Theologian, scholar, and worship guru Robert Webber died Saturday, April 27. He was 73.
Webber will be remembered (and appreciated, mostly) as the man who gave a name to the quest to recover both philosophy and experience of worship that were endangered by contemporary evangelical practices in the late 20th century: He was the father of "ancient-future worship." His book by that title was followed by Ancient-Future Faith, Ancient-Future Time, Ancient-Future Evangelism. Webber wrote more than 40 books on worship. His most recent works are The Younger Evangelicals and, soon to be released,The Divine Embrace.
Remarkable about Webber is his spiritual journey, and how, a generation ahead of the emerging leaders he later chronicled, he created a new cutting edge in evangelicalism by leaving its "contemporary" expressions in search of older and more mainline ways of doing and being Church.
And he took a lot of heat for it.
In their obituary of Webber, our colleagues at Christianity Today online quote Edith Blumhofer, director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College and affiliate professor of Church History at Northern Seminary (Webber taught at both of those schools): "If you stand back and look at his life, he represents one of the ways evangelicalism has changed and unfolded, [especially] if you think about [his journey] from Bob Jones University to the Episcopal Church to all of this focus on remembering the ancient as we move into the contemporary."
John Witvliet of Calvin Seminary adds: "In many ways, Robert Webber paved the way for many Protestants, especially evangelical Protestants, to take worship seriously as a primary occupation in both the church and the academy." And he called Webber "a real pioneer."
Webber died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Michigan.