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Thomas C. Oden

A Calm Answer

… to a critique of "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration."

Methodist theologian Thomas Oden, a contributing editor of Books & Culture, was asked by some of his fellow drafters of "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration" to respond to Robert Gundry's critique, which appeared in the previous issue of B&C ("Why I Didn't Endorse," January/February, 2001). Below is Oden's response and a reply from Gundry. While Oden expresses disappointment at the prospect of a public debate over "Celebration" ("we had hoped that we might be spared this sort of public squabble," he writes, speaking for the drafters of the statement), we at B&C think evangelicals can only gain from a forthright airing of concerns, in the spirit suggested by the statement itself. In fact, one of the reasons B&C was created was precisely to serve as a forum for such dialogue.

It is to Robert H. Gundry's credit that he intends to seek precision in speaking of the relation of justification teaching to the life of Jesus prior to his death. Whether that intention is rightly and sufficiently fulfilled remains at issue.

But let us first clarify points upon which "Celebration" and its critic, I think, agree:

Both the critique and "Celebration" seek unity in evangelical testimony without a sacrifice of intellect.

Both agree that "Jesus had to live a life of perfect righteousness if he was to qualify as the bearer of our sins" (Gundry).

Both agree that evangelicals "look toward their risen Lord in repentance and hope for empowering through the Holy Spirit."

Apparently, the critic's desire is to defend Arminians from overweening Calvinists, but in doing so the critique presents arguments that neither Arminians or Calvinists would find acceptable, based on their classical confessions.

Since the drafters of "Celebration" sought to be as inclusive as possible of major evangelical voices, including those our critic thinks have been neglected, we had hoped that we might be spared this sort of public squabble. But the critique makes it evident that the issues are such that ...

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