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March 12, 2012



As a card-carrying Anabaptist, I tend to agree with you Flyn. And there are some other remarkable publications who speak to this right now. Here are some sample citations.

1. David Fitch on Leithart and Yoder:

The squabbles over history and assessing Constantine’s Christianity are certainly interesting. But I don’t see it as much of an issue. The question is, how do we Christians be the people of God when we are not in power, or losing power, or indeed when we are in the missionary situation. I agree with Leithart that the question “what do we do when the emperor converts to Jesus as Lord?” is more complex than Yoder would have it. And indeed there is something positive to be learned from Constantine about Christians “in power” in these ways. But we’re not there right now. And I don’t see the pursuit of the world’s power, the power of the sword, or the corporatist power that is polluted by all things Mammon, as the legitimate pursuit of Christians. So let’s get on to how we are to be Christians in the post-Constantinian cultural situation we find ourselves in (which is large parts of N. America).

More: "Leithart says that Yoder’s [Jeremian ecclesiology based in Jer 29:1-7 and] vision of Christian engagement is 'invigorating and just right in many respects.' He disagrees with Yoder over whether such a vision is the permanent social strategy for Christians." The author's take: "Leithart’s critique aside, Yoder’s vision of the church is the one most apropos for the current cultural situation many of us are living in – i.e. N America’s New post Christendom cultures."


2. Joshua Brockway on Hauerwas and Jones:

The shared melody between ideological and this improvisational type of Anabaptism is the critique of a Constantinian cosmology wherein the line between empire and church is barely noticeable. The variations between the two forms are most visible in the ways this critique is embodied. The ideological form considers the difference of the ecclesia the prime form of witness. Not only does the church form believers in an alternative politic, it keeps them distinct from the surrounding culture. In biblical language, this is a “city on a hill” kind of church- above and beyond the society it is to transform.
More engaged forms of the tradition however, emphasize the balance of the community’s identity and the individual. In other words, it is not solely the ethic of the community that witnesses to a society, but the active lives of the people formed in the church. Like yeast mixed with the flour (Matt 13:33) these believers bring the politic to life in their daily lives as they interact with their particular communities.
This is why other forms of Anabaptism are perched ready to lead the Church into a new Post-Christendom age. These communions are working outside the walls of sectarian forms of the tradition while avoiding the mentality of cultural or political privilege that many mainline traditions are just beginning to recognize the loss of and mourn.


Flyn Ritchie

Very enjoyable article and video Ron (and Archbiship Puhalo) - thanks. Please keep urging us to immerse ourselves in the Great Tradition. Such reminders are sorely needed in our ahistorical culture (not least by me).

You know I agree with you about the central significance of unity, but I still wonder if Anabaptists, Pentecostals and the various back to the Bible (Jesus, Holy Spirit, early church) types should not be given more credit for their efforts.

Isn't their pursuit of purity (maybe not the ideal word, but the best I can come up with) as important as the pursuit of unity? Maybe they could do it it a more fraternal way - but as you both agreed, the church has always been a fractious community. And they are hardly alone in using divisive language; historic churches often do the same thing.

Blessings, Flyn.

Henk Smidstra

Thanks Ron. We truly need to all work for unity and peace, and not enshrine the old myths born in the streses of the 16th and 17th century context, stresses of war, of extreme social and ideological change. We are again at a point in world history where we need creativity and collaboration of all our traditions for peace and unity today; 21st century thinking for the 21st century shalom. H. Smidstra.

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