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Posts Tagged ‘Anabaptist distinctives’

The following list condenses “A Brief Description of Anabaptist Spiritual Formation Salvation History, Cosmic and Personal” into a series of doctrinal positions held by Anabaptists that distinguish them from other groups arising out of the Reformation.

Rule of Christ. Jesus, the Christ, has inaugurated God’s promised messianic kingdom or reign, a reign marked by perpetual Jubilee. Through this inauguration, he has initiated the restoration of shalōm that characterized the original creation.

Voluntary faith. Individuals must exercise faith consciously and freely in order to enter the Kingdom of God. This faith is placed in God on the basis of the Gospel.

Faith and works. Works and faith are inseparable. Faith includes both repentance and discipleship. A good synonym for faith, then, is “allegiance.”

Undivided allegiance to the King. Believers reject all thoughts, words, and actions that would compromise their allegiance to Christ. For example, they do not share this allegiance with any worldly entity, such as a political body like a nation-state.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Signs reserved for believers. They represent and commemorate the Gospel as well as the unity of the body. Therefore, baptism, the rite of initiation into discipleship and into the assembly of believers or disciples, as well as the Lord’s Supper, is reserved for believers.

Social responsibility. Disciples help and comfort the weak, needy, and helpless, both spiritually and materially. Therefore, they live simply. They also instruct, encourage, correct, discipline, and restore one another.

Peace, nonresistance, and non-retaliation. Disciples make peace: They neither resist violence nor retaliate against it, even at the cost of personal suffering. Disciples, then, do not participate in the military of any political body such as a nation-state.

Truth-telling. Disciples tell the truth and do not take oaths.

 

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Final installment in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Tenth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Truth-telling: Disciples tell the truth and do not take oaths.

Notes

Personal integrity is the correspondence of one’s words and deeds. In other words, it is the embodiment of truth. In addition to being the Way and the Life, Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). He most perfectly embodies integrity. Therefore, one who worships and follows Jesus, the Truth, practices and tells the truth. In fact, truth-telling may be the paramount example of the necessary integration of faith and works in a believer.

In accordance with Christ’s character and the believer’s commitment to Him, Christ commands believers never to take oaths, but simply to affirm “yes” or “no” (Matt 5:34 – 37). An oath affirms that one does not ordinarily tell the truth, an action contrary to existence as a disciple. Furthermore, one blasphemes God through the action of taking an oath. Only God can guarantee future actions. The oath, then, is actually an attempt to manipulate God into guaranteeing an action which the oath-taker, in fact, cannot guarantee.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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Part nine in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Ninth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Peace, nonresistance, and nonretaliation: Disciples neither resist evil nor retaliate against its manifestations. Instead, they make peace.

Notes

The overarching theme of God’s story, and, thus, the story of Christ and the stories of his followers, is Shalōm (complete-positive-peace). Shalōm is the promise and goal of the messianic reign (see part one notes). Accordingly, peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness are central to the teaching and example of Christ.

Christ was predicted to be the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). His birth was announced by angels with a blessing of peace (Luke 2:14). Immediately prior to His arrest and consequent death, Jesus prayed for peace and unity (John 17). During His earthly ministry, as did His apostles, Jesus taught love, peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and nonresistance, considering peacemaking and forgiveness to be necessary components of faith and discipleship (Matt 5:9 – 10, 44 – 45; 6:12). In addition, he consistently practiced love, including loving His enemies and doing good for them. He also modeled nonresistance and nonretaliation, which finally led Him to death on a cross, whereby he obtained reconciliation and peace with God for all people (Rom 5:1, 9 – 10).

Jesus’ actions and teaching, and those of His apostles, provide the basis for disciples to live in love, including loving one’s enemies and doing good for them, as well as living in reconciliation, peace, and unity with one another and all people (1 Cor 7:15; Eph 2:13 – 16; Heb 12:14), even at the cost of personal suffering. Rather than punish His enemies, He loved them and did good for them—He died for them. Suffering and painful providences, therefore, are the normal expectation for the disciple (1 Peter 2:21 – 23; 4:12 – 13; 2 Tim 3:12).

Since peace—including nonresistance, nonretaliation, and unity—is the overarching theme or context of the story of the Kingdom, disciples, those who live out their stories in the story of the Kingdom, seek peace. Peace, then, is both the goal of a believer’s words and actions as well as the means whereby the believer achieves that goal. For example, disagreeing believers do not appeal to earthly courts to settle their disputes, but they rely on the wisdom of the church (1 Cor 6:1 – 11). Furthermore, believers seek to alleviate human distress and suffering, but they do not oppose violence with violence, whatever form the violence takes. Violent opposition to violence, especially lethal force performed in behalf of a king in competition with Christ, such as a secular nation-state, or in the name of a so-called “greater good,” is unjustified. Any form of opposition to violence must accord with biblical teaching.

See “Nonresistance and Peacemaking: A Brief Provisional Outline of Biblical Teaching.”

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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Part eight in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Eighth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Social responsibility: Disciples help and comfort the weak, needy, and helpless, especially other disciples. They also instruct, encourage, correct, discipline, and restore one another.

Notes

The believer’s social responsibilities derive from two sets of obligations: (1) Obligations as a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom and, therefore, as Christ’s servant and subject. These obligations correspond to the values and principles of Christ’s Kingdom, including perpetual Jubilee. See part one notes. (2) Obligations as a member of the household or family of God, i.e., the body of Christ, the local church. See part six notes.

The obligations one has to fellow members of the local church may be summarized as a debt to love one another (John 15:12; Rom 13:8) in the context of unity and peace (Eph 4:1 – 3). One specific example of this debt of love is the obligation to share resources, both material and spiritual. Effective sharing requires a commitment to hospitality and simple living, practices which also demonstrate and strengthen the disciple’s faith. Another example of this debt of love is the obligation of mutual spiritual accountability. This accountability includes mutual interpretation of Scripture, discernment, and instruction. It also includes mutual encouragement, correction, and discipline, with the goal of confession, forgiveness, and restoration. When repentance is not forthcoming in these cases, however, the body must suspend fellowship with the erring member for the sake of the church’s purity and integrity before God and before the larger community. Nevertheless, even after suspending fellowship, the church prays for and holds out hope for the restoration of the erring person.

The obligation to make disciples from all nations is implied by what has already been written here, and is explicitly commanded by Christ (Matt 28:19).

The Bible gives specific examples of the weak, needy, and helpless whom the believer is obligated to help and comfort. These people include the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the poor, the grieving, the orphan, the widow, the displaced, the dispossessed, the alien, the ill—both physically and mentally, the disabled, the addicted, the abused, the oppressed, the persecuted, the imprisoned, the enslaved, and the victim of injustice.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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Part six in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Sixth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Believers church: Only believers may be covenant members of a local assembly.

Notes

Since faith is inseparable from works and discipleship, only disciples, i.e., baptized believers, may be covenant members of a local assembly.

The New Testament generally identifies local groups of believers with the Greek word ekklēsia, a non-technical term meaning “assembly.” The word evolved through several languages to the English word “church.” The church is a visible assembly of disciples, i.e., baptized believers.

There are two noteworthy New Testament pictures for the local church: “body,” and “household” or “family.” Both pictures connote the unity of the church’s members in the midst of their functional diversity. The words “body,” and “household” or “family” also imply the biblical commitments assembly members have toward one another. See part eight notes.

As a “body,” believers necessarily exist in community: each member requires and complements the functions of the other members. In addition, as the “body of Christ,” the assembly of believers represents Christ to the world in word and deed (1 Cor 12:12 – 31; Eph 4:1 – 16).

As a “family,” believers share a genetic relationship (i.e., a common “genesis” or beginning, a new birth resulting from faith) and mutual responsibility toward one another. The figure of the “family” or “household” is particularly prominent in the Pastoral Epistles. Take note, for example, of the criteria for selecting leaders of the household of God written in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These leaders must be the good deed par excellence. In other words, they demonstrate faith through the consistent exhibition of good works, primarily the traits of an excellent family leader. The author’s argument corresponds to the biblical teaching that individual progress in existential righteousness most effectively occurs through living in the company of virtuous people. In other words, we will follow the examples of our family members and, especially, our family leaders; therefore, these leaders must be people possessing exemplary family virtues. That is, they must be people of unquestionable faith.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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Part five in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Fifth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Believers baptism: Only believers may receive baptism.

Notes

Baptism initiates one into discipleship. Therefore, only those who have exercised voluntary faith in Christ are fit subjects for baptism. See part seven notes.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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Part four in a series of brief, succinct summaries of common, distinctive Anabaptist affirmations followed by notes that clarify, expand, and interpret them

See Part One for “Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism.”

Fourth Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Undivided allegiance to the King: Believers reject any thought, word, or action that compromises their allegiance to Christ.

Notes

Believers have chosen exclusive allegiance to one King, Jesus, and to His Kingdom. They are aliens in this world, collectively forming a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9) as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom (Phil 2:20; Eph 2:19). As a worthy King, Jesus demands exclusive allegiance (Matt 5:24—“No one can serve two masters”; Matt 12:30—“He who is not with me is against me”; cf. James 4:4—“Friendship with the world is hatred toward God”).

As subjects of Christ and citizens of His Kingdom, composing a holy nation among the nations of the world, believers seek to live in allegiance to Him without interference from earthly lords. First, they deny that any political authority, including any religious authority, has the right to restrict the liberty of any soul. Every believer and every church has authority to interpret the Scriptures and to formulate doctrine on its own. In addition, believers and churches do not seek the protection or the endorsement of earthly kings. Furthermore, believers and churches do not interfere with the affairs of earthly kingdoms. Finally, they do compromise their allegiance to Christ through inappropriate participation in the affairs of earthly states. For example, disciples do not participate in military service or law enforcement, and they shun government employment. In addition, they refuse to pledge allegiance to earthly nations or any symbol which represents earthly nations (e.g., a flag). They also refrain from symbolic acts that venerate a nation or its symbols (e.g., participating in the playing or singing of a national anthem; note the word “anthem” implies some sort of worship).

While some people disagree with the following observation, the preceding logic seems to apply to voting. Voting amounts to participation in the governance of a kingdom that is directly competing with Christ’s Kingdom. Furthermore, voting implicates the voter in the sins carried out by the selected leader, e.g., declaring war, sending troops into battle, funding abortions, and legislating executions.

While believers separate from earthly kingdoms, they have an obligation to influence society. They do this by following the example of Christ, His apostles, John the Baptist, and the Old Testament prophets. The church proclaims the Gospel, welcomes members into Christ’s Kingdom, nourishes the faith of those who have joined His Kingdom, and prophetically rebukes, by word and non-violent action, those practices of this world’s governments which contravene the values and principles of the Kingdom.

You may download a document combining all ten parts of the series,  “Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmations,” here.

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