Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Last week I was "treated" to an episode of Michael Medved's radio show by my staunchly Republican roommate. This show happened to deal with Kuo's book. In fact, the self-styled "Conservative Jew" Michael Medved interviewed David Kuo. Medved introduced the piece by saying "listen to how he squirms when I ask him about the timing of his book coming out before the election." Or something to that effect. When you hear an intro like that, prepare for a hatchet job!
Medved poked at Kuo with the opening line (not an exact quote) "David I would say if there's any Evangelical who's being manipulated for political purposes, it's you!" Of course Kuo squirmed. But it's not because of any wrong doing on his part I believe. He's just too nice a guy to tell Medved where to stuff it.
Mr Michael Medved, I would have to say to you on this matter; why do you care?
What difference does it make to you whether or not Evangelicals are being "manipulated?" This is not your scene sir. You are an admitted Jewish person Theologically speaking. Why stick your nose in our affairs?
If I might bring you and anyone else who needs it up to speed: There has been growing concern over how Christianity has been represented as homogeneously Conservative Republican when such is by no means the case. It's sorta like how some Jews think Christianity is completely linked to an Anti-Semtic agenda. Or it's the "White Man's religion" as some are inclined to believe. I'm not commenting here on whether or not those assumptions are justified, merely just trying to show why we might be concerned about being tagged with the broad brush of "Religious Right" when it's not true.
Call me crazy, but a Religion who was founded by someone called the "Prince of Peace" might just have a slight problem with being represented exclusively by a Presidential Administration which has shown recklessness in going to war that they never even properly planned an exit strategy for. Maybe I'm a bit off, but the Christ who came to preach good news to the poor most likely didn't have in mind that we would ban abortions without some kind of social support for a pregnant woman's needs.
Or you might disagree. Fine. You keep to your own Theological disputes and we'll keep to ours. This is not some Liberal agenda we need you to go to bat in saving us from. It's something Christians of every Political and Theological stripe have been concerned about.
And quite frankly, if there is something deliberate about the timing of the release of Kuo's book, I don't give a rip. The Republicans have been using Churches and major religious figures for so long to sway elections, that anything that will get the other side of the story out is a welcome change!
Michael Medved, thanks but no thanks for your concern that Kuo's book might be an attempt to manipulate Christians. But we can rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment ourselves just nicely.
That is, unless your trying to blackball Kuo, who explicitly states that Bush "has a heart for the poor" is an attempt at manipulation on your part, by telling only part of the story.
Check out their video "Nothing To Do With Love" right now at the bottom of this post. It's catchy old Rock N' Roll with a down-home swagger. I love that basic 60's thump! Other songs seem to have a slight Country-Rock flavor (does anyone know what that term means anymore with cheeseball Country acts like Big N' Rich around?) "Black Peach" is a catchy tune which sports Country influences. The live version of "Bring Me Your Tea" that I have on .mp3 comes so close to 70's Brit-blues Rockers Foghat that it's painful! I have high hopes for these guys, if you can't tell.
The band has gained notoriety by touring with Marquee acts such as Peter Frampton & Jars of Clay.
The Elms' official website is here. Friend them on MySpace here.
The Elms "Nothing to Do With Love"
She's Cold - The Elms Live @ Flevo
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
"The more I learn about George Fox, the less I like him...!"
Pastor Bob uttered that comment with a wry smile on his face and the congregation uttered a slight chuckle. But he wasn't kidding. Some things he found in his own personal study about George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (more commonly known as Quakers) had rubbed Bob the wrong way. Perhaps it was the fact that the strident, illustrious George Fox used to break up whole church services by arguing with people over where he saw them as wrong. Maybe Bob was originally attracted to "The Quakers' denunciation of ministers and public officials and their refusal to pay tithes or take oaths" and liked the revolutionary aspects thereof, only to find out later that Fox held to a strict inward Puritan morality and opposed drinking and the arts. Whatever the reason, there's a delicious irony to Pastor Bob's public honest regarding his discomfort with Fox: It came during Bob's tenure as a Senior Pastor of a Friends Church.
Anabaptist/Mennonites do not seem to have quite as colorful a figure in their background as the Quakers have in George Fox. Speaking for myself, as one who was saved in an Evangelical branch of Quakerism and who now attends a Mennonite church, I've not noticed that any of the early Anabaptist writers enjoy the same popularity & familiarity within and without their own sect the way George Fox does. (Quakers, along with Mennonites and Brethren, are collectively known as the historic Peace Churches.) Perhaps it's partly because the closest thing to George Fox that ever emerged would be individuals like George Blaurock, who wound up burned at the steak and left very little in the way of a written legacy!
Pastor Bob's tenure was marked by controversy and turmoil. He eventually earned himself a reputation as something of a Liberal: skepticism over the historical accuracy of The Bible, a tendency to focus more on psychology than Biblical Preaching, a general rejection of the literal existence of Demonic powers. And a firestorm rocked the congregation when it was proposed by certain individuals that the church should host a "Gay and Lesbian" group. As time went on, the little congregation dwindled down to its smallest attendance in recent history. Eventually, Bob would decide pastoring was not his calling and resign his post as a minister of the Friends Church.
It's too bad really, that more people who aspire similarly to work among Mennonites don't familiarize themselves with their rich history and heritage the way Bob did so with George Fox. Perhaps they would come to similar conclusions, that "the more I know them, the less I like them." In fact, let me be be so bold as to assert: some individuals should decide they don't have much in common with the Anabaptists and move on.
Anabaptism today seems to host a plethora of different theological identities that are disaffected with the mainstream Church at large. There are those on the Liberal side, attracted to the aura of "hipness" in being a Mennonite and the Progressive Social concern that comes with it. These are the ones most likely to openly question certain commonly held views, such as whether Homosexuality as a sin. There are those on the more Conservative side who identify themselves as Anabaptist, and are characterized by rigid Biblicism, the practise of strict holiness & discipleship, a skepticism of voting and Government sponsored Social Welfare, and a healthy dose of Hyper-Patrtiarchialism. Both sides share in common a view that much of Evangelicalism has been given over to an idolatry of materialism, militarism, and an obsession with bizarre Bible Prophecy theories.
I propose that both the two identified schools of thought above contain elements of them that do intersect with Classical Anabaptism, but both contain elements that Anabaptists should purge themselves of, in order to survive in the 21st century as a viable force. The following discussion will explain why.
Modern-day Liberalism seems very attracted to Mennonites due to their holding to pacifism and the simple life. Howard Loewen, a former Prof at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary once related to me that the World Council of Churches had asked the different Historic Peace churches to submit statements on Peacemaking for the WCC historical archives (even though Mennonite Brethren don't participate in the WCC). Personally, I think that's wonderful! I wouldn't think twice if it were me as far as cooperating with such a request. But here's the rub: it was the more Liberal leaning WCC that made the request. More mainstream Evangelical groups have been slow to grasp the value of Peace Churches and their legacy. What happens when the dialogue goes so much in that direction, to where we seem to be in dialogue with Liberals but not so much with Evangelicals? You probably get the results I've experienced in encounters with different online Mennonite groups wherein they espouse a view of Jesus as being about "love peace & tolerance" -which he certainly was- and leave out the demand for discipleship, the heralding of the Kingdom of God, and the prophetic utterance of the impending destruction of evildoers, all of which were also indicative of the ministry of Christ.
Such lofty views of Christianity that has churches throwing out their Holiness distinctives and embracing a more inclusive policy of "welcoming" that questions no ones lifestyle, is speaking a different language from our Anabaptist forebears. Consider this item in the very first formal document of Anabaptist doctrine, the Shleitheim Confession of Faith:
Article II:We have been united as follows concerning the ban
We have been united as follows concerning the ban. The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves over to the Lord, to walk after [Him] in His commandments; those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ, and let themselves be called brothers or sisters, and still somehow slip and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken. The same [shall] be warned twice privately and the third time be publicly admonished before the entire congregation according to the command of Christ (Mt. 18). But this shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the breaking of bread, so that we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread and drink from one cup.
Far from a mushy, "sloppy-agape'" approach to "inclusiveness", the Schleitheim confession called for removal of unrepentant sinning Christians! But don't miss the rationale given therein: They were supposed to administer this purge before they took communion and for the purpose of unity of all the congregation "But this shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the breaking of bread, so that we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread and drink from one cup." Unity in a pure walk with God was the goal, and dispelling the unrepentant from their midst was seen as instrumental to achieving this unity.
Or consider a latter Anabaptist voice, that of Pilgram Marpeck, who wrote in his "Expose of the Babylonian Whore" many such strident denunciations as the following:
"Since the evidence of our eyes, our experience, and the witness of Scripture which sufficiently discloses itself through the action and favour of God, and which is now also understood through the events which are everywhere unfolding according to the Word of the Lord, all of God's creatures should tremble and be afraid of the stern judgement of God on his awesome day which is to come (Isa. 24[:21ff.]; Jon. 2[:?], 3[:4], Zeph. 1[:7-18], 2[:2], 3[:8]). The fact that the ruined, sodomitic, perverted, abandoned, and seductive world does not comprehend this nor show any fear means that the Scripture in the Lord's Word is even now being fulfilled where it says that in the time of Lot and Noah they ate and drank, married and gave in marriage without any alarm, until they were altogether destroyed (Luke 17[:26-30]).
"Already the world overflows with the evil that once lay hidden in the mystery of wickedness. This mystery is now being exposed through her own shame, just like a secret adulteress who for a long time deceived her husband under a false cloak of pious faithfulness and has now quite brazenly gone public. She has assumed all the wiles of a whore in order to seduce and deceive others with her thousand-fold cunning and skill. The whole world is now full of error and seduction, and all generations on earth are drunk with the wine of fornication, Rev. 18[:3]. Only a few are shocked and have struggles of conscience from which the pure fear of God and true insight flow."
Hear an example of what the founder of the people known collectively as Mennonites, Menno Simons says in several places, here being his treatise on Sincere and True Repentance:
"Therefore awake, and behold the doings of the world. On every hand you see nothing but sensuality, wine bibbing, infernal pride, lying, fraud, avarice, hatred, strife, adultery, fornication, war, murder, hypocrisy, open blasphemy, idolatry, and false worship, Hos. 4:11; Mic. 6:14; Gal. 5:19 21; in short, nothing but a powerful persecution of all that God teaches, commands and enjoins. Who can relate the terrible and alarming condition of the world at the present time? yet they (the wicked) want to<> call themselves the holy christian church. Oh, no! they who do such things, saith Paul, shall. not inherit the kingdom of God, 1. Cor. 6:.9,10; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:5. Oh, ye men awake and see for yourselves, for thus saith the word of the Lord, Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye be born from above ye shall not see the kingdom of God, Jn. 3:3. Also, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," Jn. 3:5, and again, " Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 18:3. What does it ,profit to speak much of Christ and his word, if we do not believe him, and obey his commandments? Again, I say, awake and banish the accursed unbelief with all unrighteousness from your hearts, and live a pious, penitent life, according to the scriptures; for Christ says, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," Luke 13:5. Here do not understand such repentance as is taught and practiced by an erring world, which consists only in an outward appearance and human righteousness, such as hypocritical fastings, pilgrimages, praying and reading Pater Nosters and Ava Marias, hearing frequent masses, auricular confessions, and the like hypocrisies which Christ and his apostles did in no wise teach and command. Hence it cannot be a propitiatory sacrifice, but rather will be a provocation, and tend to excite the divine displeasure."
But taking things a step further, we should consider one other aspect of Early Anabaptism, that of the willingness to die under persecution. What does it take for one to be able to love ones enemies and be willing to be drowned or burned at the stake for one's beliefs? Well it takes a work of the Spirit for sure. But what does all that entail? It's especially poignant to consider this question at this point in time, as the week I'm writing this, the death of several Amish schoolchildren in Lancaster County, PA has been in the news. The media has certainly not missed the Amish people's willingness to extend forgiveness in the face of tragedy. (At the same time, very little has been said regarding the fact that they got those ethical directives from Christ himself.)
I would like to call this characteristic of people who are able to forgive their enemies a Biblical Naivete, for want of a better term. By that I mean, if they could display a bumper sticker slogan that has been popular in contemporary times it would be "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" And they didn't seem to have any problem with believing that all of the Bible is from God, as even a sample reading of some Anabaptist Primary Documents will show.
Believing that suffering for the Gospel is something we can and must do, is a thing that can only be accomplished by faith- faith in the Work of the Spirit, and Faith in the Bible as the Word of God. What would happen to the witness of these people if they for even one minute allowed themselves to entertain notions like those of The Jesus Seminar, or any other similar questioning entity? Well the answer is obvious, they would have given up long before they got to being burned at the stake.
Let Harold S. Bender in his renown Anabaptist Vision summarize these people for us:
"The dreadful severity of the persecution of the Anabaptist movement in the years 1527-60 not only in Switzerland, South Germany, and Thuringia, but in all the Austrian lands as well as in the Low Countries, testifies to the power of the movement and the desperate haste with which Catholic, Lutheran, and Zwinglian authorities alike strove to throttle it before it should be too late.
"Finding, therefore, that the customary method of individual trials and sentences was proving totally inadequate to stem the tide, the authorities resorted to the desperate expedient of sending out through the land companies of armed executioners and mounted soldiers to hunt down the Anabaptists and kill them on the spot singly or en masse without trial or sentence. The most atrocious application of this policy was made in Swabia where the original 400 special police of 1528 sent against the Anabaptists proved too small a force and had to be increased to 1,000. An imperial provost marshal, Berthold Aichele, served as chief administrator of this bloody program in Swabia and other regions until he finally broke down in terror and dismay, and after an execution at Brixen lifted his hands to heaven and swore a solemn oath never again to put to death an Anabaptist, which vow he kept. The Count of Alzey in the Palatinate, after 350 Anabaptists had been executed there, was heard to exclaim, 'What shall I do, the more I kill, the greater becomes their number!'
"The extensive persecution and martyrdom of the Anabaptists testify not only of the great extent of the movement but also of the power of the vision that burned within them. This is most effectively presented in a moving account written in 1542 and taken from the ancient Hutterian chronicle where it is found at the close of a report of 2,173 brethren and sisters who gave their lives for their faith.
"No human being was able to take away out of their hearts what they had experienced, such zealous lovers of God were they. The fire of God burned within them. They would die the bitterest death, yea, they would die ten deaths rather than forsake the divine truth which they had espoused....
"They had drunk of the waters which had flowed from God's sanctuary, yea, the water of life. They realized that God helped them to bear the cross and to overcome the bitterness of death. The fire of God burned within them. Their tent they had pitched not here upon earth, but in eternity, and of their faith they had a foundation and assurance. Their faith blossomed as a lily, their loyalty as a rose, their piety and sincerity as the flower of the garden of God. The angel of the Lord battled for them that they could not be deprived of the helmet of salvation. Therefore they bore all torture and agony without fear. The things of this world they counted in their holy mind only as shadows, having the assurance of greater things. They were so drawn unto God that they knew nothing, sought nothing, desired nothing, loved nothing but God alone. Therefore they had more patience in their suffering than their enemies in tormenting them.
"The persecutors thought they could dampen and extinguish the fire of God. But the prisoners sang in their prisons and rejoiced so that the enemies outside became much more fearful than the prisoners and did not know what to do with them."
In times past, Anbaptists were asked to stand for their belief that Christ calls us to live peacefully, even to the point of death. Today in many Mennonite circles another time-worn presuppostion is being challenged in similar fashion: That of seeing Homosexuality as a sin in the eyes of God.
At this point, I am not going to take on the task of defending a particular view of Homosexuality from the texts of Scripture. I reccomend for anyone who wants to delve futher into this topic, please visit the explosive website of Robert Gagnon, who's done tireless, exhaustive, head-above-shoulders scholarship on the Bible's view of same-sex sexual relations. In time, I intend to present my own views on the matter, as I think the question may call for a fresh new paradigm for interpreting the Biblical data on the matter. For now, Gagnon will get you to where I'm going.
But back to the topic at hand: isn't it interesting how the Biblical Naivete of Anabaptists seems to always be under fire? We have been told for centuries of the impracticality of the Sermon on the Mount, of following Christ in the Way of the Cross. Now we are being told how silly, impractical and archaic is the belief in "one man and one woman as the basis for Marriage. But Jesus taught that as well.
Another thing which seem to be pervasive in many Mennonite circles is the tendency to drive a wedge between us and other Christians. Especially those dreaded Evangelicals. Odd, when one considers that Menno Simons himself used that term.
The Seminary I attended is very unique in it's make up. Originally called Western Evangelical Seminary, it was more recently taken over by George Fox Unversity and renamed George Fox Evangelical Seminary. So it was foundned as a Methodist/Evangelical/Wesleyan Holiness school and taken over by a (nominally) Quaker institution. Along the way, it has picked up a lot of different staffmemebers for mdiferent backgrounds. Today you can get your Pastoral Theology from a Lutheran, your Greek taught to you by a Quaker, your Old Tesament from a Free Mehodist, and your Dean of the Seminary is Mennonite Brethern.
Guess what, folks? Rubbing shoulders with other Christians didn't make me lose my Peace and Justice distinctives, start giving money to TBN or vote straight Republican. If anything, I was greatly enriched by the prescence of other persepctives, even as I often (vocally) disagreed with them.
What kind of spirit must be afoot among Mennonites today that seem to be trying to tag Evangelicals with such a broad brush? I presonally believe it's a desire to escape the accountability of the larger church and forge our own path, regardless of the wisdom of such a venture.
Perhaps those who are driving such agendas for the Church to change, need to do what Pastor Bob did: study the roots of their faith and decide whether they really fit that picture at all?
In Part 2 of this essay, I plan to examine the opposite end of the spectrum, that of hardcore Conservativism and how it does or doesn't play in Mennonite Circles.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
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Pilgram Marpeck: Expos of the Babylonian Whore
Expos of the Babylonian Whore and Antichrist; its mystery and abomination old and new. Also concerning the victory, peace and rule of the true Christians, and published to show in what manner they obey the authorities, and bear the cross of Christ without rebellion and resistance, with patience and love to the glory of God, and to assist, strengthen, and perfect all the faithful and those who inquire after God.
Matt. 22 [:21]
Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods
Prov. 24 [:21]
Have nothing to do with the rebellious
Since the evidence of our eyes, our experience, and the witness of Scripture which sufficiently discloses itself through the action and favour of God, and which is now also understood through the events which are everywhere unfolding according to the Word of the Lord, all of God's creatures should tremble and be afraid of the stern judgement of God on his awesome day which is to come (Isa. 24[:21ff.]; Jon. 2[:?], 3[:4], Zeph. 1[:7-18], 2[:2], 3[:8]). The fact that the ruined, sodomitic, perverted, abandoned, and seductive world does not comprehend this nor show any fear means that the Scripture in the Lord's Word is even now being fulfilled where it says that in the time of Lot and Noah they ate and drank, married and gave in marriage without any alarm, until they were altogether destroyed (Luke 17[:26-30]).
Already the world overflows with the evil that once lay hidden in the mystery of wickedness. This mystery is now being exposed through her own shame, just like a secret adulteress who for a long time deceived her husband under a false cloak of pious faithfulness and has now quite brazenly gone public. She has assumed all the wiles of a whore in order to seduce and deceive others with her thousand-fold cunning and skill. The whole world is now full of error and seduction, and all generations on earth are drunk with the wine of fornication, Rev. 18[:3]. Only a few are shocked and have struggles of conscience from which the pure fear of God and true insight flow.
It is not really necessary to speak against the red Roman Whore now exposed. For a long time she masqueraded as though she were married to the great spouse and bridegroom Christ. In this way she deceived and seduced both herself and others with her fornication. For the just and legitimate spouse and bridegroom Christ is now expelling and condemning her and all her strumpets, and is betrothing and marrying a new people to himself through his cross, blood, and tribulation as is now evident. But it is the sign of the time that the serpent with her cunning is using new stratagems in her clever and tenacious mutiny against the true and spotless bridegroom Christ, as he has said. But our bridegroom has overcome the world and all its wickedness with his cross and death (John 16 [:33]). In him we will overcome and conquer in all things under the cross, in the simplicity of faith.
In order that the deceitful Whore and serpent with all her children and strumpets should perceive, know, and apprehend that a genuinely guileless faith can detect all of her more recent insidious and deceptive tricks, as well as her customary malice which she plies against the children of God, I have decided to describe them and also to present an alternative. I am urged to do this as follows by a sense of obligation, to the praise of God, and for the service and strengthening of the faithful. May the Lord give his grace.
First, once the dragon and old serpent (Rev. 20 [:2]), who for a long time had concealed himself in the pretence of being the spouse and bride of Christ and deceived the whole world, became aware that his time was near, he in the dispensation of God revealed himself in part through his own prophets as though he was sorry for the colossal errors and apostasy of the Christians. These prophets changed and made more attractive the great mystery of wickedness in the appearance of godliness, especially through the artifice of Scripture by which people are easily deceived. They presented infant baptism and the popes idolatry [the mass or Lords Supper], over which they quarrelled, and prattled about receiving it in both kinds sub utraque specie [in both kinds, the bread and the wine], as the most important matters on which their salvation depended, and so filled the whole world with their contentions and writings. Thus Satan could carry out his seductions all the better. In Martin Luthers eyes all who eat and drink both the body and blood of Christ, regardless of whether they are adulterers or prostitutes, gluttons or drunkards, gamblers, murderers, betrayers, tyrants, deceivers, or whatever else are all a good community of his kind of godliness. Even as, in Luthers view, the body of Christ is in the bread and the blood in the chalice, his faithful ones and disciples are transformed into the nature and essence of Christ. For everything a person eats changes from its natural essence into something else; even so, should not their natures be changed into the nature and essence of Christ? As the teaching is, so also is the fruit. Even as Luther and his followers persuaded the common people valiantly to defend the Word of God, all the while whitewashing that defence with Scripture so that they were prepared to give life and limb for it, so now they induce the Princes, the nobility, and the cities to resist the Emperor.
Woe to us because of the great bloodshed which God will bring upon all of the false prophets and their supporters, as can be seen even now (Jer. 6, Ezek. 22 [:3-4], 23). May the Lord lead his own out of their troubles; may they not strike back, but remain under the cross and shadow of his wings in true patience (Ps. 17 [:8], 57 [:1]). For the Lamb of Christ must suffer and be killed until the end of the world (Luke 17 [?], Rev. 13 [:8]). Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas will unite against it as they united against the head (Luke 23). Christ was subject to all Authority and never responded with violence. Even so today we must not resist. We will give the Emperor what is his and God what belongs to God (Matt. 22 [:21]). For the Authority has power over all temporal things except over vengeance which belongs only to God and never to man (Rom. 12 [:19], Heb. 10 [:30]). I know of no other Authority specifically appointed by God than the Emperor; all emperors hold the imperium even today and will hold it until the appointed time of which Daniel speaks (Daniel 11 [:36]), when the wrath of God shall come over the whole world (Isa. 24 [:17-21]). For all flesh needs his authority and rule.
But Christ does not distribute earthly inheritance or imperium. His own, whether they are treated justly or not, requite and repay with patience and love. All external things including life and limb are subjected to external authority. But no one may coerce or compel true faith in Christ, for it is concerned not with temporal but eternal life. This neither God nor any creature in heaven nor on earth can take away (Rom. 8 [:38-39], Matt. 10 [:28]). All true Christians have this faith, and that is why they are not concerned about their earthly life (Heb. 11 [:13-14], Luke 10 [:41-42], Col. 3 [:1-3]). Many are demonstrating this today, God be praised.
To sum up, I present to the so-called evangelicals and their teachers and preachers no other alternative than the crucified, patient, and loving Christ. Whoever does not preach Christ but rather preaches the opposite is against Christ, regardless of whether he is an old or a new pope or Antichrist. Even if they were to preach skilfully about God as Christ himself, it will not help unless they preach the gentle, humble Christ who can be known only under the cross, patience, and love. Whoever is not thus taught and so learns, no matter how evangelical he is, will interrupt Christ at the Judgement and say: Lord, did we not drive out devils, prophesy, preach, eat and drink in your name? Christ will answer: Depart from me, you evildoers, I do not know you (Matt. 25 [:41-44], Luke 13 [:26-27]). I could wish that those who avoid the strait gate of the cross of Christ and teach others to avoid it would read and understand the judgement of Christ more closely. Unless they have no faith at all, they should be very alarmed, for surely this judgement fits the new evangelical preachers and their followers more precisely than anyone else. They do in part speak the truth about Christ, but they dont want to go through the narrow gate (Matt. 7 [:13-14]), because for carnal reasons they pressed the sword into the hand of the common people, dressing it up with scriptural teaching. According to Jude, those who resisted [Moses] perished in the uprising of Korah. At the present moment they hide behind princes, cities and nobles, and incite them to follow the way of Cain by which they are submerged in error through the instructions of the prophets of Balaam. With much greater and more awful bloodshed than in the Peasant War, they will all perish in the rebellion of Korah, which is not the same as dying for Christ. May the Lord lead his own out of such rebellion.
I give them testimony that I came to the truth partly through their writing, teaching, and preaching, for I was deeply possessed and imprisoned by the human laws of the papacy which is nothing by demon possession. Through their teachings and writings I was set free to the liberty of the flesh. Where before I had been bound and had suffered in conscience, I was now free. I ate and drank with these teachers before the Lord as I then understood it, and thought that they preached a splendid Christ. In this new freedom I vigorously opposed the papacy with all the writings that helped me in that task as long as they agreed with the understanding, which was true, that it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of his heart (Matt. 15 [:10-11]. Confession and other papist rules and human inventions, which were not so easy to fulfil but did not have the true spirit of Christ, I readily accepted. Indeed the teachings in and of themselves were not wrong. But then as now the evangelical teachers said nothing about the mystery of the cross of Christ, and the narrow gate through which the flesh and the one who has who had been liberated from the Babylonian captivity could once again be led into the liberty of Jerusalem. On this there is silence. Not only that, but those who announce and teach it are persecuted by these teachers, who become their betrayers and executioners. For this reason they are justly called those workers of evil whom Christ banishes from his presence (Matt. 7 [25:41]). They teach the truth and the Gospel partially and point to the true way like a wooden hand at the fork in the road. What is missing in their teaching is the cross of Christ; they resist it and teach others to resist it. They take refuge behind princes, lords and cities although patient endurance, which alone triumphs over all tribulation, must be learned only under the cross. Christ the Lamb will be victorious (Rev. 17 [:14]), and not the lion, bear, wolf, dog, and leopard who gnash their teeth against each other and threaten to devour each other [Rev. 13:2].
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A couple of thoughts become pertinent here:
* This ramrods the prevailing modern notion that Anabpatism is only a faith of social activism and not one of Holiness standards.
* But it also calls into question the notion that at the core of Anabaptism is an asceticism which denys engagement in the political field and our right and duty to speak to the world on behalf of God his standrards and demands for living.
Well, it's no mystery as to why some think this way. Jesus stated "My Kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) The problem is, this is a statement before the Cross, and must be seen in context with everything we know about what happened when Jesus was ressurrected:
Revelation 11:15 "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."
Christ is not the "rejected, desipised and lowly servant" after the Ressurction. He's King. And as such the nations better kowtow to him:
Psalm 2:10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The key to all of this is to understand our responsibility to not become power-hungry as the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches did, but understand where & how God wants us to live out a discipleship that is liberating to others. For that, we turn to the parts of scripture that advise us to imitte Christ in his earthly ministry:
Phil 2:3 "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Pligram Marpeck was a 16th Century South German Anabaptist leader who differed markedly from later Anabaptism -notably Old Order Mennonites and Amish that practised retreat from society after immigrating to the US. From what I can tell, every time the early, pre-immigration Anabaptists could be peaceably involved in the society around them (i.e., when they weren't fleeing persecution), they did exactly that. A James Reimer is of the opnion that Marpeck's thought has influenced later Mennonite ideals more than has been previously understood. Don't believe me, read Pilgram Marpeck's works for yourself.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
(I wrote the original version of this during the 2004 Presidential election campaign and it received terrible responses on Theologyweb.com. I posted the same thing again with no revisions, on my MySpace group Christians For Social Justice, this time to much better reviews. I'm now featuring it here in a revised & updated form as a way of kicking off my new Blogspot locale, and to stimulate any ensuing discussion.) Probably one of the most obnoxious persistent dichotomies held to among Christians in recent years, that of equating “Conservative Republican” with “Bible believing Christian”, may finally about to be shown the door. I find it interesting, as one who grew up in the aftermath of Viet Nam & Watergate, to observe how recent history has unfolded: Nixon, a Republican resigned in disgrace from his Presidency in 1974 as a result of the meddlesome Watergate scandal. The country rightly scorned him and he was put in mothballs as a political force. Not quite 7 years later, the Republican party was back on top again. And this time repackaged and re-sold with an image as a party of Christian virtue that helped sweep Ronald Regan into office. Had we all a very short memory? Apparently so. It was Reagan’s cutbacks that turned many of the mentally ill out on the streets in the early part of his administration. It was Reagan who unceremoniously yanked the Solar Panels off the roof of the White House (after his predecessor Jimmy Carter placed them there) and went on to champion Big Oil and encourage everyone to be driving their Petrol-consuming vehicles. The next 8 years were marked by selfishness and irresponsible stewardship of resources, as Young America was led to believe we could “have it all.” (I hear President Bush recently replaced the solar panels. My, my how times have changed!) When I was in college during the Reagan administration, students seemed convinced even late into his 2nd term that "Reagan is going to get us jobs!" I returned to school a few years later when Bush's father was President, and students were very scared about the prospects of finding work after graduation. But still, the obnoxiousness persists. I've been in chat rooms where I've observed certain individuals declaring with seemingly inerrant tone that a true Christian would only vote for Bush, that they can't possibly be for Kerry or Nader. Of course, I’m convinced that this is more than a little stifling & pharisaic in tone. The rationale behind this spirit of the Pharisees happens to be rooted in the differing views candidates and political parties hold on abortion and homosexuality. But this becomes problematic for a number of reasons: In fact, let me even raise the stakes of controversy here a little higher: Ezekiel 16:49 "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen"
“God is a Republican?”
2)What is an unborn child in the economy of God? If we are at all going to say that babies are important to God from conception, then let’s be consistent and admit that Iraqi babies are also. Any pregnant mother that is killed in the line of battle, is an abortion. Period. And this all in the context of a war that was highly questionable in its motivations as well.
3) Conversely, how can anyone even pretend to address the abortion issue without addressing the sociological issues that have brought it about? Those include: poverty, education, health care. The best environment for someone to “not” have an abortion is a well-financed social service system, so that pregnant women can be sure of being able to raise a child under less financial duress.
4)All of which doesn't even touch on the other issues I feel are just as important. Eisenhower, in his last speech as President, warned us that the military industrial complex (hereto after referred to as MIC) was a grave threat to society. As a Christian, I feel that holding back the MIC from abuse of influence is important. The was in Iraq is certainly the result of the oil industry’s constantly being a thorn in the side of peace in the Middle Eastern region. Also, to me a President even halfway interested in godly pursuits will be about getting us off of foreign oil, phasing out he gasoline engine & heat, enforcing the anti-trust laws, etc. A strong healthy economy is also the best guarantee of fewer abortions- making sure people feel like they want to have babies, if that’s our goal.
The Catholic church has recently issued a statement condemning gay marriages. Fine. But people who remember the recent sex-abuse scandals are not likely to feel that Rome has any place telling others how to live their lives, when they didn't do such a hot job with dysfunctional sexuality at their own doorstep.
*Aren’t we evangelicals risking the same kind of credibility gap in giving such unquestioning support to Bush, when all evidences are that he didn’t do his job well in preventing 9/11 & misled the country on the level of urgency to go to war in Iraq?
*Aren't we risking similar disconnect when we address only the legal side of abortion and fail to speak to the aforementioned sociological issues that cause abortion to happen? Or even more so, when we scream about "my taxes" and scoff at "entitlements" in the face of so great a need as a pregnant woman?
*Aren't we in danger of like short-sightedness, when we harp on the part of the Bible that address sexual immorality, but leave out God's view of such things as greed and materialism? Take note of the following verse:
Jim Wallis, editor of Sojouners magazine and author of the best-selling book God's Politics says that the Religious Right is beginning to lose control, and that the monologue they created is being replaced by a true dialogue. It's about time. And it's probably a pretty accurate assessment. Just this week I happened to catch a broadcast of "The 700 Club" and note how Pat Robertson and some of his reporters were wringing their hands over the impending defeat of the Republicans by the Democrats in several key political races this November. His correspondents were going to spend a couple of days in the field pretending to be like real reporters in the Big Networks and try to figure it all out. How boring. I got a better story for them to go look into: I just learned that in BC, Canada they are calling for visas for Mexican farmworkers to come in and fill much needed gaps in Agricutural labor. Pat, why are you so hyped up about the Republicans?
In the near future I plan to address the issue of this fall elections and explain how and why I plan to cast my vote in various key races and issues. And it's not going to be popular with some sectors of Evangelicalism. Too bad, because the need for "dialogue" these days couldn't be greater.
Probably one of the most obnoxious persistent dichotomies held to among Christians in recent years, that of equating “Conservative Republican” with “Bible believing Christian”, may finally about to be shown the door.
I find it interesting, as one who grew up in the aftermath of Viet Nam & Watergate, to observe how recent history has unfolded: Nixon, a Republican resigned in disgrace from his Presidency in 1974 as a result of the meddlesome Watergate scandal. The country rightly scorned him and he was put in mothballs as a political force. Not quite 7 years later, the Republican party was back on top again. And this time repackaged and re-sold with an image as a party of Christian virtue that helped sweep Ronald Regan into office. Had we all a very short memory?
Apparently so. It was Reagan’s cutbacks that turned many of the mentally ill out on the streets in the early part of his administration. It was Reagan who unceremoniously yanked the Solar Panels off the roof of the White House (after his predecessor Jimmy Carter placed them there) and went on to champion Big Oil and encourage everyone to be driving their Petrol-consuming vehicles. The next 8 years were marked by selfishness and irresponsible stewardship of resources, as Young America was led to believe we could “have it all.” (I hear President Bush recently replaced the solar panels. My, my how times have changed!) When I was in college during the Reagan administration, students seemed convinced even late into his 2nd term that "Reagan is going to get us jobs!" I returned to school a few years later when Bush's father was President, and students were very scared about the prospects of finding work after graduation.
But still, the obnoxiousness persists. I've been in chat rooms where I've observed certain individuals declaring with seemingly inerrant tone that a true Christian would only vote for Bush, that they can't possibly be for Kerry or Nader. Of course, I’m convinced that this is more than a little stifling & pharisaic in tone.
The rationale behind this spirit of the Pharisees happens to be rooted in the differing views candidates and political parties hold on abortion and homosexuality. But this becomes problematic for a number of reasons:
In fact, let me even raise the stakes of controversy here a little higher: Ezekiel 16:49 "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen"
Ezekiel 16:49 "'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen"