Tag Archives: anabaptism

‘Saint’ Constantine the not-so-great vs the sermon on the mount… (E. Stanley Jones)


Regular readers of this blog will know how much I appreciate certain other Christian traditions. Traditions that I love deeply are quite incompatible streams in Church history like for example the Orthodox tradition, Franciscanism, certain strands of anabaptism and the quakers… I guess I do have my disagreements with every tradition (including my own tribe) as they do among each other too, but I believe that we need all of them (probably even those whom I do not like and don’t feel much affinity with, like fundamentalism and Calvinism) to complete the Church of Christ. And I am very likely to be wrong myself on some things too…

I like for example  the Orthodox for their connection with the early Church and the church fathers, which makes them the keepers of a lot of treasures that we modern Western Christians have lost long ago but are needing right now. But on the other hand I could never agree with some other things, like their veneration of someone like emperor Constantine the Great as a saint, and some of the nationalism going on in some Orthodox churches… Which is why I (as a postmodern generic charismatic and more-or-less Wesleyan evangelical) do think we need the Anabaptist testimony too…

The next piece from E.Stanley Jones in my opinion shows why we need to recover the emphasis on the enemy-love and the rest of the sermon on the mount, and it offers -very daringly- a critique to the emphasis of the ancient creeds. (I do not say that the next piece describes all of the fathers, I have read a lot from them that would qualify for good Lovers in the path of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.)

Suppose we had written it in our creeds and had repeated each time with conviction:

“I believe in the Sermon on the Mount and in its way of life, and I intend, God helping me, to embody it” !

What would have happened? I feel sure that if this had been our main emphasis, the history of Christendom would have been different. With emphasis on doctrines which left unaffected our way of life the Christian Church could accept Constantine as its prize convert. And yet Constantine, after his alleged conversion, murdered his conquered colleague and brother-in-law Licinius ; sentenced to death his eleven-year-old nephew, killed his eldest son, Crispus; brought about the death of his second wife; took the nails that were supposed to come from the cross of Christ and tised one in his war helmet and another on the bridle of his war horse. Yet he was canonized by the Greek Church and his memory celebrated “as equal to the apostles.” He talked and presided at the opening of the Council of Nicea, which was called to frame a creed, and he was hailed as “a .bishop of bishops.” Could this have happened if the men who had gathered there had made the Sermon on the Mount an essential part of the Creed? It had no place in it, so Constantine could be at home. What had happened was that the Christian Church had been conquered by a pagan warrior. And the church allowed itself to be thus conquered, for this ideal of Christ did not have possession of its soul.

E. Stanley Jones, the Christ of the Mount

As someone who borders on paleo-orthodoxy this is something I wrestle with, but I indeed do miss in the creeds the emphasis on Jesus as the Way, and on Christians as followers of the Way, which is Christ. And where do we find a better description of the Way of Christ than in the sermon on the mount?

And there is something highly disturbing about Constantine in a lot of ways…

So what do you think?

shalom

Bram

please don’t call me ‘arminian’!


warning: this post is for all those christians who identify themselves with the ‘calvins-ist’ or ‘reformed’ tradition and who feel the need to dub me or others ‘arminian’ because I’m not one of them…

All my life I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve encountered a lot of traditions in those 30 years (wow, am I that old?). I must say I’ve learned a lot from all different streams of Christianity. I’ve been a pentecostel kid, and now I’m a part of the vineyard movement with it’s centered ‘radical middle’ approach. I’ve been learning from a lot of traditions over the years. My charismatic background and the wesleyan evangelicalism underneath it were enriched by the human solidarity, charity and ‘creation care’ -as I’d call it now- that I picked up from the (otherwise mostly dead liberal-on-slippery-slope-to-atheism) catholicism of my catholic school. (did I tell you that I grew up in a dechristianising post-catholic countrty?)

I think that I’ve picked up what I would call now ‘a generous orthodoxy’ from C.S. Lewis, and I learned to find things of value in most Christian streams, and I read books, articles and websites from all kinds of traditions over the years since my teenage years, which enriched me a lot.

There were at least three streams of thought that never resonated with me within the broad range of Christian thought, without beginning about the pope and the magisterium that is… The first one is the so-called ‘liberal’ impulse to explain everything away that doesn’t fit with modern science, which is just unrealistic to a charismatic like me. The second one is the ‘I am right on all details or you can just throw your bible and faith in the trash’ approach of fundamentalism. and the third one is the weird doctrine of double predestination, which I find a blasphemous idea, even if it’s supposed to give God the most glory according to their philosophical framework.

I must say that honestly I’ve never encountered much calvinism before I got into some debates on the internet. And it never interested me, I didn’t recognise God, Christ and the bible like I knew them in their way of thinking. But one of the things I noticed when in debate on some websites was the label ‘arminian’ that some used to describe me or any other person brave enough to admit not to believe in the ‘TULIP’-doctrines. I soon learned that it was a derogatory term used by some calvinists to label anyone they disagree with, so they didn’t have to take them seriously. I later found out it had something to do with some Arminius guy, but reading about the guy he didn’t stir much interest I’m affraid.

(I’m fully aware that not all calvinists and reformed Christians are like this, but this is part of my experience that I can’t deny. My excuses to all good christians in the reformed tradition who don’t use the word ‘arminian’ as a synonym for ‘bad christian’ or even ‘heretic’. It’s the loudest ones that get heard and that spoil the reputation of the group for all of the rest…)

I’m sorry, but I reject the label ‘arminian’. I don’t follow the guy named Arminius. In fact the guy was, unlike me, a calvinist. He might even have been a better calvinist than the guys of the synod of Dordt, who made up the 5 points of calvinism (TULIP) but history is always written by winners, and he and his followers were the losers… But that’s an in-house discussion for calvinists and those inside the ‘reformed’ tradition, and none of my business. It’s as relevant for me as what’s going on in the vatican…

Calling all evangelicals, or more or less protestant Christians who believe in free will over predestination ‘Arminians’ is just plain nonsense from a calvinistocentric worldview, creating non-extisting dichotomies where there’s a whole lot of traditions of which the ‘reformed’ is only one. It would be the same if I as a Charismatic would call all non-charismatics ‘darbyists’ and trace all forms of cessionism or otherwise non-charismatic christianity back to Darby. The guy has nothing to do with most of non-charismatic christianity, and it’s the same with Arminius and non-calvinists…

So, I’m a Christian, and I believe in free will, or more exaxtly the synergy of Gods grace and free wil, it’s not that we do everything alone. I reject the ideas of irresistible grace and limited atonement. If you use small letters I won’t be offended with labels as evangelical, charismatic, or even (neo)anabaptist or wesleyan.  All these traditions are part of my roots I guess, and I’m even inpired by the eastern orthodox and greek church fathers lately.

But I’ve never cared about that rebelious and rejected calvinist called Arminius. And I don’t need to be named after the guy… There are followers of him who still identify with him, so keep the name for them!

shalom

Bram

do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????


Reading up on the universalism controversy I was kinda shoqued by a blog post by a bloke called Kevin DeYoung, of whom I don’t know anything, but it seems that he’s a rather vocal (neo)calvinist. I have no idea if he’s known or not, and frankly I don’t care at all, the inner kitchen of this kind of aggressive calvinism is as far from my spiritual bed as are the pope and the magisterium…

Now the guy, in a response to Rob Bells alleged ‘universalism’, quotes 8 reasons why we need hell and eternal punishment (or more precisely Gods wrath), which he seems to quote straight out of some book he has written. I don’t think I completely agree with one of those, but I was kinda repulsed by and utterly disagreed with the second one:

we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Maybe I’m outing myself as an anabaptist now, but I find this reasoning to go against the message of Jesus himself, since this goes against the commandment of enemy-love, and against Jesus’ last prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, which was echoed in the last words of the early church’s first martyr stephen ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. I think those two examples of enemy-love show us that we need Love in order to forgive our enemies. We are to want forgiveness for our torturers at our moment of dying. I suppose that such a thing requires the help of the Holy Spirit, but the whole thing is that we need to have the mind of Christ!

(and I think the Rom 12 passage is exactly about that btw. )

I don’t agree at all that the fear of hell as motivation will ever lead to loving God more. It might scare people into some kind of conversion, but I’m not convinced it will be able to make people love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We should have a positive gospel, not a negative one: Jesus is Lord, death, sin and evil are conquered, and He’ll make all things new. A gospel that says that we are saved from God by Jesus, as some versions of penal-substitution-only does not at all sound like a loving God to me.

The bible says God is love, not God is wrath, and love is more important than faith and hope says Paul, so his wrath will be in function of His love. Surely, if God loves us he will have a lot of whitehot wrath; He will be pretty mad at the things that are going on in this world, and causing destruction in our lives and all of his loved creation. If He’s to make all things new a lot of things are to be erased, in my life, and in the whole of the world. But the good news is that Jesus is doing that, and that in the end the whole of creation will be renewed. At the final judgment all evil will be erased. And probably some creatures will keep on hating God and not be able to live in this renewed world, or even cease to exist if all evil is erased from them. If God will allow them to exist outside of His love or if they will annihilate in His presence I do not know. I do know he wants none to be lost.

So we need some concept of hell, unless we do away with human free will and say that in the end everybody will bow and accept Jesus as Lord. But I’m not calvinist enough to be such a Christian universalist, sorry… And if we ‘accept Jesus’ out of fear and not out of love, we might still be in problem if we have to spend an eternity with God in all His glory… I don’t think we win anything with converts who are more interesting in escaping hell than in following Christ and being reconciled to their savior. What you with then with is what you win them to…

shalom

Bram

Why fear non-violence as a christian?


Scot McKnight, who himself self-identifies as an anabaptist, links on his blog to an article from the American spectator that poses the question if a ‘mennonite take-over’ is going on.

Now i’m still a european who doesn’t understand much of American politics, but after reading the American Spectator I sense a bit of fear of what they percieve as ‘mennonite’, even though most of the names they give are in fact not at all mennonites. What they seem to be affraid of is the growing influence of peace church thought and pacifism in christianity, which they for some reason see as agressive.

(I guess they are affraid of the other side of the american 2-party system, and of the ‘socialism’ monster of the cold war indoctrination, but what I see in both Shane Claibornes ‘Jesus for president’ and Greg Boyds ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ is rejecting both parties alike, and not putting much faith in governments at all, and it shows more a down-top grass-roots anarchism which does not wait on the State to do things…)

Most of the names they give, like Greg boyd and Shane Claiborne, are in fact not mennonites, but it surely can not be denied that they are gravely influenced by postmodern neo-anabaptist christian non-violence. Which is why I like them by the way. One of the things I like most about certain parts of the post-evangelical christianity and the emerging church dialogue is exactly that: a commitment to Jesus and His words, the sermon on the mount and to radical discipleship, even to enemy-love.

I do think this ‘neo-anabaptist’ emphasis in post(modern) evangelicalism is not only very important, but also a move of the Holy Spirit and a call to go back to the core of our faith. A call to first be a citizen of the Kingdom of God before being part of the systems of this world (or ‘empire’) I’m not only thinking of Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd, but of Scot McKnight himself, and Rob Bell or even Brian McLaren.

Like Derek Webb sings:

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom

We as Christians need to be serious that our first commitment is not to any nation, but to Jesus, and to the ‘transnational church that transcends all artificial borders’, like Shane Claiborne says in his ‘litany of resistance‘, which the reporter of the American spectator finds “angry and defamatory“. The first Christians were known to be willing to die for their faith, but not to kill. This is a serious way of following Christ, even into a possible death, but it’s also very powerful. It trancends the so-called myth of redemptive violence.

Like Bonhoeffer said, “…when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.” (thanks to JoeyS) Or like Walter Wink says “Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough.”

These are the things that make me want to be a christian. But it seems that exactly these things scare some people, even some Christians… They are too far from our natural human way of thinking. But isn’t that exactly what Christianity is supposed to be. Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be boxed or put before our cart, and neither can any genuine follower.

No we should not completely withdraw from the world, as some anabaptists tend to do (think about the Amish) Neither should we take over all the values of the world, we belong to Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, like light and salt… We are not to take over with violence, but to love the hell out of this world…

Not by might,
Not by power
by my spirit
says the Lord

Shalom

Bram