The Future Lies in the Past

Last spring, something was stirring under the white steeple of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

A motley group of young and clean-cut, goateed and pierced, white-haired and bespectacled filled the center’s Barrows Auditorium. They joined their voices to sing of “the saints who nobly fought of old” and “mystic communion with those whose rest is won.” A speaker walked an attentive crowd through prayers from the 5th-century Gelasian Sacramentary, recommending its forms as templates for worship in today’s Protestant churches. Another speaker highlighted the pastoral strengths of the medieval fourfold hermeneutic. Yet another gleefully passed on the news that Liberty University had observed the liturgical season of Lent. The t-word””that old Protestant nemesis, tradition””echoed through the halls.

Just what was going on in this veritable shrine to pragmatic evangelistic methods and no-nonsense, back-to-the-Bible Protestant conservatism? Had Catholics taken over?

No, this was the 2007 Wheaton Theology Conference, whose theme was “The Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future.” Here, the words spoken 15 years ago by Drew University theologian and CT senior editor Thomas Oden rang true: “The sons and daughters of modernity are rediscovering the neglected beauty of classical Christian teaching. It is a moment of joy, of beholding anew what had been nearly forgotten, of hugging a lost child.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Evangelicals, Other Churches

One comment on “The Future Lies in the Past

  1. Bob G+ says:

    I’ve been saying for the last few years that Anglicanism is strategically situated to meet the interest and inquiry of so many American-Evangelicals and young people who grew up in non-liturgical and sacramental churches. We provide a link to the ancient faith and traditions, but also provide the space and a real place in this tradition for those who seek and those who have a very difficult time believing, though trying mightily. The problem is that we are not “tapping into” this new desire, but are allowing non-practitioners to rediscover our own tradition without us.

    It seems to me that too many liberals are running away from the tradition while to many conservatives remind these new people too much of what they are moving away from, despite the forms.

    Our parish has more new young folks than we know what to do with – we are experiencing what the article alludes to. I think they mirror the people referenced in the article. They keep returning because they sense the presence of God, and our responsibility is to let the Scripture, liturgy, and sacraments do their thing as God works through them.