Posts Tagged ‘Anabaptists’

The following reflection appeared in The Mennonite blog at this address on February 22, 2018, the day after Billy Graham’s death.

Billy Graham was first and foremost an evangelist, someone who proclaimed the Gospel. And, Dr. Graham was an outstanding example of one who did so boldly. What about Anabaptists? Anabaptists are right to “win over” others “without a word,” but “by conduct” (1 Peter 3:1). However, there also is a place for “proclaiming the Gospel,” for “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Mark 1:14; Rom 1:16). May we Anabaptists take inspiration from the example of Billy Graham and then dare to discern when and how to share the Gospel boldly with a world in desperate need of it.


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Upon which side of the watershed a raindrop falls determines into which ocean – Atlantic or Pacific – it eventually ends up.


Roman Catholics

Protestants (particularly Reformed)


Old and New Testaments: Their relationship to each other Nearly absolute continuity. Illustration: Leviticus serves as the model for the priesthood and worship. Therefore, in conformity with Leviticus, Jesus is perpetually sacrificed in the mass. Strong continuity. The Law remains in effect with some substitutions: The church replaces Israel and, in effect, is equivalent to the Kingdom. For example, children enter the Covenant on the basis of their parents’ faith. Infant baptism, then, replaces circumcision, and confirmation replaces the bar mitzvah. Ideally, as with Israel, church and state are one. So, Christians seeks to reform government and the broader society. Discontinuity: The OT testified of Christ, which he fulfilled, including the Law—Christ is the end of the law to all who believe; the grace of Christ replaced the grace of Moses; the Old Covenant has faded while the New Covenant has become more glorious. Therefore, the starting point for ethical instruction is the New Testament, specifically, the life and teaching of Jesus.
Gospels and Epistles: Their relationship to each other The Gospels are favored and become the basis upon which to interpret the epistles. This has led, in some cases, to the accusation by certain theologians that Roman Catholic theology blurs the distinction between justification and sanctification. The practical result in the eyes of these critics is a form of works salvation. The epistles are favored, especially Paul’s. The epistles may even be viewed as giving unique revelation that supersedes Jesus’ teaching.  Obedience may or may not be a necessary outcome of justification, but it is not a necessary component of faith. The Gospels testify foremost to the active and passive obedience of Christ, primarily the latter, both of which are imputed to the Christian. The mission of Christ, then, primarily was to die for our sins. The apostolic mission was to provide authoritative instruction. The Gospel is the Gospels, both in event and in the proclamation they contain. As such they are discipleship manuals. In other words, the life, teaching, and work of Jesus are all important parts of the Gospel. The epistles explain, interpret, and apply the Gospel to particular people, places, times, and situations. One’s starting point is the Gospels, especially their summary in the Sermon on the Mount. Insofar as epistolary instruction can be applied to the current situation, they are authoritative. Obedience is inseparable from faith.
Example Implications
Story of the Bible The satisfaction of the sovereign God’s honor The promotion of the glory of God through the justification of the elect and the damnation of the lost The creation, loss, and restoration of Shalōm, wherein humans are reconciled to God and one another
Kingdom Two cities—separate but functionally equal—and to which the Christian must submit The believer submits both to the Kingdom of God and human kingdoms (on the basis of Rom 13: 1–7). Since the ideal is one Kingdom, the believer attempts to bring human kingdoms into conformity with God’s. Christ has inaugurated God’s reign which brings peace and reconciliation. The Christian renders exclusive obedience to King Jesus and seeks neither to interfere with the affairs of human kingdoms nor to receive favors from human kingdoms.
Community The body is invisible and universal. No salvation occurs apart from membership in the body. Although the body is invisible and universal, the body has little practical impact on salvation. Since the believer is a priest, individualism, and, therefore, individual rights and autonomy, are emphasized. The body is made up of believers who assemble physically. Salvation accrues to the individual, but faith, through which salvation comes, is nourished by means of community life, which entails mutual obligations stemming from Kingdom values and principles.
Atonement: The metaphor used to explain how God and people are reconciled through the work of Christ Satisfaction (Anselm, 11th century philosopher and Archbishop of Canterbury): Jesus is the perfect sacrifice that satisfies the infinite debt incurred by humanity’s dishonoring the sovereign God. Penal substitution (development of Anselm’s theory by 16th century theologians): Jesus bore the punishment of God’s wrath deserved by humanity for breaking his Law, thus satisfying God’s demands for justice. His resurrection is evidence that God accepted the sufficiency of this punishment. The emphasis of the Gospel, then, is placed on the death of Christ. Christus Victor (classic view up through the 11th century): Through his substitu-tionary sacrifice and resurrection, Jesus redeems or frees people from slavery to the Law, sin, death, and the devil by giving his life as a ransom and by rising from the dead in victory over the enslaving system of the Powers. The emphasis of the Gospel is placed on both the death and resurrection of Christ, but primarily the latter.

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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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  1. A God of love made you and me in his image as a good part of creation. God wants us to live at peace with our Maker, our world and one another.
  2. Sin destroys harmony in creation when we try to run our own lives apart from God. Suffering, greed, violence and broken relationships result.
  3. Jesus died on the cross because he confronted the powers of sin that fracture our world. Jesus healed the sick, forgave enemies and lived in the joy of the kingdom of god.
  4. You can have a new beginning by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God forgives when we confess our sin, and the Spirit of God enables us to follow Jesus in all of life.

Prayer: God, I have sinned by turning away from you and trying to run my own life. Separated from your love, I am shaped by the powers of greed, lust and violence that bring chaos to the world. Forgive my sin and let me start anew. Thank you for your Son Jesus, who defeated Satan and brought the kingdom of God to reality. Give me power to live like Jesus—loving the enemy, sharing possessions, serving others, caring for creation and speaking Good News of your salvation. I commit myself to the church as the body of Christ. I give allegiance to Jesus and his way of forgiveness above every other loyalty. Amen

Source: “Four Spiritual Truths of a Peacemaking God: A Way for Anabaptists to Share Their Faith,” by J. Nelson Kraybill, The Mennonite, November 4, 2003, pages 9 – 11.


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Watch the following four-minute video and you might be surprised by the answer it gives to that question.

For more help, check out “Who are the Mennonites?” in the “Third Way Café” website. You also may want to look through the “Anabaptist” file in my electronic “File Cabinet.”


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Part two 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.”

Second Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Voluntary faith: Faith is a gift from God that individuals must exercise consciously and freely.


One person may not exercise faith in behalf of another person, nor may one passively receive faith through participation in some rite such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or hearing the Gospel.

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


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

Introductory Remarks on Anabaptism

Anabaptism descends from a Reformation movement birthed during the 16th century. Some historians identify early Anabaptism with a so-called Radical Reformation. Others posit that all Reformation movements supported radical departures from the institutional church, but Protestants, unlike Anabaptists, eventually softened their initial radicalism.

These statements imply that Anabaptists held some positions not held by Protestants. These distinctive positions lead some historians to conclude that Anabaptists were neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant, but represented a “Third Way.” The distinctive beliefs and practices of this “Third Way” are prevalent in contemporary evangelicalism, especially among Baptists. The current groups that most closely identify with Anabaptists are Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish.

First Distinctive Anabaptist Affirmation

Rule of Christ: Christ has inaugurated the messianic kingdom or reign.


The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek. The Hebrew word Messiah is translated Christ in Greek. Both words mean “anointed one,” and refer to the practice of anointing an individual to designate his rightful claim to reign as king.

The promise and goal of the messianic reign was and is Shalōm, both collectively—between God and peoples, and among peoples and peoples—and individually—between God and individuals, and between individuals and individuals. Shalōm denotes wholeness or complete-positive-peace characterized by harmony and based on reconciliation, the integration of forgiveness and friendship. Forgiveness removes debts, including personal offenses, and results in the absence of enmity and strife. Friendship imputes right standing, and results in restoration, the immediate and growing presence of healing and well-being, holiness and communion.

In addition to “reconciliation,” the biblical authors use other metaphors to describe God’s action through the Messiah to achieve Shalōm for people. Each of them, like reconciliation, reflects the Kingdom quality of inauguration awaiting consummation. Four prominent examples are listed here: (1) “Salvation,” “deliverance,” or “rescue,” mainly, rescue from the wrath of God justly deserved by all people. Salvation has been granted, but will be fulfilled on the Day of Judgment. (2) Taken from the legal world is the metaphor “justification” or “righteousness.” At conversion the believer is justified or reckoned righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. This past event must be balanced with the future hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5; Matt 12:37), reminding the believer that faith in Christ, a faith inextricably combined with obedience, is not a one-time event, but must endure. However, the believer relies on God’s promise to continue to preserve him or her by granting the believer persevering faith. (3) “Redemption” is a metaphor taken from the slave market and recalls God’s redemption of Israel from Egypt. The believer is redeemed and yet awaits full redemption along with all creation (Eph 1: 13 – 14). (4) “Sanctification” comes from the vocabulary of the altar and refers to the believer’s status as one set apart for God. Nevertheless, this definitive sanctification must be accompanied with practical development (Heb 12:14).

The messianic reign governed by the New Covenant established by Christ is a perpetual Jubilee characterized by forgiveness or liberty: (1) Liberty or release from sin, and a restored relationship between God and His covenant people and (2) Release from oppression, including economic justice and social justice, e.g., ethnic, racial, and sexual justice. See Luke 4:18 – 19 where Jesus inaugurates His ministry, asserting the fulfillment of Isa 61:1 – 2a. Compare His proclamation to Paul’s words in 1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:28, and Col 3:11.

Christ currently rules from heaven, but one day He will return to earth and rule physically.

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


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