The contribution which John Oman has made to theology is evaluated in
this thesis by an examination of his life and intellectual background, a survey of
the general pattern of his major theological writings, an introduction to his methodology, and an exposition and critical evaluation of the major themes of his theology.
The writer attempts to show that the traditional elements in Oman's thinking came from his Calvinistic background, but that the creative stimulus for the
distinctive elements in his theology were provided by Schleiermacher and Ritschl.
From them Oman learned the significance of freedom in theology, and the major
thesis of his thought may be characterized as a consistent presentation of the view
that freedom in its fullness is possible only when it is firmly based upon a reality
which faith apprehends and which sustains man's free action within the world.
The primary task of his theology, therefore, is the attempt to relate freedom,
interpreted in its profoundest personalistic sense, to the whole of theology in
an adequate methodology and in the major themes of his thought—i.e. , in the concepts of authority, religion, reconciliation and the Church.
Oman's methodology is that man is to survey his environment, both
Natural and Supernatural, from the highest standpoint he can reach, with all his
experience, insight, and knowledge, and that this must be attempted in an attitude of reverence and sincerity. He applied this method consistently and comprehensively to his theology and this is largely responsible for the integrity and
wholeness of his thought which makes it a practical concern of life.
Oman has made a significant contribution to theology in certain areas
such as the existential interpretation of religious authority, the reorientation of
the doctrine of reconciliation according to its essential personalistic nature, and
the insistence on the spiritual nature of the Church in its organization, method and
task. However, there are some very serious limitations in his theology, such as
the lack of an adequate treatment of the doctrines of sin and revelation; further¬
more, his contribution to theology would have been much greater if the Christological
and kerygmatic framework of the Christian faith had been given fuller
expression and control in his thought. It is therefore concluded that Oman's
greatest contribution to theology lies in his methodology where freedom, personality, sincerity, and comprehensiveness are essential concepts and attitudes
for the study of theology.