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Thomas Oden and J.I. Packer: One Faith

Thomas C. Oden and James I. Packer, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 223 pages, ISBN 0830832394

Oden and Packer have done evangelicalism a valuable service in this work affirming and outlining its underlying unity contra a reputation for fragmentation. Drawing upon a wide array of trans-denominational and international confessions, they posit a remarkable coherence among evangelicals regarding ‘primary’ doctrines. As senior statesmen of the evangelical movement they are uniquely qualified for this endeavour, representing (some would say) opposite ends of the evangelical spectrum (Wesleyan and Calvinist). Their collaboration is itself indicative of the unity they further affirm. Oden and Packer’s own analysis of and vision for evangelical unity strengthens the work substantially. Some repetitiveness is evident but this is a very readable book.

However, while One Faith takes an important step toward not only affirming but also advancing evangelical unity, it does not deal with what its authors consider ‘secondary’ doctrines that admittedly involve controversy. Is the alleged unity substantive when it is decided in advance to ignore diversity? How contemporary evangelicals deal with differences says something too. Nevertheless, the distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ status issues is an ancient and useful one potentially capable of carrying the burden and blessing of diversity. Though not a specifically scholarly work, students of evangelicalism as well as evangelical laity and clergy will benefit from this book.

Reviewed by Tony Richie

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Category: Ministry

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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