Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Realizing how Ancient I am

No, this is not a post about me turning 40 last year. Rather, it is about God's timing. Last week my wife made a comment about me being "traditional" but not in what is considered the norm for traditional in the church. Rather she was talking about me falling back to traditions that predate the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Tradition in the ancient sense. This all came about as I was shopping for Orthodox Icons online.

Then I saw this article in Christianity Today about the revival of interest in the ancient church, especially among the younger evangelicals. It touches on an interest in a faith that seeks to do more than just explain the world (the Enlightenment model) but rather one that truly sought to Incarnate the Word (Pre-Constantine church). I encourage you to read the article, especially the cautions offered when looking at ancient practice. The dangers are:

1. Anachronism: Naively interpreting the tradition in light of contemporary assumptions;

2. Traditionalism: Being unwilling to see the flaws in the early church's traditions;

3. Eclecticism: Selectively appropriating ancient practices without regard to their original purposes or contexts.

We must, as Eastern University's Christopher Hall put it in his plenary address, attend carefully to "best practices" for drawing on the insights of the Christian past, while approaching earlier periods "honestly and openly."

I do find myself chafing at the shallowness of much of what passes for evangelicalism today. I am guilty of participating in this, so I am casting stones at myself here. Some of what we experience comes from the church in the USA being on the top side of power, not the underside as the early church was. Constantine changed all of that when he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. When that happened, the church embarked on a process of acquiring power and influence and maintaining that power and the institutions it created.

During Holy Week, I encourage you to take a look at some of the ancient practices and see them for what they were. The way we do church has greatly evolved since then, but there is a lot we can learn from those who came before us.

1 comment:

bishopman said...

Good thoughts. I too have succumb to the trap of modern, evangelicalism, which is nothing more than church-lite (tastes great, less filling). In the waning days of the church I pastored, I explored this a little, and it was very meaningful. I have let it slide a little.