Northern seminary's Bob Webber likes to tell this story. One day during his tenure at Wheaton College, a colleague remarked, "Webber, you act like there never was a Reformation."
Bob recalls saying, "You act like there never was an ancient church."
The trick for Protestants, of course, is to hold these two sources of our historical identity together, frequently returning to both periods to rediscover the wellsprings of our beliefs and our worship.
Without forsaking the achievements of the Reformation, Webber has long been known for calling our attention to the rich deposit of the ancient church's faith. Almost 30 years ago, he and a group of colleagues produced "The Chicago Call: An Appeal to Evangelicals." The document addressed a variety of ills by prescribing a healthy dose of historical consciousness: "We cannot be fully evangelical without recognizing our need to learn from other times and movements concerning the whole meaning of [the] gospel."
At the time, CT's Donald Tinder called the group "an ad hoc group of 46 comparatively unknown Christians more or less identified with evangelical institutions or views." But despite the authors' relative obscurity, "The Chicago Call" made waves. CT published its text in full, and the editorial page cautiously commended it. Newsweek devoted its entire religion section to "The Chicago Call." And since 1977, evangelicals have been paying increasing attention to the early church.
Now comes another call with Bob Webber's fingerprints all over it. This one addresses different ills, but it retains some of the same historically minded prescriptions. The challenges addressed in "A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future" are external ("the current cultural milieu, and the resurgence ...