I was raised in the Nazarene Church, and so when I felt a "call" to the ministry, I went to study theology at the nearest Nazarene University, which was Southern Nazarene University, in Bethany, Oklahoma, and attended there from 1986 to 1990. While, at that time, the Nazarene Church was still a very conservative evangelical denomination, the professors who taught in their Religion and Philosophy Department were not so much. My elder brother had attended the same school earlier in the 80's and the liberal professors he had were the conservative professors that I had... and they hadn't really changed. However the conservative professors had generally been replaced by professors who were even more liberal than the previous liberals. Much of the material I studied during that time was a labor to be endured -- authors that had little that inspired or edified -- but there were a few exceptions, and prominently among those exceptions were the books by the Methodist theologian Thomas Oden. Oden had been a student of the extremely liberal German biblical scholar Rudolph Bultmann, and so was very much a part of the skeptical intellectual environment that I found so unattractive. However, at some point in the 70's he began to apply the skeptical criteria of liberal scholarship back upon liberal scholarship, and ended up affirming that the "Ecumenical Consensus" of the first millennium of Christian history was "normative". I was introduced to his work in my systematic Theology class. He had at that time written the first two volumes of a systematic theology that followed the outline of the Nicene Creed. In that class, we used volume 2, "The Word of Life", which focused on those parts of the Creed that related to Christ. That book was so refreshing that I got me a copy of Volume 1, "The Living God", and read it as well. And I found that our library had his book "Agenda for Theology", which was I think then out of print, but was his theological manifesto, and explained how he had moved from being a Bultmanian to one who affirmed the authority of the Tradition of the Church. That book was later reprinted in a significantly revised form, under the title "After Modernity... What?" In my pastoral theology class, they also used his "Pastoral Theology" as a textbook, which went to the Tradition of the Church for guidance on how to deal with the practical issues of pastoral theology. Reading his works were not the only reason I eventually became Orthodox, but they were a part of a convergence of things that pointed me in that direction.
The third volume of his systematic theology was not published until 1992, and by that time I had been Orthodox awhile, and so was less eager to purchase a copy, though I always had the intention of eventually doing so, in order to complete the set. Just recently, I finally got around to it, and reading it has been a walk down memory lane. Reading the preface reminded me of what a radically different spirit I found in his writings in comparison with most of the material I had studied at SNU.
In the second paragraph of his preface, he wrote:
"At the end of this journey I reaffirm solemn commitments made at its beginning:
- To make no new contribution to theology
- to resist the temptation to quote modern writers less schooled in the whole counsel of God than the best ancient classic exegetes
- To seek quite simply to express the one mind of the believing church that has been ever attentive to the apostolic teaching to which consent has been given by Christian believers everywhere, always, and by all -- this what I mean by the Vincentian method (Vincent of Lerins, comm., LCC [Library of Christian Classics] VII, pp. 37-39,65-74; for an accounting of this method see LG [The Living God (volume 1 of his systematic theology)], pp. 322-25,341-51)
I can't remember in which of his books he said this, but I remember him echoing the above sentiments, and saying that he wanted the epitaph on his tombstone to say "He added nothing new to theology."
Thomas Oden is still a Protestant, and so one should not assume that I would agree with him entirely, but his devastating critique of Protestant liberalism and modernity in general, combined with his affirmation of the Tradition of the Church was an oasis in a spiritual and intellectual desert, and it pointed me in the direction of the Orthodox Church.