The Summer of Research has given way to the Summer of Writing, issuing in the first halting words of Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants (Baker Books, forthcoming). Here are some initial, gut-level thoughts–rough and unrevised:
I write this book not as an expert but as a pilgrim. The subject is medieval faith, but academically I am an Americanist. I write for the American evangelical Protestant church(es) in a time of intense pain and confusion. Battered by modernity, we have tried in turn rational apologetic, pragmatic ecclesiology, charismatic experience, and postmodern experimentation. None of these has proved lasting.
The rationalism of modern apologetics has collapsed as the questions of the unchurched have turned away from doctrine and the agonies of the churched have centered on spirituality and practice rather than belief.
The pragmatism of the church growth specialists has dissolved, as it always has, as its shallow spirituality has become evident.
The experientialism of the charismatic movement seems often to have failed to build lasting, faithful, discipled churches as worshippers have bounced from one high to the next.
The postmodernisms of some emerging Christians seem already to be veering into heresy. Continue reading
Posted in Medieval Wisdom for Modern Protestants
Tagged apologetics, asceticism, D H Williams, Dallas Willard, Emergent, Eugene Peterson, evangelicalism, lectio divina, Medieval, monasticism, postmodernism, pragmatism, rationalism, Richard Foster, Robert Louis Wilken, Thomas Oden
National Catholic Reporter writer Tom Roberts has been doing an extended series (23 articles and counting) called “In Search of the Emerging Church.” Articles touch on Shane Claiborne and the new monasticism, Eucharistic communities, Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque, NM, and much more.
This is the second of my “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor” series on Christianity Today International’s history site a few years back. It deals with the Christ-and-culture question:
#2: “All things to all men” or “Be ye separate”?
In the last installment of “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of a Christian History Professor,” I took a cue from the Emergent movement and argued that we have to go back to the past to get to the future. (Some Emergents call this sort of thing “Vintage faith“; others, borrowing a phrase from the scholar of historical worship Robert Webber, use the term “Ancient-future faith.”)
More specifically, I argued that we need to read the lives of “the saints”—our forebears, who translated the gospel for their cultures by teaching, preaching, and especially living it—for clues to how we should be translating the gospel for our own cultures.
But now we face a serious question: Is the whole idea of “translating the gospel for culture” off-base to begin with? Continue reading
A few years back the good people at www.christianhistory.net allowed me to do a brief series of “musings of a Christian history professor.” Thinking of my enjoyable chat yesterday over at the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort, I was reminded of this installment, which seemed to resonate with a lot of readers. If you’ve read my recent piece in CT on biography as spiritual discipline or “Top Ten Reasons To Read Christian History,” you’ll recognize some of the themes here:
Lately my days have been taken up with preparing a book and a course titled Patron Saints for Postmoderns. The project focuses on the lives of Antony of Egypt, Gregory the Great, Margery Kempe, Dante Alighieri, John Comenius, John Newton, Charles Simeon, Amanda Berry Smith, Charles M. Sheldon, and Dorothy L. Sayers.
So the question has haunted me: “Why should Christians today read biographies of ‘dead Christians’ from ages past?”
One particularly forceful answer has hit me from (what some evangelicals might consider) “left field”—the young movement of Emergent Christian thinkers and leaders. Continue reading