Just as etymology provides insight into the history of words, their origin and how their meaning has evolved, so an understanding of historical faith provides a more robust understanding of 21st century Christianity. Dr. Glen O’Brien, Associate Professor of Church History at Sydney College of Divinity and Head of Humanities in the School for Christian Studies at Booth College, helps his students develop a radical, rooted faith.
“Robert Jenson speaks of how the Gospel has been spoken faithfully to us by those who have gone before,” Dr. O’Brien, said. “Our task is to speak it faithfully again in our time. Since the word radical means connecting to the root of a thing, the most radical thing you can do is have a conversation with your grandmother.”
As a Uniting Church minister with a full-time placement in theological education in the Salvation Army, Dr. O’Brien seeks to instill a historical understanding of Wesleyan history and theology that translates to a vibrant, living ministry.
“I have always felt drawn to the Wesleyan emphasis on the universality of God’s love, the optimism of grace that refuses to place limits on God’s capacity to transform the human heart, and the ‘catholic spirit’ that embraces the whole church rather than taking a ‘sectarian’ approach,” he said.
Dr. O’Brien grew up in a non-religious family and initially began reading Scripture out of curiosity. Through his study, he was drawn to follow Christ. Although his study began on an intellectual level, he met the person of Christ, whom he could not ignore.
“The magnetism of his personality, the power of his words and acts led me into a more profoundly personal response,” he said. “Though I did make a declaration of faith during a church service, my conversion took place gradually over a period of several months, during which time, the call of Jesus became increasingly urgent and, in the end, irresistible.”