RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith
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RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith

Crossway / 2012 / Paperback

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Product Description

If the church fathers or Reformers showed up at your church, would they worship. or run?

The time has come for evangelicals to reclaim the forgotten faith. And this means doing something many are reluctant to do. It means reflecting on the past to rethink the present and inform the future. It means thinking not just biblically and theologically, but also historically.

RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith challenges us to think critically and constructively about those who have come before us and how that informs our current beliefs, values, and practices. This book will adjust our attitudes about evangelicalism, and will lead us along a time-tested path toward a brighter future.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Crossway
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1433528487
ISBN-13: 9781433528484

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Publisher's Description

Addresses the current exodus of Christians from evangelical churches and argues for a return to historical roots.

Author Bio

Michael J. Svigel (PhD) is assistant professor of theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is a popular teacher, speaker and author of Heroes and Heretics: Solving the Modern Mystery of the Ancient Church.


As the Evangelical church in America muddles its way into the twenty-first century—aimless, adrift, and uncertain about its identity—Michael Svigel wisely taps us on the shoulder and reminds us, ‘Look to the past.’ His advice couldn’t be more astute. Now more than ever, the church needs to find its way forward by locating its roots in RetroChristianity.
-Bryan M. Litfin,
Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute; author, The Sword, The Gift, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers

Too often, churches abandon all aspects of tradition in favor of a stripped-down, watered-down worship experience that eventually leaves us let down and wishing for something...anything...that connects us to a story bigger than ourselves and our little slice of history. In RetroChristianity, Michael Svigel has argued well for redeeming and rediscovering a historical and substantive Christianity that can and will stand the test of time, while being nimble enough to incarnate Christ to the culture around us. This book is a well-researched and well written call to engage with historical Christianity both personally and corporately.
-Philip Taylor,
Executive Pastor, Terra Nova Church, Troy, NY; Regional Coordinator, Acts 29 Network Northeast

Many evangelicals are recovering their pre-Reformation roots in the early apostolic church and patristic studies. Michael Svigel has shown how pastors and churches can begin to implement this recovery and how to think about it. This is a wise and helpful book that will be exceptionally valuable to those who engage in this revitalization.
-Thomas C. Oden,
Professor Emeritus, Drew University; author, Classic Christianity; general editor, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture

Reading Michael Svigel’s RetroChristianity is like a visit to your physician for an annual exam. It’s uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. It’s necessary. And, if you follow his instructions, it’s healing. His diagnosis of contemporary evangelicalism is tough to swallow, but if we take the medicine prescribed by Dr. Svigel, evangelicalism can be revived.
-D. Jeffrey Bingham,
Department Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

When story is removed from history, it may be factual—but it’s really boring. RetroChristianity combines the history of evangelicalism with the pen of an engaging writer. The result is a much-needed and levelheaded analysis of the snags in the evangelical church as well as some practical solutions to get us back to our forgotten faith. If I want to read history with story in it—history that makes me laugh as well as think—I want to read Michael Svigel.
-Wayne Stiles,
Vice President, Insight for Living; author Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

Michael Svigel's RetroChristianity is hard to classify. It is at the same time a book on the doctrine of the church, a study in church history, and a contemporary analysis and critique of modern evangelicalism. Svigel begins by analyzing why so many evangelicals have wandered away from their nests, and ultimately challenges evangelicals to rethink how they understand the church and return to a more authentic expression of the faith—one that is rooted in the great doctrines and traditions of the church and yet continues to hold to the core tenets of evangelicalism. Svigel's book succeeds in this and will challenge your thinking! I am requiring it for my master's students studying ecclesiology, but the book would also be very helpful for pastors, church leaders, and educated laymen to help reformulate and recast their vision for the local church.
-David C. Hard, Professor,
Philadelphia Biblical University

Rarely does one find a book so rich in content communicated so well. RetroChristianity is anything but retrenchment. Instead, Michael Svigel advances an agenda to move the church forward without losing the moorings of sound theology grounded in a history of biblical conviction. His words say it best: ‘It’s not rewinding to a more favorable era, but reclaiming the forgotten faith for the future.’ This is a most worthy read!
-Mark L. Bailey,
President and Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary

We live in an age when looking like Buddy Holly, practicing the 'domestic arts,' and being a throwback artisan is en vogue. To be current in the present is to be conversant with the past. This trend has influenced evangelical churches in numerous ways. Michael Svigel’s fun and rich book helps us rediscover our vibrant Christian heritage even as he steers us clear of many common evangelical pitfalls. Full of expertly explained church history, cultural connections, and more clever phrasing than there were hairs in Athanasius’s beard, RetroChristianity is an excellent guide for those who justly wish to allow the story and theology of God’s historic church to breathe fresh life into modern faith.
-Owen Strachan,
Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History, Boyce College; coauthor, Essential Edwards Collection

I absorb Michael Svigel’s work only to slow down and ask brutal questions about the ministry to which I apply myself—whether or not we are the faithful expression of a rich ecclesial history, or just one more autonomous assembly aroused by size and success and hungrily searching for the comfortable pathway. His is an unsettling read, but timely and, frankly, necessary. -Matthew R. St. John,
Teaching Pastor, Bethel Church, Fargo, North Dakota

RetroChristianity is exactly what the evangelical church needs today. We often lament the issues of shallowness and novelty about the church, but rarely do we offer solid biblical answers beyond these complaints. This book makes the case that we need to get over our ‘chronological snobbery’ by rediscovering our roots. It is winsome and incredibly fun to read. Michael Svigel does not complain about evangelicalism as teenagers complain about their parents after they have run away. He loves evangelicalism, is committed to it, and seeks to offer hope from within. I love this book.
-C. Michael Patton,
Founder, President, and fellow, The Credo House, Edmond, Oklahoma

Helpful volumes on biblical ecclesiology are rare. Those that cast their vision beyond the modern and pragmatic are even more rare. This is a volume on ecclesiology, which brings light from the New Testament and the early church. However, it is not a volume looking backwards. It shines light on today’s church in a way that is desperately needed. IN an era of man centeredness, unserious about the church and discipleship, I predict its light will send many bugs scurrying for some rock to hide under. RetroChristianity teaches biblical ecclesiology.
-Jeffrey J. VanGoethem,
Senior Pastor, Scofield Memorial Church, Dallas, Texas

Product Reviews

4.7 Stars Out Of 5
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  1. John Kim
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    An Excellent Book
    December 29, 2014
    John Kim
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    It broadens one's perspective on faith in a healthy way by presenting an important historical linkage to the evangelism faith. True (orthodox) Christianity is not an invention in the modern period but a historical heritage going back to the apostolic period.
  2. Joey Cochran
    Tulsa, OK
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    September 29, 2012
    Joey Cochran
    Tulsa, OK
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    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
  3. Chris Land
    Wichita Falls, Tx
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Read this if you care about the Christian faith
    June 11, 2012
    Chris Land
    Wichita Falls, Tx
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    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.
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