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"Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements"
By Thomas C. Oden
Abingdon,176 pp.; $16.95
I first heard of Tom Oden's new book from a seminary dean who, in hushed tones, told me, "We hope that Abingdon will reconsider its desire to publish the book-it's a very dangerous book." That was all I needed. When "Requiem" appeared, I rushed to read it.
Those of us who have followed Tom Oden's peripatetic peregrinations over the years—trooping behind him through his psychotherapeutic phase, his existentialist moments, his group-grope days, into his now decade-long hunkering down in heavy patristic theology—have learned to love his twists and turns, have seen in Oden a picture of ourselves and our theological anguish.
The best thing about "Requiem" is the humor. Oden, Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Theological School, Drew University, has fun with us and our various obsessions. He has fun with himself. He calls "Requiem" a "mirthful recollection" such as we might have at the death of a friend, as we remember the fun times we have had with the deceased. For Oden, the dear, departed friend is United Methodist theological education. He has had some good times with us, participating in, even leading, some of our sillier theological deviations. Oden has now returned to our long-forgotten patristic roots, has become our chief advocate for the primacy of the tradition, the very traditional tradition. He does so with wit, bite, and mirth all too rare among those engaged in theological education. Here is a book meant to have fun with those who embody the joke, "How many feminist theologians does it take to replace a light bulb?" Answer: "One. And it's not funny, either."
Our theological seminaries have much to answer for, particularly in our theological flirtations and in the way we have detached ourselves from appropriate accountability to the local congregations for whom we are (supposedly) preparing leaders. The cavalier way in which our seminaries have dealt ...