Oden makes a compelling case for rediscovering orthodoxy, and for what orthodoxy means, in a world that he insists is “beyond modernity.” These are points worthy of consideration for anyone who wants to think seriously about what faith means in the 21st century, and I personally find Oden’s arguments compelling. Orthodoxy is the counter-culture in our day, and Oden’s use of Vincent of Lerins, and his Commotorium, as a means for finding orthodox truth in our, or any, world is enlightening. While Oden’s ideas are thus sound, and I find them compelling and meaningful–after reading this, I gladly think of myself as paleo-orthodox–the general success of the work Oden does here is limited by two things:
First, Oden writes in a style that is quasi-academic and detached; as such, many lay members of the Church, those who would be highly susceptible to being won over by Oden’s thinking about orthodoxy, will find this work inaccessible. Perhaps this is no worry to Oden, however, perhaps he is writing for lay intellectuals and clerics, hoping they lead the majority of the church to paleo-orthodox understandings of the faith. Those readers will find this work compelling.
Second, Oden’s political conservatism–including an odd conversion narrative that parallels him to Hillary Rodham Clinton–seems to suggest that only those who adhere to representative democracy and market economics (oddly enough, products of the modernity he claims we have past) are capable of being orthodox. This is frustrating, as while I may disagree with liberal political positions, I am confident that many progressives are equally capable of orthodox faith. In this, Oden does too little to insist on something we forget in the 21st century church: that the orthodoxy of the faith is the first thing, with politics being a distant second.
Despite these problems and limitations, Oden still presents a necessary argument, and he inspires me to move towards rediscovering orthodoxy in my own faith. The reintroduction of Western readers to Vincent of Lerins is also a commendable aspect of this book.