Ancient-Future Faith: A Review

PALEO-ORTHODOXY. This term, at its broadest, refers to a general movement among evangelicals, especially young conservative evangelicals, toward recovery of early-church teaching and practice. For some, this means conversion to Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, or the less dramatic move to Anglicanism. But for many, this simply means a desire to structure one’s religious life to be more in accord with the Fathers of the Church and classical Christian teaching. The self-consciously Paleo-Orthodox movement, associated especially with Methodist theologian Thomas Oden, seeks to reincorporate the richness of the Christian tradition while remaining firmly Evangelical. Though it is only one among many diverse movements within postmodern Evangelicalism, Paleo-Orthodoxy’s proponents believe it may point the way to the future of Evangelicalism.

I could not fix a definite denominational label to myself, but “Paleo-Orthodox” makes a passable filler term, indicating as it does a serious interest in Classical Christianity. That said, I have never hitherto read something from a consciously Paleo-Orthodox author. I have usually gone directly to the Church Fathers, or sometimes to members of those traditions which hold them most dear (Catholics and Orthodox). What I have read directly or mediately has been concerned with the Fathers as such, or the continuing theological tradition. However, Paleo-Orthodoxy as a movement is about more than looking back; it is about finding a way for classical Christianity to influence who we are today, as evangelicals.

Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World purports to be a kind of Paleo-Orthodox primer. The late author Robert Webber, a Wheaton professor of theology, was one of the more outstanding figures in the Paleo-Orthodox movement. He was born Baptist and studied in Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran seminaries, eventually settling in the Episcopal Church but working across denominations. Webber was particularly interested in worship ancient and modern, and today has the ecumenical Institute for Worship Studies in Florida, of which he was first president, named after him. He died in 2007 of pancreatic cancer. Ancient-Future Faith, published in 1999, is one of four books in the “Ancient-Future” series.

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Weekly(ish) Miscellany III

Weekly(ish) Miscellany III: November 18-December 29, 2013

An Explanation

I got married November 30. Hopefully that statement adequately accounts for the long absence. I did most of the writing below prior to the wedding, but nothing was really finished, so I abandoned myself to the busyness of the season rather than try to post anything.

Key Scriptures under contemplation

Matthew 2

“Out of Egypt I called my son.” I spent some time contemplating this line this morning. The source of this prophecy is Hosea 11:1, which, rather than being an explicitly messianic passage, references Israel’s exodus from captivity as it glorifies God for his “tutorship” of his chosen nation, which has nevertheless proved obstinate and wayward. Matthew is clearly revealing Jesus as true Israel, the righteous child of God who fulfills Hosea 11 for being unlike the wandering son Israel described in that passage. The next recorded episode is his baptism (as the Red Sea crossing, the nation’s baptism, follows the exodus).

C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock (an excerpt of which was Saturday’s Advent reading) describes the Christ story as one of “descent and resurrection,” the Resurrection being simply the turning point in the larger story, in which humanity and all creation is retrieved from death, in which the finished work of man is exalted from the slime to which he had sunk. The briefly-described Egypt saga places Christ on this path of descent, continuing from the cosmic descent of his incarnation. Yet he descends that God the Father may call him out of the land of exile and captivity—and call him “my son.” Now that he has taken on Israel, Christ, the lamb, can take Israel and all humanity to the cross and fulfill Hosea 11:1 as Israel never could.

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