These are some blog posts and articles I have enjoyed recently:
Matthew Montonini has embedded some lectures by David deSilva on the Apocalypse: David deSilva Revelation videos.
Peter Enns gives us five reasons to rethink original sin as an Old Testament doctrine: 5 Old Testament Reasons to Rethink “Original Sin”.
Danielle Tumminio interviewed Candida Moss about her forthcoming book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom: Candida Moss on Whether Christian Martyrs are a Myth.
As I’ve mentioned, I worship with a local Mennonite congregation here in San Antonio. My wife and I have come to love our group, even though neither of us had any direct connections to Mennonites. Interestingly, this is true of many people in our congregation. I have a Pentecostal background. Another person has a Lutheran background. One person came to us after several years in the house church movement. My experience has made me aware of other people discussing anabaptist thought including the following:
– David Flowers writes about leaving the SBC to become anabaptist in Finding the Naked Anabaptist. Also, he shares some thoughts on Anabaptist Core Convictions.
– Zach Hoag proposes that as there has been a Neo-Reformed movement there may be a Neo-Anabaptist movement in the making as well in Nuancing the Neo’s.
– Woodland Hills, the congregation pastored by Greg Boyd, considers joining the Mennonite Church USA (we are part of this denomination): Minnesota Megachurch to Go Mennonite? Possibly, Says Greg Boyd. Update: Boyd’s first sermon exploring anabaptist thought: Ana-What?
I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz recently among Christians under the age of 30 who have fallen in love with the Mennonite tradition. Even though from a distance it appears that numbers in Mennonite churches are falling, I’d be interested to see what the trend looks like from about 2011–2015. A friend of mine says the Anabaptists are very likely the future of the Church, and I think I agree with him. They offer a completely countercultural yet theologically orthodox path to living as a Christian in post-Christian Western society. We’ve gone through our torrid love affairs with the contemporary and emerging worship movements, the “Lord I lift your name on high”s and the “ancient future path”s. Now many are finding a home in the quiet grace offered by the Radical Reformation.
Interesting items. I can’t say I’m going to pursue it, but from both a familial Mennonite background and a bit of direct contact/interaction, I’d also like knowing more the recent and current developments within Mennonite tradition, plus Anabaptists more broadly. I’m particularly curious how they have looked at an treated “higher criticism” (I use the term, but in quotes as there seems to be no identifiable methodology or single-line tradition for broad category). Particularly, how have they treated orthodoxy-as-authority. I know, in very general terms, that they have had some groups/branches become more “modern” or even “postmodern” and not just in social habits, etc. (BTW, the values of certain Anabaptists MAY approach what, for lack of a better term, I think of as post-postmodern — a good thing in my organization of thought.)
I like how you frame it as a “quiet grace.” It is a perfect description. Honestly, I don’t know how to explain it to Christians who haven’t experienced it themselves. It has been very important to my wife and me. I know evangelicalism has left me weary in recent years. There is a lot of fighting and posturing. When we found our Mennonite congregation they were blissfully unaware (mostly) of what Mark Driscoll, John Piper, T.D. Jakes, or Rick Warren said last week. There is an effort to be welcoming and to serve the community, but it isn’t seeker-sensitive nor social justice for the sake of saying we are committed to social justice (as if social justice is something that can be added to discipleship rather than intrinsic to it).
I retain an “evangelical” identity, but I have found evangelicalism to be an ethos (emphasizing the Gospel message) more than a “denomination,” so at this stage of my life I am an evangelical anabaptist or evangelical Mennonite!
Brian, your congregation sounds a lot like ours. Is your church a member of the MCUSA?
Howard, I think many “neo-anabaptist” Mennonites openly embrace higher criticism. My church in Kansas City is one of the most highly educated congregations I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. There are several attendees who hold PhDs, and many who have masters degrees in theology and divinity. For the most part, they manage to balance the hermeneutic of faith with the hermeneutic of suspicion, but still retain a theological orthodoxy that is refreshing. They are by and large comfortable with paradox, and I think I would in fact classify them as post-postmodern. Either way, I consider myself an emerging (not THAT kind of “emerging”) post-postmodern anabaptist, so maybe I’m just projecting myself onto my congregation.
Bah! Can’t we apply [1 Cor 1:12] and [1 Cor 3:22] to modern day denominational-ism? Please forgive my blasphemy for rewriting the bible but ….
“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Luther or Anabaptist or Pentecostal or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
“What I mean is that each one of you says, “I am evangelical,” or “I follow Calvin,” or “I am Episcopalian,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Luther crucified for you? Or were you baptised in the name of Menno Simons?”
If you and you and your wife have found a faithful community of Christ following Messiah worshippers (whatever their historical slant) – Praise God! (I assume it is their Christ centredness that draws you)
(Side note – I’ve just discovered “Lifes Noise by Bluetree (album: Greater Things)”. Amazingly, awesome Song (even quotes [1 Kings 19:11-13])!
You know, it is hard for me to describe what it has been like exactly. I am used to talking about a church’s identity on the basis of a doctrinal affirmation. Now, don’t get me wrong, Mennonites have doctrine. The Mennonite Church USA, of which our church is part, has a Confession of Faith (http://mennoniteusa.org/about/confession-of-faith-in-a-mennonite-perspective-1995/), but unlike most churches being a Christian doesn’t stop there, nor has it been limited to a confession of faith. There are a handful of us who are quite cerebral, and we can talk about higher criticism, the evolution of Christian orthodoxy, and similar topics, and no one becomes defensive. There is a trust exemplified in our congregation that I haven’t experienced elsewhere (though my church in San Francisco came close, at times).
For many others, it is about (primarily) living as a disciple as much as possible. Things like the Trinity or deity of Christ are a given for them. They won’t attack you if you don’t affirm it, but it simply established for them what it means to be a Christian in the world, and the work moves from there. I discovered recently that one woman in our congregation was imprisoned for smuggling refugees into the US when there was great political turmoil in South America in past decades. I know one lady who works as a public defendant for people who are here illegally. Another works for the city’s energy department, helping make our city more sustainable. We have people who are on important peace and justice committees.
It may be that there is a real sense of unity, trust, and participation. It is real community. Since we’ve been there I’ve heard my pastor preach once (of course, she was pregnant when we arrived and she has been on maternity leave since), so many from the congregation and a few outsiders have been speaking (I preached a couple weekends ago). It is amazing to see a pastor who empowers so many people in the congregation and who doesn’t feel the need to control the pulpit. This doesn’t mean anything and everything can be said in a sermon because part of the Mennonite tradition is to allow the congregation to respond, publicly, after the sermon, so there is accountability, but accountability to the whole.
Historically, the Anabaptists were known for being ‘socially active’ as a consequence of their faith (and were persecuted accordingly). Read about Dirk Willems
Given your obvious interest in social justice – its obvious why you are comfortable.
Yes, we are MCUSA. I think your congregation sounds a lot like our own. We have our flaws, but what I appreciate about this group is we talks about it, openly. So, for instance, we are mostly white, but we are part of a community that is 60% Latino. We have asked some hard questions of ourselves as to why we do not reflect our local demographic. I appreciate the humility exemplified by our group and the willingness to learn and be self-critical in a healthy way.
I get what you are saying, but I don’t know that it has to be like that. I do not place my identity as a member of a Mennonite congregation over that of being a Christian. I work with Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Baptists, and pretty much anyone who is willing to cross denominational lines for our common sharing of the Gospel. On the other hand, we must be realistic: denominations help organize, fund missions, govern charities, provide networks that go beyond a local community, and much more.
For example, I attended local, non-affiliated churches in San Francisco and Portland. When we moved it was really, really hard to find a new church. Denominations allow people to have possible connections across larger swaths of land. Also, we have had people travel through San Antonio who are Mennonites. Our church owns a home and those people have stayed there. It makes hospitality possible. I could go on, but I don’t think a denominational identity or affiliation must be one and the same with sectarianism.
Yes – you’re right. I don’t mean to pigeon hole you! I’m sorry.
I’ve read a couple of articles on Candida Moss’s book. Perhaps she addresses this in there, but there seem to be a couple of major omissions.
1. Yes, there was no systematic Imperial policy of persecution until Diocletian, and perhaps the martyrologies (which I haven’t read myself) are embellished. There still seems to be a lot of evidence that persecution, while sporadic and irregular, was not uncommon. Tacitus and Pliny the Younger are good first-century examples. Not to mention the New Testament itself -Revelation wasn’t written in a vacuum. I’m sure she’s aware of this, but she seems to be downplaying it so much that people (such as the interviewer) are getting the impression that there was little or no persecution at all.
2. She seems to be directing this book largely toward a subset of evangelicalism in America that has a paranoid persecution complex. But there are large parts of the world where Christians actually are seriously persecuted. Isn’t glossing over this in a book about the subject just as Anglocentric as whining about hearing retailers say “Happy Holidays” and calling it persecution?
But she’s the academic and I’m just an overeducated layman working in IT. 😉
Re-reading that last line, it probably sounds a lot more arrogant than I meant it too (just a bit of self-deprecating humor).
I’m into the second chapter of her earlier book Ancient Christian Maryrdom, but that isn’t enough to tell me what she might say to your comment. Also, I’m not sure as to whether this new book is a popularized version of the one I am reading, a spin-off, or something mostly new (not totally new, since I recognize overlapping themes in the book I’m reading).
Brian and Joshua,
Thank you both for the comments and elaborations. Both communities (purposely chosen word vs. “congregations”), sound healthy and inviting. And fairly similar to the one I described some a few days ago which I attended in Eugene, Or. for several years… which was not Mennonite or formally Anabaptist but had connections and leanings that way, among some particularly. Interesting how often these churches somewhat parallel their cities/regions… at least in the case of Eugene, ours did. I think maybe so for KS also (?), and perhaps for San Antonio in that it may well be more open/progressive in general than much of Texas (Brian… yes/no?).
Can either of you describe MCUSA a bit, maybe in comparison (or as part of?) Men. General Conf. (maybe that is an now-abandoned term, and I’ve forgotten the other Men. organizational names, been so long since I was following any of it, and since my mother’s death in 1993, who had been Men. in youth and had many active Men. relatives, a few of which I knew but just a little… Joshua did you happen to see my comment sev. days ago re. my reunion experiences with a very heavily (maybe 85-95%?) Men. crowd? At about 13 yrs. ago, that is almost my latest real exposure to Mennonites. (I never was a member of any of their churches, but had some friends who I was around more than my extended fam. who were… One was a roommate a couple years or more.)
I have yet to explore Texas much, but San Antonio is considered a progressive city, along with Austin, juxtaposed with Dallas-Ft. Worth. I can’t verify or deny that though by experience. Honestly, I don’t know anything about other Mennonite denominations. My contact has been primarily through this local expression. We’d be happy if we found a home in the denomination so that if we move we have connections, but my commitment is to San Antonio Mennonite, through which I have learned from the broader Mennonite community.
Thanks Brian (and to Joshua, also),
I didn’t think you, from earlier comments, would know much about Mennonites more broadly, but hoped that Joshua might comment as well.
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