In my last post (Finding the Naked Anabaptist) I confessed that Anabaptism resonates with me more than any other historical tradition of church history. The 16th century Anabaptists were seeking a restoration of NT church life and practice. And for the most part, they did just that—paying for it with their lives.
The Anabaptists sought to recover a radical discipleship that would bring about a Kingdom revolution, not by power-over others, but instead through humble service and loving obedience to the teachings of Jesus.
The first Anabaptists believed their ideas to be rooted in NT orthodoxy and orthoproxy. They re-envisioned the Christian faith as it was before the church’s acceptance of political power and the wielding of the sword.
It was the Kingdom vision of Anabaptist leaders like Balthasar Hubmaier, Hans Denck, Conrad Grebel, and Michael Sattler that began a movement, lived on in several traditions (e.g. Mennonites, Amish, Brethren in Christ, etc.), and is alive today among “Neo-Anabaptists”—folks who ascribe to Anabaptism, but have no historic or cultural links to them.
In fact, it appears that an increasing number of evangelicals are leaving what’s left of Christendom and embracing Anabaptist convictions.
Authentic Christians Follow Their Christ
Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist (2010), says that Anabaptists accepted the basic ecumenical creeds of the early church, but they wanted to go beyond theological statements to a description of Christian behavior.
The following is a list of seven core convictions set forth by The Anabaptist Network, expounded upon in Murray’s book. These core convictions are aspirations of an Anabaptism creatively at work in the world today:
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 to 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 a peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
How do you feel about these seven core convictions set forth by The Anabaptist Network? Which conviction(s) do you agree or disagree with? Is there a conviction that resonates with you more than the others?
D.D. Flowers, 2013.