Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LHP Review: From HarperOne



Oden, Thomas. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. New York: HarperOne, 2009. 916  Pages. Cloth. $39.99. www.harperone.com (LHP)

Northumbria Community. Celtic Daily Prayer. New York: HarperOne, 2002. 827 Pages. Paper. $29.99. www.harperone.com (LH)


Mammoth tomes take longer to read and review. 

That is true, but not my excuse in the delay of this particular review. 

Family and pastoral care came first.  

I am thankful for a couple of days at the end of a vacation to "repressurize," so to speak. Have you ever returned from a vacation needing a vacation? Learning from that common human experience, we planned a couple of days of staycation to get used to our regular routine again. For me, my main outstanding vocational duty was writing book reviews. 

If this works for deep sea divers, perhaps pastors and others should consider it, too!


I was assigned readings from Oden's first volume back at the seminary.


For the first time, Thomas Oden's Systematic Theology classic series (individually titled The Living God, The Word of Life, and Life in the Spirit) is available in one complete volume. A renowned theologian, Oden provides a consensus view of the Christian faith, delving deeply into ancient Christian tradition and bringing to the contemporary church the best wisdom from its past. In this magisterial work, Oden tackles the central questions of Christian belief and the nature of the trinity.

Written for clergy, Christian educators, religious scholars, and lay readers alike, Classic Christianity provides the best synthesis of the whole history of Christian thought. Part one explores the most intriguing questions of the study of God—Does God exist? Does Jesus reveal God? Is God personal, compassionate, free?—and presents answers that reflect the broad consensus culled from the breadth of the church's teachers. It is rooted deeply and deliberately in scripture but confronts the contemporary mind with the vitality of the Christian tradition. Part two addresses the perplexing Christological issues of whether God became flesh, whether God became Christ, and whether Christ is the source of salvation. Oden details the core beliefs concerning Jesus Christ that have been handed down for the last two hundred decades, namely, who he was, what he did, and what that means for us today. Part three examines how the work of God in creation and redemption is being brought to consummation by the Holy Spirit in persons, through communities, and in the fullness of human destiny. Oden's magisterial study not only treats the traditional elements of systematical theology but also highlights the foundational exegetes throughout history. Covering the ecumenical councils and early synods; the great teachers of the Eastern church tradition, including Athanasius and John Chrysostom; and the prominent Western figures such as Augustine, Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, this book offers the reader the fullest understanding of the Christian faith available.
(Publisher's Website)
I'm a Lutheran Christian. Ken Ham is my favorite Baptist. For non-theological reasons (firearms...) John Browning is my favorite Mormon. Thomas C. Oden, because of his theology and the way he presents it, is my favorite (non-family) Methodist.

This is the project that he was working on that led him to do all of the Ancient Christian Commentary, Texts, and Doctrine projects over at IVP.
 
This is a book intended for pastors (and seminarians). I would recommend it to well-catechized Lutheran laity and for the Methodists in my extended family.

I would describe Oden's approach as a weighted consensus "Classic" Christianity, heaviest on the Scripture text, with theological weight given to the first generations, the Reformation era, with least emphasis on today. 

I'm still processing the implications of his charts comparing consensus and fundamentalism (xxiv ff) and the four motifs (434ff) of the greatest predicament of humanity. Oden's approach to women (7-8) could be easily misunderstood. As a Lutheran, I will also take issue with the author's presentation of "perfecting grace" (672ff), ecumenism (723ff, 748-749) and the sacraments.

Classical Christianity is not the same as Popular Symbolics was for LCMS pastors generations ago, yet there is much to be commended here. I encourage QBR readers to consider this text as a proper investment of time and treasure to better understand new members coming in from other theological traditions and to avoid mischaracterizations of other congregations in the community.


Perhaps more modern than ancient, Celtic Daily Prayer is worth at least a look!
 

The Ancient Paths of Northumbria in northeastern England have been trod by generations of men and women who loved God and followed Jesus, bringing faith, hope, and love to vast numbers of people. Today, the Northumbria Community remains a living expression of this monastic, contemplative stream of the faith, and the perennial need to make that faith relevant to the world.

Celtic Daily Prayer is the fruit of the spiritual life of a remarkable community. Its liturgies, prayers, and meditations are drawn from a deep well of spiritual experience that transcends fashion, culture, and denomination. Blending prayer and praise and building upon the ancient wisdom of traditional Celtic Christianity, this prayer book is extraordinarily fresh. At the heart of the life of the Northumbria Community, as well as this book, lies the Daily Office -- morning, noon, and evening prayers and a monthly cycle of meditations for individual or communal use each day. With words drawn from sources such as St. Patrick's Breastplate, Teresa's Bookmark, Columba's Blessing, and the Psalms, this cycle of daily prayers reflects the essential rhythms of life.

With liturgies for communion and other special occasions as well as daffy readings, this prayer book contains two complete years of scripture readings and a calendar of saints' days and festivals. The Jewish tradition of family Shabbat, adapted with prayers from the Celtic tradition, also finds its place in this book. A section on rites of passage suggests prayers and rituals for the pivotal times of life: birth, rebirth, marriage, midlife, and bereavement, as well as blessings and graces for all occasions. This traditionally grounded yet surprisingly modem prayer book will enrich the spiritual life of readers for years to come.
(Publisher's Website)

I come to think of this collection of prayers and readings from the Northumbria Community as a resource book rather than a prayerbook. (Be sure to seek proper (c) permission if you make use of a resource.) Much is experimental. Pentecostals (439) and Roman Catholics (255) will see borrowings from their traditions. Pelagius is given Augustine's feast day (135ff)! Lutherans will recoil (with Luther) at the thought of a repetition of Jesus' foot washing (248). Some things are designed for one time use!

Two complete years of readings are provided in the book, called Aidan and Finian (see 302).

I came to this book with expectations. I had hoped it would include ancient Celtic texts and prayers. Yes, there are some (St. Patricks' Breastplate comes to mind), and there are patterns of daily prayer and examples from the lives of Celtic saints, yet my disappointment is perhaps in how modern and ecumenical the book is and how well Lutheran Service Book already includes the most beneficial and edifying elements of Celtic prayer for my daily use.


Thank you to HarperOne for providing these review copies. Our apologies for the lateness of posting this pair of reviews.




The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.