Do we need an “Ancient Evangelical Future”?

I believe it was Robert Webber who coined the phrase “ancient-future faith” a few years back. I remember reading his book Worship:Old and New back in college and realized that by “old” he meant Church Fathers and by “new” he meant all the new stuff. This was a problem for me as I hoped our study of the “old” would take us back to Scripture (much like Hughes Oliphant Old has done in his magnum opus, The Reading and Preaching of Scripture). Webber has expressed his displeasure with the propositional nature of modern evangelicalism so, along with a few others, they have come together to craft a statement dealing with this and a few other issues (hoping to take us back to the “old” as we head into the “future”). Do we need an “Ancient Evangelical Future”? These guys sure seem to think so but this guy says, “not so fast”. What do you think?


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Caleb on September 4, 2006 at 11:54 pm


    Someone on my blog posted this…

    “Preacher Boy, what’s your take on RC Sproul Jr speaking at the Ligonier Conference again? He spoke at the last one barely a month after he’d been defrocked. That’s never made any sense to me. Now it’s happening all over again. Doesn’t being defrocked mean anything anymore to Reformed people?”

    Have you heard anything regarding this situation?


  2. all I know is that it has created a stir in certain Presby circles but I do not know any details. Much of what I read on the issue seemed to be hear-say and gossip from both sides. I think whatever the issues are they should not be settled by blogs and websites but by the local leadership of the church. On a side not I believe this is also part of the problem with the Presby model of elders as opposed to a local church model…but that’s another story.

  3. Paul,

    I agree with you this is primarily a local church matter. I’m surprised that i have not heard much about it though.

  4. A website that discusses these matters:

  5. No anonymous comments please. As I’ve already pointed out there is no end to the gossip of said issue involving Sproul Jr. so please do not contribute to said problem by giving us another link to more of the same. Also, “none’s” comment is off topic of what this post is about. In conclusion I blame my friend Caleb. Amen.

  6. Paul,

    I take full responsiblity for this diversion. I will pursue the issue elsewhere.

    Maybe we need to set up a place where random comments can be made and matters discussed…

    You are right their are two sides to every story and this issue is one of those cases.


  7. Caleb, like our friend Chris, you’re just an all-around trouble maker and like Chris it’s time for you to post something.


  8. Posted by Joseph on November 1, 2006 at 1:36 am

    Check out:

    Touchstone Magazine

    Back & Forth to the Future
    A Critical Symposium on A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

    Some highlights:

    “If one radically edits the past before appropriating it, then it is no longer the past that one is appropriating, but a version of the present.”

    “I wish I didn’t have the feeling, reading this document, that I was reading about the roll-out of a self-consciously “retro” new-model car, a sort of ecclesiastical PT Cruiser, which thinks itself “ancient” because it can play Gregorian chant on its sumptuous audio system.”

    “At the end of the day, the “Ancient/Future” Evangelicalism is a natural extension of American Evangelicalism’s besetting sins of faddishness and consumerism. That’s the reason it is fanned (as so many Evangelical winds of doctrine are) by publishing houses. This project comes to us just as Evangelicalism is in the throes of an infatuation with the so-called emerging church, which is also fueled by publishing houses (the sellers of youth ministry curricula) and which is also enamored simultaneously with postmodern cynicism, egalitarianism, doctrinal flexibility, and ancient-seeming worship…The emerging worshipers and the ancient futurists want to borrow some of the trappings of a time when Christianity was countercultural (dark rooms and candles simulating catacombs, for instance) while embracing primary aspects of contemporary cultural libertarianism (including feminism and pluralism)…The roots of Halloween, we’re told, date back to a time when villagers sought to ward off evil spirits, witches, and ghosts by mocking them with mimicry. A bloodthirsty demon would retreat, it was thought, when he saw someone dressed in ghoulish costume. When reading documents such as A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future, it is hard not to wonder whether this is not what’s going on among these Evangelicals: keeping the ancient Christian witness at bay by mocking it with mimicry.”

    “If real antagonism exists between Evangelicalism and ecclesial Christianity, then why do born-again Protestants who desire historically grounded expression of the faith remain Evangelical? Why not simply join one of the other communions that guard ancient Christianity? One suspects that the reason has something to do with the advantages of being rootless. Without an Evangelical identity, a born-again Protestant would have to choose one of those other traditions, join it, and reject the others. With an Evangelical identity, he can take the best from all Christian expressions without having to come under the discipline and restraint of a particular church’s ministry, authority, and tradition. If this is so, then the Evangelical future called for in this statement is more modern than ancient, because it is more voluntary than received, more liberated than restrained, more tolerant than exclusive. Without becoming part of a historic Christian communion, Evangelicalism’s ancient future will yield merely the trappings of antiquity minus its churchly substance.”

    “Throughout the Call, Protestants are blithely encouraged to leapfrog over 1,500 years of church history to recover some exceedingly vague and romantic model of the early Church. Although American Evangelicals are excoriated for their lack of historical consciousness (an argument one could certainly make), the statement’s own case is, in fact, strikingly ahistorical in its fanciful and selective invocation of the Church of the ancient Fathers.”

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