Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic
A New Witness to the Ancient Way
For well over a decade now, American evangelicals have been experiencing a renaissance—or to be more precise, a naissance—of interest in ancient Christianity. This awakening to the Great Tradition has been several decades in the making; however, its recent growth has been dramatic, and is demonstrated by a marked surge of interest in early Christian literature, by a corresponding increase in the use of liturgical forms in evangelical worship, and by a burgeoning interest among younger evangelicals in liturgical and sacramental traditions. The great spiritual and theological impulse of the Reformation was a return to the early Christian sources—ad fontes—and a similar spirit has enlivened the theological and spiritual imaginations of many late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century evangelicals.
Whatever the outcome of this "paleo-orthodox" ressourcement for evangelicals, I believe it is a movement of significant import which merits significant theological reflection. Having been engaged in it for roughly twenty years, I am deeply sympathetic with the best of what it proffers to American evangelicals—and ultimately to all Christian traditions—and believe it
- Strikingly evinced by the success of InterVarsity Press’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Other projects of similar emphasis include the Evangelical Ressourcement series by Baker Academic and The Church’s Bible by Eerdmans.
- Among those directly involved in the liturgical aspects of this movement, Robert Webber may be the most widely recognized. See, e.g., Worship is a Verb (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992) and Worship Old and New (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).
- See, e.g., Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002) and Colleen Carroll, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2004).
- Whether we can call this another “Reformation” is yet to be seen, though, some—perhaps most notably Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom—wonder if it might signify the end of the Reformation and the birth of a new orthodox ecumenism and ecclesial rapprochement.
- Thomas Oden has especially made use of this term to refer to the recovery of orthodox, creedal Christianity in the late twentieth century. See, e.g., Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995) and The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2002).