Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: pietism

An answered prayer

We had talked over our situation that night, prayed for direction and believed we had been shown a direction that we should pursue. There still remained the question of whether Dennis would need or want my help.

It didn’t take long for the answer to come. The phone rang the next morning before we had time to eat breakfast. It was Dennis. He started out as he always does: “How are you doing? How is Chris? How is Michelle?” Then he started talking about the ranch land that he and Ted were buying south of Moose Jaw and wondered if I wanted to come in as a partner. Well, maybe I wanted, but we had no money laying around for such an investment.

Then he said that looking after the pasture land would give him even less time for field work and wondered if I was available for that. “And the house on the half section is empty. It would make a nice little house for the three of you if you were interested.”

We were definitely interested. And so it happened that the spring of 1973 found us on our way back to Moose Jaw. We settled into the house and soon I was putting in long hours helping to get the machinery ready and then seeding.  Later in summer there was work like tilling the summerfallow and hauling grain to the elevator.

The main farm was 2½ sections, a mile wide and 2½ miles long, 1600 acres. The soil  started out light and stoney on the south end and got heavier as we went north. The north half section, where we lived, was Regina Plains heavy clay gumbo. There was another ¼ section a few miles further north and ½ section of cultivated land with the ranch land, 2,080 acres in total. At that time the practice was to seed 2/3 of the land each year. That meant seeding 1,380 acres, with older, smaller equipment.

To give an idea of how heavy clay gumbo soil behaves I’ll describe how we drove away from our home when it rained. Field work stopped when it was wet, so we would want to go into Moose Jaw. The east-west road south of our yard was not gravelled, therefore impassible when wet. The road north was gravelled, yet there was a slight uphill grade. As soon as we ventured up that incline the tires became coated with greasy clay. The road was greasy, despite the gravel, and it was impossible to steer in a straight line. I would let Chris drive and I would walk beside to push the car straight when it began to slip sideways. The road was that greasy that it didn’t take a lot of effort. Once we got to level ground we were OK.

The yard should have been a great place for our almost two year old daughter to play. But by midsummer we were plagued with grasshoppers. We found them annoying, Michelle found them terrifying. The grasshoppers became more than annoying when they harvested Chris’s garden.

As soon as we moved back to Saskatchewan we began to attend the one church in Moose Jaw that called itself Mennonite. I don’t wish to name any of the churches we attended over the first years of our marriage, nor their pastors or other people in the churches. I hold no animosity towards them and don’t wish to hold them up to ridicule. We met a lot of fine people and enjoyed the time we spent with them, but we were looking for a genuine Anabaptist-Mennonite church and weren’t finding it in any of these places.

I eventually began to understand what was going on. When the apostle Paul wrote: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), his intention was that we would follow him in acquiring the same faith that he had.

A true living faith will cause us to live a life that is patterned after Christ, not after the zeitgeist of the era in which we live. There is an ever present danger that Christian faith will grow lukewarm, or even cold, yet a lifestyle pattern has been established that people will follow without comprehending that this lifestyle pattern is not the faith. It is faith that creates a lifestyle, but a lifestyle has no power to create faith.

This seems to have happened to many Mennonites in past generations. The faith gradually died out, yet the lifestyle was maintained for a time, sometimes a long time. Eventually their descendants became alarmed and sought a renewing of faith, but instead of returning to the faith of their forefathers, which by now was unknown to them, they turned to pietistic protestantism. Some of them gained a genuine saving faith, but now there was no reason to retain the old patterns and they began to run as hard as they could to avoid any hint that they were living by some external rule.

Then the pietistic faith itself became a pattern that their descendants tried to maintain. By now many of the current generation has little idea of what constitutes genuine Christianity. This was where we came in and it wasn’t at all what we were looking for.

Pietists, Quietists & Anabaptists

I have been reading some of the writings of François Fénelon and find some moving passages. I plan to post some excerpts in coming days.

Fénelon was a Quietist, that is a Roman Catholic who believed that salvation had to come through a personal relationship with God, rather than through the forms of liturgical worship. So far, so good. Yet, there is a niggling little thought that troubles me – Fénélon appears to have had a genuine faith, but was that faith passed on to following generations? He remained a Roman Catholic all his life. The same question applies to those who were Pietists within the Lutheran Church.

The Anabaptists took a different approach. They believed that Scripture and Spirit called them to remain outside the established state churches and maintain a pure church. This often led to persecution and they accepted that as a necessary consequence of their commitment to God.  Menno Simons wrote:

“Reader, understand what I mean. We do not dispute whether or not there are some of God’s elect in the before-mentioned churches; for this we, at all times, humbly leave to the  just and gracious judgment of God, hoping that he has many thousands unknown to us, as they were to holy Elijah. But our dispute is in regard to what kind of Spirit, doctrine, sacraments, ordinance and life it is with which Christ has commanded us to gather unto Him an abiding church, and how to keep it in His ways.”

It is my conviction that Menno’s faith has more fully endured and been passed on to subsequent generations than has the faith of Fénelon.

Strange Gospel

Approximately 300 years ago there arose a line of thought in pietistic Protestantism that God’s reign would progressively manifest itself through human action cooperating with God’s action. The belief that the gospel will gradually Christianize the world, bringing a reign of peace and harmony preceding the return of Christ, is known as postmillenialism.

In 19th century Germany, theologians Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf Harnack concluded that most of the Scriptures were simply mythology or allegory used to convey spiritual teachings. This was called higher criticism of the Bible. Although they did not believe the Bible to be literally true, they taught that the life and teachings of Jesus carried a message of hope for the poor and oppressed. Rejecting the historical truth of the Bible, they also rejected the thought that evil was the product of the sinful nature of the heart of man. They rather taught that it is the evil in the social environment which prevents men and women from living as Jesus taught. This teaching infiltrated most of the major protestant denominations, and was called “modernism.”

Meanwhile, the success of the abolition movement in the USA led to a belief that it would be possible to cure all the ills of society. In His Steps, published in 1897, became the second-best selling book in the USA (after the Bible) for the next 60 years. This was the account by Charles Sheldon of the transformation of the fictional town of Raymond when people began to ask “What would Jesus do?” It seems an inspiring story, the Bible is read, powerful prayers are offered up, good things happen.

But when answers come to the question “What would Jesus do?” they do not come from Scripture or from the leading of the Holy Spirit, but rather from the intellect and imagination of the persons asking the question.

The theme of the book is that the liquor business and big business in general have created a social environment where people cannot live a Christian life. There is no hint that the great need of rich and poor alike is to repent of the evil in their own heart. The sin of society must first be addressed. This book played a large part in creating the Social Gospel movement.

Walter Rauschenbusch was the principal theologian of the movement. He was a Baptist minister of German descent, who had studied the writings of Schleiermacher, Ritschl and Harnack. His work as a pastor in one of the worst slums of New York City led him to develop a theology to impel Christians to work towards the immediate correction of the evils in society.

His best known book, A Theology for the Social Gospel, appeared in 1917. Rauschenbusch quotes Scripture and uses the language of evangelical Christianity. But he does not believe in the divine inspiration of the whole Bible, leaving him free to select certain Scriptures as authoritative, and to reject others. The Scriptures he does use are interpreted according to social gospel theology.

According to Rauschenbusch, the kingdom of God includes all of humanity. Men are not inherently sinful, but live in a sinful environment which hinders them from living as God wants them to live. Sin is not committed against God alone, but since God resides in every human being, every sin against our fellow man is a sin against God. There is no thought of Jesus being the incarnate Son of God. He was simply a man who attained to a new level of understanding and living the kingdom of God.

Rauschenbusch names six sins which caused the death of Jesus: religious bigotry; graft and political power; corruption of justice; mob spirit and mob action; militarism; and class contempt. There is no mention of a resurrection. The devil, hell and heaven exist only in a figurative sense. All people are somewhere in the unending process of growing closer to God and becoming more like him.

Rauschenbusch considered the production and marketing of alcoholic beverages to be a great evil. Even worse was the oppression of mankind by privately owned businesses operated for the profit of the owners. He called these businesses unsaved organizations. Collectively owned businesses, such as co-operatives and government owned businesses, are saved organizations. This is the Social Gospel and it is indeed a strange gospel.

A theology of suffering

Henry Funk, whom I’ve been quoting the past few days, was only a generation of two removed from the persecution of the Mennonites in Switzerland. The reality of the possibility of suffering for the faith was real to him, and he did not shrink from it.

A few centuries have passed and Mennonites in North America have grown accustomed to thinking that persecution was a thing of the distant past, not really worth even thinking about today. Now we are beginning to wake up to the fact that the world around us has changed and the friendship and support for our faith that we thought was there is rapidly dissipating.

Genuine Christianity has been a persecuted faith throughout most of history. Of course there were churches that called themselves Christian and allied themselves with the civil powers. These churches were often persecutors of all who would not bend to their particular brand of Christianity. At the same time, there were wars between countries holding to different brands of Christianity and it became difficult to discern if the real cause was religion, political ambition, or a striving for economic advantage.

Anabaptists have stood apart from those waging religious wars and persecutions, but have often been the ones being persecuted. Despite the persecution, they have also been noted for their evangelistic fervour. Menno Simons wrote: “To this end we preach as much as opportunity and possibility affords, in forests and wildernesses, in this land and abroad, in prison and bonds, in water, fire and the scaffold, upon the gallows and upon the wheel, before lords and princes, orally and by writing at the risk of possessions and life, as we have done these many years without ceasing.”

Some people found a way to avoid persecution by conforming to the outward form of the state church, yet meeting privately to share their testimonies of faith. In the Lutheran church such people were called pietists, in the Roman Catholic Church they were called quietists.

One branch of those who called themselves by Menno’s name decided it would be better to be as quiet as possible about their faith to avoid persecution. About two hundred years ago they were invited to move to Ukraine, along with many other Germans, by Empress Catherine of Russia. Here they had peace, at the cost of renouncing any attempt to share the gospel with the Ukrainian people. They also lost the ability to evangelize their own people. They settled on self-governing colonies and people’s livelihood was tied to being a member of the church. How could they then deny baptism to their unconverted children? In time, the bishops and ministers forbade the reading, and even the possession, of Menno Simon’s writings.

Most of the descendents of these people still call themselves Mennonites, but what does that mean to them? In most cases it is simply a cultural heritage. The spiritual heritage, the evangelistic fervour, the willingness to suffer for the faith are a dimly remembered history.

Even among those who still retain a faith that is much the same as Menno’s and all the Anabaptist forefathers, the reality that such faith might entail a risk to life and property is hardly considered. I believe it is time to rediscover the theology of suffering. Do we have a faith that will not waver if it begins to cost us something?

The admonition in 1 Peter 4:12-14 was not only for that long ago  era: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.”

Is Christianity a subculture or a counterculture?

Subculture, a cultural group within a larger or predominant culture but distinguished from it by factors such as class, ethnic background, religion, or residence, unified by shared beliefs or interests which may be at variance with those of the larger culture. A group within a culture, distinguished from it by features of custom, conduct, etc.

Counterculture, a culture having values or lifestyles that are in opposition to those of the current accepted culture. A movement that actively rejects the values of the prevailing culture in favour of other ones.

The definitions above come from two dictionaries. In each case the first definition is from the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and the second from the Nelson Gage Canadian Dictionary. In simple terms, what these definitions are telling us is that people within a subculture are marching the the drums of the zeitgeist, heading in the same direction, but wearing a different uniform. People who belong to a counterculture are marching to the sound of a different drummer and heading in a different direction.

Which definition best describes evangelical Christianity today? Zeitgeist is a German word that has entered common usage in English. The Nelson Gage dictionary defines it simply as the pattern of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.

Here are some characteristics of the zeitgeist, which will also be characteristic of a subculture, but not a counterculture; followed by Bible passages that indicate what the Christian attitude should be:

Consumerism, a lifestyle in which buying and consuming goods is the prime interest. “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

Materialism, a tendency to care more for material possessions than spiritual needs. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Self-esteem, a good opinion of oneself. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Egocentric, seeing everything in relation to oneself. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11).

Individualism, emphasizing the importance of individuals as opposed to that of a group. “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

Pietism, an emphasis on a personal relationship with God independent of a relationship with fellow believers. “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. . . . If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:12, 20). “ I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

There are two ways of reading the Bible. One way is to see it as a repository of morally edifying stories. One can label that the pietistic approach or the moralistic, therapeutic deism approach.

The other approach is to see the Bible as a history of how God revealed, step by step, the redemption story. This was the approach taken by the Anabaptists of years ago. We, who claim to be their spiritual descendants, have been heavily influenced by Bible story books and other influences coming from modern evangelical Christianity and have come close to swallowing the pietistic interpretation. We have lost something important in the process.

Take for example the story of Joseph as it unfolds from Genesis chapter 37 on. Joseph is a perfect fit for the modern idea of a hero — poor mistreated boy makes good beyond his dreams and then is gracious to those who mistreated him. Most people see nothing more than that in these chapters.

There is, however, another story woven into those chapters in such a way that we almost miss it. In fact, most often we do miss it. That is the story of Judah.

Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son, the one who should have been the head of all the tribes of Israel. Well, he tried — sort of. When his brothers wanted to kill Joseph, he suggested they put him in a pit instead. It seems that he intended to rescue him later, but didn’t really have a plan. Later when Joseph demanded that Benjamin be brought to him in Egypt, Reuben offered his two sons to his father as surety for Benjamin. Jacob did not appear to be impressed.

Judah was the fourth son of Jacob, certainly not predestined to have the preeminence, and there is not much in his earlier life to suggest that he might one day become the leader. It was Judah’s suggestion to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Perhaps he was trying to save Joseph’s life, but he certainly never expected to see him again.

It isn’t until chapter 43 that we see a different Judah. Obtaining grain from Egypt was now a matter of life and death, and Jacob had rejected Reuben’s offer of his sons as surety for Benjamin. Then Judah steps up before his father and says: “ Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.”

Evidently Jacob saw in Judah a depth of sincerity and commitment that convinced him that he could trust him to keep his word. In the following chapter, Judah stands before the man who was the lord of Egypt and recounts the commitment he made to his father: “ For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father.”

By this willingness of Judah to sacrifice himself for the welfare, not only of Benjamin but of the whole family, the heart of Joseph was broken and he revealed himself to his brothers. And by this act of self-sacrifice Judah became the leader of the children of Israel.

Years later, when Jacob blessed his sons, his blessing of Judah foretold his role in the whole future history of the children of Israel. “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes: His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.”

Note that in Egypt the brothers bowed down to Joseph, but Jacob foretold that in the future they would bow down to Judah. The kings of Israel, after Saul, were of the tribe of Judah. Our Saviour came from the lineage of Judah as reckoned according to the flesh.

There are important lessons in the life of Joseph. But the truest image of the story of redemption is not found in the man who lived in palaces, dressed in costly array and whose authority was felt in every corner of Egypt. It is found in the man who, when it became a matter of life and death for his brethren, offered himself as a ransom.

Where have all the doctrines gone?

There were three churches in the town where I grew up.  The doctrinal position of each was well understood and inflexible; none of them would have been considered evangelical.  About the time I began high school, an itinerant evangelist held meetings in a rented hall and people’s hearts were sufficiently stirred that a Baptist congregation was formed.  A minister was found, but when the new congregation affiliated with one of the Baptist denominations, he left.  I never knew whether his departure was voluntary or not.

A few years later he returned as the pastor of another new congregation, this one affiliated with the Associated Gospel Churches.  I am presuming that there was a disagreement on the understanding and application of some point of Christian doctrine.  Those were the days when doctrine meant something and people would discuss earnestly the meaning of various passages of the Bible.  Discuss is the polite word for it, some folks called it arguing, and indeed feelings did get rather warm and words a little sharp at times.

Our little town was a microcosm of the greater society, where the divisions over small points of doctrine spawned a seemingly limitless variety of denominations.  It mattered a lot whether church services were liturgical, evangelical, charismatic or informal in structure.  It mattered whether you believed Christian life began after baptism, before baptism, or as a result of baptism.  Many things mattered, giving rise to lively discussions about which denomination was on the right track in teaching the Bible.  Those discussions provided abundant fodder for humorists and mockers.

It seems that Christians today have seen how divisive that all was and have determined to just all get along.  The important thing today is to be able to testify of having once experienced a warm, fuzzy feeling at the mention of the name of Jesus.  If you have experienced that, nothing much else matters; this makes you a part of the blood washed throng waiting for the Lord’s return.  Bible doctrine has been cast aside, discussions today centre around feelings rather than Scriptures.

This is pietism and it is not an improvement.  When everything is based on having that warm, fuzzy feeling and it doesn’t make much difference what you believe or how you live, haven’t you forfeited the right to call yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ?

Yes, the old divisions were sometimes scandalous, often farcical, but they indicated an underlying conviction that somewhere there was a truth that mattered.  The real scandal was not that people were searching for the truth, but that they stopped before they discovered it.  Yet there were those who did press on until they found the pearl of great price.  Some are still doing so today.  Yet I fear that the warm fog of pietism too easily becomes a comfortable blanket to lull people to sleep before they even realize that there should be something more to being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Experiences do matter.  There has to be a point in the life of each person who claims to be a Christian where they actually had an encounter with the Almighty, all-righteous God, confessed their own unrighteousness and experienced forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ.  But this is not the whole story, only the beginning of a relationship.  As that relationship grows and deepens, a new Christian should be hungry for the Word of God, desiring to know God better and to learn more of His plan for the life of a believer.

There is a famine – part two

Yesterday I wrote a little about the famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  Today I want to write about another kind of famine that is spreading over our land: a famine of community among those who would follow the Lord.  This kind of famine is just as deadly as the first, especially since it is more deceptive.

In all the cities of our land there are evangelical churches where the Word of God is being preached.  Yet there is usually something else added to the gospel, and it is all the more deceptive in that almost no one recognizes it as an additive.  I am talking about the pietistic belief that the only thing that really matters is to be born again and begin a relationship with God.  As long as all is right between God and me, nothing else matters.

But we are social creatures, created to have fellowship with others.  We need the community of fellow believers to share our struggles and our victories.  To weep with us when we weep, to rejoice with us when we rejoice.  To warn us when we begin to stray from the Way, to help us find our way back, to bear with us when we are weak and almost overcome by the trials and sorrows of the way.

But not much of this is available.  The big churches have ministries for every identifiable group in their midst, but this does not create a bond between individuals and families, it does not build a sense of community.  There may be considerable excitement for a time, a sense that God is really doing great things, but somehow the inner hunger for community is not being satisfied.

There is much concern in the churches today about “leavers,” those who live a vibrant, overcoming Christian life for years and then leave the faith, saying they cannot believe any more.  Where was the community?  Did no one notice the little signs that something was changing?  That this soul was starving?

It is possible to have a sense of Christian community in a big city.  But a big church with special ministries does not create community.  It takes a group of believers who are committed to the Lord and to each other.  A group of believers who make their spiritual community the focus of their social lives, who do not only gather together for worship and Bible study but find other times to visit together as families.  They may visit about many things of everyday life and it may seem that there was only a little said of spiritual things, but these everyday visits build trust and community, a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself and my family.  Bonds of fellowship and unity grow, forming a web of relationships that is not easily torn asunder.

There is yet another level to this sense of community.  There needs to be a larger community of congregations of the same faith, so that when one travels, or relocates, it is possible to find a congregation of the same faith where one can feel at home.  The bonds between congregations are as important as the bonds between individuals and families.

However, because of the inroads of individualistic pietism, many Christians do not realize their need of community.  And there is a difficulty that needs to be admitted.  I cannot be right all the time and feel myself part of a community.  It is not possible for us to disagree and yet each one be right.

The Apostle Peter admonishes us: “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).  We need to be willing to learn from one another, to bend a little when others do not see things as I see them.  I need to let my rough edges get worn smooth, yet be patient with the brother, or sister, whose rough edges are still very evident.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is not given to exalt me above others, but to make it possible to recognize the same Spirit in my brothers and sisters.  The Spirit unites us in a common purpose, despite differences in background, social status and character.  It is the Spirit that binds us together and smooths the differences between us, allowing us to draw spiritual nourishment from the community of fellow believers.

Uncompromising faith

“Anabaptism was essentially a movement which insisted upon an earnest and uncompromising endeavour to live a life of true discipleship of Christ, that is to give expression in fellowship and love to the deepest Christian faith, with full readiness to suffer in conflict with the evil world order.  So long as this willingness to suffer as an expression of deepest faith, and this willingness to enter into a nonresistant struggle for salvation, was a living reality, just so long was Anabaptism a great and powerful movement.  Fellowship and suffering were the outward marks, but an inmost Christian experience was the foundation which made the outward marks possible.  Wherever and as soon as these inner forces declined and consequently the readiness to suffer . . . ceased to exist . . . the situation changed completely.  There were still numerous groups of Anabaptists in existence, but they held their faith more in quiet or in secret, and were more concerned to have the personal experience than to work it out in a radical following of Christ.”  Thus far from Robert Friedmann, Mennonite Piety through the Centuries, © 1949 by the Mennonite Historical Society, Goshen, Indiana.

Friedmann has concisely captured the reality of the power of the Anabaptist movement, and the decline of most of its descendents into a “Quiet in the Land” pietism.   There are many groups today who claim the Anabaptist heritage, yet most equate it with being the quiet in the land.

“To this end we preach as much as opportunity and possibility affords, both in daytime and by night, in houses and in fields, in forests and wildernesses, inthis land and abroad, in prison and bonds, in water, fire and the scaffold, on the gallows, and upon the wheel, before lords and princes, orally and by writing at the risk of possessions and life, as we have done these many years without ceasing.”

“We seek and desire only that we might point the whole world (which lieth in wickedness) to the true way, and that many souls may by the Word of the Lord, through His help and power, be won from the dominion of Satan and brought to Christ.”

“This is my only joy and the desire of my heart, that I may extend the borders of the kingdom of God, make known the truth, reprove sin, teach righteousness, feed the hungry souls with the Word of the Lord, lead the stray sheep into the right path, and win many souls for the Lord through His Spirit, power and grace.”

These last three quotes are from Menno Simons.  How many of those who call themselves Mennonites and claim to be of the same faith as Menno could completely identify with these, his life purpose statements?

How much longer will it be acceptable and permissible in our society to be a halfway, “quiet in the land” Anabaptist?   I do not have any faith that the tide of history can be turned by the political actions of well-meaning Christians.  Politics is “the art of the possible” and best left to politicians.  Christians in politics soon find themselves making compromises in order to win what appear to be small advances in their agenda, which are soon swept aside by the march of the principalities and powers.

Anabaptists in ages past did more to change the course of history by their uncompromising Christian faith and life, including their willingness to suffer a martyr’s death.


Conservatism vs Liberalism?

There are two kinds of conservatism: a living one by which the faith is passed on intact and unchanged, always being kindled anew by the power of the Word and of the Holy Spirit; and a conservatism without life, that makes outward formalism the exclusive evidence of faith, with no reference to the condition of the heart.

There are also two types of liberalism: the one characterized by an openness to the ever-moving Spirit that makes the faith applicable to every age and nation; and the other one which makes the inward feeling the exclusive evidence of faith, unhindered by doctrine or Scriptural evidences.

The living conservatism and the spiritual liberalism are essentially one and the same thing, as they are evidences of the work of the same Holy Spirit; the dead conservatism and the worldly liberalism seem to be mutually exclusive, but lead one to the same sad end — a false hope in a Spirit-less Christianity.

Source unknown, but very similar to a paragraph which appears on page 92 of  Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries by Robert Friedmann.  I would be very thankful if my readers could provide me with more precise information about the source of this brief statement.

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