Here is Thomas Oord’s “Testimony” from when he was a PhD Candidate.
Dr. Oord is a former professor of religion at NNU who is pushing for same-sex marriage in the Church of the Nazarene.
He was “investigated” sometime around january 2022 by District leaders, but nothing came of it, in spite of his many heresies and particularly his blatant support for homsoexuality and same-sex marriage. It is apparently very difficult to remove credentials from an ordained Nazarene elder in the Church of the Nazarene.
An Adventure in Christian Faith
Tom Oord Ph.D. Candidate in the Philosophy of Religion and Theology program at Claremont Graduate University. …
My journey to process thought has come by way of process theology. It is a journey energized by my faith adventure—an adventure that has mirrored some of the dominant theological movements of the 20th century.
When I attempt to ascertain what process thought means to me, I inevitably refer to my faith adventure. I grew up in a small, rural church that was a part of the American Holiness movement. It was in this setting that my first religious intuitions were fashioned. Like many who also grew up in this tradition, my initial theological conceptions revolved around moral codes and ethical standards. I remember as a second grader not participating in my class dance because it was “against my religion.”
Although Holiness theology need not evolve into Fundamentalism, I would characterize my teenage years as a period when I was a Fundamentalist. Some of these tendencies undoubtedly arose out of the lessons I was taught in Sunday school and some emerged in my bid to establish a solid basis upon which to argue against Mormon friends. I was passionate about my faith and an inerrant Bible was my double-edged sword for battle. Perhaps due to frustrations about failing to convert the Mormons, I went to college and chose to study psychology and social work.
My intent was to serve God by doing practical, compassionate ministry. It was in this field that I first read texts from liberation theologians such as Gustavo Gutierrez. From this exposure, I resolved to actively seek to address the concerns of the poor and disenfranchised. My desire to argue effectively for my faith did not die during those early college years. In fact, it increased. I felt compelled to trudge door to door sharing my faith in nearby neighborhoods. On weekends, I persuaded others to join me. We witnessed often in the streets and drinking establishments of a neighboring city.
Using “The Four Spiritual Laws” and beginning conversations with “If you were to die tonight…” I acted upon my feeling of obligation to preach the gospel “in season and out of season.” I found others who shared this obligation at a Campus Crusade for Christ group. I liked the group’s evangelistic passion and ecumenical posture.
Eventually, not having experienced the results I expected when sharing my faith and not agreeing with the tendency toward Calvinism I found in Campus Crusade, I turned to the Charismatic movement to find the power I seemed to lack. I appreciated how easily Charismatics identified the activity of God in their community and enjoyed the feeling of freedom I found in their worship. I actively sought to cultivate my spiritual gifts and found I was able to speak in tongues. Although I did not always agree that it was God alone who aroused these ecstatic demonstrations, it was refreshing to be in a community of Christians who were animated by their religious experiences.
The conversations I had with the variety of people I encountered while in the church, street, bar, or classroom led me to realize that issues of faith were more complex than I’d previously imagined. Through Bible study and in the years I spent studying New Testament Greek, I came to realize that Scripture could legitimately be interpreted to express different ideas.
My dogmatic tendencies, grounded in my belief that the Bible was inerrant, began to dissipate. I found myself moving toward espousing a more tolerant theology. After discovering how powerfully one’s experience shapes world-views, I found myself attracted to liberal theology in the form of Harry Emerson Fosdick. I liked the way Fosdick appealed to both the experience and rationality of his listeners. I also liked the way he could approach the Bible seriously—without slipping into inerrancy.
The biggest shock to my religious sensibilities, however, came in a philosophy of religion class my final year of college. Until then, I’d never really heard thoughtful argumentation by atheists, agnostics, and nonChristians. Finding myself pushed to decide which of my beliefs were essential and which were not, I turned to natural theology for help. Natural theology seemed a logical fit; after all, I had already spent much of my life trying to articulate my faith convincingly and had only recently been exposed to liberal theology.
By graduation, I’d become keenly aware that my faith adventure had taken me away from the Evangelical mainstream to which I belonged. The issues with which I struggled seemed of little or no consequence to my friends in the pews next to me. Feeling uneasy about this and also wanting a chance to get my hands dirty tackling everyday problems outside academia, I chose to postpone further formal education and became an associate pastor.
For four years I served a mid-size, conservative, Evangelical congregation. My experience there was similar to Karl Barth’s, since I too found a different set of issues in the parish than in the classroom. The optimism I’d discovered in Fosdick and liberalism did not fit here. Furthermore, the congregation was not wrestling with the problem of evil or hammering out arguments for the existence of God.
In my attempt to find intellectually sound solutions to the problems I found in the parish, I turned to the contemporary Catholic theologian Hans Küng. He offered helpful language with which to articulate responsible answers to these concrete questions. It was in this setting that I determined to set a course for my life by which I could receive training to help others asking similar faith questions. So, off to an Evangelical seminary I went.
My pastoral background proved helpful while in seminary by keeping me attuned to both practical and theoretical issues. Though my inclination was still toward classes in philosophy of religion, I continued to minister as an associate pastor in a young church. It was at the Masters level that I became thoroughly exposed to the ideas of those labeled “Neo-orthodox.” I read nearly all the influential texts, but Paul Tillich particularly impressed me. His attempts to correlate the gospel with the concerns of the culture, his creative use of symbols, the categories he used to explain human existence, and his systematic use of relevant philosophical categories were all inspiring. I especially appreciated his insistence that doubt can be an element of faith. However, it was the philosophy of being upon which his approach to theology was based that eventually led me to turn toward process thought.
I can still remember the excitement I felt when I first read John Cobb and David Griffin’s Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition. Although the technical language was difficult at the time, so many of the ideas I encountered seemed to fit. Many of the positions I had come to take with regard to theology I found in this book—and yet they offered more than I’d imagined.
Not long after, I read Daniel Day Williams’ The Spirit and the Forms of Love and my interest in process theology deepened. Here was a philosophical theology of love from which I could find so much help. Marjorie Suchocki’s God-ChristChurch was helpful as well. I found myself gobbling up all the process oriented books I could find and scouring their indices to discover other process resources.
In my final year of seminary I was introduced to Deconstruction through the writings of Jacques Derrida and Mark C. Taylor. I found Deconstruction wanting and my reading of Derrida only solidified my interest in process thought. The work of David Griffin was influential here as I probed deeper into the insights I had previously overlooked in Whitehead’s philosophy. Perhaps the most helpful aspect of my voyage into Deconstructive Postmodernism was to discover the speculative side of process thought.
Since my religious experiences have been so diverse, I have a great appreciation for Whitehead’s attempt to take all experience into account when developing a metaphysic. The process model allows me to acknowledge specific elements in each theological tradition as helpful and then appropriate them. For instance, I can hold fast to the erotic/passion I felt as a Fundamentalist without buying into an exclusivistic, narrow worldview. I can value the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit evident in the Charismatic movement without identifying all ecstatic manifestations as determined by God. I can treasure the Bible as the result of divine inspiration without asserting its inerrancy.
I can genuinely hope for the possibility of a better world in the future without succumbing to liberal, romantic optimism. Traditional notions of the omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence and omnipresence of God now make sense—though these attributes have been defined in new ways. And, of course, the black clouds that hung over my head with the words “problem of evil” etched on them have evaporated.
In sum, process thought has given me a framework out of which I can selectively appropriate my past without embracing those elements I find objectionable. In light of my adventure in faith, I am grateful for this.
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