CantoneseGermanEnglish MandarinFrench Ethiopian KoreanArabicJapanese Eritrean Spanish Filipino Lao Punjab Romanian VietnameseRussian Mennonite Brethren in Canada
A conviction is a persistent belief or persuasion that cannot be relinquished without making you a significantly different person than before. Mark 12:30 - “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” James Wm. McClendon, Jr. and James M. Smith, Convictions: Defusing Religious Relativism, rev. ed. (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994), 5.
Convictions are expressed in what we actually say and do. Romans 10: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Community convictions are the shared persuasions and beliefs that guide thought and shape life. These often form a discernable conviction set. Ephesians 4:4-6 - “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Core convictions are merely convictions made explicit. Myth: Core convictions are non-negotiable elements of our theological identity, unlike other convictions, which can be traded away or relinquished if necessary. Fact: Changing convictions changes identity. All convictions arise in a context, and for specific reasons. What sets aside core convictions is the manner in which they have developed, and the degree of specificity concerning their content.
GodDiscipleship Revelation of GodMarriage, Singleness, and Family Creation and HumanitySociety and State Sin and EvilLove and Nonresistance SalvationThe Sanctity of Human Life Nature of the ChurchStewardship Mission of the ChurchThe Lord’s Day, Work, and Rest Christian Baptism Other Faiths Lord’s SupperChrist’s Final Return
- Biblicism - Conversion - Family - Church - Evangelism and Missions - Discipleship (Nonresistance) - Eschatology (Premillennialism) A.E. Janzen, Mennonite Brethren Distinctives (Hillsboro: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House), 1966.
- Commitment to the Bible - Conversion that resulted in a transformed life - Redeemed community as a brotherhood - Obedient discipleship - Evangelism and mission J.B. Toews, “Influences on Mennonite Brethren Theology,” Symposium, Winnipeg, November 21-22, 1980, Box 8, Folder B, No. 1, Centre for MB Studies.
- Searching the Scriptures - Encountering Jesus as Lord - Reconciling People - Valuing Covenant Community - Extending the Kingdom Mennonite Brethren Herald, May 17, 1996, 7.
- Conversion - Believer’s Baptism - The Bible - Church - Discipleship - Mission - Peace Witness “MBBS Theological Witness Statement” In Touch, Fall/Winter 2008, 5.
What is at the center of our convictions?
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ Reveals God Unique Saviour Model of Discipleship Head of the Church Lord of Mission
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ Bible
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ Bible Church
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship
Proclamation Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship
Proclamation Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Incarnation
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Spirit Proclamation Incarnation
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Baptism Proclamation Incarnation
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Lord’s Supper Proclamation Incarnation
Proclamation Reconciliation Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Incarnation
Mennonite Brethren Hermeneutics Jesus Christ Bible Disciple ship
Mennonite Brethren are biblicists. MB Confession of Faith – Article 2: The Revelation of God We believe that the entire Bible was inspired by God through the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit guides the community of faith in the interpretation of Scripture. The person, teaching and life of Jesus Christ bring continuity and clarity to both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament bears witness to Christ, and Christ is the one whom the New Testament proclaims. We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.
But to say that Mennonite Brethren are biblicists does not provide a clear picture regarding how we have read the Bible historically. 1. Implicit Theology 2. Community Hermeneutics 3. Naivety about the Hermeneutic Problem 4. Affinity with other Evangelicals
When faced with a question or issue in the church, Mennonite Brethren insist it must be answered from the Bible, “What does the Word say?” Mennonite Brethren have not been concerned with creating a systematic doctrinal framework that could make sense of the content of faith. The significance of Scripture is supported by the evidence of new life and a walk of discipleship.
Mennonite Brethren have practiced what Robert Friedmann called an “implicit theology.” This has both pros and cons. On the one hand, an implicit theology has proven dynamic and flexible for Mennonite Brethren. On the other hand, J.B. Toews acknowledges, “an implicit faith can be sufficient for a church movement as long as it exists in the context of a homogeneous culture with a prescribed lifestyle that expresses the movement’s understanding of faith and practice.” But what about when it does not? J.B. Toews, Pilgrimage of Faith: The Mennonite Brethren Church, (Winnipeg: Kindred Press, 1993), 180.
Mennonite Brethren have adopted what has historically been called biblical theology as our defining approach to the study of the Scriptures. In contrast to the philosophical categories employed by systematic theology to construct a logical doctrinal system, biblical theology seeks to synthesize the biblical material using biblical categories. Rather than creating polarizing positions based on different perspectives or theological camps, biblical theology seeks to sensitively read the text using the best interpretive tools available, and to live with the emphases and tensions within the text.
To say that we do biblical theology is not to say that others do unbiblical theology, or that Mennonite Brethren have not, or do not, study the bible systematically. We study Scripture believing that there is a consistency and coherence underlying biblical revelation than demonstrates the consistent faithfulness of God. But our biblical interpretation lives with the tension between the conviction that God is consistent and our human inability to completely resolve apparent inconsistencies in the text.
But Mennonite Brethren have not made consistent efforts to clarify just what the preferred approach to the text actually is, which has caused problems. For example...
Case Study #1: Eschatological Positions Amillennialism Post-millennialism Pre-millennialismBible Pre-tribulation Mid-tribulation Post-tribulation
Case Study #2: Inerrancy Debate “The real test of whether we hold to the doctrine of inspiration is not to be found in man’s inadequate attempts to define the mysteries of God’s revelation in the Scriptures but in our willingness to live according to the teachings of the Word of God...Lindsell’s book is of no help in this arena. Indeed, the reader can easily be deceived into thinking that if only he has the right definition of inerrancy, he is already a true and faithful follower of Jesus, Lord of the Scriptures.” – David Ewert David Ewert, Review of The Battle for the Bible by Harold Lindsell. Direction 6, no. 2 (April 1977): 40.
Case Study #2 (cont’d): Inerrancy Debate “For thirty-five years I have preached and taught the Word in the Mennonite Brethren Church...Never once have I even suggested that the Scriptures may be in error. Indeed, when faced with what appear to be insoluble problems of interpretation (and every sincere and informed Bible reader knows about such), I have always proceeded on the assumption that the Bible is correct, even though my understanding of it may be far from perfect.” – David Ewert.
“To accept the Bible as the Word of God was for them an exercise of faith that found its verification of genuineness in a life of obedience to the teaching and life of Jesus. There was no room to question its divine origin and character or to doubt that it was sufficient for the redemptive purposes of God.” “The effort to produce a system of logic as proof for the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible and the struggle to defend the ‘inerrancy’ of the Scriptures diverts attention from the center of the Bible, that of the person of God in Christ, and from the Holy Spirit who is the authority to guide us into all truth.” J.B. Toews, “The Influence of Fundamentalism on Mennonite Brethren Theology,” Direction 10, no. 3 (July 1981):
1987 MB General Conference Resolution on Inerrancy “That we identify with those who confess the inerrancy of the original documents of the biblical books.” “That we recognize that the precision of any person’s definition of revelation and inspiration (including our own) is not necessarily an index of his or her spiritual depth or faithfulness to God and his Word.”
Although Mennonite Brethren have not always agreed regarding how the biblical text ought to be interpreted, we have generally been resistant to theology which has sought to impose extrabiblical concepts (e.g., the philosophically modern idea of inerrancy) upon the text. Mennonite Brethren are open to those who use inerrancy language, but have not made this language part of our confession. In our confession, we “accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.”
Biblical Text Reader Doctrinal Statement
Biblical Text Reader Doctrinal Statement
Biblical Text Doctrinal Statement Reader
Biblical Text Doctrinal Statement Reader
Biblical Text Reader Confession of Faith
Biblical Text Reader Confession of Faith
Biblical Text Reader Confession of Faith Reader
Biblical Text Reader Confession of Faith Reader
Reading the Bible requires us to understand both the world of the Bible and our own contemporary context. The hermeneutic problem emerges as one seeks to discern how best to bridge the distance between these two contexts. Mennonite Brethren biblicism has tended to ignore the hermeneutic problem with its emphasis on a straightforward reading of the biblical text.
Biblical Text Reader Meaning Significance Hermeneutic Problem How do you enter into the world of the Bible?
Biblical Text Reader Biblical Context Situational Context Cultural Context
Biblical Text Reader Meaning Significance How do you relate the text to our situation? Hermeneutic Problem
Biblical Text Reader Personal Context Situational Context Cultural Context
“[Some] reject the hermeneutic problem as not a real problem because of their assumption that what constitutes the proper literal reading of the text is unchallengeable. If you do not read the texts the way they do, you don’t believe. There is no hermeneutic problem; you just have the problem of getting along with all these unbelievers!” “The more naïve one is about the hermeneutic problem, the more rapidly one moves to accusing other readers who see texts differently of evil purposes.” John Howard Yoder, Preface to Theology: Christology and Theological Method (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002), 273, 367.
“But we should never take the fatal step of identifying our interpretations (however careful they may be) with the text itself, or with the ‘meaning of the text itself.’ To do so is to bestow upon them a finality, a sufficiency, which lifts them above the text and out of the reach of criticism. Far from establishing the text’s authority, therefore, this is a strategy which effectively overthrows it, and enthrones our interpretation in its place…[We] are no longer genuinely open, therefore, to consider it afresh, or to hear it speaking in any other voice than the one which [we] have now trapped, tamed, and packaged for observation.” Trevor Hart, Faith Thinking (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 138.
Mennonite Brethren Hermeneutics: Community Hermeneutics Jesus Christ Bible Church
“…due to our human limitations…we are bound to disagree on the interpretation and/or application of certain passages…We have to keep talking with each other. This, of course, is in the best Anabaptist tradition, for these ‘radical Bible readers,’ as they were called, were confident that the Spirit would guide them if they met together in community to study the Scriptures.” - David Ewert (1974) David Ewert, “The Christian Woman in the Church and the Conference,” Roles and Resources (Vancouver: Faith and Life Convention of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1974),
Early Anabaptist Approach “When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation.” Stuart Murray, Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition (Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2000), 160.
Early Anabaptist Approach The Rule of Christ Matthew 18:18-20 – “Truly I tell you, whatever you (pl.) bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you (pl.) loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Early Anabaptist Approach The Rule of Paul 1 Corinthians 14:29 – “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” The Jerusalem Conference Acts 15:28 - For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...
Early Anabaptist Approach - The gathered community is the location for biblical interpretation. - The Spirit is an interpretive Partner and Enabler. - Plain sense of Scripture is available – Sola Scriptura and the right of private interpretation. - Community of disciples in disciplined conversation.
Early Anabaptist Approach Public discussion Openness to affirmation and correction Communal consensus Mutual counsel and church discipline Broad-based participation educated and non-educated male and female young and old
1987 MB General Conference Resolution on the Confession of Faith “We practice a corporate hermeneutic which listens to the concerns of individuals and churches, but discerns together the meaning and intent of the Scriptures. This safeguards our denomination from the extremes of individualism and private interpretations, but allows for free study and discussion.” “Resolution on the Confession of Faith” General Conference Yearbook, 1987, 44.
1969 MB General Conference Resolution on Consensus and Change in Respect to Ethical Issues 1. Why seek consensus on ethical issues? a) The sum total of spiritual insight and understanding of any Christian group exceeds the sum total of such understanding of any one person of that group. b) Individuals may develop certain “blind spots” in interpretation and understanding. c) Standing together with a group in the practice of certain action gives encouragement and strength which the individual alone does not have. General Conference Yearbook, 1969, 11.
Consensus and Change in Respect to Ethical Issues 2. Why changes will and must occur. a) The church of Jesus Christ is a living church…As the understanding of God’s Word and Will grows, the life and conduct of the church will have to be modified to reflect this growing understanding. b) The church must also experience a growing understanding of the world in which it lives and works and witnesses… Such changes must always be made in uncompromising obedience to the Word and Spirit of God. c) Situations and relationships in the world change. d) Changes do occur because of the church’s concern for evangelism and carrying out of the church’s mission. General Conference Yearbook, 1969, 11.
Consensus and Change in Respect to Ethical Issues 3. Criteria of consensus and change. a) The Word of God constitutes the abiding and unchanging authority for the Christian in all matters of faith and conduct. b) While each individual Christian is to be involved in the process of interpretation and application to some extent, such action should occur within the context of the brotherhood and not in isolation from it. c) Any change in ethical position should be motivated by the desire to be more obedient, more loyal to the Will and Purpose of God as understood by His children. General Conference Yearbook, 1969, 12.
Recent Canadian Mennonite Brethren Study Conferences Spiritual Warfare Rite and Pilgrimage: Baptism and Church Membership – 2003 Women in Ministry Leadership – Culture, Gospel and Church – 2007 Confessing Jesus in a Pluralistic World – 2009 The Mystery of the Cross
Christian Biblical Text Illumination Traditional Evangelical Hermeneutics
Biblical Text Christian Mennonite Brethren Hermeneutics Illumination
Biblical Text Christian Transformation Mennonite Brethren Hermeneutics
Biblical interpretation attempts to discern meaning from the intent of the original author in that author’s context This is a starting point, but does not restrict the text to a single meaning Other interpretations may be gleaned from the text, subject to the discernment of the community, the broader witness of Scripture, and the canonical theological tradition Due care is given to the literary style of the text as well as nuances in language Biblical scholarship can address many of the concerns and mitigate many of the problems of biblical interpretation, but significant questions will nevertheless remain. After all, we are only human.
Issue #1: “How can we be people of the Book with people who are biblically illiterate?” – John Neufeld, The Meeting Place, Winnipeg
“We are in danger in the Evangelical church of becoming utter biblical illiterates and the Evangelical church is right now in serious danger because there are so few people who really know their Bibles well. Seriously. And that’s especially true of 25-year olds and under. They don’t have a clue about the Bible…” - Gordon Fee, Regent College Gordon Fee, “Why Christians Read Their Bibles Poorly,” Regent College Lecture, 2001.
Issue #2: “The non-creedal orientation of the Mennonite Brethren gave them the liberty to fellowship with people from other evangelical bodies whom they considered to be ‘true believers.’” “We had opened ourselves to the influences of our American evangelical environment without any provision for examining the emphases and assertions of such influences.” – J.B. Toews J.B. Toews, “The Influence of Fundamentalism on Mennonite Brethren Theology,” Direction 10, no. 3 (July 1981): 20-21, 22.
Fragmented practice of personal Bible reading Minimal Bible reading during church services Less expository preaching Limited Bible study…of the Bible Lack of balanced Bible reading Our perception of spirituality emphasizes experience more than learning
Mennonite Brethren origins do not derive from doctrinal considerations as much as concerns about personal holiness and personal discipleship. Mennonite Brethren hermeneutics and theology have always retained an emphasis on community from early Anabaptism, combining it with an evangelical emphasis on transformation and mission.
Mennonite Brethren Convictions: Take as a given the sum total of orthodox doctrine in the Christian tradition Have borrowed eclectically from compatible source traditions: Mennonite/Anabaptist Lutheran Baptist Allianz (German Brethren) Emphasize the centrality of Christ as a norm Emphasize the authority of Scripture as a source See theology as a dynamic process rather than static Confessions of Faith are revisited over time, and revised as necessary
When Mennonite Brethren began in 1860 they insisted they were in complete agreement with the existing Mennonite Confession of Faith Rudnerweider Confession of Faith (1 st published by Mennonites in 1660) 15 articles
1876 Revised German Baptist Confession (written by Einlage MB Church) Added sections on: Believer’s baptism The Lord’s supper Church discipline Foot washing Role of government Use of the oath Never formally adopted by any other MB congregation
1902 MB Confession of Faith (1 st confession written by the Mennonite Brethren) Other Mennonite group in Russia was doing a revision Incorporated some sections of the Einlage Confession Writers closely followed the words and phrases of the 1660 confession in at least 15 of the 25 major topics discussed.
1975 MB Confession of Faith (1 st North American revision – 7 drafts) The primary motivation was to use contemporary language that was readable and understandable for youth.
1999 MB Confession of Faith (U.S. and Canadian Mennonite Brethren) 1987 – Call for confessional integrity 1990 – Revised articles on “Love and Nonresistance” and “The Lord’s Supper” 1993 – Realization the entire confession needed to be revised 1999 – Approved by the MB General Conference
1999 MB Confession of Faith Full Version – 18 articles Sidewalk Version - introduction to MB beliefs Digest Version - all 18 articles in abbreviated form Commentary - presenting the biblical background Pastoral Application – reflecting on significance in the life of the church Liturgical Version - for use in worship
1999 MB Confession of Faith GodDiscipleship Revelation of GodMarriage, Singleness, and Family Creation and HumanitySociety and State Sin and EvilLove and Nonresistance SalvationThe Sanctity of Human Life Nature of the ChurchStewardship Mission of the ChurchThe Lord’s Day, Work, and Rest Christian Baptism Other Faiths Lord’s SupperChrist’s Final Return
2004 ICOMB Confession of Faith Part 1 - How does God work in the world? Part 2 - How do MBs respond to God’s purpose? - People of the Bible - People of a new way of life - People of covenant community - People of reconciliation - People of hope
1853 Mennonite Confession of Faith 15 articles5250 words 1902 MB Confession of Faith 10 articles6500 words 1975 MB Confession of Faith 16 articles2450 words 1999 MB Confession of Faith 18 articles4850 words 2004 ICOMB Confession of Faith 2 parts (5 core convictions)1420 words
Old Testament References OT Genesis Exodus Deuteronomy Psalms Isaiah
New Testament References NT Matthew John Acts Romans Corinthians Ephesians Revelation
Descriptive of What the Bible Teaches 1987 MB General Conference Resolution on Confession of Faith “Our Confession of Faith, in being descriptive, affirms a high view of biblical authority. Final authority rests in the Scriptures. Our Confession of Faith represents our corporate understanding of the message and intent of the Scriptures, but is authoritative to the extent that it is biblical. Because it is ‘descriptive,’ it is also not a closed statement of faith, but open to periodic review and revision.” 1987 General Conference Yearbook, 68.
Descriptive of What the Bible Teaches 1987 MB General Conference Resolution on Confession of Faith “In the process of review and revision, however, the Scriptures and not our Confession of Faith is normative. We practice a corporate hermeneutic which listens to the concerns of individuals and churches, but discerns together the meaning and intent of the Scriptures…The product of this process is binding for all churches.” 1987 General Conference Yearbook, 69.
1981 MB General Conference Resolution “In the preface to our Confession of Faith it is stated that confessions of faith are not to be given equal status with the Bible. That is in keeping with our position that the Bible is our highest authority and that our understanding of it is never perfect, and that we must, therefore, always be open to new light. However, when we accepted the present Confession of Faith in 1975, that represented our church’s understanding of the main doctrines of the Scripture, and such a Confession can be changed or modified only when our conference comes to a new understanding of some article in our confession through the study of the Scriptures.” 1981 General Conference Yearbook.
Normative for Mennonite Brethren Churches The Confession of Faith is normative because it summarizes what we believe the Bible to teach MB General Conference Resolution on Confession of Faith “The Confession does not give liberties to individuals and churches to disregard or teach doctrines that are not in agreement with our Confession of Faith. In this sense it is binding for our churches…Pastors, teachers and conference officers are expected to affirm and teach the Confession of Faith.” 1987 General Conference Yearbook,
Normative for Mennonite Brethren Churches We ask “that all pastors, teachers and Conference officers agree in principle to affirm and teach the Confession of Faith. Many of us struggle from time to time with certain statements in the Confession of Faith, especially some of the implications of the confessional statements we make. Such struggles bear testimony to our vitality as leaders and as a people. We believe that such struggles are compatible with agreement in principle. Our call is for a principled confessional integrity, not a legalistic confessional rigidity.” Board of Reference and Counsel Statements, 1987 General Conference Yearbook, 72.
Functions as a Hermeneutical Guide The Confession represents a consensual understanding of how Mennonite Brethren interpret the Bible. It assumes, rather than creates the basis of, hermeneutical agreement. “Asserting the authority of the Bible does not resolve interpretive questions, and thus does not build church unity. The unity of the church is forged only by consensus about how to interpret the Bible, and thus how to live out its teachings.” John E. Toews, “The Meaning of the Confession,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, October 28, 1988, 7.
Mennonite Brethren Theology: Is not notable for a particular technique for biblical interpretation except that it is christocentric in orientation Emphasizes a community hermeneutic, the authority of the discerning community, more than important leaders Reveals a dynamic, two-way relationship between biblical interpretation and theology Depends on the work of the Holy Spirit Revolves around transformation rather than knowledge Requires commitment to Christ as the sole allegiance – over philosophical commitments, culture, even confessional direction
Do changes to confessional content imply changes in doctrine? No. Confession is the contextualization of doctrine, arising from the enduring truth of Scripture (sound doctrine). Sound doctrine is not an end in itself, nor is it static. It is dynamic, orienting us toward confession, discipleship and mission. Sound doctrine is the result of good theology, not the cause. Sound doctrine is the work of the Spirit-filled community, reflecting on the witness of Scripture. Sound doctrine arises as the Spirit animates Scripture and our theological tradition, allowing them to speak to us afresh. Sound doctrine is always contextualized; it is not timeless and there are no short cuts to discern it or take it for granted.
Does Not Reflect a Two Tiered Approach A typical approach for dealing with the diversity within evangelicalism is to divide our faith into “essential” beliefs that we all agree on and “nonessential” beliefs that could be negotiable or optional. Yet every confession reflects a particular stance or commitment that embodies the faith of a community. Every statement demonstrates the community’s expression to the implications of Scripture for its context.
Does Not Reflect a Two Tiered Approach “The two-tiered proposal separates belief from life, ethics and discipleship…It says that intellectual acceptance of certain doctrines is the criterion for faithfulness to the gospel and that correct belief is more important than faithful living. That is exactly the reverse of what the Bible teaches and what the Anabaptist and Mennonite Brethren movements are all about.” John E. Toews, “The Meaning of the Confession,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, October 28, 1988, 7.
Mennonite Brethren Convictions Jesus Christ Bible Disciple ship
Confessing Our Faith Jesus Christ Bible Church Disciple ship
Mennonite Brethren Discipleship Jesus Christ Bible Church Disciple ship Hermeneutics Confession
Mennonite Brethren Discipleship: Following Jesus Jesus Christ New Life Disciple ship We believe that Jesus calls people who have experienced the joy of new birth to follow him as disciples. MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Discipleship
Mennonite Brethren Discipleship: Following Jesus Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Learning from Jesus’ Teaching Imitating Jesus’ Life Following Jesus
Hans Denck - “No one can know Christ unless he follows after him in life and no one can follow him unless he first know him.” Quoted in Stuart Murray, Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition (Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2000), 189.
By calling his followers to take up the cross, Christ invites them to reject the godless values of the world and offer themselves to God in a life of service. Romans 12 Present your bodies as a Do not living sacrifice conformTransformation to this age Renewal of the mind MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Discipleship
Church members commit themselves to follow Christ in a life of discipleship and witness as empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who lives in every Christian, empowers believers to overcome the acts and attitudes of the sinful nature. Filled with love and gratitude, disciples delight to obey God. MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Nature of the Church MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Discipleship
The Description of a Growing Disciple is an attempt to describe how our inner person is becoming a devoted follower of Jesus, evidenced by changing behaviour. Captivated and Committed Thriving and Thirsting Bonded and Building Inviting and Influencing Discerning and Disarming Purposeful and Persevering Carol Baergen, Being With Jesus: Devotions for a Growing Disciple. Winnipeg: Kindred Productions, 2004.
MB Mission - Interpersonal Values Dependency on Jesus - We are moving beyond our comfort and control, dependent on the ‘Lord of the harvest’ to lead and resource us into His mission. Risk-taking Obedience - Responding to the Spirit’s voice leads us through a crisis of belief to risk-taking faith. Transforming Community - Our relationships testify to the reality of Jesus. Relational Integrity - We move in team, committed to loving relationships, transparent discussion, trusting authority, accountable decision making and mutual respect. Celebration - The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Disciples are to resist worldly values and systems, the sinful nature, and the devil. Disciples give generously and reject materialism, which makes a god out of wealth. Disciples speak honestly to build others up and reject dishonest, vulgar, and careless talk; they seek to avoid lawsuits to resolve personal grievances, especially with other believers. Disciples maintain sexual purity and marital faithfulness and reject immoral premarital and extramarital relationships and all homosexual practices. MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Discipleship
Board of Faith and Life Pamphlets Christians and War What Should We Think About Suicide? Finding Fulfillment in Retirement When Someone has AIDS Homosexuality: A Compassionate Yet Firm Response When Marriages Fail Making Good Viewing Choices: Videos, Movies, and TV Materialism: Blowing the Whistle Lotteries: The Payoff Isn’t What It Seems Death and Dying Why Not Just Live Together?
Mennonite Brethren Discipleship: Mission/Reconciliation Jesus Christ New Life Disciple ship Proclamation Reconciliation Incarnation
Christ commands the church to make disciples of all nations by calling people to repent and by baptizing and teaching them to obey Jesus. Jesus teaches that disciples are to love God and neighbour by telling the good news and by performing acts of love and compassion. Evangelism/Church Planting Mission Serve Needs MB Confession of Faith, Article 7: Mission of the Church
We believe that God in Christ reconciles people to himself and to one another, making peace through the cross. As ambassadors for Christ, Christians act as agents of reconciliation and seek the well-being of all peoples. Disciples treat others with compassion and gentleness and reject violence as a response to injustice. Reconciled to God Reconciliation Reconciled with each other MB Confession of Faith, Article 10: Discipleship; Article 12: Society and State; Article 13: Love and Nonresistance
1902 MB Confession of Faith No one may practice revenge against his enemies. We also do not feel justified to carry the sword.
1919 General MB Conference Resolution For on the matter of war we believe and confess, that the way it is waged by the western powers, it is manifestly contrary to the principle of the kingdom of Christ, and therefore our members are forbidden to participate in it. We much more have to wage a spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness, that rule in the air.
1936 General MB Conference Resolution As a Mennonite Brethren Church we declare our opposition to war in any form and our determination to practice peace and love. True love for our country does not demand hate towards another country. It is our conviction that the practice of the principles of peace, love, justice, liberty and national and international goodwill serve towards the highest good for our country as well as that of all mankind...We choose it because we consider any activity which destroys or causes loss of human life as unjust and contrary to true discipleship of the Prince of Peace...We are against war as a means of settling differences because war is unchristian, it destroys, it works in opposition to the highest and noblest values of man and because it sows the seeds of future wars.
1948 Board of Reference and Counsel Statement The Committee of Reference and Counsel deeply regrets that we have brethren in our churches who do not live according to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles in their personal lives but in times of war desire to be non-resistant. Such inconsistent Christian living darkens our testimony before the world and causes young people to look upon the principle of nonresistance which we confess in our churches, negatively and with disdain.
During World War II approximately 37.5% of Mennonite men in Canada served in the armed forces. John B. Toews, Abram G. Konrad, & Alvin Dueck, “Mennonite Brethren Church Membership Profile, ,” Direction 14, no.2 (Fall 1985): 15. J. Howard Kauffman & Leo Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic: Identity and Modernization (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1991), 174.
1951 General MB Conference Resolution That such as enter the Military Service to participate in the work that destroys human life, shall be considered as disobeying Principles of Scripture and our Confession of Faith and in consequence can no longer be considered members in good standing. It shall be our duty to continue to love them and make them the object of our intercessory prayers as erring brethren who must be sought in an effort to bring them back into obedience of the Word of God. Such as refuse to obey the due admonition shall be further dealt with according to the Scripture and their membership in the church discontinued.
1954 General MB Conference Resolution Nonresistance is a biblical principle clearly exemplified by Jesus Christ Human life is sacred unto God, and a Christian has no right to destroy life. War is evil, brutal and inhuman...The nature of war remains incompatible with the new nature of a regenerated Christian. The practice of the redeemed in Christ demands every phase of their life in all relationships, such as personal, social, national, and international be governed by the supreme law of love, and is not limited to an abstinence from military service. It is a general attitude of the Christian as he seeks the redemption of his fellowmen.
1968 Canadian MB Conference Resolution We accept God’s total progressive revelation as found in the Old and New Testament and in Christ, his exemplary life, teaching and redemptive death as a basis for our peace position. Having received Jesus Christ personally by invitation and having experienced a work of regeneration in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we consider ourselves non-resistant and responsible for a peace witness. This distinguishes us from the philosophical and political pacifists, who from a humanistic point of view seek to advocate peace. The Spirit filled life expresses itself in... Peace is not superior or inferior to other virtues mentioned in Scripture but in conjunction with other virtues governs all our interpersonal relationships.
1968 Canadian MB Conference Resolution The Church speaks authoritatively in application of our peace witness only when Scripture clearly speaks to the issue; when Scripture is silent, the church seeks to establish a brotherhood consensus to unite members in their interpretation but leaves room for personal interpretation and application to the individual.
1975 MB Confession of Faith We believe that Christians should live by the law of love and practice the forgiveness of enemies as taught and exemplified by the Lord Jesus. The church, as the body of Christ, is a fellowship of redeemed, separated people, controlled by redemptive love. Its evangelistic responsibility is to present Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the answer to human need, enmity and violence. The evil, brutal and inhuman nature of war stands in contradiction to the new nature of the Christian. The Christian seeks to practice Christ's law of love in all relationships, and in all situations, including those involving personal injustice, social upheaval and international tensions. We believe that it is not God's will that Christians take up arms in military service but that, where possible, they perform alternate service to reduce strife, alleviate suffering and bear witness to the love of Christ.
1981 General MB Conference Resolution We are concerned that a goodly number of our church members (including some pastors) view our position on ‘love and nonresistance’ as an optional doctrine. In some churches this doctrine is not taught; in some it is even opposed; and in some instances young men are even encouraged to take up arms in military service. This we consider to be a serious violation of our peace position and of the teachings of Jesus, as we have understood these in our history.
We should take no part in war. TotalCanadaU.S %66%42% %70%39% % John B. Toews, Abram G. Konrad, & Alvin Dueck, “Mennonite Brethren Church Membership Profile, ,” Direction 14, no.2 (Fall 1985): 15. J. Howard Kauffman & Leo Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic: Identity and Modernization (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1991), 174.
1999 MB Confession of Faith God’s Community of Peace We believe that God in Christ reconciles people to himself and to one another, making peace through the cross. The church is a fellowship of redeemed people living by love. Our bond with other believers of Jesus transcends all racial, social, and national barriers.
1999 MB Confession of Faith Christian Peacemaking Believers seek to be agents of reconciliation in all relationships, to practice love of enemies as taught by Christ, and to be peacemakers in all situations. We view violence in its many different forms as contradictory to the new nature of the Christian. We believe that the evil and inhumane nature of violence is contrary to the gospel of love and peace. In times of national conscription or war, we believe we are called to give alternative service where possible. Alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ’s love.
1999 MB Confession of Faith Pastoral Application - discipline of children- church conflicts - physical/emotional abuse - neighborhood crime - alternative service - racial tensions - schoolyard fights- violence in sports - labor/management tensions- military conflicts - abortion of unborn children- international disputes - community based mediation services - violence in entertainment (TV, movies, video games) - Remembrance Day observation
2004 ICOMB Confession of Faith People of Reconciliation - Peace Witness Peace and reconciliation are at the heart of the Christian gospel. Jesus calls the community of faith to be peacemakers in all situations. We believe that peace with God includes a commitment to the way reconciliation modeled by the Prince of Peace. As Christians we are called to turn from lifestyle choices that harm us, to choices that nurture wholeness, healing, joy and peace from hating enemies and ignoring neighbors to showing love and justice to all.
Christocentric Hermeneutic – progressive revelation fulfilled in the life, teaching, and redemptive death of Christ is the key to interpreting Scripture Character of Christ – Jesus’ life of love is our pattern. Spirit Filled Life – peace along with the other virtues must govern our relationships Value of Human Life – no one has the right to take another human life. Evangelistic Concern – killing removes any opportunity to present the gospel Nature of War - the practice of war is brutal, evil, and inhumane Duty to God over State – governments are ordained by God, and even though Christians are subject to them, their allegiance is first to God
Peacemaking begins with the Gospel The heart of a theology of peacemaking is the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. Jesus came to address the broken relationship between God and humanity. In his sacrificial death our Lord not only redeemed us but reconciled all humanity into one. Teaching on this article must start with the good news of the gospel and develop out of a biblical concern for faithfulness as disciples of Jesus Christ. - Article 13: Commentary
Biblical Basis for a Mennonite Brethren Peace Theology God of Peace Gospel of Peace Peace/Reconciliation with God Reconciliation with each Other Peacemakers Nonretaliation Love for Enemies Christian Character Forgive One Another Peace in the Church
What is our relationship to the state? Is our engagement in violence justifiable? How is reconciliation related to mission? Are peace and reconciliation inherent to the gospel message we are called to proclaim in words and actions? Are we willing to be peacemakers?
Mennonite Brethren Discipleship Jesus Christ New Life Bible Church Disciple ship Proclamation Reconciliation Incarnation
Just War Theory - Conditions for War Just Intention – motivation for war is not revenge or anger but the restoration of peace and justice. Just Authority – a lawful, legitimate authority must declare war. Just Cause – there must be a clear offense worthy of a response Last Resort – only when negotiation, mediation, and compromise have failed can a war be engaged
Just War Theory - Conduct of War Reasonable Hope of Success – war must promise a reasonable hope of winning the war Limited Ends – relationship between the methods one uses and the ends one is trying to accomplish (questions unconditional surrender, excessive force, and utter destruction) Proportionate Means – reasonable expectation that the good result of war will exceed the horrible evils it brings. Non-combatant Immunity – civilians are not to be attacked.