Confession of faith: The good, the bad and the ridiculous

I went casting about for some information on the modern Mennonites and landed on a brief version of their 1963 Statement of Faith. It’s good to see a short version of something Mennonite, because the discussions of baptism and faith in the Martyrs Mirror range from exhaustive to torturous. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between it and the 1,700-year-old Nicene Creed that I say at the Episcopal Church a few times a month. In fact, I find the Mennonite statement to be much more useful. I’ve reprinted the statement here with my personal comments.

1. We believe in one God eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ah, the Trinity statement. The Trinity is a compromise between the Greek pantheon and Jewish monotheism. It’s a political compromise, not good theology. Jesus’ divinity causes more problems than it should. Jesus did not have to be divine in order for the central tenents of Christianity (love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself) to make sense.

2. We believe that God has revealed himself in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inspired Word of God, and supremely in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Muhammad might dispute the “supremely” part, but I don’t see a statement of exclusivity here, so I’m cool with it.

3. We believe that in the beginning God created all things by His Son. He made man in the divine image, with free will, moral character, and a spiritual nature.

Vague enough.

4. We believe that man fell into sin, bringing depravity and death upon the race; that as sinner, man is self-centered and self-willed, unwilling and unable to break with sin.

Bull. There is no “sin” or “evil.” There is “social” and “antisocial.” The idea that man can be sinful without God being directly responsible for that sin (as the ultimate creator) is foolishness on its face. Consider the Riddle of Epicurus:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

It is the nature of creation that social behavior is more beneficial to us as a species than antisocial behavior. We must learn the benefits of social behavior and the limits of antisocial behavior. That does not make us inherently flawed, just recovering innocents.

5. We believe that there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who died to redeem us from sin and arose for our justification.

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

7.We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, effects the new birth, gives guidance in life, empowers for service, and enables perseverance in faith and holiness.

More Trinitarian boilerplate. See my comments above. As for Jesus being the one mediator, I beg to differ. History is full of them.

8.We believe that the church is the body of Christ, the brotherhood of the redeemed, a disciplined people obedient to the Word of God, and a fellowship of love, intercession, and healing.

9. We believe that Christ commissioned the church to go into all the world, making disciples of all the nations, and ministering to every human need.

10. We believe it is the will of God that there should be ministers to teach the Word, to serve as leaders, to administer the ordinances, to lead the church in the exercise of discipline, and to serve as pastors and teachers.

11. We believe that those who repent and believe should be baptized with water as a symbol of baptism with the Spirit, cleansing from sin, and commitment to Christ.

12. We believe that the church should observe the communion of the Lord’s Supper as a symbol of his broken body and shed blood, and of the fellowship of his church, until his return.

No problems here. Just cultural expression.

13. We believe in the washing of the saints’ feet as a symbol of brotherhood, cleansing, and service, and in giving the right hand of fellowship and the holy kiss as symbols of Christian love.

And more cultural expression of the strange and humbling kind. When was the last time you kissed a dude at church…on the lips? Or washed his feet? Our last priest did a foot washing activity with our Sunday School a few years back. I think it was a good lesson for those reserved Episcopals.

14. We believe that God has established unique roles for man and woman, symbolized by man’s bared head in praying and prophesying, and by woman’s veiled head.

And some cultural expression of the sexist kind. This is one of the weird things about Mennonite history. They are always getting into spats about how they are supposed to culturally express their faith. One of the largest schisms, the founding of the Amish, occurred in the late 17th Century over … um … not enough shunning? Today, the differences between the Amish and my Old Order Mennonite family in Southern Maryland are laughable in their insignificance. The Amish wear beards, don’t wear buttons and drive gray buggies. The Mennonites don’t wear beards, wear buttons and drive black buggies. I’ll get into the ridiculousness and utility of the Ordnung (community rules) later.

By the looks of this 2009 Mennonite Convention site, I think the head covering fetish has subsided since the 60s, at least in the mainstream church.

15. We believe that Christian marriage is intended by God to be the union of one man and one woman for life, and that Christians shall marry only in the Lord.

Well, as an insufferable Episcopal liberal, I have to say that the jury is still out on this one. I know too many committed homosexual couples to dismiss the validity of their relationships.

16. We believe that Christians are not to be conformed to the world, but should seek to conform to Christ in every area of life.

And this is where the Mennonite faith can get a little cultish. If your faith must be sequestered from the “evils” of the world in order to stay intact, then what good is it? I’m know the more liberal Mennonite sects have moved on from this decree and come to peace with modern life, but my Old Order relatives have not.

17. We believe that Christians are to be open and transparent in life, ever speaking the truth, and employing no oaths.

Interesting. I’ll get to this later in a post about Mennonites and the government.

18. We believe that it is the will of God for Christians to refrain from force and violence in human relations and to show Christian love to all men.

The concept of radical non-violence is a lot older than Ghandi and Dr. King. This determined pacifism is one of the most admirable things about the Mennonite tradition, and it deserves far more respect in this county than it gets.

19. We believe that the state is ordained of God to maintain order in society, and that Christians should honor rulers, be subject to authorities, witness to the state, and pray for governments.

So much for the “Mennonites don’t pay taxes” meme.

20. We believe that at death the unsaved enter into everlasting punishment and the saved into conscious bliss with Christ, who is coming again, and will raise the dead, sit in judgment, and bring in God’s everlasting kingdom.

We’ll all go to heaven; and you’ll all go to hell – the central tenent of childish, death-fearing religiosity.


2 Responses to “Confession of faith: The good, the bad and the ridiculous”

  1. OriginalSinnick Says:

    Understand this, then you will understand it all.
    It is all about;
    Power and Control of the Few Over Many

  2. Interesting.

    We are not fatally and irrevocably flawed but we are inherently flawed. That’s the determining factor that says that we are innocent.

    That which is anti-social is that which is against love concerning one’s fellows and against God. The former is determined in the last five of the ten commandments the latter is determined in the first five of the ten commandments.

    Being anti-social in the culture we find ourselves is what sin is all about. The word [sin] means to miss the mark of love or to side with the negative partical. love; doug

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: