Back in June, Radio National featured a program on Anabaptism and interviewed several Anabaptists from Australia and New Zealand:
I think the speakers were eloquent and the presentation was good. I liked the emphasis on radical discipleship and that Jarrod got a chance to mention Peace Tree. I was disappointed, though, that the program didn’t emphasise the Anabaptist vision of church – which is the most important part for me.
I also note Chris Marshall’s comments on scripture, which sound a lot like what Ray Gingerich was saying on his visit – indeed, I wonder if this position is becoming ‘anbaptist orthodoxy’:
As well as the kind of ethical Christocentrism, a feeling that Jesus teaches us how to live, and we must take literally what he says, also there is the kind of hermeneutical Christocentrism which is that when we read the Bible, and we try to work out what in the Bible is still God’s word for today, because the Bible’s a very diverse document and has lots of violent bits in it, how do we decide how the Bible is relevant for today, that one of the key tests is it must be consistent with the way of Christ. So what we read in Scripture that is not consistent with the way of Christ, no longer has authority for today. What we read in any part of Scripture that is consistent with the way of Christ, continues to be God’s word for today.
What Chris says here is not going to win many friends for Anabaptism among Evangelicals. I’m ambivalent. I think he puts the case too strongly. All scripture should function authoritatively in some way for Christians. I think we have to wrestle with the parts that don’t seem consistent with Christ; God may still speak to us through them.
Over the weekend, me and Nicole went to three meetings where Mennonite scholar Ray Gingerich was speaking. His most interesting and challenging talk for me was the Sunday night one at Scripture Union House, Mt Hawthorn. It was a fundraiser for the Pine Gap 6, who are facing jail for doing a ‘Citizens’ Inspection’ of the Pine Gap (US) military facility in Australia.
His theme was ‘A violent God and a pacifist Jesus?’. Ray likes to ask a lot of questions and provoke his listeners into thinking. He has a curious mind which tends to go off on tangents he finds interesting.
His basic argument was that if Christ is the fullest revelation of God and he is pacifist, then God is pacifist too. Where the Bible suggests a violent God, we defer to our fuller understanding of God through Christ.
Ray was asked, ‘What about when the Old Testament reports God asking the Israelites to slaughter an entire town? Does that mean the writer had it wrong?’ His answer to this was round-about and a long time coming, but when it did come, it affected me a lot.
Ray referred to Yoder’s posthumous work The Jewish-Christian Schism revisited (which I haven’t read yet). In it (apparently) Yoder talks about how Jesus was in a certain stream of Judaism, one particularly influenced by the post-exilic prophets. It was these books of the OT that were at the centre of Jesus’ Bible. Add to that the fact that the canon was not yet nearly as stable as it is today for the Old Testament.
Ray’s answer presupposes that there is contradiction within the Old Testament and between it and the New Testament. These streams can’t all be right (‘a square circle’) – so we’d better decide which streams are life-giving and fit into the fullest revelation we have of God in Jesus.
I felt simultaneously suspicious and excited at this idea. It needs a lot more talking about.
In two weeks time, Anabaptist speaker Ray Gingerich will be speaking at Network Vineyard Church. It’s in Swanbourne, quite close to where Nicole and I are living, and so this morning we visited it.
Reading on their website, a recent Vineyard book on the history of the movement is called The Radical Middle. It talks about how Vineyard is a ‘radical middle’ between evangelicals and pentecostals. They do this by having the sound biblical foundation of evangelicals and the empowerment of the Spirt often found in the pentecostals.
In the same way, some Anabaptists see themselves as a ‘radical middle’ between protestants and catholics. Anabaptists have a high view of the Bible and lay participation (taking it further than the protestant reformers) as well as a high view of the authority of the church (taking it in a different direction than catholics).
So perhaps Network Vineyard is an appropriate home for an Anabaptist speaker.
We were impressed by the church’s commitment to community, Bible and Spirit. Indeed, perhaps God is doing something with ex-PAFers and the Vineyard church. Brad and Marina have been reading Vineyard writer John Wimber’s work and are visiting the Canning Vale church today. Teresa and Jarrod visited Network last week.
We are seeking the Spirit; perhaps they are seeking something we can offer too.
Jarrod McKenna sent out the following email:
Ray Gingerich is coming to Perth!
Learning from the Past for the Future of Mission: Comparing Anabaptist & Protestant approaches
Sunday Morning talk
10am 29 April 2007
where: Network Vineyard Church, Swanborne Primary Narla Rd. Swanbourne
A violent God and a pacifist Jesus?
Peacemaking in a World with Opposing Views of Power
Monday Evening talk
7.oopm 30 April 2007
Scripture Union House, 82 Matlock St. Mt. Hawthorn
To confirm contact Andrew email@example.com
Suggested Donation: $10
The Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand with TEAR and EPYC. This is something to organise your friends, families, small groups… everyone to be at. For a link to learn about Ray Gingerich and a link to the flyer visit: http://paceebene.org/pace/blog/jarrod-mckenna/not-domination-but-resurrection-the-nonviole