Recovering Ancient Church Practices: A Review of Brian McLaren, “ Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices” -- By: Michael A. G. Haykin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:2 (Summer 2008)
Article: Recovering Ancient Church Practices: A Review of Brian McLaren, “ Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices”
Author: Michael A. G. Haykin


Recovering Ancient Church Practices:
A Review of Brian McLaren, “
Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices”

Michael A. G. Haykin

Michael A. G. Haykin is Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also Adjunct Professor of Church History at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Haykin is the author of One Heart and One Soul (Evangelical Press, 1994), Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (Brill, 1994), and Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit and Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005).

In this introductory volume for a new series being published by Thomas Nelson entitled “The Ancient Practices Series” (that will include volumes on prayer, the Sabbath, and tithing), well-known author and speaker Brian McLaren sounds a call for the recovery of some of the spiritual riches of our Christian past, in particular those associated with what are called the spiritual disciplines. In this regard, his book, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices,1 is part of an interest in and fascination with spirituality that is now central to both evangelicalism and the cultural ambience of our time. McLaren rightly wants to move beyond the fairly limited range of spiritual expression associated with mid-twentieth-century Fundamentalism (his own roots are described as “mildly fundamentalist,” 54-55) and evangelicalism. Our riches as evangelicals—in the Puritans, Reformers, and the Fathers—are vaster than the classical Fundamentalists of the early twentieth century ever imagined. McLaren is confident that the time is right for “a fresh, creative alternative—a fourth alternative, something beyond militarist scientific secularism, pushy religious fundamentalism, and mushy amorphous spirituality” (5). Does this book deliver that alternative? No. As a spiritually reliable and helpful alternative to the regnant patterns of living in our culture, the book has to be judged a failure.

First, it needs to be noted that stylistically the book reads well and McLaren is alert to the latest modes of expression, though I must admit some of them grated on this reader. His use of the word “sexy,” for example—“the sexy young word spiritual” (19)—is very much in tune with the ways in which that word has come to be used, though I for one have trouble dissociating it from meaning actual sex-appeal. McLaren is also attuned to the contemporary interest in discovering how the church functioned in relation to various secular empires that claimed—and do claim—the complete subservience of their subjects (23). Even the subtitle of the boo...

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