Part I: Evangelize the Gemeinde?

Recently a book was released that I functioned as one of the general editors and contributed a chapter entitled A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World. Just recently I got into a discussion regarding the meaning of something I wrote. The passage in question related to how I defined evangelism. I said:

Evangelism simply put is the transmission of said gospel to those who have not heard it in order for them to accept the invitation to become citizens of God’s Kingdom, which results in them becoming members of the ekklesia.[1]

The pushback I received related to the portion that says “the transmission of said gospel to those who have not heard it”. In my interlocutors’ comprehension evangelism is not limited to only those that have not been espoused to it. Instead it is a perpetual activity that occurs in the context of the local congregation. It is evident in the sermons that is preached weekly and it is found in the context of discipling. Well I am at odds with the above for the following reasons. Initially I am approaching the matter from a non-Protestant or repopish perspective. I look at the issue from a primitive apostolic perspective as indicated in the New Testament and history. Also from the ecclesio-centric understanding of the prototypical Anabaptists.

New Testament

Evangelism is inseparably tied to the gospel, you can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. The terms employed in the Greek is εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) which denotes literally “good news” often translated as “gospel”, the verb form of euangelion, is εὐαγγελίζω (euangelizo) to “announce” or “herald” or “proclaim” the good news or in English evangelize. These terms is seen employed within the context of sharing with unbelievers. Evangelism is heralding the message—making the pronouncement that relates to the king and kingdom. Thus once a Christian has delivered the message or the recipient have heard it all other things that come after is designated as instruction, apologetics or mentoring (discipling). Evangelism cannot be considered as being an aspect of encouraging sanctification for the reason there is a vast distinction between evangelizing and living one’s faith as a testimony.

Also it is important to note that how one defines the gospel will determine its use in the context of the Body. If it is a soterian gospel it will be employed inside especially when one holds to the traditional thinking that majority of the evangelism occurs within the fabricated structure called a “church”. Whereas if the gospel is an invitation to the kingdom then once the invite is accepted you do not need to keep inviting individuals that’s already present.

An objection to this point was it is difficult to escape a gospel that has a soteriological focus after all the Apostle Paul delineated a soterian gospel at 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. There Paul writes:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

If a person looks at 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 as representing the Protestant soterian gospel then there is a problem. Paul did not start that pertinent section (verse 3) off with Χριστός (Christos) or “Christ” and its relation to γραφάς (graphas) the “Scriptures” for nothing. He was focusing on Jesus being the “Messiah” or “Anointed One”. Many treat the term Christ as if it has lost its titular force as a result it has virtually became a last name for Jesus instead of serving as a title to designate messiahship in the minds of professed believers. In ancient “Judaism, “messiah” came to refer to a divinely appointed redeemer who would rule over a restored kingdom of Israel where the dispersed Jews would be gathered at the end of days.”[2] Hence when Paul began with highlighting the gospel he has already in the offset established the kingdom as being the topic. His referencing the scriptures recalls all the messianic promises associated with the kingdom and it’s sovereign.

The Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection was the thing that verified Jesus’ position as the foretold Messiah who would be king. His resurrection validates Jesus being the means in which we individuals experience the new birth which functions as the admission into the kingdom. In the very same chapter that is utilized to communicate the Protestant soterian gospel speaks of the kingdom as the end goal.

But Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised. Death comes to people because of what one man did. But now there is resurrection from death because of another man. I mean that in Adam all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again. But everyone will be raised to life in the right order. Christ was first to be raised. Then, when Christ comes again, those who belong to him will be raised to life. Then the end will come. Christ will destroy all rulers, authorities, and powers. Then he will give the kingdom to God the Father. Christ must rule until God puts all enemies under his control. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. As the Scriptures say, “God put everything under his control.” When it says that “everything” is put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself. God is the one putting everything under Christ’s control. After everything has been put under Christ, then the Son himself will be put under God. God is the one who put everything under Christ. And Christ will be put under God so that God will be the complete ruler over everything.[3]

Paul did not create a substitute gospel to replace the one Jesus demarcated all the Apostle did was provide the supplementary knowledge of how to enter the kingdom through faith in the Messiah.

The following is the initial reason why the Anabaptists did not evangelize when the Gemeinde gathered.

Anabaptist Reason I

The proto-Anabaptists known as the Swiss Brethren did not have the ekklesia organized in a fashion where evangelism would take place. The reason being that to them it is implied that the gospel was for all intents and purposes was an invitation in the fashion mentioned subsequently. Anabaptists viewed the gathering of the community (Gemeinde) as being something only the baptized member could participate in. They did not have it open for all.

Because a key aspect of their meetings was the Lord’s Supper and according to Article III of The Schleitheim Brotherly Union touching on the subject of “Bread” it states that only those who can partake of the Lord’s Supper must “be united in the one body of Christ, that is the congregation of God, whose head is Christ, and that by baptism.” This point is echoed by articulating that “whoever does not share the calling of the one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one spirit, to one body together with all the children of God, may not be made one loaf together with them, as must be true if one wishes truly to break bread according to the command of Christ.”[4] The entirety of the contents housed in the Brotherly Union articulate a separatist ideology and there would be no place for a nonbeliever in their presence nor would they try to evangelize someone at their conventicles since all present would be believers already.

The next installment of this article will cover the second Anabaptist reason why they did not evangelize in the Gemeinde.

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________

[1] Joanna Harader and A.O. Green, eds., A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World (New York: Ettelloc Publishing, 2014), 5.

[2] Ronald L. Eisenberg, Jewish Traditions: JPS Guide, JPS Guide (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008), 619-20.

[3] 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Easy-to-Read Version

[4] Michael Sattler, The Schleitheim Confession, trans. John Howard Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977), 11.

Advertisements

Who Should Attend Church?

I recollect a while back I had a discussion vis-à-vis the Lord’s Supper and who should partake of it. The majority in the conversation felt like communion should be open and I felt to the contrary. Now this post is not about the Lord’s Supper but it relates to my reply. My response was essentially that I believe the Lord’s Supper should not be open to all but exclusive—only baptized members of the assembly should observe. Yet there is more to the situation than just having the Lord’s Communion limited to only believers.

My entire contention consisted of not only should the Lord’s Supper be reserved for baptized adult members of the Gemeinde but also the meeting itself. Now as you might have guessed I received considerable pushback for saying that, after all it appears as if “church” has perpetually been open and free to all. Well that’s not case. “Church” or more appropriately the gathering of the ekklesia originally was only comprised of baptized believers and their offspring.

What’s also interesting about this matter is that the proto or radix Anabaptists viewed the situation from a parallel perspective. The Hutterite Peter Riedemann wrote in his Rechenschaft:

God did not wish to have heathens in his worship services, nor did he wish his people to learn the ceremonies of the heathen. In fact, he threatened that if they did that, he would do to them as he had intended to do to the heathen. For the same reason, at the time of the apostles, unbelievers were not permitted to join believers. Paul, too, separates the faithful from the unbelievers. Accordingly, we also wish in this matter and in all things, to be worthy to receive with him the promise of the inheritance. This is possible, insofar as it is in us to follow Christ is our Master. With his help we will keep his command and covenant, not turning aside from it to the right or to the left. May he give us and all others who wholeheartedly want it, his grace to do this, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.[1]

Riedemann alludes to many scriptural passages such as Exodus 12:43 and Numbers 33:55-56. Yet his remarks regarding the Apostle and Paul has the most relevance to this discussion. His mentioning of Paul’s separating of “the faithful from the unbelievers” points to 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Contextually Paul was speaking to the ekklesia established in Corinth and likewise Riedemann was speaking in respect to the Anabaptist Gemeinde. Only those baptized adult disciples was participants in the fellowship of Christ that routinely came together for edification and partook of the cup and ate of the loaf. All those that have not entered the ekklesia through repentance and rebirth evidenced by water baptism are outside the kingdom thus making their attendance at meetings unwarranted.

 

_____________________________________

[1] Peter Riedemann, Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith: Translation of the 1565 German Edition of Confession of Our Religion, Teaching, and Faith, by the Brothers Who Are Known as the Hutterites, ed. and trans. John J. Friesen, Classics of the Radical Reformation (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1999), 180.

Scot McKnight and the Anabaptist Kingdom?

smkcThe more I run across Scot McKnight’s writings I see the primitive or radix spirit of the Anabaptists becoming more evident with time. I find it amusing that an Anglican thinks and behaves in a fashion more akin to Anabaptism than many today that choose to carry that designation.

I would like to initiate my return to blogging by addressing some thoughts contained in McKnight’s new book, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church. In it he first provides a critique of how a group he calls the “Pleated Pants” crowd predominantly comprised of “bible scholars and theologians”.[1] This group essentially reduces the kingdom to some theoretical, abstract, insubstantial concept that “is nowhere and everywhere at the same time”.[2] To McKnight “When this is what ‘kingdom’ means, ‘kingdom’ means nothing because it means everything”.[3]

Next McKnight talks to something that is a reality to me and I see almost on a daily basis. He calls the next group the “Skinny Jeans” people (most likely progressive Neo-anabaptists) that defines the Kingdom of God by way of activism and good deeds in the public sector by professed believers and nonbelievers alike. The activities of these individuals are qualified as kingdom work. McKnight writes regarding the Skinny Pants folk:

For many today, it is far easier to be committed to social justice in South Africa, to the restoration of communities on the Gulf Shore following Katrina, to cleaning up from the devastating tornadoes of the Plains, or to fighting sexual trafficking in any country than it is to be committed to building community and establishing fellowship in one’s local church. I hate to put it this way, but I must: it is easier to do the former because it feels good, it resolves some social shame for all that we have, it creates a bonded experience, it is a momentary and at times condescending invasion of resources and energy, and it is all ramped up into ultimate legitimation by calling it kingdom work. Not only that, it is good and right and noble and loving and compassionate and just. It is more glamorous to do social activism because building a local church is hard. It involves people who struggle with one another, it involves persuading others of the desires of your heart to help the homeless, it means caring for people where they are and not where you want them to be, it involves daily routines, and it only rare leads to the highs of “short-term mission” experiences. But local church is what Jesus came to build, so the local church’s mission shapes kingdom mission.[4]

I am in total agreement with Scot McKnight’s observations on both accounts for as mentioned above I see this line of thinking on both accounts daily and it is bothersome to say the least.

Now at this time I want to focus on the aspect of McKnight’s new work that has everyone upset especially in the Neo-anabaptist community. In the work Mcknight argues that the kingdom is one and the same as the church or ekklesia. He explicitly states “There is no kingdom now outside the church”.[5] Alternatively as McKnight states it elsewhere, “the kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom—that they are the same even if they are not identical. They are the same in that it is the same people under the same King Jesus even if each term—kingdom, church—gives off slightly different suggestions”.[6]

The above statements are authentic Anabaptist thought on the part of McKnight. I wrote on each of these subjects from the perspective of a radix comprehension of Anabaptism.  In the blog article Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus I addressed how one cannot acquire redemption in isolation:

The gospel that die Täufer preached was not a soterian gospel but one that focused outside of oneself. It did not concentrate on “my place” in the Kingdom but on welcoming others and making sure that, their fellow brothers and sisters maintained their place it in. In Anabaptist thought “[r]econciliation between individuals belongs as much to the essence of salvation as does reconciliation to God; the two dimensions are inseparable.” To them “man cannot come to God except together with his brother” but not just one’s spiritual sibling but also “the neighbor”, these “constitutes an essential element of one’s personal redemption.

In an earlier post I also talked to proto-Anabaptism’s thinking on this matter called The Core Message of 16th Century Anabaptism: The Gospel where I essentially argued that the Gemeinde (the preferred German term that was the equivalent in the minds of the Anabaptist of the Greek ekklesia) was the equivalent of the Kingdom on earth. Putting it in the words of Robert Freidman the Gemeinde or “brotherhood-church” to him was “a gathering of the reborn, an attempt to translate the kingdom idea into practical forms of everyday living—if not in terms of the fullness of the kingdom itself, then at least in what it foreshadows.”[7]

As was mentioned in the opening Scot McKnight is looking at the matter from the perspective of radix or primitive Anabaptism and even though he is Anglican now I appreciate that at least someone on the internet and in academia that defines Anabaptism properly.

_______________________________

[1] Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2014), 9.

[2] Ibid., 13.

[3] Ibid., 14.

[4] Ibid., 96-7.

[5] Ibid., 87.

[6] Ibid., 206.

[7] Robert Friedmann, The Theology of Anabaptism: An Interpretation (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock, 1998), 43.

Upgrades and Baptism

I tweeked the blog a little, rewrote the About section, changed the title, added a header image and I went and purchased an official domain. I plan to invest more money later and add some more upgrades. I am not exactly sure when as of yet. However, I know I will hire a graphic designer to create an official header for my brand.  However, while I am at it I am going to address the reasoning behind the header image.

Naturally, it is an image of water but not just any water. It symbolizes the waters of baptism. Baptism at present seems to have lost the significance it once had or rather the import the archetypal Anabaptists put into it. It was not just a symbol of some past empty event. It was one’s entrance into the Body of Christ or Gemeinde. This German term denotes “a union of settlers bound together by ties of neighborhood, cooperation, interdependence, friendship, or relatedness”.[1] In English, it could be identified with the words ‘commune’, ‘community’ or ‘congregation’ this word was the nearest the German language had to ekklesia.

In Anabaptists thought, the Gemeinde was the visible manifestation of the Kingdom on earth; it was not the kingdom in the sense that each and every assurance of God were realized but in an applied sense. The members of the Gemeinde lived out the ethics of the Kingdom (The Sermon on the Mount and The Rule of Christ). It was a family of transformed believers living in harmony with each other and their Creator.

Baptism was the means of becoming a citizen of the Kingdom and a member of the household of faith. This is only one of the reasons why baptism was so important to the 16th century Anabaptists and why it is important to me and should be highlighted. I will flesh out the meaning and importance of Gemeinde in a latter blog post.


[1] David C. Steinmetz, ed., The Bible in the Sixteenth Century (duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies) (North Carolina: Duke University Press Books, 1990), 9.