Lesson 4: Scholarly views can have serious social consequences.
Sometimes people have the misperception that scholarly arguments and opinions have no influence on culture and society—they are just ideas locked away in the ivory tower. So people think. But, Oden realized that his liberal scholarly views had serious social consequences. They can impact real lives. And after he changed his direction, he lamented and regretted these consequences. He writes, “My past visions of vast plans for social change had irreparably harmed many innocents, especially the unborn. The sexually permissive lifestyle, which I had not joined but failed to critique, led to a generation of fatherless children. The political policies I had promoted were intended to increase justice…but ended in diminishing personal responsibility and freedom” (145). Oden then states, “Since true guilt was seldom mentioned in modern secular ethics, I had to learn to repent, to see my own arrogance.”
Lesson 5: The modern scholarly community is not tolerant like people think.
There is a perception out there that the academy is a community committed to neutrality, tolerance, and intellectual freedom. Professors are free to have whatever beliefs they find compelling and supported by the evidence. Right? While there are still faculty (and institutions) that share this approach, there are many who do not. And Oden discovered this reality. After changing intellectual directions his colleagues did not respond with tolerance. They did not give him his intellectual freedom. They did not allow him to hold his own convictions. On the contrary, he was vilified, marginalized, and viewed as an intellectual pariah. He writes, “My colleagues viewed my reversed direction as disastrous academically and they urged me to reconsider…To become an articulate Christian believer in a modern university is to become a pariah to many” (146). And Oden was treated this way for holding believes that have been part of historical Christianity for thousands of years.