
Venturesome Project Into Ecumenism Jul 20, 2004
Other reviewers of this fine book have been critical for what this reviewer feels is unfair reasons. Oden never seeks to provide evidence that there has not been uniform applicability of the teaching of justification by grace through faith, nor that he would limit such evidence to primarily the early fathers, but would attempt to show that the Reformation teachers understanding of this was the same as the early church writers. In this his attempt is successful. He provides much evidence from varying confessional statements to show these veins of agreement across the ages.
This certainly then should be of utmost concern to the church in ecumenical discussions, that this was their historically from the beginning, now where did it go offtrack? Oden's desire for ecumenical consensus is admirable and certainly provides at least one target area for such serious discussions. His challenge for others to refute this evidence is valid. Since this doctrine is pivotal to all the rest, it surely must be a considered firm, starting point.
The writing style is tight and organized and the thought progression of his thesis is well laid out and easy to follow. His paraphrasing of fathers and confessional statements alike is masterful. The thoughtful reader will find many paths to followup, e.g. my desire to discover more on the mysterious Ambriosiaster.
Looking forward to his next effort in this series on Good Works.