It’s five years ago since the shocking news that Mike Ovey had been taken from us suddenly. Although there has been the constant comfort that he is with the Lord which is a better thing, Mike is still sorely missed. He’s missed by many as a friend. Although Mike was an academic theologian and principal of Oak Hill Theological College, he was always at heart a pastor and that pastoral concern for his colleagues and students always came through.
I’ve frequently reflected that it feels as though we miss Mike so much at the point when he was really needed. It’s the English and wider evangelical church that miss him. These have been challenging times. We’ve seen prominent leaders exposed as abusive, we’ve been through the trials of a global pandemic and that has often seemed to lead to contention and hyperbole within the church where charity, unity and cool heads were more needed. And, it has felt at times to me that Evangelical academia has gone missing in action.
The last phrase may seem a bit strong but regular readers will perhaps have picked up why. Mike understood that the job of academic theologians was to serve the church, that they were there to train and equip future pastors to be the best possible gift. Yet too often when I read an article or pick up a book I get the impression that the writers have got caught up in highly personalised, highly technical internecine (or is that inter-Nicene) battles with each other which seem more about winning prominence in academia than serving the church. I’m not saying that this is something intentional or that it is exhaustively true of everyone and every book but I think that there have been red lights flashing for some time.
So, we miss Mike’s pastoral concern and we miss his incisive analysis and wisdom. Dare I say it, we also miss that mischievous sense of humour that would have been helpful in bursting the balloons of over inflated egos? We miss that constant reminder and rebuke “Are you willing to let God disagree with you?” We miss that challenge to “not just survive trials but to be holy in them.”
So with that in mind and also being aware that a lot of people won’t be familiar with Mike’s work, not least because he didn’t publish that much, I wanted to just highlight for you a few books that are worth picking up and reading if you want to be helped by his teaching.
The Goldilocks Zone edited by Chris Green is a collection of essays and articles published posthumously and will give you a good overview of Mike’s work and thought. You can read my review here.
Pierced for our transgressions, co written with Andrew Sach and Steve Jeffrey was a response to the controversy over atonement caused by Steve Chalke’s appalling book “The Lost Message of Jesus” with its disgraceful comparison of Christ’s substitutionary work to “cosmic child abuse.”
Feasts of Repentance will take you through some of the meals with Jesus recorded in Luke’s Gospel. This brings together Biblical and Systematic Theology, close exegesis of the text and pastoral application as a helpful model for scholarly work that serves the church.
Perhaps Mike’s most controversial book was “Your will be done.” Where Mike addressed the controversy around Eternal Functional Subordination. Whilst Mike was happy to use that terminology and so in effect aligned with the ESS side of the debate, it is worth saying two things here. First, that you will see significant and crucial differences between him and people like Ware and Grudem so that we cannot assume that there is one homogenous position here. Secondly, that even if you do not agree with all of Mike’s conclusions (I didn’t), the book is still a joy to read as it takes you into Scripture, into the minds of some of the great church theologians of history and most importantly as Mike’s love for the Triune God shines through.
So if you are wanting to be better equipped as a pastor, if you are toying with the idea of setting out to study theology or if you just like to read widely and be well fed then I’d encourage you to pick these up.