Thomas Clark Oden (b. October 21, 1931) is an American
Methodist theologian associated with Drew University in New Jersey and the Director of the
Center for Early African Christianity. An ordained United Methodist Elder (pastor), he is perhaps most recently known for his call for a return to "classical Christianity"
as exemplified in his After Modernity...What? (1992) and
The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (2002). Some see his efforts as resulting in a "Paleo-Orthodox movement" extending beyond Methodism. He has been important in the contemporary ecumenical movement and in
evangelical circles. His influences include United Methodist theologian
Albert C. Outler.
Oden adopted the term paleo-orthodoxy for his approach to theology. The term is derived from the roots "paleo" (meaning "ancient") and "orthodox" (meaning "correct belief"), so it essentially means "ancient
correct belief". 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). Odens' name was further linked to the term "paleo-orthodoxy" and to the idea of the movement
by the publication of
Ancient & Postmodern Christianity: Paleo-Orthodoxy in the 21st Century: Essays In Honor of Thomas C. Oden (2002).
Oden believes that Christians need to rely upon the wisdom of the historic Church, particularly the early Church, rather than on modern scholarship and theology, which is often, in his view, tainted by political agendas. This is commendable though somewhat
naive since political agendas can be found in the early church as well.
Oden's desire 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 himself has written that he hopes, "...to make no new contribution to theology" (
Life in the Spirit, p. vii), preferring instead to recapture the spirit and authority of the patristic writers. Oden's work has been influential within the United Methodist Church and also positively received in the broader evangelical
- How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity. IVP, 2008.
- Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church. Baker, 2006.
- The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity. HaperOne, 2002.
- Agenda for Theology, later re-published as
- Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series
- Care of Souls in the Classic Tradition
- Classical Pastoral Care series
Vol. 1: Becoming A Minister
ISBN 0801067634 Vol. 2: Ministry through Word and Sacrament
ISBN 0801067642 Vol. 3: Pastoral Counsel
ISBN 0801067650 Vol. 4: Crisis Ministries
ISBN 0801067669 - Doctrinal Standards in the Wesleyan Tradition
ISBN 031075240X - John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine
ISBN 031075321X - The Humor of Kierkegaard (
ISBN 069102085X) - One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus, with
J. I. Packer
ISBN 0830832394 - Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry
ISBN 0060663537 - The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity
ISBN 006009785X - Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements
ISBN 0687011604 - Systematic Theology, 3 vols
Vol. 1: The Living God
ISBN 0060663634 Vol. 2: The Word of Life
ISBN 0060663642 Vol. 3: Life in the Spirit
ISBN 0060663626 - The Transforming Power of Grace
- Christopher Hall and Kenneth Tanner, eds.
Ancient & Postmodern Christianity: Paleo-Orthodoxy in the 21st Century: Essays In Honor of Thomas C. Oden. IVP, 2006.