Here are the details for the Saturday, 4 February, Sydney AAANZ Gathering/Picnic. We will meet at the Parramatta Park Cafe, Byrnes Ave, Parramatta at 12:00 Noon and then choose a picnic area close by in the park. BYO food and drink (and some to share). Michael and Lorri Hardin ofwww.preachingpeace.org will be our guests for the day. Come and share with fellow AAANZ travellers! Click Here for Google Map
Recognizing that many who stumble across this website are unfamiliar with anabaptist Christianity, I find a word or two of explaination is helpful every now and then.
With this in mind I would like to draw attention to a simple sketch of anabaptist Christianity drawn from the appendix of Palmer Becker's primer: What is an Anabaptist Christian?
Core Value 1: JESUS is the center of our faith
Many Christians emphasize:
Anabaptist Christians emphasize:
1. Christ’s death
1. Christ’s life
Many Christians focus primarily on the holiness of God and the need for personal salvation. They emphasize “Christ came to die” and focus less on the life, teachings and empowering Spirit of Jesus. Christianity is primarily forgiveness.
Anabaptist Christians affirm the holiness and forgiving grace of God, but emphasize that “Jesus came to live.” His death resulted in part from the way he lived. Jesus as Risen Lord empowers us to follow him in life. Christianity is primarily discipleship.
2. A “flat” Bible
2. A “Christ centered” Bible
Many Christians tend to see the Scriptures, rather than Jesus, as their final authority. Guidance for daily living comes from various Scriptures that seem to fit the situation. All decisions do not need to coincide with the teachings and Spirit of Jesus.
Anabaptists affirm that while all Scripture is inspired, Jesus is the fullest revelation of God and the final authority for decision-making. Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, and is the norm for both personal and social ethics.
3. Government as final authority
3. Jesus as final authority
Many Christians believe that since government leaders are ordained of God, they must be obeyed even if their demands are contrary to the teachings of Jesus or the dictates of conscience.
Anabaptists recognize that government is ordained of God to preserve life and maintain order in a secular world. However, the demands of government shall not overrule the Lordship of Jesus.
Core Value 2: COMMUNITY is the center of our lives
Many Christians emphasize:
Anabaptist Christians emphasize:
1. Vertical forgiveness
1. Horizontal forgiveness
Many Christians focus more on vertical forgiveness from God than on horizontal forgiveness from each other. Forgiveness is seen as a means for receiving individual salvation and eternal life.
Christians need both vertical forgiveness from God and horizontal forgiveness from each other. Forgiveness builds community and is a means to peaceful relationships with each other.
2. Individual interpretation
2. Corporate interpretation
Many Christians seek to interpret the Scriptures out of their own understanding and experience. On the other hand, some rely almost totally on trained teachers or pastors to interpret the Scripture for them.
Anabaptists believe that individual study of Scripture must be combined with group study. Group members commit themselves to giving and receiving counsel from others in the Spirit of Jesus.
3. Meet in sanctuaries
3. Meet in small groups
Many Christians tend to think of the worshiping congregation as the basic unit of the church. Often, the church is seen as a structure, an organization, or as a Sunday morning performance.
Anabaptist Christians tend to see the church as a family. Healthy churches are often organized as networks of small groups in which members fellowship, study, share and pray together.
Core Vale 3: RECONCILIATION is the center of our work
Many Christians emphasize:
Anabaptist Christians emphasize:
1. Justification by faith
1. Transformation of life
Many Christians primarily emphasize the holiness of God and the need to be justified through faith in the sacrificial work of Christ. Conversion means being forgiven for sin and destined for heaven.
Anabaptist Christians tend to emphasize the loving/nurturing nature of God. They desire to be transformed by the Spirit to become Christ-like in attitude and action. Conversion means being reconciled to God and empowered to live like Jesus in daily life.
2. Personal salvation
2. Reconciled living
Many Christians tend to think of reconciliation in personal terms. Peacemaking and social action are add-ons rather than essential to the gospel.
Anabaptists tend to think of reconciliation in both personal and social terms. Evangelism and peacemaking come together in the term reconciliation.
3. Military service
3. Alternative service
Many Christians obey authority even if it requires actions contrary to the teachings of Jesus and conscience. Some believe in “redemptive violence” and the just war theory. When the government asks them to perform military service, they accept to do so.
Anabaptists obey authority insofar as obedience to Christ will allow. They will refuse orders to participate in violence. Correcting injustices and being reconciled to enemies are important. Alternatives to military service that seek to resolve conflict are strongly encouraged.
Becker explains it this way, "Being a Christian from an Anabaptist perspective is a combination of believing in Jesus, belonging to community, and behaving in a reconciling way. Some things for which Anabaptists lived and died are now accepted and taken for granted by most Christians. Other practices and teachings may still seem challenging or perplexing. But more and more people are finding Anabaptist understandings of faith and practice to be very helpful as they seek to follow Jesus faithfully in today’s world."
It's a bit simplistic I know, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an idea. If it stimulates some deeper questions, even better.
I always appreciate a critique that gets me to think deeper about my own path. That's what I found in James Hunter, Neo-Anabaptists, and the Ekklesia Project. After correctly differentiating Neo-Anabaptists from both the Evangelical Left and Evangelical Right, the auther sums up James Hunter's critique as follows:
I now turn to the way in which Hunters’ treatment of power focuses his engagement with the Neo-Anabaptists. It is here we can appreciate his skills as sociologist. He asserts that Neo-Anabaptists have a robust theology that successfully resists co-option into liberalism or American nationalism. However, in Hunter’s view, Neo-Anabaptists fail to extend this theology into a vision of Christian life within the worldly institutions that claim much of our time and energy as well as accounting for many of our neighborly relations. ‘Why do they reduce the life of Imitatio Dei to the parameters of the church?’ he asks. His critique, then, focuses on Neo-Anabaptist ecclesiology.
Hunter claims that because they fail to understand power and its pervasiveness, Neo-Anabaptists try to keep their hands clean. A focus on the church, in other words, is a way of avoiding the theological task of describing Christian involvement in such institutions as family, corporation, schools, etc., where power must be confronted.
I take this as a spur to continue my explorations into life beyond the church and beauty in the world from a Neo-Anabapist perspective.
"We must first of all distinguish between eschatology - whose concern as we have defined it is the meaning of the eschaton for present history - and apocalyptics - the effort to obtain precise information as to the date and shape of things to come. In marked contrast to the apocryphal literature at the time, the Bible is far more interested in eschatology than in apocalyptics; even when an apocalyptic type of literature occurs, its preoccupation is not with prediction for the sake of prediction but rather with the meaning that the future has for the present." (John Howard Yoder, The Royal Priesthood, p145)
Not sure if I like Yoder's language here but I think the substance behind it is well worth reflecting on.
For those interested in new monasticism, check out Stewart Murray Williams's engaging summary of the Anabaptist tradition over at Sustainable Traditions which explores the ways ‘new monasticism’ is drawing on both Celtic Christianity and the Anabaptist tradition.
"In the 16th century the Protestant Reformers rejected the two-tier Christianity that had developed during the Christendom era – dissolving the monasteries to remove the top tier. Anabaptists also rejected two-tier Christianity but abolished the lower tier, calling all Christians to radical discipleship – a lay monastic movement." - Stuart Murray Williams
Some thoughts emerging from the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT "Directions 2012" Conference. As baptists we all affirm the "separation of church and state", but do we all mean the same thing by it?
The two kingdoms model
Some, following Luther and Calvin, understand the separation of church and state in terms of the "two kingdoms" model. According to this model God rules the whole world, but rules in two ways. God rules the earthly kingdom through secular government by means of law (or the sword) and rules the heavenly kingdom through the gospel (or the cross). This leads to an apoliticalunderstanding of the church, an irreligious understanding of the state, and ethical dualism amongst Christians who move in and out of the two kingdoms in their everyday lives. Separation here means Christians must learn to discern where grace is relevant and where it is not.
The one kingdom model
Some, following Simons and others, understand the separation of church and state in terms of the "one kingdom" model. According to this model God rules the whole world, through the resurrected Lord, and calls Christians to witness to this fact in one way and one way only: through the way of the cross. This leads to a counter-political understanding of church, a counter-religious understanding of the state, and ethical monism amongst Christians irrespective of their state-church movements. Separation here means the church must distance itself from the graceless ethics of the state.
Given the baptist movement emerged out of anabaptist influenced puritanism and has been influence by both Menno Simons and John Calvin in the course of its history, this makes things rather interesting.
Thoughts on Anabaptist Theology by Heidi Miller Yoder, Assistant Professor of Worship and Spiritual Formation at Eastern Mennonite University. Heidi speaks of searching for a congruency between who we follow, what we do, and who we are.
I have been thinking about meditation and prayer today, particularly in terms of how different understandings of Christianity can lead to different approaches to meditation.
You may recall my recent comments on the differences between Dispensational, Covenant and Christocentric theology? Well, how might that feed into a discussion on meditation and prayer? I would like to suggest, given Anabaptists tend to be radically Christocentric, that an Anabaptist approach to meditation should similarly be radically Christocentric. More so than Evangelical meditation, and even more so than Catholic and Orthodox meditation.
What could this mean in practice? Well, I find it leads me to stress New Testament teaching on mediation and prayer over Old Testament teaching. It's not that I ignore the book of Psalms, I don't and you'll find ample evidence that I don't in my mediation commentaries, but I value it as a secondary reference point to the prayers and teachings of the Messiah and the apostles who followed after him.
Moreover, I find it leads me to stress biblical teaching over the teaching of the desert fathers and medieval monastics (including the Celtic Christians by the way). I've long suggested as such, but here I'm giving a more concrete suggestion as to why.
Now, if you think this Christocentric approach rules out direct insight and God experience through mediation and prayer I would say no, not at all. But it does place emphasis on the need to evaluate general revelation in the light of special revelation, and emphasis on remembering who Jesus was and is and is to come as a mediative discipline.
For those of you who may have missed this burried in the comments, I thought I'd draw attention to an essay by James Fowler on the differences between Dispensational Theology, Covenant Theology and Christocentric Theology.
I think this is very important for understanding why NeoCalvinists and NeoAnabaptists often end up talking past one another.
And before anyone asks, yes, I'm unapologetically Christocentric in my interpretation of scripture.