The times in which we live seem to delight in the radical disconnect with the past, a rejection of the hermeneutic of continuity. It has become fashionable to reject the past in principle, to insist that we have nothing to learn from those who have gone before us, and that the circumstances today require new and different solutions to survive. This is true even in the Church.
It is hard to find a real Calvinist today -- even in the denominations which are his theological heirs. It is hard to find a real Lutheran today -- someone who is not embarrassed by Luther (going too far or not far enough) or who view the Lutheran Confessions as mere suggestions. It is hard to find a church that practices in keeping with its own past practice -- think here such things as close(d) communion. It is hard to find a church where the liturgy used on Sunday morning is consistent with its own liturgical history -- without worship wars in which the past as seen as irrelevant or passe.
The issues that are controversial today shouldn’t be. But they are. It was not all that long ago that nearly every Christian denomination stood firmly on the side of life but there are many of those jurisdictions that have conveniently forgotten what they said and there are many in the pews who find it easy to disagree with their church's stance and still remain in the pews. It was not all that long ago that you could tell what denomination a church was by seeing what happened on Sunday morning but now Lutherans worship like evangelicals and evangelicals dabble at liturgy and congregations within each jurisdiction have made conflicting choices. It was not all that long ago that such things as catechisms, confessions, and doctrinal statements were normative for the faith of a church body but now even confessional churches find creative ways to confess differently from their confessions.
The issues that are controversial today shouldn’t be. But they are. It is a sign of the times in which we live that the most controversial things in the faith are what the church has believed, taught, and practiced in the past. For those on the liberal end, these things are archaic or irrelevant so they invent positions on issues from the historicity of Scripture to sex and gender issues that represent a distinct breech from their own theological ancestors. On the conservative end, these things are controversial because they are convinced that they either don't work anymore or are not relevant to where our people are and so they find ways to invent a theological identity or at least a practical face that is at odds with their theological predecessors.
In other words, the most radical position today seems to be the stance that is consistent with the past. On everything from birth control to abortion to same sex marriage to cohabitation to the factual basis for Scripture's stories to liturgy to piety -- the most radical position is the one that stands on the same ground as our theological ancestors. Interesting. Something to think about, to be sure. Just maybe we don't have to reject our past in order to guarantee our future. Just maybe, a faithful continuity with the past just might be the road as yet left untrod and the real path to vitality. Just thinking and you know how dangerous that can be. . .