I sure have heard the adjectival phrase “Ancient-Future” thrown around a lot these past few years. As one who sees value in recovery of historic Christian doctrine, I can see “ancient” as embodying a willingness to be associated with the apostolic and patristic church. Within modernity, not surprisingly, the ancient was associated with the “out of date,” the “passe,” the “primitive,” as opposed to the “up to date,” “with-it,” “thoroughly rational” modern. “Ancient” brought to mind the dark ages, the opposite of this age of light.
Matched with my desire to recover historic doctrine is a desire to reach people so we have a church in the future. When it comes to theology, most folks would label me a “conservative.” But when it comes to methodology, to how we do things in the church, I’m pretty much a radical. Well, at least in what I’d like to do. I see so much of the way we’ve always done things, though some might call these methods ancient, ancient in this case means only a couple of generations old (for a quick illustration of how recent this form of ancient is, consider the dates of the hymns people in your church consider the “old timey songs”).
In my own congregation – and we’re doing better than some in our denomination – about 40% of our active and committed people are aged 70 or above. Chances are those same folks won’t be as active and committed in ten years. When you consider this with two other current facts, (a) we’re not reaching the younger generations well enough, and (b) I’m doing lots of funerals, we’re going to be in trouble in the near future. I really want the church to have a future.
So you’d think I’d be part of the pro-Ancient-Future demographic, right? Maybe. My first thought on hearing this however, is that it’s a way of saying “anything but now.” Let’s escape into the past or into the future – anything but now. However much we admire the past and seek to learn from it, however much we yearn for a happy and healthy future, we’re here now. Now – the current time – is the bridge (and it can be a mighty short bridge, considering what you mean by ancient) between ancient and future.
But maybe that’s all they mean. Maybe they’re just trying to say the same thing I’ve just said. Maybe we are on the same page after all. We’ll see.