“Christian consciousness experiences itself in a curious sense as LIBERATED TO FAIL, without intolerable damage to self-esteem and without any reduction of moral seriousness. We are free to be inadequate, free to foul things up, and yet affirm ourselves in a more basic sense than the secular moralist or humanistic idealist (who can affirm themselves only on the basis of merits and accomplishments.) We are free to choose and deny finite values, free to take constructive guilt upon us and to see it as an inevitable and providentially given aspect of our fallen human condition.
All that we have said leads us to the pinnacle of this good news: In Jesus Christ we need no longer be guilty before God. It is only before our clay-footed gods that we stand guilty!”
–Thomas Oden in GUILT FREE (as cited on GoodReads)
Guilt is one of those plagues that is hard to set aside once and for all, at least for me. I welcome good words that help me to understand its origins and lay it to rest at Jesus’ feet. This was one that crossed my radar this week. Can I re-imagine myself as free to fail without drastic repurcussions?! I want to!
As for Thomas Oden, I had honestly never heard of him until his death was announced at the end of 2016. Since that time his memoir has been on my reading list! His story intrigued me when it was heralded as ‘one of the greatest theological testimonies of our age’ by Albert Mohler, and I quote:
Professor Oden made the pilgrimage from theological liberalism, and what he acknowledged as an infatuation with heresy, all the way to the orthodox affirmation of biblical Christianity. His story is one of the greatest theological testimonies of our age.
His memoir, Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, was published in 2014 and I fully intend to get myself a copy this year! My good intention was tweaked yesterday when I stumbled upon a quote by Oden in one of my own blogposts from almost five years ago! So maybe I have unwittingly read this man’s writing before…
That quote was his careful analysis of what comprises a ‘god’ or an idol…
“Every self exists in relation to values perceived as making life worth living. A value is anything good in the created order—any idea, relation, object or person in which one has an interest, from which one derives significance…These values compete…in time one is prone to choose a center of value by which other values are judged. When a finite value has been elevated to centrality and imagined as a final source of meaning, then one has chosen…a god…One has a god when a finite value is…viewed as that without which one cannot receive life joyfully.” Thomas Oden, Two Worlds: Notes on the Death of Modernity in America and Russia, IVP,1992, 94-96
I had included it in a post called HIGH HOPES in which I was reflecting on my own hopes and calling.
If you’re intrigued to know more about Thomas Oden’s life and testimony have a look at this interview between him and Albert Mohler.
–that’s all for now ( :