Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Classic Anabaptist View of Baptism

Classically, anabaptist were characterized by their refusal to baptize infants. This caused them problems because in the middle ages, baptism filled the rolls of citizens, and is the basis for taxation and such. To refuse to baptize infants is to demand that people make their own choice as to whether they participate in a Christendom society or not.

The Anabaptist's argument against infant baptism was three-fold:

 Non-sacramental view of baptism. Since the water is only water, it does an infant no good.
 The scriptural pattern is always that faith precedes water baptism.
 Baptism involves a commitment to discipleship which children can’t make.

Radical in that it overturns centuries of practice

The result is a different kind of church – a believers’ church – which is different than the world. This goes hand-in-hand with two kingdom theology.

Classic Anabaptist View of Salvation

By William Higgins

From Protestants – Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, based on what Jesus has done, that must be received by faith

Salvation is not based on deeds we do, religious or otherwise. Anabaptists learned this from Luther/Zwingli.

but Anabaptists go beyond Protestantism - They do not believe that salvation is by faith alone

They emphasized that the grace of salvation, if it is real will produce acts of righteousness. Only the one who does the will of the Father in heaven will ultimately be saved - Matthew 7:21.

As to the benefit of salvation they agree with the Protestants – Salvation has to do with forgiveness of sins

But also go beyond Protestantism - The one who believes is born of the Spirit

Anabaptists used this Spirit language often, and not the legal language Protestants emphasized.

We are not simply forgiven sinners, who continue in sin

We are also transformed by the Spirit so that we can obey God.

o For Luther God’s grace is best emphasized when we see God as accepting us despite our continued sin. This keeps us from thinking we can earn our salvation.

o For Anabaptists God’s grace is best emphasized when we see God’s grace powerfully transforming us. All the good we do is a testimony to God’s powerful work in us.

Summary: The salvation experience is an empowerment for discipleship, which is the necessary result of true salvation

These are three key ideas – framework for discipleship

Now seven discipleship practices, again - not necessarily all, put key practices - briefly

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Revolution and Wealth

All institutions are based on wealth. The economics of the wealth—how the resources are moved and who controls them—change with the times and with each society. But wealth is instrumental to how institutions and powerful people operate. Ancient institutions we primarily about the collection of wealth and the distribution of it to the powerful. Nothing much has changed. As can be seen in any corporation or government, the bottom line is always about finances—who gets what wealth.

Revolution always promises to change the system of how wealth is distributed. And it always says that the lower classes will gain more wealth. And sometimes that is true. Until the lower classes become the upper classes and then suddenly they want to keep the newly-gained income they’ve achieved through their hard work. People are people, no matter which side of the tracks their on and they want to gain and keep as much wealth as they can.

Jesus is proposing a new system of distributing wealth.

The Revolution Jesus is proposing is prepared to punish anyone who uses their wealth strictly for their own gain and pleasure. In other words, anyone who has excess wealth—money or possessions that are not needed, possibly termed "disposable income"—and they use it for their own gain when there are those who have need, they will be punished. Those who keep resources for their own greed will not be accepted in a system that focuses on meeting the needs of everyone.

When the Revolution comes, they will first take all the "rich"—all those who used their disposable income for their own gain—and they will either punish or exile all of them. Then the Revolution will punish everyone who uses wealth in a way that harms those around them. These punishments will be quite severe, for the use of wealth and resources for everyone who has need is a basic tenant of the Revolution.

This does not mean that fun will not be had. Perhaps you think of the Revolution as a peasant revolution, where everyone is miserable and living on almost nothing. Just the opposite. The Revolution will be characterized by parties and feasts. The only difference between these parties and feasts and the ones you see now is that in the Revolution, the parties will not be exclusive. They are for everyone and all races, all languages, all kinds, all peoples will be involved in them.

And so, as an ethic in preparation for the coming Revolution, Jesus strongly recommends that you take any extra provision you have—any extra money or possession that you have—and use it for those who have need. Perhaps you will allow those who have need to use what you have through loans or shared use. Perhaps you will sell what you have and make the income available to those in need. Perhaps you will just give things away. But take care that you do not just collect and keep for yourself what is not necessary.

Classic Anabaptism: Two Kingdoms Theology

By William Higgins

idea of two orders – comes out of the tension between

 the ethics of the sword required to run a worldly government – force, coercion, violence
 and the ethics of Jesus the sermon on the mount – loving enemies and not resisting evildoers

In a Christendom model of Christianity you have to deal with this tension because when church and state are fused together – you have Christians running the State - using the sword – ‘How can this be?’

Catholics – two realms within one society

 lay realm that can use the lower righteousness the sword
 and the monastic, priestly realm that holds to the way of Jesus

Luther – two realms in each person’s life

 public realm where you use the sword – if you are in office
 private realm where you are to hold to the way of Jesus


Anabaptists – two separate realms: the church and the world

The church is a separate social entity from the rest of society which is “the world.”

This is not a Christendom model so they don’t have to be fused together.

 the world lives by the lower standard of the sword (given by God to order the realm “outside the perfection of Christ” as Schleitheim famously says)

 all Christians live by the way of Jesus no matter what position they might have

favorite text here - John 18:36 - "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world."

Christendom models try to reduce the tension between the sword and the way of Jesus to allow for Christians to take up the sword

But for Anabaptists - The two orders cannot be combined, they are different

awkward relationship: Christians are to respect and submit to governments . . . (in as much as this doesn’t require what is contrary to Jesus), but they cannot themselves take part in what involves the ethics of the sword.

some vagueness in the early Dutch here – some saw some possibilities for a Christian to be in government – but this faded over time – in terms of the confessional tradition.

Note: This is not the same as our Separation of church and state – which seems to mean:

the political part of society is kept separate from the religious part of society, but they are really just two parts of one society – its just best practically, legally to keep them separate

Anabaptist view: The church is a complete social unit – spiritual and political - not the spiritual part of secular or civic society

two halves of a whole // or two separate wholes that coexist in the same place.

church has its own leader – Jesus, elders, own justice system – discipline process etc.

Summary: The world lives by the lower standard of the sword. Christians are to live by the standard of the way of Jesus in all situations.

Classic Anabaptist View On Scripture

By William Higgins, pastor of Cedar Street Mennonite Church

View of Scripture - High view of scripture, but have a unique take on it

Like Protestants they accepted the idea of Scripture Alone: Scripture is the supreme authority over the church.

- Catholic popes, councils or traditions are not the authority. Indebtedness to Luther here.

- But they went on to say that teachers like Luther, Zwingli and Calvin are not the authority – they too are not Scripture.

Also accepted from Protestants - The literal meaning of Scripture is accessible don’t need the pope or tradition to make sense of it

but added to this – with the help of the Spirit, it is available to the common person – not just scholars

favorite text: Matthew 11:25 - "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children”

these are radical twists of Protestant ideas – but the next two points are really radical – go way beyond the Protestant positions at this time . . .

The New Testament is the final and complete revelation and the final word on all issues. The Bible is not flat. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles takes precedence over the Law and Prophets.

The Old Testament has the character of promise. The New testament is all about fulfillment. Now that the promises are being fulfilled this should be the primary focus - especially the gospels and the Sermon on the Mount.

Since there is movement on issues of teaching - you need to see what the New Testament says on any issue

favorite text - Matthew 5:38-39 - "You have heard that it was said, . . . But I say to you”

second really radical idea . . .

The point of reading and interpreting the Bible is to put it into practice

To put it another way - We literally do whatever Jesus and the apostles teach, whatever the consequences.

so there is a real practical focus to reading and interpreting the bible,

but this also results in a different approach to reform.

It is not enough to take the medieval church and tinker with it (Luther, Zwingli). One must get back past the fall of the church with Roman Emperor Constantine and restore the practices of the New Testament church. This is the goal

Summary: Scripture alone, available to the common Christian, using the standard of Jesus and the New Testament, with the goal of recreating the New Testament church

Monday, February 2, 2009

Revolution and Institution

When revolution hits, the world gets turned upside-down.

Nothing remains the same. Every government institution is shut down and replaced with systems that are realigned in accordance with the new rulers. When a government has been in place for a while, institutions are old, with policies that pile up on one another, creating a bureaucracy of injustice that can never be righted. The only thing to do is to scrap the institutions and to begin anew.

Any institution is created to serve people. If it was not intended to do that, then it never would have been created. A war department is created to provide security for the people in a particular nation. A social department is created to help those in need. A Tax department is created to serve those who work for the government—perhaps a small percentage of the population, but it still serves people. However, should an institution and the people within that institution no longer serve people, but the institution itself, then that institution is no longer worth anything.

It must be recognized that any group or institution is only as good as the people working for it. If there are people who really care about others and seek their well being, then all is fine. However, usually, institutions become entities that train people to not care about people, but to care about policies and to maintain the status quo.

This is what had happened to the Temple institution in the first century. The building and maintenance of the Temple had become so huge, that it no longer served people, but the people of the nation were conscripted to serve it. Those who were in charge of the Temple were no longer concerned with doing what they could to help people, but to keep the programs of the Temple continuing. The Temple was a contention-point of national policy and the priests would do all they could to keep it up—they required taxes, created legal loopholes so money could be put into the Temple. The whole structure of the Temple itself was changed, so that it might be maintained, without consideration of the people who were to be connected with God. Salespeople were allowed to sell their goods right where the poor and outcast were to worship.

The Temple was no longer submitted to its true king, God, but it served the interests of its builders—the Herodians--, its maintainers—the priesthood, —and its lords—the Romans. But as for helping the people serve God, it no longer did that successfully.

Rather than being a servant of people to connect them to God, the Temple cult became a block between people and God. A new way was needed to connect with God, a way that the Temple could not provide. A way that people could worship and have God hear them anywhere, not just in one place in the world.

Thus, Jesus determined the Temple needed to be destroyed. And Jesus said that when the Revolution came, it would be.

All institutions are based on the foundational institution of all societies—the family. The family provides the structure and social formation necessary to create citizens and workers. All people work and create social institutions to protect and support their families. Thus are nations created. Nations provide military and economic security so that the family might thrive. However, should nations no longer serve the needs of families, then those structures will fall. Should it no longer provide for the needy, then the nation is no longer a necessary part of life.

In the first century, the nation-province of Judea was not serving families. Rather, Rome used the government of the province to maintain its bloated government and to uphold the wealthy of its government. It moved people around at will and blocked people from their daily work to survive.

Thus, Jesus determined that the nation of Judea must be destroyed.

Every institution is only worthwhile if they recognize the authority that created them and followed the fundamental principles that they were created for.

The Jewish families of the first century were created by God to love each other and to serve God with all of their heart. However, many of these families were only seeking their own greed and power. They were insisting on every member to serve the family, or the leaders of the family, but they did not focus on serving God and dedicating all of their resources to honoring Him and helping the needy, as God established.

Thus, Jesus determined that the family must be destroyed. And his Revolution would destroy it.

The Revolution is not coming to support the institutions that already exist. Most churches that exist now are bloated and focused on self-maintenance, not on serving others. Even the “outreach” that most churches do are simple programs to grow the church, not to meet people’s needs. The United States government is out to serve the interests of the wealthy and its own policies and it doesn’t care who they need to kill or what lies they need to say in order to maintain the status quo. The Christian families are no longer concerned with serving Jesus or obeying him. Rather, they are focused on their own greed and authority in the world.

When the Revolution of Jesus hits, they will all be destroyed.

These institutions will not just be re-formed. They will not just be gutted. They will not just be given new leadership. Revolution transforms society. It rips it apart. Revolution takes all that is known and replaces it with new things.

Apathy will be replaced with love.
Bureaucracies will be replaced with caring people.
Policies will be replaced with trust.
Conservatism will be replaced with radical transformation.
Liberalism will be replaced with strong leadership.
And nothing will be the same.

Destruction of the World Corporate Structure

This country is filled with injustice. Corporations and the rich receive all the benefits, while the poor are thrown in jail for small offenses. Laws are unfair and you can’t get fair treatment in the courts. And the people don’t care. As long as they have their television, they are subdued and will do nothing to change what has existed since before they were born. The few who actually try to change things either get caught up in the same system themselves or they are rendered impotent by the locked system.

Nothing can be done.

But a revolution is coming.

This revolution is introducing a new government who listens to the cries of the oppressed and looks to make a real change for them. Not just changing those in power, but offering a whole new structure of government. A structure where the poor and just will rule. Where laws are given because they encourage love and justice—not the agenda of the rich. Where there will be enough food and shelter and warmth for everyone, even the poorest and the lowest. No one will have their power cut off, no one will be without light, no one will be without heat, no one will be without food. Those with mental health problems will be listened to, not just dictated to, and they will be healed. The elderly will be cared for as honored citizens, not as outcasts. This government is concerned with everyone—especially the poor and oppressed— not just in keeping their own power and authority.

This new government has already begun in this country. This revolution is an underground movement that has ties to movements in other countries around the world. This movement already has some small facilities that feed the poor, care for the elderly and assist those with mental health problems. This movement is teaching its doctrine to millions. And its time has come.

The movement has many names. Some call it Ekklesia. Some call it The Anawim. Some call it the Way. Some call it the Truth. Some speak of the Martyrs. It is all of this—and more.

When the Anawim take over this country, the rich and powerful will be put down and the corrupt will never take up power again. When Ekklesia rises to power, both the Republicans and the Democrats will be rejected as the greedy, corrupt groups they are. When the Way takes power, every nation in the world will be reshaped and the economic structures will be destroyed. When the Truth is raised, every corruption and hatred will be exposed. When the Martyrs come, the poor themselves will rule—and rule better than the wealthy and powerful ever did.

How can this be? How can a small, poor, movement take over the governments of the world? How can there be a sudden change from the powerful to the oppressed ruling? Who will begin this revolution? Who leads this underground movement? Who started it all in the first place?

All this can be explained by one word: Jesus.

Jesus began this movement 2000 years ago. He announced the coming of a new government that would cause the structures of humanity to falter. And when that new government came, it would establish the poor and merciful as the rulers of the world, while the rich and powerful would be destroyed, receiving nothing. Jesus spoke about the corruption of religion, of rulers and of the church. And all the corrupt would be thrown out of the new nation, and the meek would take over.

Jesus’ movement is not what is commonly called “the Church.” From the early fourth century the establishment church has united themselves with the corrupt governments of the world and participated in partisan politics. Jesus rejected all earthly politics and instead established a community that assists the oppressed and needy and follows his new laws of non-reciprocity, care for those who hate you, equality for all in the community, and open sharing of all wealth. The establishment Church has never followed this ideal—some of them even promoting war, greed, national partisanship, hatred and revenge. There have been smaller movements throughout history that have held these ideals—the early Waldensians, the early Franciscans, the Anabaptists, the early Pentecostals and others. However, these movements have always been a minority, and most of them were corrupted by the establishment Church.

In the end, the establishment Church structures will be destroyed by Jesus himself. All of those who call Jesus “Lord” will be tested, and many of them will be cast out of Jesus’ new government. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ but do not do what I say? When I come, there will be many who say, ‘Lord, didn’t we do this, didn’t we do that? Didn’t we heal people? Didn’t we cast out demons?’ I will tell them ‘Get out of here. I never knew you.’ ”

So forget about what the Church has done to you—Jesus will bring justice. Forget about what this or that “Christian” has done to you—Jesus will only allow those who truly followed his principles to rule. And those who want to see the world become just and loving will turn to Jesus.

Are you tired of your government? Trade it for a new one. Instead of having a corrupt leader guide you, make Jesus your leader. Make Jesus your president, your king, your Lord. Begin to follow his principles of enacting love to everyone—even those who hate you, of giving up your life of this age and begin living for the revolution.