I just finished Robert Webber’s Ancient Future Faith.
Magnificently concise and instructive. I need to get a copy and read it again.
Trying to blog about it also brings to light the shortcomings of my current note-taking method.
For the past couple years, I’ve put those tiny multi-colored post-it notes to great use, bookmarking paragraphs if interest and then going back the next day to write a post on each one. These are the things I want most to remember.
Webber’s book isn’t full of pithy comments and quotes though. I think I would be better served by outlining the whole thing.
Alas, there are no shortcuts. Real study takes a lot of energy.
A few key ideas that I love from the book (whatever I can remember just now):
The emphasis on remembering the cultural and linguistic context of Christians throughout history. Instead of trashing everyone who has come before us, we can better appreciate their expression of faith by understanding why they wrote what they did. For example, in the middle ages, the church didn’t have 2 hours Puritan-esque sermons. Well, if you understand the literacy rate (virtually nil), the political situation (serfs and lords), you would see how their Christianity, for better or worse, would be primarily something that was lived and acted out in their communities and to their neighbors. They wouldn’t have written lots of books about it. It was the dark ages. That doesn’t mean there was no creativity, it just means that the records of it have not survived.
He also lays the smack down on rationalism and treating the Bible as an object of textual criticism to be pushed through the logical meat-grinder.
Throughout the book though, he’s very positive. Yes, he smacks down rationalism, but does it in such a nice way as to not bad-mouth any of the reformers, but praise them for all the good the accomplished.
He’s cool with the Catholics, but very up front about how in the 600’s, the Romanization of the Catholic church caused it to gradually absorb all sorts of philosophies from the medieval society – much of which persists until today.
He likes to emphasize the Christus Victor view of the resurrection, rather than exclusively focusing on the penal substitution atonement side of the story.
He’s always asking: “Wait, all these early Christians didn’t have all these long creeds and confessions. Did they really know what they believed? Yes, actually they did.”
He’s big on the Christian year. He’s annoyed by moralism.
I would think he would advocate infant baptism, but he doesn’t mention it much. Instead he favors a return of sorts to the long gradual church membership process so as to more thoroughly integrate people into the Christian community.
A lot to chew on here and a lot of our history that I think it would be really valuable to recover.