Webber, Robert E. Foreward by David Neff. Common Roots: The Original Call to an Ancient-Future Worship. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978, 2009. 286 Pages. Paper. $18.99. http://www.zondervan.com/ http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/ (LHP)
Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism fro a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999. 240 Pages. Paper. $22.00. http://www.bakerbooks.com/ http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/ (LHP)
Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003. 219 Pages. Paper. $14.99. http://www.bakerbooks.com/ http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/ (LHP)
Webber, Robert E. Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004. 201 Pages. Paper. $18.00. http://www.bakerbooks.com/ http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/ (L)
Webber, Robert E. Foreword by John D. Witvliet. Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008. 191 Pages. Paper. $14.99. http://www.bakerbooks.com/ http://www.ancientfutureworship.com/ (L)
As I noted in a review of Who Gets to Narrate the World? (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2011/07/lhp-review-contending-with-rivals.html), Webber's work is still very relevant and helpful. We are dealing with a worldview crisis, if you will.
The insights of the early church hold vast potential for strengthening the community life and ministry of the contemporary church. Robert Webber sounded this theme in his original 1978 edition of Common Roots. Over the past thirty years, this book has been recognized as Webber's seminal work, providing a foundation for the ancient-future faith movement. Here is Webber's original clarion call, presented with an extensive foreword by David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today magazine and executive director of the Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient-Evangelical Future. The book will promote new conversations about ancient-future faith and its relationship to modern evangelicalism.Webber examines evangelicalism through the lens of the early church (AD 100–500). He searches for the roots of evangelical Christianity, then challenges contemporary evangelical beliefs and practices that are out of harmony with historic Christianity. These ancient patterns, Webber contends, contain wisdom evangelicals must recover for worship, theology, mission, and spirituality. Chapters highlight a problem, investigate an ancient belief or practice, and suggest an agenda for today.This knowledgeable perspective on ancient-future faith is perfect for both seasoned scholars and a new generation of evangelical Christians. (publisher's website)
Webber proposes to recover historic Christianity in five areas:
I rejoice where these elements have been retained. I hear in Webber's critique of the Protestant Reformers (248) a more pointed critique of the Reformed than the Lutheran tradition.
Webber's proposals come from his experience with both non-liturgical and liturgical church bodies. I would offer that our church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, has maintained all three, plus a proper view of Christ, Scripture, and the servant use of tradition (cf. 156)
How do you deliver the authentic faith and great wisdom of the past into the new cultural situation of the twenty-first century? The way into the future is not an innovative new start for the church; rather, the road to the future runs through the past.
These four books are now available for purchase for use on LOGOS! See http://www.logos.com/product/4461/robert-webber-ancient-future-collection.
Webber is wise to show the challenges the Church faces in our day. Christ is the center (Chapter 7), of course. Webber proposes to be clear in how we present Christ and the Gospel, speaking Biblical truth in a way that postmoderns can understand.
The author also calls for a recognition of the catholicity of the Church (Chapter 10), our connection with what has been believed everywhere and at all times about God, Christ, and salvation from the Word alone. Yes, it is not only possible but common for other Christians with a truly Evangelical faith in Christ to be more catholic (small-c traditional definition of the term) than Roman Catholics!
Webber's Ancient Future Evangelism is an introduction to catechesis, a return to a fundamental and comprehensive presentation of the content of the Christian faith for the sake of an informed and Biblically-knowledgeable Christian Church, brought to faith in Christ by the work of God the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Evangelicals should know the evangel, the Gospel, well, and it should be our primary message, not the law.
My main disagreement with Webber here would be on a theology of baptismal regeneration. I do not envy the task he had of writing a book that would appeal to Evangelicals who differ on the doctrines of conversion and baptism (who, how). He does navigate dangerous waters rather well in promoting his four-fold stage approach to spiritual formation. I probably will take a look at his catechetical materials if I ever have a chance, but there is little chance I would replace Lutheran materials with his.
Ancient-Future Evangelism will long serve the Evangelical Christians that are his intended audience.
This is where I'd start.
If I were a typical American Evangelical pastor that just discovered the richness of Christian tradition (before my lifetime), I would start by introducing the historic Christian Church Year to my congregation. We would follow Jesus through His life and grow in His teachings during the long "green" season. Teaching first, I would use the general outline of the Church Year as a start, add a lectionary of some kind the second year, and add traditions (back in) gradually as good pastoral care would permit. Liturgical changes would be next. I would work toward a recovery of the historic Divine Service of the West, with the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament. Non-communion Sundays would transition to Matins/Morning Prayer and Vespers/Evening Prayer. I am a Lutheran pastor, so I don't have to recover these elements. I do appreciate the pastoral care, patience, and tact that it takes to retain what Webber advocates.
The Church Year and historic liturgy give a natural place for faith to thrive, faith formed by the Spirit through the Word, where the Lord gathers to Himself a people.
I have a growing appreciation for the work and legacy of Robert E. Webber.
He was a prodigal of sorts. He critically examined his own Christian tradition for the sake of the Gospel. He returned to the heritage of Christendom and a Christ-centered, Gospel-focused, and Biblically-faithful catholicity. He was an evangelical Christian that rediscovered the richness of Gospel in Churchly, Biblical traditions, the Gospel enacted in structures of worship, time, and catechesis.
Webber remains a guide through his written work and an influence through his students and readers. His is a voice calling in the wilderness of unbelief and unfaithfulness, secularism and religious rivals, and cultural compromise and thin theology: prepare the way for the Lord!
Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.