Book Review: Ancient-Future Time
Author: Robert Webber
Publisher: Baker Books ISBN: 978080101759
This is actually my second time reading this marvelous book. I think more than reading this work by Robert Webber, one lives through it. This has been my experience…a life-changing experience.
I think one of the greatest gifts to Christian spiritual formation is the Liturgical Calendar or Christian Year. This claim says a lot coming from a Protestant Evangelical. I can say without equivocation that this observation and living into the seasons of the Christ life have done more to grow deeply in my faith than any other discipline I have observed during the course of my spiritual journey to date.
I have a number of resources teaching about this particular discipline and practice. I appreciate Dr. Webber’s contribution among my favorites for several reasons. Reason One: He speaks from an Evangelical position. I like this not because of a particular disposition or doctrine, but because I am familiar with his language as he is my own. Our “family of origin” is similar. Reason Two: the book is written very clearly, concise, and linear. I did not have an innate sense of what the Christian calendar was all about, having never practiced living through the seasons. This book provided the framework and detail necessary to build out from; other books have been helpful in ways that added texture to the work Dr. Webber has provided here. Reason Three: The tables, charts, and recommended resources (additional reading suggestions), Bibliography, and Notes section have proved themselves invaluable in my continued learning on this great discipline.
I do not think I could provide better insight to the value of this book than the words of the author Robert Webber, who writes the following on page 22:
In the early ’70s I came upon an ancient discipline for ordering the Christian life. It is the spiritual discipline of living in the pattern of Jesus’ saving life throughout the year. This discipline is so filled with depth and so challenging to the spirit that I feel I have, after a number of years, only begun to scratch the surface of its potential. It has the power to call ethical behavior into conformity with the pattern left us by Jesus. It has the power to construct a view of reality that is thoroughly Christian. But more, it compels us to live, die, and be raised with Christ. Through the discipline of the Christian year, we can experience the power of Christ within the community of the church, through its worship and in our life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
I think I noted that Robert Webber wrote those words thirty years after first practicing this ancient discipline—and he was only beginning to “scratch the surface of its potential” for Christ-like development. I would echo the same words, but feel embarrassed to put myself anywhere near the place of Dr. Webber. I have only been practicing this discipline in earnest for five years.
I cannot speak highly enough about this book or the others that have introduced me to this ancient practice. I would say that this should be one of the books that holds a prominent place on your library shelf.