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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 28, 2002
I found this book exciting and easy to read. The reason is that Webber connects the ethic and doctrine of the ancient Church to the postmodern world. The situations are quite similar. Webber, a conservative Baptist turned evangelical Episcopalian, argues that the history of the Church consists of different paradigms. Each paradigm is a different expression of the faith, relevant for the time, but inadequate for later generations. Thus, while reformation theology of Sola Scriptura was necessary to counteract the excesses of the later Middle Ages, for the postmodern (and for the early) Church it doesn't work very well (it has led to 1000s of denominations). Webber has some very helpful tables comparing beliefs of different paradigms.
Webber correctly observes that postmodern people are more diverse, less concerned about minor doctrinal differences, and more symbolic. This coincides with new scientific theories that posit a dynamic, non-Newtonian universe. So how can we find authority and meaning? The answer is classical Christianity. Enlightenment rationalism doesn't work anymore, as relativity destroys any idea of objectivity, so theology must be done in the context of the Christian community, the Church, as it was in early Christianity. The Church provides the interpretive authority of the Bible through the creeds. However, this authority is broad, and is something that Catholics, Orthodox, and (most) Protestants share in common (see Vincent of Lerins' canon). As in the early Church, Jesus is the ultimate focal point of the Church, and apostolic tradition and the Bible point to him.
Webber makes use of the "Christus Victor" model of the Atonement. This is the predominant theory of the Atonement expounded by the early Church. This theory says that Jesus, in his Incarnation, death, resurrection, and teachings, conquered evil. It is holistic, rather than narrowing down "when" Christ saved us, such as at the Crucifixion. Thus there is room for unity and mystery in the doctrine, just as in the early Church.
Ultimately, as Modernity dies, Webber advocates a return to the early church of the Fathers. Thus the Church needs to be less individualistic, unified by the creeds, symbolic, sacramental, and arts oriented. However, Webber doesn't want postmodern values to *shape* the Church (e.g. when the Church is a business or side-show), but rather that the Church must be able to convey its basic truth in the postmodern world. Webber is simply advocating what many are already doing: rediscovering the riches of ancient Christianity, dismissed by many enlightenment-era Christians as "outdated" (liberals), or "irrelevant to faith" (fundamentalists). The era of Classical Christianity, when major doctrines were shaped, ethics were worked out, and the canon closed, is neither outdated nor irrelevant.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2008
"The road to the future runs through the past." So says the late Robert Webber in the first book of his Ancient-Future series. In Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, Webber encourages evangelicals to return to the model of the early church as a way to bring renewal and guidance to our churches as we navigate through the murky seas of postmodernism.

Ancient-Future Faith is a thought-provoking book with many good insights. Webber's knowledge of history and theology ground this book in the need for corporate worship that is focused on God, a church that understands itself as the body of Christ, and an evangelistic outlook as a process of discipleship.

What I Liked

Webber is right to show us how we can learn from the early church. Webber is also right to chastise evangelicals for so quickly dismissing the roots of our history and heritage. There is much to be gleaned from the classical Christian period, even if we have too often neglected our past by choosing instead to chase after the most contemporary expressions of Christianity.

Webber rightly emphasizes the importance of discipleship over quick-conversion evangelism. He claims that, for a postmodern world, the church's witness is the most effective apologetic that we can put forth. He is also right to advocate the recovery of symbolism in our worship services.

The Bad

The generalizations found in Ancient-Future Faith are often misguided. Webber's charts, diagrams, and tables comparing the current worldview to those of previous generations are helpful in their illustration, but their generalizations tend to polarize the discussion rather than elicit appropriate reflection. Because Webber seeks to show how a return to classical Christianity is the best reaction to the culture's recent turn to postmodernism, he has to squeeze and force his descriptions into these categories in order to make this case.

Webber downplays the need for intellectual justification of Christianity's truth claims. I agree that the community of faith is the best apologetic for a postmodern world, but I do not think this must replace the worthy goal of Christian apologetics. Webber leans toward Fideism in his apologetic outlook (perhaps in an overreaction to a purely rational Christianity). Why do we have to choose one apologetic method over another?

Webber believes that postmodernism demands a return to the Christus Victor theory of the atonement. While I agree with Christus Victor and Irenaeus' theory of recapitulation, I do not believe that one theory has to be cherished above all others. Webber has a certain distaste for penal substitution, and though he does not deny its truth, he clearly denies its power to reach the current generation. Ironically, the substitutionary model of the atonement comes out even in the early church leaders that Webber quotes as evidence for Christus Victor! The idea that classical Christianity believed in Christus Victor alone is a historical fallacy.

One other part of Ancient-Future Faith bothered me. Webber goes back to the ancient church, but not to the earliest church. I kept asking myself as I read: "Why doesn't he just go all the way back to the New Testament?" Surely, the New Testament church has more to say to us as we enter a pluralistic, postChristian society than does the Constantinian -Christendom era. While I believe we can gain insight from classical Christianity, I am not convinced it is the best period from which to draw. Furthermore, Webber downplays the significance of the Reformation, both theologically and practically, only giving lip service to its goals, theology, and reforms.

Ancient-Future Faith is an important book. I admire Dr. Webber for his work in the area of worship renewal. There is plenty of good insight contained in this book to merit its place on the thoughtful pastor's shelf. Even when I disagreed with some of Dr. Webber's conclusions, I felt as if the book has sharpened me and helped prepare me for the challenges ahead.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
This book provided for me an important Schaefferian Hayloft experience. I have been doing some heavy rethinking about my beloved evangelicalism and it has proved, in its contemporary manifestation, to be quite insufficient in answering some of my deeper questions and longings about the nature of God, His creation and our humanity.
This book has helped answer these bigger questions and shown me that in thinking about them, I am not moving away from orthodoxy, but in fact, toward it in a grand way. That has given me a significant sense of hope and encouragement. Many thanks to the author for a wonderful book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2002
This book has all ready been splendidly reviewed, but I felt I may have a few things to note. The author is a professor, and the book is written as such. People seeking "warm fuzzies" from reading a book about rediscovering classical Christianity are not going to find it here. They will instead find a powerful look at the way that classical Christianity can be drawn upon to reenergize the church, specifically the evangelical church, and make it a more dynamic force in the world as the body of Christ. Very highly recommended.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 1999
Continuing his quest for Truth and the "Faith Once Delivered", Bob Webber challenges the church to look at its great past in order to shape its future. We suffer from a lack of understanding of the past, so we find ourselves struggling in the present for that which is meaningful with a cautious concern for the future.
For anyone who finds current "Pop Theology" thin and longs for authentic Christianity, this book offers a challenge to examine and drink deeply of the "faith once delivered".
A masterful book that continues the challenge to the Evangelical Protestant mind to consider the Truths of the past in light of the present with an expectation of the future.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2005
I enjoyed Robert Webber's book and have enjoyed hearing him speak as well. At a recent speaking engagement he echoed my own concern over the "fate" of the church in America. So much "commodification" has happened in the church that one wonders if anyone knows what it truly means to be "ecclesia"? Although I agree with much of what he says and am part of a liturgical church (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which utilizes the church calendar and has had a strong emphasis on liturgy - - - the church body which Webber received his doctorate from), my question is are we truly called to "change" the church in order to meet the people where they are at?

I agree with his assessments yet I question the reasonings behind doing it. Do we begin to emphasize certain things to the demise of others, just because the culture would be more "prone" to come to the church? Or does the church remain faithful to its calling despite the changing tides of culture?

Our self-centered culture always asks the question "What does this mean for me?", and this has been a active question in the church for sometime. I believe the question that we should be asking is how does God give meaning to me, or what do I mean to God? Our focus needs to be off of ourselves and onto the Lord of the cosmos.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2010
Robert Webber's books are great; I think at this point I have read all of them. They present an interesting analysis of the current woes that plague the Protestant Church. One thought that is persistent in his books yet is never spelled out is this: "Guys, we made a mistake. The Orthodox have been right all along."
There are a few things that are rather thin in most of his writings. He underscores the concept of 'Christus Victor' yet never shows how this concept was actualized in history. Christ's victory over the powers of evil? This he never spells out, for he'd have to go deeply unto the teachings of the Classical Church, dismantle all those theories of Atonement, which would clash with the teachings of the modern Protestantism. The other area that is also weak in his books is music. In everything else, he pushes the envelope; however, in regards to music his ideas are rather dusty. Not to worry, church musicians with brains and imagination will take it from here. Besides, if theology could be cycled back to the first six centuries of the Classical Christianity, why not music? Lucky are the Orthodox - they don't have to "cycle" anything.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2002
For those seeking a more liturgical, catholic (universal) faith, Webber's book is outstanding. Coming from a pentecostal background myself, and now pastor of a United Methodist Church, I believe that Webber has given us a model for the future of the Christian church. We concentrate on what divides us and he has shown in this work what unites us.
I recommend this book and a good companion volume would be his "Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail".
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on October 24, 2013
If you are looking for a way to transform your church's worship to reach today's post modern society, this is your answer. Webber's Ancient Future Faith is a guide book for the church to get out of entertainment and back into substantial worship of the ancient church. Well written and a book you will definitely highlight and write in. I used this book in my Worship 101 class in college and it has changed my views on worship forever!
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on September 7, 2014
Excellent book. Slow reading to absorb /process content. I have recommended the book to multiple friends.
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