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 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.
“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, 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 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, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; coauthor, The Grand Design; coeditor, Designed for Joy
“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
Table of Contents:
Part 1: The Case for RetroChristianity Excursus: What Is Evangelicalism?
1. How Did It Come to This?
2. Going Retro without Going Wrong
3. What Is RetroChristianity?
Part 2: RetroOrthodoxy: Preserving the Faith for the Future
4. The First Canon of RetroOrthodoxy: Some Things Never Change and Never Should
5. The Second Canon of RetroOrthodoxy: Some Things Have Never Been the Same and Never Will Be
6. The Third Canon of RetroOrthodoxy: Some Things Grow Clear through Trial and Error
Part 3: RetroClesiology: Beyond the Preference-Driven Church
7. Church Classic: Four Common Myths and Four Classic Marks
8. The Essential Marks of a Local Church
9. The Essential Works of a Local Church
Part 4: RetroSpirituality: Living the Forgotten Faith Today
10. From “Me” to “We”: Growing Together in Christ 11. From “We” to “Me”: Nurturing Personal Christian Identity
12. Where Do We Go from Here? From Retrospect to Prospects