‘Two lists’ theology

I’ve been re-reading some of Tom Finger’s Contemporary Anabaptist Theology ahead of a talk I’m giving on Anabaptism, and I was struck by his discussion of the ‘two-lists’ approach to Anabaptist theology.

In the two lists approach, Anabaptists share the standard distinctives of evangelicalism you might find for any evangelical organisation (like the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students for example), usually one starting with the infallibility of Scripture and going on to the trinity, the divinity of Christ, substitutionary atonement and ending with the second coming.

We then have a second list of Anabaptist distinctives – usually confined to ‘social ethics’ (peace) and ‘ecclesiology’ (the disciplined church).

I don’t like this approach (and neither does Finger, really). The vision of the church found in Anabaptist thought and the radical understanding of Jesus should infect every part of our theology. I don’t want to be an evangelical with extras.

I see the same issue even in the Vineyard, where we’re careful to establish our evangelical credentials with a ‘first list’, and then offer our distinctives in the ‘second list’, centring on the kingdom and the Spirit. Same again with Baptists in WA.

I think there’s a good impulse behind this – the unity that the evangelical movement hopes to achieve as an umbrella above all these particular expressions of ‘orthodox’ (very small o) Christianity.

2 thoughts on “‘Two lists’ theology

  1. Hi Nathan,

    I agree with you that a two lists perspective is inappropiate for radical discipleship christians. e.g. I cannot see how a belief in the penal substiutionary theory of the atonement (which seems to be predicated on the “myth of redemptive violence”) is consistent with Jesus’ peaceful way.

    One way that I find helpful in thinking about this issue is for radical christians to adopt Barth’s Christocentric theology of the Word of God (at least in methodology and epistemology). In this approach, theology and social ethics are integrally related (amidst all the diversity in both testaments) with the central story being the story of Jesus.

    One might reject Barth’s version of Reformed theology in favour of an Anabaptist or Quaker evangelical theology using Barth’s method. One would not necessarily have to accept Barth’s views on historical-criticism.

    The supreme authority of Jesus is a liberating authority and in Barth’s approach the bible is simply a derived authority, subject to the authority of Jesus.
    And Jesus way is the way of peace and social justice. The reign of God is the reign of shalom.

    John Arthur

  2. Hey John,
    What an interesting suggestion. I’m sure we could learn a lot from Barth’s approach – in fact, perhaps some of Yoder’s work is built on this insistence on christology affecting everything else.
    Thanks for your comment.
    Shalom, Nathan.

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