Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Robert Friedmann

Are we still walking on the old paths?

“The believer, in his baptism, is baptized into the body of Christ, the church, 1 Cor. 12:13,27. And then he puts on Christ and unites himself to him to follow him truly and constantly, and bearing his cross after him. And should the believer be called on to suffer for the name of Christ and to lay down his life for his name, he should be willing to be baptized with the same baptism of suffering and shedding of blood wherewith his Lord and Master was baptized when he laid down his life to redeem man from death, and this is the allegiance of all the true disciples of Jesus Christ in this world. Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, Matt. 20:23. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, John 15:18,20. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service, John 16:2.”
-Henry Funk, A Mirror of Baptism, page 83

“Anabaptism was essentially a movement which insisted upon an earnest and uncompromising endeavour to live a life of a 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 was an expression of deepest faith, and this readiness to enter into a nonresistant struggle for salvation, was a living reality, just so long was Anabaptism a great and powerful movement.”
-Robert Friedman, Mennonite Piety through the Centuries, page 11

Must we only talk about Anabaptism in the past tense, as if it were a spent force? I don’t believe so, but I fear that we have reached a perilous point in our history.

Many of those who call themselves Anabaptist do not appear to have much understanding of what that implies. Over the past century, pietism has been creeping into Anabaptist/Mennonite circles, to the point that many of us now accept their definition of true Christian faith to be the authentic definition. But pietism was not the faith of our spiritual forefathers. They taught the need of the new birth, but for them the religious experience was the beginning of Christian life, not its essence. It was the starting line, not the finish line.

The way of the cross is not a quick first step, leading to a life of joy and peace, unruffled by opposition from the world. The Holy Spirit gives joy and peace within, but the cross is rough and heavy, speaking of blood, death and opposition from the world.

I am a Mennonite today because over 50 years ago I embarked on a search for a church fellowship that still lined up with the ancient Anabaptist faaith. In coming posts, I want to take another look at the old foundation, the old faith and the ancient landmarks.

A Mirror of Baptism, Henry Funk, Gospel Publishers, Moundridge, Kansas. Henry Funk,1697-1760, was the first Mennonite bishop in North America. The first English edition published 1851

Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries, Robert Friedman, copyright 1949 by the Mennonite Historical Society, Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana.

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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