Kevin G Cook

Theology | Worship | Resources

Classic Christianity

Thomas Oden’s Classic Christianity is an excellent systematic theology that I read in my Basic Christian Doctrine class. His theological position is classically orthodox, and he defines orthodoxy as what all Christians throughout history have always believed. In his systematic theology, he focuses on what the Church has ecumenically believed about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, doing his best to avoid controversial issues that Christians disagree over.

Oden supports nearly all of his writing with references to church fathers, theologians, and reformers. Many of his references come directly from the Cappadocian fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil the Great), since much of early Christian doctrine was established by them in the 4th century. Nevertheless, there are several doctrinal issues that come up that are difficult to consider ecumenically where the church is split in its views. For instance, Oden clearly posits his Methodist beliefs when discussing atonement, espousing the view of unlimited atonement rather than a Calvinistic view of a limited atonement. With doctrinal issues such as these, one must choose to believe one thing or another, and so Oden makes a case that his view of limited atonement is more ecumenically orthodox.

Classic Christianity is written through the framework of the Apostles Creed: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Oden begins by exploring the idea of God, discussing the reality of a living God, His work through creation and providence, and the study of God. He then moves to a systematic Christology beginning with the need for Christ, the incarnation, and the nature of Christ. He continues with the life and ministry of Christ, His death and atonement, His resurrection, and His ascension. Oden moves on to the person and work of the Holy Spirit, including repentance, justification by grace through faith, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and sanctification. He also discusses the community of the church through word and sacrament, as well as the marks of the Christian church. Oden concludes by addressing views on death and resurrection, the communion of saints, and eternity.