Thursday, June 7, 2012

Revisiting Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Faith

I'm a few pages away from the end of Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Faith.

For many years I've remembered Ancient-Future Faith as a turning point book in my spiritual development. But my memory of its content has been a bit cloudy. I could picture a page where Webber tells students that when life is hard and their faith is insecure to get to the eucharist as quickly as they could because God would meet them there. A story I treasured, but that was about it.

I do remember carrying this book in my backpack as I traveled with a music group through Greece as a junior in college. I remember poring over it while the tour bus passed the endless olive groves along the Aegean. I remember returning to it after our guide led us through the history and the archaeological sites of Corinth and Philippi.

I've mentioned this experience before: At a gig in Thessaloniki, between sets I found myself in the middle of a passionate discussion with a young Orthodox seminarian. While I asked about the personal quality of his relation to the divine, he urged me to return to the Fathers. Later, I remember, I got lost in the majesty of St. Dimitrios and the mystery of its catacombs, in the sacred continuity of the community of the faithful I found in a monastery at Meteora.

I came back from Greece changed, and I remember Robert Webber's Ancient-Future Faith being a catalyst for that change.

Returning to the text, I've been amazed at how much this book presaged the trajectory my faith development has taken. I look here, and I find the roots of my understanding of atonement, the outline of my commitments in ministry, a picture of the way I've come--via circuitous routes--to understand the church. Not a perfect type, mind you, but a quality sketch.

Friends, Ancient-Future Faith, despite the fixation with postmodernity of its historical moment, is excellent book to welcome into the conversation of your growing faith. College-aged friends, especially, check this book out. Find a used copy. Interlibrary loan it (I think that was how the copy in Greece came to me). Drive to the far north and borrow it from my shelf. See where it might take you. Read it.

1 comment:

  1. Josh, I studied with Webber at Wheaton College Graduate School and as often happened when you studied with Bob you eventually became a friend. He had the gift of encouragement. After graduation I was going through some old journals and found that about ten years before I had immersed myself in Common Roots (the 1978 precursor of Ancient-Future Faith). I discovered that many of the things that I thought I had arrived at independently in my faith formation were actually revisions of things I had first learned from Bob's earlier book. It was a humbling thing (I don't have as many original thoughts as I thought I did!) and a wonderfully celebratory thing that Bob had used his gifts in such an edifying way throughout his teaching and writer career. I was never really impressed with Bob as a scholar, but he was a phenomenal teacher, an intuitive about what the church needed, and a friend and mentor. I'm glad for your post reminding me of that. -- Ric H


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