Monday, December 18, 2006

The Ancient Evangelical Future Conference 2006


The Ancient Evangelical Future Conference was held on 7-9 December 2006 with Hans Boersma, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Aaron Flores, Brian McLaren, and Howard Synder.

Thanks to Desert Pastor/Chris Monroe who blogged the whole conference, we are able to follow, hear and see some parts of the conference.

Hans Boersma's Focus Paper on A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future gave an excellent perspective to view the whole conference. In it he identified 7 important points in which we need to engage AEF if it should be a workable and viable process. They are:

1. Metanarrative
2. Ressourcement of the early Church
3. Spiritual interpretation
4. Visible church
5. Role of Theology
6. Christian morality
7. Reunification of the church

Each of these points is debatable and need to be defined clearly if AEF is to be taken seriously by the rest of the evangelical community. Otherwise it will be viewed as wistful thinking in looking towards the past in search of ‘a golden age’ of the church.

In the opening plenary Brain McLaren spoke on
“Does the Emergent Church have an Ancient Evangelical Future?” He identified the divergence and the convergence of the emergent church and AEF and suggested some areas in which it may converge. Again the difficulty of definition of terms come into being. As yet there are no fixed definition for emergent and AEF, thus making it difficult to make sense of the topic. Emergent and AEF are broad terms covering diverse opinions and theological constructs.

I hope the organizer of the AEF conference will produce DVDs, audio CD or even publish the talks and discussion so that others who did not have opportunity to attend will be able to continue the discussion.

This may be a bit premature but I do see a glimpse of convergence of the Emergent and AEF

However I do have some questions:
  1. How will AEF help the existing Church?
  2. Does it help us to know God better?
  3. Does it help in our character formation?
  4. Does it help us to be more missional?
  5. Do Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox traditions need to be unified?

We do not need a 'cut and paste' movement. We need renewal. Maranatha!

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4 Comments:

Blogger sivinkit said...

Let me try the questions:
1. How will AEF help the existing Church?
We could use the AEF call to relook at the way we "are" and "do" Church today. Perhaps the AEF can serve as a catalyst to "deepen" our thin, more individualistic ecclesiology and "cure" our historic amnesia.

2. Does it help us to know God better?
It depends ... but rediscovering the Gospel to me surely helps us to know God better. Perhaps the narrative emphasis can reengage our imaginations again. Seems like many of us have lost the astonishment of God's movement in story, in history and in our story.

3. Does it help in our character formation?
I think the resource of the early church is a good place to go with a dose of second naivete(as long as we are not elevating them in a pedestal). I like the reemphasis on the role of theology and a relook at spiritual interpretation.

4. Does it help us to be more missional?
Perhaps not in an activist direct way. But maybe indirectly as we refocus on the "being" church bit more (keeping a keen eye for spaces for "doing" or "overflowing").

5. Do Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox traditions need to be unified?
I think the first thing is for mutual affirmation and some level of mutual admonishment. I'm not sure whether "unified" means a total "merge" but I think an "emergent" or "convergent" mindset/ethos is helpful where we see how all the traditions are part of the church catholic/universal. This gives us a good dose of humility to learn from each other, and reappreciate our roots, and yet be open on how this might change us in the future.

Some advent thoughts.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Thanks for your comments.

1. How will AEF help the existing Church?

"Perhaps the AEF can serve as a catalyst to "deepen" our thin, more individualistic ecclesiology and "cure" our historic amnesia."

That will be great. As Simon Chan pointed out in Liturgical Theology we evangelicals do not really have a strong ecclesiology. We need to develop that and we can learn from the past how the church develop a strong applied doctrine of being Church.

2. Does it help us to know God better?
"It depends ... but rediscovering the Gospel to me surely helps us to know God better."

Definitely. It is discovering the meta-narrative of God plan of redemption, and how our our community of faith narratives and our own personal narratives fit into that meta-narrative. I do not understand the fear that theologians have that meta-narrative will replace systematic theology.

3. Does it help in our character formation?

It does only if we embrace the whole tradition of the church and not 'cut and paste'. Rediscovering certain spiritual disciplines such as centering prayer, lectio divina, enneagram, labyrinth walk may be useful but it is still 'cut and paste'. As an Orthodox Patriach commented, to understand Orthodox tradition, you cannot just attend, you must become of them.

4. Does it help us to be more missional?

missional means being fully engaged in the meta-narrative of God - the redemption of our souls and our present creation. Hence not "being church" or "evangelism" but be "activism" in the true sense of the word.

5. Do Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox traditions need to be unified?

I agree with eucumenical dialogues and ministry together but not the "merging' as proposed by Hans Boersma.

6:49 PM  
Blogger sivinkit said...

great to interact with you ... as you can see I'm not very good at criticizing :-) but I love conversations. Let's continue.

On No.1, I think Simon Chan is bringing a corrective especially in our setting here in Singapore and Malaysia (for example) I guess I will need to interact further with his book to have a more intelligent comment.

On NO. 2, "I do not understand the fear that theologians have that meta-narrative will replace systematic theology."

I'm with you on this one. of course, even the term "meta-narrative" is a borrowed language which has it's ups and downs. I think James KA Smith did an excellent job helping me see how the Gospel is not a totalizing abusive oppressive narrative - often associated with the term "meta-narrative." ...so it's all about how we understand the term like all things :-) I know Brian McLaren has been playing around with the phrase "redemptive narrative" which I think is a useful step. As for systematic theologians, I think their fear might be a reflection of the pre-occupation to have a "theological system" which is comprehensive, and while I think this is a noble motivation, I would ask the question where is the place of mystery and faith in all this. Having sad this, I'm not advocating irrationality but a "rationality" which can embrace a more mosaic way of thinking.

On. No.3, I think the initial step would be some level of cut-and -paste, any form of experimentation would involve that. But, this is where a good historical consciousness as well as theological thinking comes in. What's the history of the Lectio Divina we must ask? What is the theological basis/foundation/center of contemplative prayer? and then perhaps follow up questions of why do we find these practices refreshing? what was lacking in our previous experience and so forth.

Responding to your comment on "the whole tradition", I think what I'm concerned is a individual spirituality without community because talking about "the whole tradition" to me is about connecting with the community of the past as well as specific communities in the present.

I'm less certain of how this will take form in the future.

ON 4.... for me, "Missional" is moving where God is moving, participating in His Mission. We cannot escape some level of action.

On 5 .. more later. For now. I agree with you.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

I want to pick up point no 3 about 'cut and paste' the various spiritual disciplines,rituals and practices from other traditions. Yes, we do benefit much from it by being refreshed. Behind my mind is a warning light on whether we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into.

Taking centering prayer for example. How much do we really know about it? Basil Peninngton and Thomas Keating made it popular. Yes, we can trace it back to a certain extent to the desert fathers. If it is so important to our spiritual life, why did John Calvin do not practice it? And why did Richard Foster not mention it? It worries me that most literature from centering prayer comes from the Roman Catholic tradition.

12:44 AM  

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