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5 Stars Out Of 5
September 29, 2012
RetroChristianity is an exceptionally well written popular level study of ecclesiology. Michael Svigel, an associate professor in the theological studies department at Dallas Seminary and an elder at Scofield Memorial church writes a witty, simple to connect with evaluation of the evangelical church. He does so by looking back to what has become of the Church up to today, looking back again to what the roots of the church always were and were meant to be, correcting the errors of today, and exhorting the church to apprehend the forgotten methods of yesterday in order to rally a resurgence of the evangelical community to fall closer in line with the churches historic tradition.
To accomplish this task Svigel addresses ecclesiology in four parts. Part one traces the story of evangelicalism, explores the problems of todays church, explores how he will address those problems, and offers his solution, which he describes as RetroChristianity. In Part two he offers three canons of RetroChristianity: 1) Some things never change and never should, 2) Some things have never been the same and never will be, and 3) Some things grow clear through trial and error. Part three I found fascinating. Here Svigel reveals four myths and four marks of the church. He also goes into greater detail by dedicating time to unpacking the essential marks and works of the church. Then part four closes the book with a discussion of how the corporate community gathers to express the faith, how an individual ought to think about church and the spiritual disciplines, and how the Christian community ought to move forward from here.
Allow me to share with you some of my general observations and conclusion concerning this book. First, one of the valuable features of this book is that Svigel offers insight not just from a biblical theological study but also from a historical theological study. In addition to the ample use of the biblical text to structure and support his viewpoint he corroborates with early extra-biblical resources that tell us what the early church really did and what the apostles passed onto the early church leaders. Second, his methodology is so well structured and his argument for ecclesiology is so well planned out that it altogether becomes quite memorable to the reader. This book will be an accessible resource to any pastor who is evaluating today's expressions of the church. Third, Svigel shows no attachment to what is trendy and intentionally dispels any motive for letting RetroChristianity become trendy. His focus is on what is biblical, theological, and historical: thus his argument is assembled from these core values and is presented with those core values in mind. This book will both challenge assumptions and dispel myths about what church is meant to look like.
Now it is only fair to provide a disclosure concerning the expected target audience of this book. Svigel being a non-denominational church goer writes in such a way that this book ends up being most helpful to non-denominational churches. However, those with a denominational affiliation such as baptists might also find this book helpful. It is also likely that a Presbyterian might read this book and find encouragement concerning his tradition's ecclesiology.
What will follow this generally introductive review to RetroChristianity by Michael Svigel will be a four part review that will plow through each part of Svigel's work highlighting the work's strenghts and the helpful corrections Svigel offers to the Church.
In closing, Svigel writes:
I often wonder what the bygone generations of Christianity might think if they could peer "across the fields of yesterday" and see what had become of the faith for which they lived and died. I constantly ask myself, "If the church fathers or Protestant Reformers were to show up at my church, would they worship . . . or run (Svigel, 44)?"
Perhaps it is time for you to evaluate your church according to this acid test that Svigel suggests. If a church father or protestant reformer stumbled upon your assembly, how would they respond? Reading RetroChristianity will help you assess.
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
The word Retro has many meanings. It could refer to a clothing style of a decade long past like the 1970's. It could also refer to an old way of getting things done. For Michael J Svigel, he uses the term retro as to going back to basic teachings of the Christian faith or, as he puts it, the forgotten faith.
The question for this book is: "If the church fathers or Reformers showed up at your church, would they worship...or run?" Svigel deals with traditional truth in this book that all churches must come back to. This means taking a look what we currently believe and match it with those who have gone before us. Svigel gives a good definition of what Retro Christianity is:
Retro Christianity is an adjustment of the attitudes and actions of individuals and churches, retrieving ideas and practices from the whole Christian past, thus renewing personal and corporate identity and providing evangelicalism a positive path toward the future
Svigel clarifies that Retro Christianity is a way to "bridge the gap between the church of yesterday and the church of today without going into two extremes: (1) idealizing the past and condemning the present, or (2) ignoring the past and glorifying the present." This book deals with looking into the past without saying they are wrong and what we are doing in the present is right.
This book deals with truths that will never change as well as talking about how the church should work along with the myths about the church. The last three chapters deals with one's growth in Christ in the sanctification process which was something I did not expect from the book. This was a great read and recommend it to all who care about the Christian faith.