Author: Patrick Oden
Series: Emerging Scholars
Bibliographic info: 352 pp.
Publisher: Fortress Press, 2015.
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With thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy!
Patrick Oden’s The Transformative Church is a revised version of his doctoral dissertation completed at Fuller Theological Seminary.
You might be wondering what the author means by the “transformative church.” This term refers to the type of church that participates in the surrounding context, bringing life in the process. This is opposed to both the conventional type of church that looks more or less identical to its surrounding context, and the disconnected church that desires to completely separate itself from its surrounding context. The transformative church takes a third way, a way which involves itself in the surrounding context, yet does so without simply becoming a part of the system. The transformative type of church is seen in various ecclesial models, such as missional, emerging, or neo-monastic.
What the author does in this work is to put such transformative churches in dialogue with the theology of Jürgen Moltmann. Three chapters discusses eight points that Moltmann outlines in his Experiences in Theology that offer up a life-affirming hermeneutical approach to the Bible. Oden takes these eight points and discusses them by drawing upon other key works in Moltmann’s large corpus of writings: Theology of Hope, The Crucified God, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, The Coming of God, God in Creation, The Trinity and the Kingdom, The Way of Jesus Christ, and The Spirit of Life.
There are three more chapters in which Oden discusses various practices in relation to transformative churches. The practices are:
- identifying with the life of Jesus
- transforming the secular realm
- living highly communal lives
- welcoming the stranger
- serving with generosity
- participating as producers
- creating as created beings
- leading as a body
- taking part in spiritual activities.
I’m quite familiar with Moltmann’s theology and I think Oden has provided a well-informed and constructive examination of Moltmann’s ecclesiological thinking that is seen throughout his works over the decades. Oden provides a useful and knowledgeable understanding of Moltmann’s theology. He provides a compelling study that can inform churches and lead to a transformative messianic life taking shape in the community. If you’re interested in Moltmann or in ecclesiology, I would recommend this work without reserve.