Sabbath Reading: In Search of Ancient Roots

In-Search-of-Ancient-Roots-201x300In Search of Ancient Roots presents an interesting analysis of the perception that the protestant church is anti-intellectual, anti-historical, and unmoored from the longer tradition of the lowercase-c-catholic church. The book addresses the protestant church in relation to history and presents some ideas for how the church could appeal to the disaffected.

As someone who is attracted to liturgical worship (in a thoughtful, historical, James K.A. Smith sense, not in an empty formalism way), and someone who cringes at the “lite” parts of Christian sub-culture, I found this book very interesting. The author (who calls people like me “the liturgical fringe” which made me laugh) takes on evangelical tendencies to chase culture rather than making it, and calls the church to reclaim historical, gospel-focused worship.

The section on music was particularly helpful. Josh and I had a good talk about this quote:

And what do you sing? …our sung praises to God should include hymns and songs of the church at all times and places…What is called blended worship can easily incorporate elements both ancient and modern, provided that we are determined to identify with believers of all ages [and worldwide] when we worship God.

A few weeks ago, a family who serves as missionaries in Tokyo visited our church. They noted that one of the songs we sang was one they sing in Japan, so this family sang it in Japanese. Isn’t it amazing to think of believers all over the world worshipping in different ways? I would love to see our worship reflect “the church at all times and places.”

I hope that the evangelical church becomes more rooted and grounded in the historical church rather than whiplashed by pop culture, while preserving the theological distinctions that brought about the Reformation. I enjoyed considering the different wings of protestant church culture–it’s far from monolithic in many ways–and found a lot to think about while reading In Search of Ancient Roots. I wouldn’t call it a must-read, but if you like considering church culture, or if you’re involved in setting it in any way, I’d recommend this book.


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4 thoughts on “Sabbath Reading: In Search of Ancient Roots

  1. Oooh, this sounds interesting. I’m on the liturgical fringe with you (lifelong Lutheran), and a church musician as well, so of course am interested in the music section especially.

    I grew up in Albuquerque, and our church there has connections with a mission in El Paso that has a mariachi band as part of their youth outreach program. They play our services when they come through Albuquerque and it’s so much fun to have all the staid Germans swinging along to the Spanish hymns. Our hymnal includes Spanish (and occasionally German) translations for several traditionally English hymns, and the newest addition has incorporated some Spanish, South African, etc. songs translated into English–always kind of interesting to do on the organ, but such a beautiful complement to the more traditional pieces. If anything, our denomination tends to fall too far on the traditionalist side (LSB hymns on the organ ONLY, no guitars or non-officially published hymns need apply), which in my mind is the better error, but a balance and appreciation for the music that informs the worship of the worldwide church is even better. I love the story of the missionaries singing the song for your congregation in Japanese!

    And Lutherans (who in Germany are the “evangelische Kirche”) have all kinds of interesting tensions with American evangelicals, with whom we so often agree politically while vehemently disagreeing theologically. This book sounds great. It’s on order for our library system, so I’ve placed a hold. Thank you!

    1. Let me know what you think after you read it. I feel like “evangelical” means very different things to different people. I always think of it as meaning people who take the Bible as the inerrant and inspired word of God, but there are all sorts of other nuances and shades of meaning. I was recently asked if I was an evangelical, and fortunately I asked “meaning what?” because the person was thinking more along the lines of people who aren’t concerned with theology or historical Christianity. In college I remember one non-Christian friend telling me that he thought all evangelicals were of the camp meeting/snake handling sort!

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