What Would You Think of a Parent Who Would Not Violently Resist Evil People to Save Their Innocent Child?

When Christians hold the standard, early Christian position of loving enemies, nonresistance or Christian pacifism based in the Love & Cross of Christ a question that will come up quite quickly: “If an armed man came into your house and was going to kill your innocent child would you violently resist them?” This question is usually considered the ultimate question against enemy love.

Surely any just & loving parent cannot allow their child, their only and perfectly innocent child to be killed by an evil person?

Surely any just & loving parent cannot allow their child, their only and perfectly innocent child to be killed by an evil person? Only a very, very evil person would not kill those who are threatening their child, their only, innocent and beloved child?! The child is innocent! The evil person is guilty as sin! Only a despicable, evil, monstrous, misguided, child-hating, unworthy parent could allow this to happen…

Stop!

The question “Would you defend your innocent child?” has in the most unexpected and abrupt way brought us to the crux of the Gospel story! I am astonished to note that this question brings us directly to crucible of the Salvation plan of God! God’s amazing plan seems to have intentionally but secretly embedded this question into its very fabric! A witness to Enemy Love of Christ seems intended to unlock this amazing question “Would a just parent violently defend their innocent child?”

A witness to Enemy Love of Christ seems intended to unlock this amazing question “Would a just parent violently defend their innocent child?”

In a kind of high speed character switch…YOU have suddenly become evil man threatening to kill the innocent child! (and We all are!) YOU threaten the perfectly perfect, perfectly innocent and only son of God. And the just Parent, God Himself, has a perfect weapon. Unlike the many human scenarios we can think up God and His lethal weapon can kill you and save his innocent Child. He looks at the weapon. He knows that throughout the years people will say “a just parent MUST save His innocent child…” He knows that again and again people have already exonerated Him “It’s okay to love your child more than other people…”. He hears more people say “Killing is sometimes Love when it is to save what is important to you” He looks at the weapon that will be perfectly effective… “Will a just parent kill those in the act of killing their child?”

Then!

The innocent Child is speaking! The innocent Child is speaking to all of us. Those who have pointed guns at the innocent. Those who have had to decide if they would point a gun at the guilty. Those throughout history who have, through the inexplicable turns of history & the “necessity” of being responsible, pointed the guns at their fellow Christians. God. The Innocent Child says that His Dad does not need to kill YOU to be just. Innocent children everywhere throughout history repeat the same message. (for how can those who Jesus says are clearly of his Kingdom speak anything other than what the King child speaks?) The actual words the child says are “My father could easily kill you, all I need to do is signal Him to”…but… “Killing to save what one loves” is not how the world is supposed to be. And someone needs to take the first brave step in the new world as God always wanted it to be. God knows He will be considered crazy by the world that now is. But God is ready to start the end of Good being called Evil in history. God does not do NOTHING, He does the most amazing SOMETHING in history. Sheer and raw scandal! He starts the most utterly scandalous movement in History.

A perfectly just and entirely honorable Parent does not need to violently kill to save those He especially loves, He dies in the interest of loving all.

A perfectly just and entirely honorable Parent does not need to violently kill to save those He especially loves, He dies in the interest of loving all. And, THANK GOD, those He loves is EVERYONE. This is the scandalous and amazing new world God has introduced when the world threatened to shoot His Son.

And this, apparently, was at the heart of God’s plan to save the world from evil. Embedded. As if waiting for us to ask the question.

True Evangelical Faith: What Should Christianity Really Look Like?

Menno Simons was a 16th century Catholic priest who took a look at his Christianity and life and noted, like many of his fellow priests, it was pathetic. Menno  started to re-think his Christianity—and he came up with a shocking idea: We should just do what Jesus recommended. After thinking for some time Menno came to the conclusion that our lives should look something like what he wrote below:

“True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love;
it dies to flesh and blood;
it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires;
it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul;
it clothes the naked;
it feeds the hungry;
it comforts the sorrowful;
it shelters the destitute;
it aids and consoles the sad;
it does good to those who do it harm;
it serves those that harm it;
it prays for those who persecute it;
it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord;
it seeks those who are lost;
it binds up what is wounded;
it heals the sick;
it saves what is strong (sound);
it becomes all things to all people.
The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.”

It is interesting to me that none of the above actions requires a politician or some other person to do something: We can get right to work. God bless us as we do.

Source: Click Here

Short Version: For true evangelical faith…cannot lie dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it…clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it.”

Who Are the Anabaptists?

This article is a result of various people I meet who say “Anabaptist? Who are they? I never heard of them.” There are many good articles on Anabaptists: Some seem too long, some too historical and some too academic. Hopefully this one is short enough you will read it, long enough you want to know more.

First, let’s start with some unsolicited testimonials from people you might even know.

I’ve studied the Anabaptists all my life, and I believe they were right. The roots of the global missions are not in the magisterial reformers [Protestants]; they are in the Radical Reformation [Anabaptists]…Not only the concept of global missions–but the exact order of them…study the Anabaptists. They have more than you could possibly imagine. We have in these great saints and martyrs an understanding of what it means to be Christ-like that nobody else has understood so clearly.” –Rick Warren, Pastor Saddleback Church Baptist Press 2012

Millions of people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the traditional Christian faith in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. From the Emergent Church movement to the Urban Monastic Movement to a thousand other independent groups and movements, people are waking up to the truth that the Kingdom of God looks like Jesus and that the heart of Christianity is simply imitating him. Millions are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus are called to love the unlovable, serve the oppressed, live in solidarity with the poor, proclaim Good News to the lost and be willing to lay down our life for our enemies. Multitudes are waking up to the truth that the distinctive mark of the Kingdom is the complete rejection of all hatred and violence and the complete reliance on love and service of others, including our worst enemies. Masses of people are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus aren’t called to try to win the world by acquiring power over others but by exercising power under others — the power of self-sacrificial love…The only tradition that embodies what this rising breed of Kingdom radicals is looking for is the Anabaptist tradition (which the Mennonites are heir to). This is the only tradition that consistently refused political power and violence. This is the only tradition that made humble, self-sacrificial love the centerpiece of what it means to follow Jesus. It’s the only tradition that isn’t soaked in blood and the only tradition that looks remotely like Jesus.” –Gregory Boyd, Theologian, Pastor Woodland Hills Church Reknew 2008

In Africa and Asia when I have asked, “Which relief and development organization does the best, most efficient work here?” inevitably the answer comes back “Mennonite Central Committee.” –Phillip Yancey, PhilipYancey.com April 2014

So why the rave reviews? What makes these Christians called Anabaptists so unusual?

Which Christian group kick started the idea of separation of church and state in the 1500’s?

There can be no question but that the great principles of freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, and voluntarism in religion, so basic in American Protestantism and so essential to democracy, ultimately are derived from the Anabaptists of the Reformation period, who for the first time clearly enunciated them and challenged the Christian world to follow them in practice. The line of descent through the centuries since that time may not always be clear, and may have passed through other intermediate movements and groups, but the debt to original Anabaptism is unquestioned.” –Harold S. Bender, PhD, Anabaptist Vision

Separation of church & state, voluntary church membership and freedom of conscience sounds normal today, but when Anabaptists first suggested these ideas in 16th century Europe they were considered death worthy…by other Christians!

Which group to come out of the Reformation did not persecute & kill other Christians?

Anabaptists.

What should Christian faith & life look like?

An early leader summarized well how Anabaptists believe faith & theology do not remain a “a mere thought in the head”:

For true evangelical faith…cannot lie dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it…clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it.” –Menno Simons, early Anabaptist leader, (Read more here)

Did Jesus Mean What He Taught in the Sermon on the Mount?

The Anabaptists answer is an unequivocal Yes. Many acknowledge that Jesus’ teaching is revolutionary. (Even atheist Richard Dawkin’s notes that Jesus’ ethic was 1000 years ahead of its time!) Anabaptists are among  those who live the Sermon on the Mount in daily life.

More reading:
http://www.anabaptistfaith.com/
http://www.mcusa-archives.org/library/anabaptistvision/anabaptistvision.html

Do You Have a Relationship with Christ?

Our relationship with Christ is all important. But what does having a “relationship with Christ” actually mean? Stephen H. Travis in the conclusion to his book “Christ and the Judgement of God” notes that he does not want to fall into the trap of using “relationship with Christ” as “a vague slogan without any precise content” and then goes on and gives a quick survey of New Testament passages that describe having a relationship with Christ. I think it is a nice,  non sectarian listing of what the NT says about relationship with Christ. I’ll just quote Travis with some formatting changes for readability.

…In all four groups of [New Testament] literature faith and deeds are connected in the closest possible way.

“Relation to Christ, then, is the criterion of judgement. Women and men are judged according to whether they respond to Christ in faith and obedience or not. Readers of this book may sometimes have wondered whether the word ‘relationship’ was being used too vaguely, as a slogan without any precise content. But it does have a defined content in all the literature we have looked at. A positive relationship to Christ is defined as:

Synoptic Gospels: ‘believing’, ‘following’, ‘becoming a child’, ‘hearing my words and doing them’, ‘saying Abba’;

John: ‘believing’, ‘knowing God’, ‘loving’, ‘abiding’, ‘you in me and I in you’;

Apostle Paul’s writings: ‘believing’, ‘being in Christ’, ‘faith working through love’;

Revelation: ‘hearing my voice and opening the door’, ‘keeping his word and not denying his name’, ‘faithfulness until death’, ‘conquering’.

And in all four groups of literature faith and deeds are connected in the closest possible way.

Hence judgement is passed not according to a rather arbitrary intellectual assent, but according to a person’s total direction of life and relation to God.”

Confessions of Faith Indicate Influences & Shifts in Anabaptist Thinking About Salvation

Anabaptists have always had a view of salvation that differed sharply with Reform traditions in that it emphasized repentance and transformation of life into conformity with Jesus Christ. This is a quick look at Protestant and Anabaptist views of salvation based on confessions of faith down through the years.

In my view the “1921 Christian Fundamentals Mennonite Church” (Garden City) is the low water mark in that it seemingly copied and articulated the Reform view of salvation almost to a word.

In my view the “1921 Garden City Christian Fundamentals Mennonite” is the low water mark in that in it Mennonites seemingly copied and articulated the Reform view of salvation almost word for word. This is of continuing concern since many conservative Anabaptist groups still based their confessions of faith on the 1921 Garden City Confession.

Now, note the progression, influence and shifts.

1527 (Anabaptist) The Schleitheim Confession

This Schleitheim Confession was not an attempt to be a complete confession but it just addressed areas that were of immediate concern so it does not specifically have a section on salvation. The first article on Baptism does indirectly cover repentance, new life and faith so I have included it below.

First. Observe concerning baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with Him, and to all those who with this significance request it [baptism] of us and demand it for themselves. This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the pope. In this you have the foundation and testimony of the apostles. Mt. 28, Mk. 16, Acts 2, 8, 16, 19. This we wish to hold simply, yet firmly and with assurance.

http://courses.washington.edu/hist112/SCHLEITHEIM%20CONFESSION%20OF%20FAITH.htm
http://www.bibleviews.com/Schleitheim-JCWenger.html

1530 (Lutheran) Augsburg Confession

IV. Justification by Faith: Man cannot be justified before God through our own abilities; we are wholly reliant on Jesus Christ for reconciliation with God.
VI. Of the New Obedience:  Lutherans believe that good deeds of Christians are the fruits of faith and salvation, not a price paid for them.
XII. Of Repentence: Repentance comes in two parts: in contrition for sins committed according to the Law and through faith offered through the Gospel. A believer can never be free from sin, nor live outside of the grace of God.
XX. Of Good Works:  The Lutheran notion of justification by faith does not somehow condemn good works; faith causes them to do good works as a sign of our justification (or salvation), not a requirement for salvation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augsburg_Confession

1632 (Mennonite) The Dordrecht Confession of Faith: VI. Of Repentence

We believe and confess, that, since the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and, therefore, prone to all unrighteousness, sin, and wickedness, the first lesson of the precious New Testament of the Son of God is repentance and reformation of life, and that, therefore, those who have ears to hear, and hearts to understand, must bring forth genuine fruits of repentance, reform their lives, believe the Gospel, eschew evil and do good, desist from unrighteousness, forsake sin, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: for, neither baptism, supper, church , nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, change or renewing of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation; but we must go to God with an upright heart, and in perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ, as the Scripture says, and testifies of Him; through which faith we obtain forgiveness of sins, are sanctified, justified, and made children of God, yea, partake of His mind, nature, and image, as being born again of God from above, through incorruptible seed. Gen. 8:21; Mark 1:15; Ezek. 12:2; Col. 3:9, 10; Eph. 4:22, 24; Heb. 10:22, 23; John 7:38.
http://www.bibleviews.com/Dordrecht.html

1915 (Protestant) The Fundamentals: 4. Salvation

It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals
http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/5doctrines.html

1921 (Mennonite) Christian Fundamentals Mennonite Church: VI. Of Salvation

We believe that man is saved alone by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ; that he is justified from all things on the ground of his shed blood; that through the new birth he becomes a child of God, partaker of eternal life and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Ephesians 2:8; Romans 3:20-26; Acts 13:38, 39; John 1:12, 13; John 3:4, 8, 16; John 5:24; Ephesians 1:3.
http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Fundamentals_(Mennonite_Church,_1921)

1963 (Mennonite) Mennonite General Conference: Article 6. Salvation by Grace Through Faith

(short) 6. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, a free gift bestowed by God on those who repent and believe

We believe that men are saved, not by character, law, good works, or ceremonies, but by the grace of God. The merits of the death and resurrection of Christ are adequate for the salvation of all men, are offered to all, and are intended for all. Salvation is appropriated by faith in Christ. From all eternity God knew who would be the believers in Christ, and these persons foreknown as believers are elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Those who repent and believe in Christ as Saviour and Lord receive the gift of righteousness, are born again, and are adopted into the family of God. Saving faith involves the giving of the self to Christ, a full surrender of the will, a confident trust in Him, a joyful obedience to His Word as a faithful disciple, and an attitude of love to all men. It is the privilege of every believer to have the assurance of salvation. The God who saves is also able to keep each believer unto a happy end in Christ. As long as the believer lives, he stands in need of the forgiveness, cleansing, and grace of Christ. John 3:16; John 10:27-29; Romans 4; Ephesians 2:8-10; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 5:13; Jude 24.
http://www.anabaptists.org/history/cof-1963.html Short
http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Confession_of_Faith,_1963 Long

Anabaptist, Protestant & Catholic Beliefs Compared

Conservative Anabaptists have deep and abiding differences with both Protestant and Catholic conceptions of what authentic Christianity looks like.

The question has been raised about how Protestant and Catholic beliefs compare to conservative Anabaptists and this caught my interest enough that I decided to try to plot differences. I thought this could be helpful for several reasons:

  • Think more carefully about Protestant/Catholic differences myself
  • Note more precisely how Anabaptist/Protestant/Catholics actually compare
  • Temper uncritical reading of Protestant & Catholic writing & help us not to unquestioningly accept theology (especially Reform axioms) conveyed in  unquestioned assumptions

[Note: The chart below is a guide and a work in progress and I would really welcome your input & corrections. (One thing that would really help is any glaringly missing major Protestant theological points that would be in agreement with conservative Anabaptists) It is has obvious generalizations for simplicity’s sake and some are judgment calls. Also, at the moment the list is a quite a will nilly order.]

protestant-catholic-anabaptist

Note: A bit more nuance on “Faith Alone”: Anabaptists believe in salvation through faith in Christ and maintain the NT emphasis of both Jesus, Paul & others on the importance of repentence and walking in newness of life. A classic formulation of Anabaptist thinking on faith & salvation is found in the Dordrecht Confession article IV on “Of Repentence & Newness of Life“.

Hopefully this is helpful in living in the truth.