Ancient-Future: Faith or Fad?

This week I’m going to review a couple of recent offerings – one an album and one a book – that could be seen as a continuation of the ancient-future faith revival sparked by Robert Webber a decade or so ago that is still going strong. But before I do that, I’m going to call the whole ancient-future enterprise in question! Actually, I’m going to let my friend Kevin Beck do that for me, as a.) I’m a wimp, b.) I’m lazy, and c.) I’m more of a softie for ancient-future expressions than Kev-O. Even so, I find that I need to listen to his gracious but incisive critique – you probably should too. Here’s a taste:

While appreciating centuries of tradition is important, the attempt to reinstitute them is misguided and can result in unintentional authoritarianism. We’re not medievals. Pulling forward medieval tradions is nt a sacred way into the heart of God. Trying to recapture the thirteenth century is certainly not an emergence.

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Kung, Authoritarianism, Christianity, and the Protestant Ancient-Future Impulse

Kung and Authoritarianism in Evangelicalism

5 Responses to “Ancient-Future: Faith or Fad?”


  1. 1 Andrew January 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I don’t know of anyone who’s into “ancient-future” modes of worship or church who I would describe as authoritarian. Moreover, nobody (to my knowledge) has said we need to blindly revert to medieval forms or worship (i.e. chanting in latin). I need to read Beck’s post before further comment but my initial impulse to the teaser you posted is that his argument is bogus and not really based on observation of actual “ancient-future” church in practice.

  2. 2 Ted Seeber January 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    On that second link of Kung and Authoritarianism on Beck’s site- he pointed out something to me that is really interesting:

    In running away from authoritarianism through sola scriptura, most Protestant churches have copied the single-interpreter model of Catholicism without realizing it.

    No wonder Protestant denominations rarely outlast the lifespan of their pastor, and no wonder they split, are created, and are destroyed at the drop of a hat.

    In Sola Scriptura you’ve actually become MORE authoritarian than any Pope could hope to be.

    This fits the same data, but is completely the opposite of the logical problem I’ve always had with the five solas- for I’m so authoritarian and Catholic that I view the five solas as a recipe for chaos. And in truth, 30,000 denominations prove that it is indeed. But it never occurred to me that the chaos could be coming from the same problem the Communists ran into in Russia- the revolutionary government copying the tactics of the tyranny they overthrew (the Czar’s NKVD became the KGB, and the chairman was such in name only, but rather acted like a Czar) (similarly, in rejecting the human authority of the magisterium, the end result is fundamentalist doctrinal tyranny of “if I can prove it from scripture it must be true and you must be a heretic”, despite the fact that anybody can prove anything from scripture).

  3. 3 Heather W January 21, 2010 at 3:42 am

    ooh I like, I like – that is, I like the article.

    I think I can relate to the ancient future thing being somewhat authoritarian, but not in an immediately obvious way… more like, in a defensive posturing – “since people so many centuries ago did this practice, how dare you question the validity of it, you Johnny-come-lately-young-21st-century-whippersnapper-you…”

  4. 4 Ted Seeber January 21, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Heather- I think you’re looking at it from an antiauthoritarian standpoint when really it started among two groups of authoritarians (after all, Hans Kung is a Catholic theologian) as a liberal response to the conservative counter-reformation, which by the mid 20th century had become rather calcified into “The Council of Trent said it’s so so it’s so”. It really is a 20th century movement that while might inform 21st century emergents, is a fight that they have nothing to do with.


  1. 1 Ancient-Future Worship: The Odes Project « zoecarnate Trackback on January 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm

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