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December 08, 2006


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I'm afraid that AEF has just become what it name signifies, "ancient." Given the notoriously short attention span within evangelical Protestantism, AEF has already had its 15 minutes of fame, it has become "so 5 minutes ago."

Thomas Oden and the Paleo-Orthodox crowd gave it a go awhile back and it didn't take, so why should AEF's even less focused "ressourcement" vision succeed where they failed?


From the "ancient" days [by evangelical Protestant reckoning) of 2003:

Thomas Oden is one of the prime movers in the “confessional movement” to reclaim catholic substance for oldline Protestantism.

In his recent book The Rebirth of Orthodoxy (HarperSanFrancisco, 212 pp., $24.95) he strongly affirms the Vincentian canon set forth by Vincent of Lerin (d. circa 450). Oden renders the canon this way:

“In the worldwide community of believers every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.”

Roger E. Olson teaches theology at Baylor University, a Baptist institution, and he has his reservations.

He writes: “We must remain open to the possibility that the Word of God—not some new revelation or personal opinion—may correct or supplement what the Church has always believed. Otherwise we must condemn Luther, for surely his doctrine of justification (simul justus et peccator) cannot be found within the consensual teaching of the Church before him (at least he did not think so, nor do most contemporary historical theologians). For that matter, can one find Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification in a moment in the consensual tradition? What about the Synod of Dort’s doctrine of limited atonement? Most significant for many evangelicals is that one cannot find believer baptism only (including ‘rebaptism’ of persons already baptized in the triune name as infants) in the consensual tradition as Oden defines it...Are Baptists heretics? He does not say it, but it would seem so by Vincent’s canon and Oden’s logic. If not, why could there not be contemporary steps away from the ancient, consensual tradition of the Church insofar as they can be established by appeal to Scripture and not to private opinion, philosophy, or culture? In matters of theological examination of Christian teachings old and new the ancient, consensual tradition of the Church gets a strong vote but not an absolute veto.”

In sum, if St. Vincent and Oden are right, much of Protestantism is wrong, and that can’t be right.

That puts Olson’s complaint a bit too simply, but only a bit. These are knotty questions that will not be untangled anytime soon.

In the early centuries of the Church, there were maddeningly diverse and often conflicting beliefs on core issues such as the human and divine natures of Christ, the unity and trinity of God, and much else. That is why there were disputes, synods, and councils in which the tradition of identifiable continuity appealed—before there was agreement on which texts constituted the New Testament of Scriptures—to the authority of the apostles and apostolic churches. This early came to be called the “rule of faith” (regula fidei), of which St. Vincent’s formula is one expression.

Adjudication of differences by appeal to the rule of faith continues to this day in all Christian communions that intend to be catholic, and is, of course, most carefully observed in the churches called Catholic and Orthodox. It is easy to say that “the Word of God—not some new revelation or personal opinion—may correct or supplement what the Church has always believed,” but it is in fact the opinion of a person or group of persons about the Word of God that is set against the continuing tradition. This is what John Henry Newman called the tyranny of “private judgment,” which is not unlike heresy—from haeresis, meaning choice.

See Full-Text:

Haeresis as Doctrinal Choice

Back & Forth to the Future
A Critical Symposium on A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future

Touchstone Magazine

Some highlights:

"If one radically edits the past before appropriating it, then it is no longer the past that one is appropriating, but a version of the present."

"I wish I didn’t have the feeling, reading this document, that I was reading about the roll-out of a self-consciously “retro” new-model car, a sort of ecclesiastical PT Cruiser, which thinks itself “ancient” because it can play Gregorian chant on its sumptuous audio system."

"At the end of the day, the “Ancient/Future” Evangelicalism is a natural extension of American Evangelicalism’s besetting sins of faddishness and consumerism. That’s the reason it is fanned (as so many Evangelical winds of doctrine are) by publishing houses. This project comes to us just as Evangelicalism is in the throes of an infatuation with the so-called emerging church, which is also fueled by publishing houses (the sellers of youth ministry curricula) and which is also enamored simultaneously with postmodern cynicism, egalitarianism, doctrinal flexibility, and ancient-seeming worship...The emerging worshipers and the ancient futurists want to borrow some of the trappings of a time when Christianity was countercultural (dark rooms and candles simulating catacombs, for instance) while embracing primary aspects of contemporary cultural libertarianism (including feminism and pluralism)...The roots of Halloween, we’re told, date back to a time when villagers sought to ward off evil spirits, witches, and ghosts by mocking them with mimicry. A bloodthirsty demon would retreat, it was thought, when he saw someone dressed in ghoulish costume. When reading documents such as A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future, it is hard not to wonder whether this is not what’s going on among these Evangelicals: keeping the ancient Christian witness at bay by mocking it with mimicry."

"If real antagonism exists between Evangelicalism and ecclesial Christianity, then why do born-again Protestants who desire historically grounded expression of the faith remain Evangelical? Why not simply join one of the other communions that guard ancient Christianity? One suspects that the reason has something to do with the advantages of being rootless. Without an Evangelical identity, a born-again Protestant would have to choose one of those other traditions, join it, and reject the others. With an Evangelical identity, he can take the best from all Christian expressions without having to come under the discipline and restraint of a particular church’s ministry, authority, and tradition. If this is so, then the Evangelical future called for in this statement is more modern than ancient, because it is more voluntary than received, more liberated than restrained, more tolerant than exclusive. Without becoming part of a historic Christian communion, Evangelicalism’s ancient future will yield merely the trappings of antiquity minus its churchly substance."

"Throughout the Call, Protestants are blithely encouraged to leapfrog over 1,500 years of church history to recover some exceedingly vague and romantic model of the early Church. Although American Evangelicals are excoriated for their lack of historical consciousness (an argument one could certainly make), the statement’s own case is, in fact, strikingly ahistorical in its fanciful and selective invocation of the Church of the ancient Fathers."


I think the problem with Odin's treatment of a Vincentian mandate is that he localizes orthodoxy in the first five centuries. this is the same error everyone makes when they are seeking reform. In so doing they neglect the principle of "participation". What I mean by this is that in no age is participation in the Kingdom of God perfected by the Church. Rather, if we take a Vincentian principle we then try to look for the greatest participation in the common witness of orthodoxy/praxy throughout history. To say it differently; there is no point in time when our participation in the divine economy is complete,but only reflects greater or lesser degrees of participation as witnessed by practices and beliefs that are given witness to repeatedly across cultures, times, and churches in continuity with the earliest wetnesses of that participation. So I think His paleo-orthodoxy is incomplete as it does not embrace more of protestantism.

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