This is the first post of what will be an off and on series on Anabaptism and its relevance for today.
In an ever-changing and progressively postmodern world it is becoming increasingly difficult for western Christians to engage the wider culture in a meaningful way. Much of this dilemma can be attributed to the plurality of denominations and traditions indebted to the old and dying Christendom system which had dominated western society for centuries. As Christendom has withered, Christianity has increasingly been pushed into the margins civilization. We are entering the age of post-Christendom. Although the coming era is replete with uncertainty it is also abundant in opportunity.
Nevertheless, the question remains how to react to the changing times while living faithfully, communally, and missionally in world that grows increasingly indifferent and even hostile towards Christianity. I believe that the Anabaptist tradition offers a compelling lens through which process and respond to the onset of post-Christendom. In his book The Naked Anabaptist, Stuart Murray offers seven core convictions of “stripped down” Anabaptism. Obviously, these are not exhaustive nor entirely unique to Anabaptism. Nevertheless, they provide a helpful focus for understanding what the Anabaptist tradition offers to the wider Church. It is my goal in this series to use these convictions as a central point of reference for theological and practical discussion. At the same time, I hope to color outside the lines with personal anecdotes of my journey towards embracing Anabaptism.
- Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer, and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church, and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.
- Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
- Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era, when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalized Jesus, and has left the churches ill equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving
- The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless, and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.
- Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability, and multivoiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender, and baptism is for believers.
- Spirituality and economics are interconnected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.
- Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
Hopefully these core convictions of Anabaptism will be good catalysts for dialogue regardless of denominational background. Theology is always done best in humble learning community so don’t be afraid to turn this into a conversation. Until next time!