Final Thoughts -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: Final Thoughts
Author: John H. Armstrong


Final Thoughts

John H. Armstrong

The Puritan John Robinson once said, “God hath yet more truth to break forth from his Holy Word.” By this statement he affirmed confidence in the Holy Scripture to produce good theology in every generation. This theology is not built as if nothing came before it. Church history reminds us of the continual need to pay attention to the truths already established and accepted by the great Christian tradition in its creeds and confessions. But, and this is a crucial but, we must be eager to understand the “more truth” that God may yet “break forth” from his Word by his Spirit. We do not believe, as historic Christians, in continuing revelation, in the sense that the Bible is incomplete. We do, however, believe that the truth of God in the Bible is far greater than what any one tradition of the church, or age of the church, has uncovered. This is to say we really believe sola Scriptura, not solus symbolus.

I often hear it said that theology never made much real difference. What really matters is life and practice. Try telling that to Thomas Oden, a contributing editor to this Reformation & Revival Journal. Oden, as some readers will recall, was once a thoroughly liberal theologian at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. Some years ago he told Christopher A. Hall, in an interview published in Christianity Today (September 24, 1990): “Between 1945 and 1965, every turn I made was a left turn.” He adds that his political radicalism was somewhat “moderated by reading Luther and Reinhold Niebuhr” while studying at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas but when he began to read Rudolph Bultmann along

with Sartre, Camus and Kierkegaard, things got worse. After a close up look at the political radicalism of the 1960s Tom Oden went to the famous Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968 and saw enough to shake him. There he began to seriously question his political and social views. This led him to seek a foundation in Christian orthodoxy.

The time at Chicago in the summer of 1968 was followed by a sabbatical in which Oden says he read ancient Christian writers with the hope that they had a better word than his post-Enlightenment modernity provided. On his sabbatical he took with him the works of theologians like the Ante-Nicene Fathers, St. Augustine, Nemesius of Emesa (fourth century bishop), Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, John Wesley, and others. He began to realize that his “consciousness had shifted away from the idolatry of the new.” What followed was a long and wonderful journey to the ancient-future faith of the historic church. Today Tom Oden is a cheerful, insightful and serious evangelic...

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