A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

One of the contemporary theologians who has influenced me most profoundly is Robert Webber (whose book Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail sometimes appears on my right-sidebar display of my 40 most recommended theology books). Just as I was coming to grips with the unworkability of the me-and-my-Bible sort of individualistic evangelicalism that I had learned along the way, he and several others pointed me back in time to a different way of doing Christianity that is also very timely for us "postmoderns."

And now Webber and a few other Protestant theologians, mostly coming from a moderate evangelical perspectice who will find some kinship with paleo-orthodox and a few emergent folks as well, have issued this Call to an ancient evangelical future.

This vision of living our Christianity together explicitly embraces tradition and understands it to be a continuation of God's narrative that is given in Scripture (thus legitimate tradition must stand under the judgment of and in continuity with the scriptural narrative); it refuses to accept Modernity's epistemology that flattens truth into 'empirical fact' and thus gives rise both to liberalism (which sees much of the Biblical narrative as failing to meet Modernity's criteria for "facts") and fundamentalism (which reduces the Biblical narrative of what God is doing in the world to a series of indepent propositional truth claims that may be systematized and understood individually and apart from the church that is the living continuation of that narrative); it also rejects the individualism that is rampant in contemporary evangelicalism as well as the relativism that is so closely related to it. It embraces serious catechism and life-long spiritual formation within the life of the larger Church which teaches us how to believe and live.

Obviously, I think these guys are on to something here. N.T. Wright has pretty well convinced me that we need to understand the narrative character of the Bible and use it (and understand how the different testaments work together) accordingly (See this article, or his recent book The Last Word for more on this perspective). Tom Oden has (along with Rob Webber and Tom Howard and others) convinced me of the importance of the life of the church through history, especially in her catholic/universal convictions and her liturgical celebrations, for understand the Scripture: for understanding what God truly has done and truly is doing in the world and for finding our place in that larger story or metanarrative. So I hope evangelical Christians will give serious thought and prayer and attention to this "Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future."

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