Thursday, May 14, 2009

Simon Chan Calls the Church to a Liturgical Spirituality

In his book, Liturgical Theology Simon Chan challenges the universal Christian church to adopt a liturgical tradition in the pattern of the early church. He critiques the theology and practice of the church in light of Scripture and the witness of the early church. His writing is motivated by what he perceives as a severe disconnect between the evangelical church today with the traditions and practices of the early church that made such an impact on the world. This is Chan’s answer to the question of how can the church become a distinct community that shapes individual’s lives in the image of Christ and bears witness as Christ’s body to the world at large.

For Chan, the greatest challenge facing the church today is to regain its shape and force in order to transform lives and cultures. In the face of growing secularism, relativism and individualism among Christians, Chan argues for the need of a clear theological understanding of the definition of the church coupled with a strong liturgical practice as the foundation of all other ecclesial practices. This theology and liturgy must flow from the memory of the church consisting of the teachings of Scripture, the traditions of the early church that shaped the Christian mind and practices, the unity prescribed for the church and the church’s call to be a worshipping community distinct from the world.

Chan first suggests that evangelicals need to regain an adequate ecclesiology, a theology and practice of being the church. He notes that evangelicals have generally resisted and rejected ordered and conscious ecclesiology due to an aversion to hierarchy and its potential for abuse. Evangelicals’ penchant for individualism and freedom has also led to little appreciation for ecclesiology. Chan, however, sees ecclesiology as being synergetic with and inseparable from pneumatology. By examining Scripture and early church tradition, Chan asserts that ecclesiology is inherent in the nature of the church as a worshipping community and as the body of Christ.

The ecclesiology of the church is the tradition passed down from the apostles and enlivened by the Holy Spirit. It forms the shape of the “one, holy and catholic church” that evangelicals confess. Chan suggests that only within a church that is catholic and alive are truths received as a living faith and not as abstract ideas and propositions. The tested and tried ecclesial traditions are what have been proven to effectively shape the Christian mind to stand against the culture of the world.

Simon Chan is a featured speaker at this June's AWAF Conference at Trinity School for Ministry.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Finding Treasures in the Writings of the Christian Fathers

AWAF Conference speaker D.H. Williams’ book Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation offers readers the opportunity to see for themselves the relationships between the Christian tradition, Scripture and ministry. Williams gives readers a reliable guide to the writings of the early church in order to exhibit the important developments of the early church that illustrate its significance to evangelicals. Of the writings included in book, Williams writes, “In them lie the cornerstones of Christian authority for the church past and future.” Williams’ book helps readers navigate the plethora of writings from the early church to gain an appreciation for their value. He effectively kindles a passion among readers for the ministry and authority found in the traditions of the early church. His ultimate goal is to draw readers to the practices of the early church in order to develop a more theologically and biblically literate contemporary Christian church.

Williams shows readers that the traditions of the church are wholly compatible and complementary to the Word and charism sought in contemporary evangelicalism. Williams asserts throughout the book that the writings of the church Fathers are an essential ingredient in the practice of authentic Christianity.

There is a stated and implied responsibility in their writings to study Scripture, participate in the Lord’s Supper, contribute to the Christian community, respect the church’s authority and to serve the body of Christ. There is no sign of cheap grace, mental assent or easy-believism among the Fathers. Williams shows that in the Father’s writings are the keys to how the church started from nothing to spread throughout the world while combating severe opposition and heresies on every side.

This is an indication of the powerful message that D.H. Williams shares with evangelicals. He will be a featured speaker at the AWAF conference in early June at Trinity School for Ministry.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Walker and Williams Suggest a Retrieval of 'Paradosis' and Rule of Faith

AWAF speakers Andrew Walker and Daniel Williams see the current state of evangelicalism as being as much a child of the enlightenment as it is a child of the Reformation. This leads to a built-in bias towards individualism rather than community and tradition. Both evangelical theologians are hoping to continue to churn evangelicalism towards a retrieval of the paradosis of the church—which in times past was believed to be the apostolic tradition of the New Testament and the “rule of faith” of the church Fathers and early church. This rule of faith can be the bridge leading to fuller unity and integrity in the Body of Christ as it continues to engage the culture with it unique message of eternal salvation. This is also a theme of the upcoming AWAF conference in June at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA. Both Walker and Williams are slated to be featured speakers at the conference.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Professor D. Stephen Long and the Task of Orthodox Theology

AWAF featured speaker, Dr. D. Stephen Long asserts that theology must remain orthodox in order to maintain the priority of God’s gift in Jesus Christ as the only possible means of creation and redemption. The theological priority of God’s gift in Jesus Christ mediates the Christian’s participation in culture, ethics, economy, philosophy and church. Long identifies the trend of modernity as searching for and proclaiming what is “new.” This interminable “newness” that characterizes modernity has left its mark on theology as well as all things in our culture. Modern theology proclaims itself to be “progressive,” moving from the old to the new. The “new” never seems to deliver what it promises except the dissolution of the past, including the historical tradition of Christianity.

The task of postmodern theologians is to remember Christianity’s theological roots that nurture orthodox beliefs and practices, and therefore, genuine Christianity. For Long, the best answer to the questions of the relationship between theology and culture is to be found in an orthodox Christology. This allows for speaking of Jesus Christ in truth and grace and in our own language, culture and times. We need not forfeit one for the other.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

George Sumner Points to the Historical Self-Mooring of Christianity

Christianity must not define itself merely by articulating what it is not. The positive Scriptural center of the faith must be clearly stated and not as an ambiguous compromise between convictions. What is the center of Anglicanism? George Sumner writes, “To speak of Christian centralities is to affirm the creative, particular, and historically encompassing life of God as temporally drawn in the figure of Jesus, the Christ.” The divine center of the faith, Jesus Christ, is the eternal power of God’s own life that withstands temporal assaults, orders the world, and moves the church’s destiny, all the while maintaining its integrity in relation to every detail of creation.

The translation of Christianity’s center is grounded always in “consistent historical self-mooring” through hearing the entire Scripture again and again in the Tradition of the church. The tradition of the church responds to the stress and strain of living in the world by continually reapprehending God’s order for life. It is God’s life and not the changing world or culture that must remain the center of the church’s day-to-day functioning. This is how the church is not conformed to the world but is recreated in the image of God. The church then reflects the gospel of Jesus Christ to world rather than a mere self reflection.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Andrew Walker Points Christians to a Recovery of 'Deep Church'

Andrew Walker urges Christians to recover what C.S. Lewis has called “Deep Church.” He asserts that in this age of uncertainty the time is ripe for Deep Church. To speak of Deep Church is to appeal to the miraculous foundations of the Christian faith and to the common historical tradition of belief and practice that was normative for the early Christian experience.

Walker calls Deep Church a commitment to a robust, maximized form of muscular Christianity. The reservoir of Deep Church for Lewis and for Walker is the Apostolic Faith or what he calls “historic orthodoxy.”

In order to live in Deep Church, Walker encourages Christians to reconnect with each other and with the past. He calls believers to rediscover a proper relationship between Spirit-breathed liturgies and practical programs of theological renewal. For Walker, this requires both inspiration and effort guided by the spiritual need to equip and empower the saints. This is about giving the people of God the tools to appropriate the Faith for themselves and to live in the awareness of the presence of God while mediating that presence to the world.

Andrew Walker is a featured speaker at the upcoming Ancient Wisdom – Anglican Futures Conference.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interview with AWAF Participant Simon Chan

Christianity Today's Christian Vision Project has recently published an online interview with Simon Chan. Dr. Chan will be among the theologians participating in our conference June 4-6, 2009. In this interview he discusses (among other things) the role of mission within the broader ministry of the Church:
If we see communion as central to the life of the church, we are going to have an important place for mission. And this is reflected in the ancient fourfold structure of worship: gathering, proclaiming the Word, celebrating the Eucharist, and going out into the world. The last, of course, is mission. But mission takes its place within a larger structure. It is this sense of communion that the evangelical world especially needs. Communion is not just introspection or fellowship among ourselves. It involves, ultimately, seeing God and seeing the heart of God as well, which is his love for the world.

This summer, Dr. Chan (together with Pittsburgh Theological Seminary professor Edith Humphrey) will be specifically addressing "Worshiping in the Great Tradition." He is the author of Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community (IVP 2006) and Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life (IVP 1998). He is Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Transcendence and Immanence Lead to Ecstasy and Intimacy

For AWAF conference speaker Dr. Edith Humphrey, the orthodoxy of the church reveals what is exciting about Christianity. At the center of orthodoxy is the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She warns that modern spiritual viewpoints attempting to capture the dramas of each person’s story have caused the focus on the One real thing to dissipate. Dr. Humphrey writes in her book Ecstasy and Intimacy, “We must remember that utter reality (that is, God himself) and true power (that is, his mercy and justice) are seen in the One who has made himself known to us. In coming to be God-with-us, the Word of God disclosed to us (as far as we are able to bear it) the mystery and glory of the Three-In-One and One-In-Three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Whereas modern spirituality begins and ends with self, Christian spirituality begins and ends with Jesus, the Alpha and Omega. Dr. Humphrey reaches backwards to grasp traditional Christianity's reverence and right regard of the Trinity. Through social commentary and theological language, she recenters today's Christianity on the Trinity. She focuses on the Incarnate God who has revealed the mystery of the Trinity. For Humphrey, authentic faith is not blocked but bolstered by traditions of the church. It is within the core foundations of early Christian thought that we find help in knowing God today and into the future.

Hear more from Dr. Humphreys at the Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures Conference June 4 - 6, 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Artists in Conversation: Announcing Tyrus Cutter

On Thursday evening, June 4th, during AWAF, we will be holding an Evening Soiree: Artists in Conversation. We are pleased to announce the first participant in that conversation: Tyrus Cutter. Here's some information about Tyrus from his website:

Tyrus Clutter is a painter and printmaker who was born and grew up in Michigan. He holds a BA in Art from Spring Arbor University and an MFA in Painting from Bowling Green State University. His work has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions throughout North America and in Europe. Clutter's work can be found in several hundred private collections as well as in the Print Collection of the New York Public Library, and the collections of the Museum of Biblical Art, the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Spring Arbor University, Calvin College and Union University.

Images of Tyrus' work have appeared in journals and magazines including The South Carolina Review, Chiron, The Christian Century, and Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture. The Beginning: A Second Look at the First Sin and It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God, both by Square Halo Books, also incorporate Clutter's illustrations.

Tyrus has taught art and art history at colleges and universities since 1995, teaching at Northwest Nazarene University 1998-2003, where he was the Director of the Friesen Galleries 2000-2003. He taught at Gordon College 2003-2008 where he spent a month teaching collage and assemblage for Gordon's Orvieto, Italy program. He also served as the Director of the international art non-profit CIVA while at Gordon College. From 1999-2001 Clutter was art critic for the Boise Weekly newspaper in Boise, Idaho. He continues to produce art, teach, and speak on topics of art, art history, and aesthetics around the country.

In addition to his participation on Thursday evening, the Trinity library will also be hosting an exhibit of his work.

Image:Tyrus Cutter, St. Francis of L'Abri (2003). Watercolor and Casein on Book Page with Gold Leaf.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daniel H. Williams Encourages Evangelical Christians to Embrace Early Church Traditions

In his book Evangelicals and Tradition, AWAF speaker Daniel H. Williams asserts that today's evangelical Protestants too often ignore or reject the traditions of the early Christian church. According to Williams, these traditions are essential to correct practices of Christianity individually and in community. He writes his book in response to a "new openness to hearing the tradition" among evangelicals. This openness represents an "extraordinary work of the Spirit in our time." (15) Williams attempts to disabuse evangelicals from a core perception that he attests pits tradition as a "competing authority" to Scripture. (16) Williams' suggests to readers that the traditions of the early church complement Scripture and support Biblical authority. He writes with a sense of urgency recognizing that Christianity divorced from the early church tradition is susceptible to errors and heresies.

Williams writes of his high regard of the role and value of the church's ancient tradition for all of today’s Christians. He writes, "The task is to show the origins of this tradition and how it was received as an authoritative guide by the earliest centuries of Christians." (18) By examining the role of tradition in the early church, he shows how it has served as the chief hermeneutic for discernment between true and false church teachings. Without it, Williams claims that Biblical interpretation becomes susceptible to individual whims, personal agendas and subjective experiences.

The antagonistic or apathetic attitude among evangelicals toward tradition contradicts the regard for tradition by the reformers such as Luther, Calvin and Wesley who defended their teachings as aligning with the patristic fathers. Williams rejects any notion of conflict between the Holy Spirit inspiration and revelation witnessed in the gospel and the Christian tradition seen in the teachings and practices of the early church. Williams writes, "the tradition did not stand against the inspirational process, out of which emerged the New Testament: it was a critical means by which the risen Lord had imparted his revelation through the working of the Spirit." (33)

He defends this role of the tradition as the "canon of tradition" which does not challenge the authority of Scripture or stifle the ministry of the Spirit but serves as a guide to the church. He suggests that "A true interpretation of Scripture would always lead one to the tradition." (56) The tradition, including creeds and writings of the Fathers, would implicitly or explicitly acknowledge the supremacy of the Bible. Williams examines the creeds and major councils. He demonstrates that these have served to articulate and defend the message of Scripture and, as he references Luther claiming, to defend what had been given by the Holy Spirit to the apostles at Pentecost. He likewise references Calvin's claims that the patristic tradition served to define the correct Scriptural understanding of God. Williams calls the patristic period "foundational to the Christian faith in normative ways that no other period of the church's history can claim." (50)

Williams attributes the rejection of tradition by evangelicals to several key errors. One primary misunderstanding he cites is the belief that any traditional element of prayer, creeds, rituals, etc. hinders the Spirit-led worship. This belief claims that the authentic faith is best released through extemporaneous activities. Williams asserts that this "spur-of-the-moment spirituality" combined with a contemporary trend of hyper-individualism that rejects ecclesial and spiritual authority serves to isolate Christians from the eternal communion of saints. The constant striving for innovative ways to build churches and ministries among evangelicals has led to a disjointed, individualist Christianity.

Williams effectively shows that the Reformation, as valuable as it was, has overshadowed the voices of the early church that initially defined orthodoxy for the church. He also shows that justification by faith was not a discovery of the Reformation but is present in the early church tradition and interpretation of Scripture. He writes of justification placed in its proper role by the early church as an ingredient in the holistic "work of the Trinity that flows out of the life of God, manifested in a believer by faith and good works leading toward virtue." (141)

There is a self-perception akin to enlightenment among evangelical churches today. Williams makes a profoundly important statement in writing about evangelicals' exchanging ancient tradition for user-friendly styles, "all the relational activity in the world cannot make up for an absence of a content grounded in the church's historical memory." (36) The abandonment of early church traditions opens the door to the "unconscious resurrection of old heresies in new guises." (39)

Williams excels at showing that ancient Christian tradition and Biblical authority are not combative but complementary to one another. His presentations are sure to inspire a renewed interest and appreciation in the ancient church.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Timeliness of AWAF

I stood there blinking, standing at the top of the driveway by my mailbox, staring at the cover of the magazine. The image was so similar to our new logo for the Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures conference that I could not decide whether I was impressed or distressed. Compare:

I decided that I was excited. Leadership is a magazine published by Christianity Today, and their Winter 2009 edition is dedicated entirely to "rediscovered roots: timeless practices that keep us grounded and bring new life." In other words, Christian leaders from all traditions are re-discovering the importance of "living the Great Tradition." I was holding in my hands further evidence of the timeliness and the need for the emerging conversation that is AWAF! Read a little bit of what the editor of Leadership writes in his introductory article, "Rooted and Renewed":
As the Leadership editorial team began looking around, we began seeing evidence of rediscovered roots in many places, from postmoderns in the U.K. who take traditional liturgies and do a bit of improvising, to a Plymouth Brethren assembly in Texas that rediscovered creeds, to a Vineyard congregation in the U.S. that's following the Christian calendar.

Others are reintroducing public statements of confession and absolution. Others are pronouncing a blessing on the congregation at the conclusion of worship. Still others are making use of lectio divina and other deeply rooted practices of spiritual formation. (Shelley, 5)
Right here we see Christianity Today exploring in print what we will explore in a live conversation June 4-6, 2009 -- worship, community and mission in the Great Tradition.

Read this most recent edition of Leadership. It's worth it.

Come to AWAF in June. It will be worth it.

Registration is Open

Registration is now open for Ancient Wisdom - Anglican Futures: An Emerging Conversation. Simply point your web browser here and you can read more about it, download our brochure, print out reproducible bulletin inserts, register for the conference, and book rooms at the nearby Hampton Inn.

Space is limited, so register early!