Archive for the ‘Nonresistance & Nonparticipation’ Category
Review by Andrew V. Ste. Marie
The writings of Swiss Brethren Anabaptists have been thus far underrepresented in English translation, compared to Hutterites and Dutch Mennonites. Post-Schleitheim Swiss Brethren history is little discussed – particularly in popular-level treatments. The perception may easily be formed that Swiss Brethren did not produce much literature or do much doctrinal thinking after the first generation.
This volume seeks to correct this perception and the deficit in English translations. Presenting well over 500 pages of translated documents, it helps round out our understanding of Swiss Anabaptism following the Schleitheim Confession and to the border of the seventeenth century. Study of these documents reveals how Swiss Anabaptist thought grew and developed, and how they preserved, used, and adapted earlier works (such as the Schleitheim Confession and the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier) to fill later needs.
The core of this new volume is the translation of Codex 628, composed mainly of a work titled A Short, Simple Confession. This work was written in response to the published minutes of the Frankenthal Disputation (1571) between Anabaptists and Reformed theologians. Some Swiss Anabaptists felt that a more compelling case could be made for the Anabaptist position on the thirteen points which had been discussed. Utilizing earlier writings, such as the Schleitheim Confession and the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier, the anonymous editor put together a compelling apologetic for the Anabaptist views on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Christians in the government, etc., including an extensive discussion of the relationship of the Old and New Covenants. The Simple Confession is followed in the codex by an expanded version of an earlier Swiss Brethren writing, Concerning Separation, which explains why the Anabaptists separated from the Reformed state church.
This book would be a valuable contribution to English-language Anabaptist writings if it only included the translation of Codex 628; but thankfully, it presents many additional gems, several of them previously untranslated. These include Wilhelm Reublin’s Confession of Faith, coauthored with Jakob Kautz; Zylis and Lemke’s letter to Menno Simons; a book on excommunication; and the prefaces to three Swiss Brethren hymnals, including (translated for the first time) the preface of the Ausbund. For those interested in Anabaptist hymnody, these three translations and the introductory essay on the origins of the Ausbund are worth the price of the book.
This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in Anabaptist history and theology. It would be hard to overstate its importance to the study of Anabaptism in general and the Swiss Brethren in particular.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
“What if someone broke into your house with a gun?”
Those who are convinced to obey Jesus’ teachings on nonresistance and love of enemies are routinely faced with questions like these. In some such occasions, we must suffer for the cause of Christ. Yet God is real and powerful, and can save His people without the aid of men killing each other.
This was dramatically demonstrated in a New Year’s Eve nighttime prayer service in North Carolina. Larry Wright, the pastor, a retired Army sergeant and city councilman, was preaching at 11:40 PM when the church door swung open.
In walked a young man carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle in one hand, and a clip of ammunition in the other. He began walking up the church’s center aisle. Not knowing whether the gun was loaded, Wright left the pulpit and began walking towards the man, intending to tackle him if he was belligerent.
“Can I help you?” Wright asked the young man. The young man said, “Can you pray for me?” Wright took the rifle, handed it to a deacon, and patted the young man down to make sure he did not have other weapons. He found none. Four husky deacons came up and embraced the young man to help him feel welcome. Wright began to pray for him, and the young man fell to his knees, weeping.
His prayer finished, Wright invited the young man to sit in the front row and listen to the remainder of the sermon. Wright reported, “I finished the message, I did the altar call and he stood right up, came up to the altar, and gave his life to Christ. I came down and prayed with him and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son.”
Police had come to the scene to detain the young man, but before meeting them, the young man stood before the congregation and apologized to them. He said he had intended to do something terrible, but the Lord had spoken to him.
The young man – himself a veteran, who had just gotten out of prison – was given a mental examination in a hospital. According to one report, however, he returned to the church the next Sunday, asking to be baptized and received as a church member.
Now just imagine how different things could have been if this pastor had responded as so many do – by pulling out a gun and ending this young man’s life. By responding in the peace of Jesus, this pastor spared his congregation the sight of a bloody shooting, kept his own conscience clear from the blood of someone who may not have killed anyhow, and, most importantly, the young man was spared and given an opportunity to repent.
Will we trust God?
Andrew Barksdale, “Fayetteville pastor persuades church gunman to give up rifle,” http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/fayetteville-pastor-convinces-church-gunman-to-give-up-rifle/article_16efd180-7644-56b0-93e6-d7ec10e87f3c.html (Accessed February 24, 2016)
Tim Stelloh, “North Carolina Pastor Disarms Vet During New Year’s Service,” http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/north-carolina-pastor-disarms-vet-during-new-year-s-service-n489456 (Accessed February 24, 2016)
Carma Hassan & Steve Almasy, “During sermon on violence, N.C. pastor confronts man with rifle,” www.cnn.com/2016/01/02/us/north-carolina-pastor-man-with-gun (Accessed February 24, 2016)
 As far as I know, not a nonresistant or pacifist.
Originally published in The Witness 14(3) (March 2016).
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” (Numbers 23:19a), Moses declared. Indeed, God cannot change; “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). This is a truth which is clear in Scripture.
How, then, can some affirm that God could have changed His standard of conduct for man? How would it be possible for God to require more of His children in the New Testament than He required of the Israelites, under the Law of Moses? How could God change His law divinely revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai?
This very argument is urged against those who believe that the New Testament gives a radically higher code of conduct than the Old Testament – for instance, regarding divorce, remarriage, war, oaths, etc. Those who use this argument continue to follow Moses’ instructions regarding these topics under the assumption that since God never changes, His instructions to the children of Israel through Moses must still be binding for Christians today. What light does the Bible shed on this argument?
God’s Requirements Do Change
A careful investigation of the Scriptures will reveal that God’s requirements – His instructions to mankind – do indeed change if the situation of mankind changes. God’s own standard of morality – what He had in mind from the beginning as the standard of perfection – His ultimate, perfect will for mankind – never changes. However, what He actually does require of man differs based on mankind’s situation. When God commands something different, it is because something about man changed – not because God changed.
Let us examine the different sets of instructions which God had given to different people at different times. When Adam and Eve were first created, God gave the following instructions:
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so (Genesis 1:28-30).
God gave Adam and Eve three commandments: 1) Multiply, 2) have dominion over the rest of creation, and 3) eat plants. Following the Fall of man and throughout the pre-Flood era, God never took back or changed His instructions regarding the eating of plants and not meat. It is quite likely that sinful, disobedient men did eat meat without God’s permission and it is certain that animals did so, but God had not changed His instructions as far as we know from Scripture.
However, following the Flood, God gave this set of instructions to Noah and his descendants:
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat (Genesis 9:1-4).
Notice that now, following the Flood, the flesh of animals is given as food just as plants had been given earlier. Did God’s moral standard change? No; the situation of mankind changed, as the post-Flood climate seems to have been much different from the pre-Flood climate, and animal proteins and fats were now needed for survival and growth. In other words, God did not change; man’s situation changed. Does God’s change in instructions somehow challenge God’s unchanging nature? Apparently it does not; the unchanging God gave a different set of instructions, showing us that these facts do not contradict in His infinite wisdom.
The Law of Moses
At a later time in history, God gave a complete set of laws to His chosen people, Israel. The Law of Moses, given on Mt. Sinai, contained rules concerning moral, ceremonial, religious, civil, environmental, and hygienic behavior. Up to this time, this was the fullest revelation of God’s will and plan for mankind, and He intended for the Israelites to prosper in obedience to this revelation:
I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!…Ye shall observe to do therefore as the LORD your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Ye shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess (Deuteronomy 5:28b-29, 32-33).
Why was the Law of Moses given? The Apostle Paul wrote:
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19).
The Law was given because of transgression – because of sin. However, it was only intended to be a temporary solution to the problem of sin. Notice that Paul said the Law was added “till the seed should come”. The context reveals that the “seed” of whom Paul is speaking is Christ (Galatians 3:16).
The Israelites accepted the obligations in the Law of Moses, and God promised that He would not break the covenant He had made with Israel (Judges 2:1).
The Law’s Moral Teachings
So what were the moral requirements contained in the Law of Moses? If it is true that God’s standard of morality never changes, what commandments contained in Moses’ law would we still be under the obligation of keeping?
War was commanded under the Law of Moses (Numbers 25:16-18; 31:1-4; Deuteronomy 7:1-3; commandments regarding how war was to be conducted are found in Numbers 10:9; Deuteronomy 20:1-20). Divorce and remarriage were allowed (Deuteronomy 21:10-14; 22:13-29; 24:1-4). The swearing of oaths was commanded under certain circumstances (Exodus 22:10-12; Numbers 5:19-22; Deuteronomy 6:13-15; 10:20-21).
It is commandments like these which our Protestant friends wish to keep living under when they insist that God’s moral requirements never change. They wish to keep their war, their patriotism, their divorce and remarriage, and their oaths. However, they are not consistent in respect to obeying the Law of Moses. There are many moral teachings contained in the Law of Moses which few, if any, Protestants or Evangelicals obey.
And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money (Exodus 21:7-11).
If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn: But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).
Another requirement of the Law of Moses is that men should not trim their beards. Many Evangelicals are either clean-shaven or have short beards. Few have long, Mosaicly-prescribed beards.
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard (Leviticus 19:27).
Another requirement not often obeyed is this one regarding the use of fabrics in clothing:
Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together (Deuteronomy 22:11).
Most professing Christians freely wear clothes made of synthetic/cotton or synthetic/wool cloth.
Another point most professing Christians – who profess to be following the Law’s rules on divorce and remarriage – do not notice or follow is that in the Law, divorce is only allowed to men. Wives were never permitted to divorce their husbands. Yet in America today, the majority of divorces are initiated by the wife.
We must note Paul’s words in Galatians 5:3:
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).
If we have undertaken to obey the Law of Moses and put ourselves under that yoke, we cannot pick and choose which commandments we wish to obey and ignore the ones we do not wish to obey. If we are going to obey the Law of Moses, we have to obey the entire Law of Moses!
The New Covenant Prophesied
God had promised not to break the Covenant that He had made with the children of Israel, that is, the Law of Moses (Judges 2:1). However, He knew that the Old or Mosaic Covenant was not perfect (Hebrews 8:7-8). The children of Israel, although they had promised to obey and keep the covenant, broke it again and again and again (Jeremiah 31:32; Hebrews 8:9). A new covenant was needed – and God, through the prophets, told His people that the day was coming when a new covenant would be made.
The first prophet to foretell this new covenant was, surprisingly, Moses himself.
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).
This prophecy of Christ and His teachings (which is explicitly applied to Christ by the apostles – Acts 3:22-32, 7:37-38) foretold that this Prophet would be like Moses, would be an Israelite, and would speak all the words which God commanded Him. Moreover, it was these words – the words of this Prophet – which all would be obligated to hearken to (hearken means “to hear and obey”).
In what way was Christ like Moses? How was He more like Moses than any of the other Old Testament prophets? Moses had authority from God to give new commandments to the people, which they were obligated to obey. All of the other Old Testament prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, etc. – pointed back to the Law of Moses for the people’s standard of behavior. They did not have authority from God to hand down new commandments to the people. However, Christ had the authority from God to give new commandments – new laws – which then another group of apostles, prophets, and teachers would point back to as the authoritative basis for life in God’s kingdom. In this way, Christ was like Moses.
The rest of the prophets, while pointing back to the Law of Moses as authoritative for their time, yet pointed forward to a new day, when the Prophet like unto Moses would institute a new covenant. This new covenant – and the new revelation of the kingdom of God which would accompany it – was foreseen to have ethical teachings distinctively different from those of the Law of Moses. Isaiah prophesied:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:2-4).
This prophecy foresees the spiritual house of the Lord (I Peter 2:5) which would be established in the last days. “Many people” would be attracted by this new revelation of God’s plan and purpose for man, a veiled prophecy of the coming of the Gentiles to faith in God and obedience to the new covenant. It was foretold that this new law would come out of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, as actually occurred when the Twelve Apostles and others spread out from the land of Israel, taking God’s new covenant Word all across the then-known world. Finally, in this age, the Lord would “judge among the nations” and “rebuke many people.” This new covenant age would affect far more than just the nation of Israel, as had been the case with the Old Covenant. God’s rebukes and reproof would have their effects for the Gentiles as well. And what would be the effects of these judgments and rebukes? War and carnal fighting would cease, just as Jesus and the Apostles taught.
Isaiah later prophesied:
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever (Isaiah 59:20-21).
The work of the Redeemer – the Messiah – would be to turn the descendants of Jacob away from transgression. Then the Lord – the Father – gives a description of the New Covenant: The words which He would command the Messiah to speak would never depart from His mouth, or from the mouth of His spiritual seed, forever. These words – the words of the Messiah – would be repeated forever. They would be the lasting message which God wants repeated. We must obey and teach these words (for other prophesies by Isaiah regarding the new covenant, see Isaiah 42:1-10; 49:8; and 55:3).
The prophet Jeremiah also foretold of the new covenant. In Jeremiah 31:31-34, we read:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
This new covenant would be “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers.” It would be a covenant of laws written on the heart, rather than on tables of stone. We must learn from the words which Christ taught, the words of the new covenant, rather than the words of the old covenant written on tables of stone.
Did Jesus Change the Moral Requirements?
Finally, the Messiah Himself came. Jesus said, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16). He came and preached the gospel of the kingdom and the new covenant which was to govern it. So to answer the question, “did Jesus change the moral requirements given in the Law of Moses?”, we must go to the primary source: Jesus’ words themselves. A comparison of the moral teachings of the Mosaic Law with those of Jesus and His Apostles shows clearly the difference between them.
Moses said: “If men strive…And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:22a, 23-25). Jesus said:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Matthew 5:38-42).
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them (Deuteronomy 7:1-2).
Jesus summarized the Law’s teaching on neighbors and enemies (the enemy portion is a summary, not a direct quote), then went on to give a new teaching:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:9-10).
As we saw above, Moses regulated polygamy, but did not completely forbid it. Jesus, however, restored marriage to its Edenic state – one man and one woman for life. He restored marriage to how it was “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:3-9). Paul reinforces this by stating, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (I Corinthians 7:2).
Divorce and Remarriage
As noted above, the Law of Moses allowed a relatively easy divorce for most husbands, and allowed remarriage for most cases of divorce as well. However, Jesus completely shut that door, leaving only the “fornication clause” as a reason for divorce. (It is to be noted that neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever allowed remarriage after divorce, for any reason or in any case.) See Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; I Corinthians 7:10-16.
Moses said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). While the Law also forbade coveting another man’s wife, there was no commandment saying that all sexual lust was sinful. Jesus, however, taught:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).
Moses commanded regarding every baby boy born to the Israelites, “And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3). The New Covenant, however, did away with the need for circumcision – a major theme of the Apostle Paul’s writings. Jesus introduced the new and spiritual circumcision, the fulfillment of the type of the physical action: “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:10-11).
Moses commanded that the high priest should wear a mitre during his duties in the Tabernacle/Temple:
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. And thou shalt embroider the coat of fine linen, and thou shalt make the mitre of fine linen, and thou shalt make the girdle of needlework (Exodus 28:36-39).
However, the new covenant introduced a new teaching:
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head…For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man (I Corinthians 11:2-4, 7).
Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name (Deuteronomy 6:13).
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:12).
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth (Numbers 30:2).
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil (Matthew 5:33-37).
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation (James 5:12).
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18).
What would it mean to destroy the Law and the prophets? Jesus did not teach that the Law was useless; He did not claim that it was not a genuine revelation from God; He did not teach that the Law was wicked. Rather, He came to fulfill the Law. He taught a new way, in which we would not only do what the Law taught (do not commit adultery) but also the higher righteousness which God desired (do not lust). He taught a new and higher way, in which the righteousness we act out now (love your enemies) surpasses the righteousness demanded by the Law (thou shalt utterly destroy them). Thus, Paul said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
Moral and Ceremonial
Protestant reformer John Calvin was not impressed when he encountered the Anabaptists’ teaching that Christians could not be government officials and could not swear oaths. In response to this, he wrote:
Therefore, there resteth none other evasion, to these enemies of all order, but to say, that God requireth a greater perfection in the Christian Church than he did among the people of the Jews. Now this is very true, touching ceremonies. But that we have any other rule to live by, touching the moral law, as we call it, than had the ancient people, is a false opinion…
Therefore to say that Moses did but half teach the people of Israel to honour and serve God, is a blasphemy, first forged by the Papists, and now renewed by these poor fantasticals, which take for a revelation from heaven, whatsoever fables they have heard of their grandmothers.
Calvin’s claim, that the New Covenant did have more perfect ceremonies, but that the moral law of Moses was still in effect, is still repeated today. Is this Scriptural? Is Moses’ Law divided into two parts, one of which was done away by Christ, the other part which is still binding?
There are at least six reasons why this argument does not hold water.Such a division is never mentioned in Scripture. The Mosaic Law is so far-reaching that it is hard to divide all of the laws neatly into just two or three categories. There are moral teachings (regarding murder, stealing, etc.); there are ceremonial or religious teachings (the sacrifices and temple services); there are civil teachings (commandments regarding jurisprudence, the cities of refuge, etc.); there are hygienic teachings (regarding the proper disposal of waste, the treatment of lepers, etc.); and there are environmental laws (regarding the harvesting of birds and cutting trees). How are we to neatly divide all of these laws into two or three categories, and then decide which ones apply to us today and which ones do not? Who gets to decide what applies today and what does not? Some laws bridge the gap between moral and ceremonial, and other, requirements. For instance, lepers were banished from the camp to avoid the contamination of others; this could be called a law regarding hygiene or sanitation. Yet the ceremony governing the readmittance of the leper into the community upon healing is undoubtedly a ceremonial law. Different types of laws are often intermingled in the same contexts. For instance, beginning in Deuteronomy 22:5, we have a moral law regarding cross-dressing, which was forbidden. The next two verses (6-7) have an environmental protection law, regarding the harvesting of birds. The next verse has a law regarding construction of a new house – a moral commandment, because the reason for the law was “that thou bring not blood upon thine house”. Verse 9 has a law that “Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with divers seeds: lest the fruit…be defiled.” This law does not seem to fit neatly in either the moral or ceremonial categories. A similar classification-defying law follows in verse 10. With this mixture of moral, ceremonial, and other types of laws in the same contexts, how are we to declare which apply today and which do not? Finally, the Ten Commandments (with the possible exception of the Fourth Commandment on the Sabbath) are clearly moral commandments. Yet even these have been “done away” in Christ (II Corinthians 3:6-10).
The Hardness of Your Hearts
Why were the requirements of the Law of Moses lower than what God actually wanted? The answer is found in the words of Jesus, as He was explaining why His teaching regarding divorce and remarriage was more rigorous than that of Moses.
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matthew 19:3-9).
Why did Moses allow things which were outside the perfect will of God, and which Jesus did away with? Because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts. If they had soft hearts, responsive to God’s will and the voice of His Spirit and willing to obey, God could have given the Israelites the commandments He gave through His Son. Why could He not? They had hard hearts – and it is not within man’s power to change his own heart from a hard heart to a soft, living one. Death is the consequence of sin, and when man’s spirit dies, he cannot resurrect it himself. Christ came that we might have life again (John 10:10). God had promised that the hard hearts of the Old Covenant would be replaced, under the New Covenant, with soft, fleshy hearts (Ezekiel 11:19-21). We learn in the New Testament that this soft heart is God’s own heart – His own Spirit – His own nature – imparted to us (see, for instance, II Peter 1:4). Thus, with Christ Himself living within us, we are enabled to live as He did in the world and show the world what kind of Being God is. For instance, we are now enabled to treat our enemies well, just as God does (Matthew 5:45, 48; Luke 6:35-36).
God’s ultimate standard of right and wrong – what He had in mind originally for man – never changes. However, His instructions to man do change based upon changes in man’s situation. For instance, the change brought about by the global Flood brought about a change in God’s instructions regarding diet. Similarly, the change in heart made possible by the work of Christ is accompanied by a change in the moral requirements God has given to His people. Whereas Moses, because of the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts, allowed divorce, remarriage, war, oaths, polygamy, etc., Christ forbids these and teaches a higher level of ethics for His children. Those who have soft, spiritual hearts and have entered the New Covenant will submit to these requirements which Jesus communicated.
 See Andrew V. Ste. Marie, “Did Animals Eat Meat Before the Flood?,” Creation Matters 16(1) (January/February 2011):1-4.
 At least they do today. Martin Luther actually taught that in some circumstances, it was acceptable for a man to have more than one wife because Abraham did.
 While no Protestant teacher today that I know of would say that it is acceptable for a man to have more than one wife at a time, many actually do endorse a form of polygamy by approving of divorce and remarriage. Mennonite bishop George R. Brunk I humorously wrote, “The Mormons dragged polygamy out of the Old Testament into their church and Protestantism did the same with divorce. A member of the one group drives his wives abreast and a member of the other drives his in tandem style and neither has a word in the Gospel to justify himself” (“Notes and Items,” Sword and Trumpet 5(4) (October 1933):23.)
 Of all divorces, 67-75% are filed by wives (varies by state). This number is significantly higher among those divorces in which minor children are involved. See David W. Bercot, The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down, 2003, Scroll Publishing, pp. 51-52.
 Whereas most Protestants today take this passage from Isaiah and similar ones from the Old Testament to be prophecies of the Millennial Reign of Christ (still in the future), the early Christians uniformly interpreted it in a manner similar to my explanation here.
 Note that Paul calls this teaching on the headcovering/head un-covering an “ordinance,” or a “tradition” – something transmitted or handed down. This indicates that Paul handed it down to the Corinthians from another source. He was not making up something new; he (and the other Apostles) had received it directly from Christ Himself.
 John Calvin, A Short Instruction for to arme all good Christian people agaynst the pestiferous errours of the common secte of the Anabaptistes.
Originally published in The Witness, November 2014.
By Justin Martyr
From Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew. Justin was martyred c. 165 A.D. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 253-254.
But that the Gentiles would repent of the evil in which they led erring lives, when they heard the doctrine preached by His apostles from Jerusalem, and which they learned through them, suffer me to show you by quoting a short statement from the prophecy of Micah, one of the twelve [minor prophets]. This is as follows:
And in the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, established on the top of the mountains; it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go, and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and they shall enlighten us in His way, and we shall walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many peoples, and shall rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. And each man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and there shall be none to terrify: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk in the name of their gods; but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will assemble her that is afflicted, and gather her that is driven out, and whom I had plagued; and I shall make her that is afflicted a remnant, and her that is oppressed a strong nation. And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, and even for ever.
…Now I am aware that your [the Jews’] teachers, sirs, admit the whole of the words of this passage to refer to Christ; and I am likewise aware that they maintain He has not yet come; or if they say that He has come, they assert that it is not known who He is; but when He shall become manifest and glorious, then it shall be known who He is. And then, they say, the events mentioned in this passage shall happen, just as if there was no fruit as yet from the words of the prophecy. O unreasoning men! understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,—our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,—and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine, i.e., each man possessing his own married wife. For you are aware that the prophetic word says, ‘And his wife shall be like a fruitful vine.’ Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us. For the vine planted by God and Christ the Saviour is His people.
We who carry about our very soul, our very body, exposed in this world to injury from all, and exhibit patience under that injury; shall we be hurt at the loss of less important things? Far from a servant of Christ be such a defilement as that the patience which has been prepared for greater temptations should forsake him in frivolous ones. If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the monition of the Lord is at hand: “To him,” He saith, “Who smiteth thee on the face, turn the other cheek likewise.” Let outrageousness be wearied out by your patience. Whatever that blow may be, conjoined with pain and contumely, it shall receive a heavier one from the Lord. You wound that outrageous one more by enduring: for he will be beaten by Him for whose sake you endure. If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.” The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; and yet is He the only Blessed One. Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed.
(From Tertullian’s work On Patience, written circa 202 A.D. Translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 3, p. 712.)
 Contumely, n. Rudeness or reproach compounded of haughtiness and contempt; contemptuousness; insolence; contemptuous language. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
On March 28, 2014, a debate was held in Boston, Massachusetts, on the topic “It’s Just War: Can Christians Fight?” Two men took a position of Biblical nonresistance and two took a Just War Theory position. Defending nonresistance were David Bercot, an attorney and scholar of early Christianity, and Dean Taylor, popular speaker, author, and an ex-Army soldier who left as a conscientious objector. Defending the Just War Theory were two theologians, philosophers, authors, and professors, Dr. J. Daryl Charles (an Evangelical Protestant) and Dr. Peter Kreeft (Roman Catholic). The debate lasted two hours and was held before a large audience.
A range of products related to the debate, including CD and .mp3 CD recordings, a partial transcript with commentary, and a complete transcript, are available from Sermon on the Mount Publishing. Click here for more information.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
The Selective Service System (SSS) is the government agency in charge of the draft in the United States. Currently, men ages 18-25 are required by law to register with the SSS for the draft. This is not the same thing as signing up for military service, but is only signing up for the draft. Men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. There is no way to sign up as a conscientious objector (CO), as the government does not care who is or is not a CO if there is no draft. The CO process begins only after 1) a draft has been begun and 2) you have been drafted. It is a felony to fail to register, and you may be imprisoned for five years, fined up to $250,000, or both.
SSS sign-up forms should be available at your local post office. You can sign up online, but doing it over the mail is recommended for COs, in order to retain additional proof of your CO convictions.
The SSS form has blocks for birthdate, gender, social security number, name, address, date, and signature. In between these blocks, find a white space and write in all capital letters: I AM A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR TO WAR IN ANY FORM. Make a photocopy of this form and mail the photocopy to yourself. When you receive it, do not open it – store it away in a file with the rest of your CO information. Send the original to the SSS.
A few weeks after sending in your registration, you will receive a confirmation from the SSS that they received your completed form, and they will give you your Selective Service Number. Keep this information. You will need it if a draft is ever begun.
Next, you must take care to document your beliefs NOW while there is no draft in progress. The draft system works quickly enough that if you wait until one has started, it may be too late to build a CO file! Here are the steps to take:
Contact Christian Aid Ministries and ask for a copy of their Draft Information Manual, which they will be happy to send you for free. It has much detailed information about the current draft laws. Settle in your own heart before God what you believe about war, peace, and nonresistance, as well as knowing in yourself what you may conscientiously do in harmony with the Scriptures. For instance, is noncombatant service acceptable, or a compromise? Be prepared to die for your beliefs, if necessary. Write a brief statement explaining why you stand opposed to “war in any form.” This is not a doctrinal treatise, but a brief statement of your beliefs and what you can or cannot do because of them. (Mine ran about five handwritten pages.) Make a photocopy of this and mail it to yourself, then store the photocopy, unopened, in your CO file. This is to provide dated proof of your convictions. (The importance of not opening such documents is because they will be undisturbed with the postmark on the outside – proof positive of the age of the enclosed document.) For additional dated proof, send such a statement to The Witness. We will be glad to help you out by publishing it. We will send you a copy of the issue in which your letter appears for you to put in your file, unopened. Find several people you know who can write a “Letter of Support” for you. This letter is not a letter of support for your position, but a statement that the person writing knows you and supports your claim that your CO status is due to a sincerely held belief (rather than expediency). Church leaders, friends, acquaintances, employers, co-workers – try to find a wide sampling of people who know you well enough to support your claim to sincerity. Finding one or two people who are not nonresistant, but believe you are sincere in your nonresistance, is a good thing. Be sure to give your letter-writers a photocopy of page 45 from the Draft Information Manual, which explains what the letter should include. Ask your letter-writers to mail you two copies of their letter – one to put in your file, unopened, and one to open and read. It is important to pre-screen the letters before using them in a CO case because a poorly written letter could hurt your case rather than helping it. Walk close to the Lord and stay surrendered to His will and continued work in your life – whether or not a draft should ever come to test your convictions.
Young women, do not think that this will never apply to you. The Selective Service law currently states that “male persons” must register and may be drafted, but the constitutionality of excluding women from the draft has been tested in the courts. In 1981, Supreme Court decision Rostker vs. Goldberg decided that requiring only men to register was not a violation of the Constitution’s due process clause. However, in 1994, the Department of Defense (DoD) revisited the issue and noted that in prior wars, the draft was primarily used to supply the Army with ground combat troops. At the time, there was a policy of excluding women from such positions, thus, excluding them from the draft was still reasonable, in the DoD’s view.
However, very recent legislation has opened front-line combat positions to women. Thus, since the DoD’s reason for excluding women from the draft is gone, it will probably not be long before women ages 18-25 will be required to sign up for the draft, just like men. It is probably advisable for young women in that age range to prepare now for this possibility, going through all of the steps noted above EXCEPT for preparing and sending in an SSS registration form.
Originally published in The Witness (August 2013).
By Dean Taylor
Pulling into the local pretzel shop here in Lancaster County, the scene was pretty predictable. Buggies, horse ties, and old bicycles outside. Inside the old building, a plainly dressed, Old-Order Mennonite lady took my pretzel order. I paid and was about to head out to my car with my nice, warm bag of salted pretzels when I noticed two stacks of papers sitting on the counter. Looking closer I discovered, to my surprise, that these papers were actually voter registration forms and a “tract” explaining why voting for the conservative President was the only “Christian” choice.
Picking up the paper I asked the young lady, “So I didn’t know that conservative Anabaptists voted. When did this start?”
To this the Mennonite lady responded, “Well, it’s getting so bad that they are starting to.”
I answered back, “Historically it has never helped the church to get involved in politics.”Election time
Yes, it’s election time again, and the headlines are full of statistics and touching stories, all proclaiming their different sides of the political arguments. Depending on which news source you read, it would be easy to believe that the other side is Satan himself. Conservative Evangelicals are putting up quite a stink over this election and unquestioningly preaching the idea that voting in this election is a moral obligation. The socialist agenda of the current administration is seen as a major threat to the conservative way of life, and therefore voting against the “Liberal-Socialist” agenda is seen as almost important as walking an aisle. The left is no better, and more than ever they have learned to use spiritual overtones and self-righteous-sounding arguments to justify their agendas.
But who would the Apostles vote for? In the early church, saying “Jesus is Lord” was actually a political statement. This phrase was in direct contradiction to the cry of Romans, “Caesar is Lord.” The closest equivalent to this sentiment in our day would be saying, “Jesus for president!” In the early church this was not mere sentimentality. After the death and resurrection of the Jesus, this motto became the early Christian battle cry.What does that mean practically?
So what did saying “Jesus is Lord” mean practically? To the early Christians it meant a separation from the politics of Rome and a purposeful establishing of a new nation called “The Kingdom of God.” Throughout history, radical followers of Jesus have charted the same course.
What is the answer to the question “Who would the apostles vote for?” I believe that they would vote for Jesus. But to a statement like that some may be thinking, “That all sounds nice and spiritual, but isn’t it okay to simply recognize that Jesus is the “real King in your heart,” but to still go ahead and vote for others—just in case?” Others ask, “Isn’t it better to vote for the lesser evil?”
History has proven that for serious Christians with conviction, voting for the “lesser evil” is a bad idea. Whether we want to admit it or not, the facts of history cry out that when the church has thrown in their lot with the different “lesser evils” of their day, it has led to both the church and the state losing out.
Throughout history when the politicians have vied for the attention of the church, their issues have appeared so justifiable—so important. The political activists have made it seem apathetic, un-American, and yes, even un-Christian not to get involved.
However, when the records of history are reviewed, it is amazing how the church’s entanglement with these seemingly “good causes” has littered the trail with casualties, often leading entire communities off course.Mennonite Nazis
A painful example of good intentions turned really bad is the case of the Mennonite political involvement in Germany during WWII. In some respects I would rather forget this chapter of our Anabaptist history. However, I feel that if we are going to lift up the good things we have done, then we also need to be honest with our mistakes—and this was a big one! I believe that understanding these mistakes could help to keep us from making similar mistakes in the near future.
The Mennonite church in Holland, northern Germany, and Prussia was one of the first to receive the gospel during the early years of the Anabaptist revivals of the 1500s. However, by the 1700s the materialistic slide of the Mennonites in Holland had its effects on Prussia as well. By the late 1700s, the Mennonites of northern Germany had enjoyed more connection with their conservative Protestant and Evangelical neighbors. Some of this had good result. However, economic and societal pressures bit by bit diluted the German Mennonites—almost completely—into mainline society. By the time of the Franco-Prussian wars of the 1890s and WWI in the 1920s, many Mennonites were getting involved with politics, nationalism, and even starting to fight in wars.After WWI
After WWI conditions were tough for all Germans—Mennonites included. The penalties placed on the German people by America and their allies crippled the economic stability of Germany. Farmers were hit particularly hard. Many farmers incurred large debts and were even forced to export their crops to support the surrounding countries hurt by the war.
The stock market crash of 1929 made a terrible situation even worse. Not only did it further crush the German economy, it also caused an uneasiness by revealing an unexpected weakness of western industry and capitalism. The ripple effect of this crash in the already-struggling post WWI Germany was devastating.Could the two crosses be fused? Joseph Stalin and Marxism
Added to this economic pressure in the West, the Russian Revolution led by Joseph Stalin was wreaking havoc all over the East. Notably affected by this revolution were the German Mennonite Brethren in Russia. Stalin’s reign of terror was notorious. German Mennonites frequently heard stories of how the “Communists” were making matters in Russia unbearable. By this time, some of their Russian Mennonite brethren had enormous farms. These farms became sitting ducks to Stalin’s forced economic plans of state ownership. Naturally, anti-communist feelings were strong.
Everyone was looking for answers. But they were looking in the wrong place. Their Bibles apparently were no longer looked at as a blueprint. Some looked to Western ideas of democracy and capitalism; others looked to the East and wanted to try the new “Marxism.” Regardless, everyone longed for a new, bold nationalism that would restore their honor and protect what little wealth, freedom, and property they had left.Major compromise
At this point a zealous, strong-handed political conservative by the name Adolf Hitler came to the scene. Hitler promised a unification of the German people, protection against the Communists, and a list of new “economic stimulus packages.” All these ideas promised Christian morality and prosperity for all good Germans. Some had cautions about Hitler’s intensity. But when it became election time, it was the “issues” that people voted for … and Adolf Hitler had the political cure of the day. It should always be remembered that Hitler was voted in by a fair democratic election process. Many liberals preferred the Communists. But the conservative Evangelicals, along with the German Mennonites, gave their vote for the new guy with the little mustache … complete with their new motto, “Heil Hitler.”The new plan
As part of a new “stimulus package,” in 1933 Hitler canceled all farming debts and reformed trade relations to benefit the German farmers. These changes actually made the German farmers part of the privileged class. Communist supporters were hauled off to concentration camps and many of the territories taken from Germany after WWI were quickly given back by rapid military actions. Germans were thrilled with these changes. When Austria fell to the marching armies, Germans were electrified. The Protestants were so happy that they even took down the cross that rested over the very castle where Martin Luther had translated the Bible, and put up a Swastika in its place.What was the spiritual cost?
What was the effect of Nazi nationalism on the Mennonites? Historically, the Mennonites had a heritage of separation from worldly politics. Could they get involved in politics and still stand against this new mindset? In a word—no.
Sadly, the Mennonites of Germany joined in with the jubilant nationalistic feelings that were spreading. As a matter of record, the German Mennonites were so happy with their new Führer that they wanted to express their official gratitude to him. In a telegram written September 10, 1933, the sentiments of a church council that had just taken place were expressed:
To Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Berlin:
The Conference of East and West Prussian Mennonites, assembled today in Tiegenhagen, Free State of Danzig, feels deep gratitude for the powerful revival that God has given our nation through your energy, and promises joyful cooperation in the upbuilding of our Fatherland through the power of the Gospel, faithful to the motto of our forefathers: No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis and italics mine.)
I’m sure Hitler didn’t take time to answer every telegram that he received, but this one he replied to personally:
For your loyalty and your readiness to cooperate in the upbuilding of the German nation, expressed in your letter to me, I express my sincere thanks. —Adolf HitlerYikes!
Now to the defense of these German Mennonites, we have to remember that the atrocities that Hitler committed were not completely known at this time. On the other hand, there is a very important lesson to learn from just that point. When the church gives its support and affirmation to the ways of this world, when the church condones “lesser evil,” it finds itself praising an antichrist.Quick seduction
Caught up in the feeling of the day, in 1933 the United (Vereinigung) Mennonites stopped asking for special treatment as conscientious objectors from war. In 1934 “nonresistance” was removed from the Mennonite confession of faith.
In 1939 when the German armies took over Prussia bringing the Mennonites of Danzig to be united with the rest of Germany, the Mennonites saw it as an act of God. Emil Händiges, of the United (Vereinigung) Mennonites wrote:
Our German peoples have endured unspeakable difficulties under the Polish yoke during its twenty year foreign rule. The most difficult at the end. Then God, the Lord, helped them through the hand of our Führer and freed them. We thank our Führer for this act of liberation.
Mennonite and conservative Evangelical journals praised these military conquests by the German soldiers. These journals frequently quoted from the Prophets and the book of Revelation, showing Germany’s place as “God’s people” in prophecy.Nazi belt buckle, emblazoned with the words “God with us.” Gott mit Uns
Today it is easier to think of these German soldiers as committed pagans and monsters. “After all,” we tell ourselves, “how else could they have conducted all of those terrible deeds?” The sober truth is that most of those German soldiers claimed to be Christians. Astonishingly, the belt buckle worn by all of these so-called “Christian” Nazi soldiers boldly proclaimed, “Gott mit Uns.”
By 1940 the subtle influence of this political leaven had almost completely taken over the German Mennonites. Issuing a proclamation representing the political posture of the Mennonite Union during this time, the United Mennonite church wrote: “The Conference will not do anything that would even have the faintest appearance of opposing the policies of our leader (Führer).”
Reading this stuff, I had to ask, “Could this still be called Anabaptist?” I don’t personally think so. But more importantly, can they be called followers of Jesus? These changes were a pretty far cry from the decree of separation from the world and shunning of earthly government that was espoused by the early Anabaptists in the words of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527. It is obvious that their original convictions had grown stale.Fresh faith
During this time of compromise, there were small groups of first-generation Anabaptists on the scene. A first-generation Hutterite group led by Eberhard Arnold was just becoming organized during this time period. Enthusiastically embracing the foundational ideas of Anabaptism, they were dismayed over the posture of their Mennonite spiritual cousins.
When the Nazi authorities found out about these new Anabaptists, they became alarmed. The Hutterites’ radical theological and, particularly, their strong economic stance was more than the Nazis would stand for. But because of their radical stance, the loosening Mennonites were getting heat for also being called “Anabaptist.” When the authorities asked the politically-friendly Mennonites if they were associated with the new Hutterite group, the Mennonites didn’t exactly stand up for them. In a united effort of both the northern and southern Mennonites, an official disclaimer stated: “The Hutterites belonged neither to the Vereinigung (Union) of German Mennonite Churches, nor to any other organization within our Free German Mennonite Church.”
It wasn’t long until this new Hutterite community was raided. Fortunately, most of them made it out of the country, and the new group ended up as refugees in England. When England, the US, and Canada would not let the new group settle in their countries, the American Mennonites came to their rescue through the help of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The MCC helped the Hutterites immigrate to Paraguay, conveniently close to a group of Colony Mennonites that the MCC was already helping.More Mennonite Nazis!?
However, just when the Hutterites thought they were far, far away from the dreadful politics of their homeland, they discovered that thousands of miles away, virtually in the “middle of nowhere,” these South American Mennonites were also indoctrinated with Nazi politics!
The Mennonites there in Paraguay were living in terrible conditions and they spoke frequently to the Mennonites of Germany. Many felt that if Germany defeated Russia, then the Colony Mennonites would have a chance to leave South America and come live in Germany.
Like their brethren in Germany, the Mennonites of Paraguay had also had council meetings to discuss the advantages of Nazi politics. After their church council, they also blessed the Nazi government and saw the Nazis as the political party that was upholding conservative Christian values. After the conference, the Colony Mennonites of Paraguay wrote:
With greatest excitement we German Mennonites of the Paraguayan Chaco follow the events in our beloved Motherland and experience in spirit the national revolution of the German people. We are happy that in Germany, after a long time, a government that freely and openly professes God as Creator stands at the head of the nation … With special sympathy we hear that the current government takes seriously the realization of Christian principles in social, economic, and cultural life and especially emphasizes the protection of the family. (Emphasis mine.)
One youth leader writing home to Paraguay, while studying in Germany, wrote: “If one lives through such weeks in Germany, one is drawn involuntarily under the spell of the Führer and can do nothing else than confess oneself a National Socialist.”
The new Hutterites were disappointed. The living conditions of Paraguay were horrible indeed, but they felt that the freedom of worship was worth the cost. Emmy Arnold once wrote in a letter, “Better hookworm, than hooked cross (swastika).”
Responding to the lack of education and deplorable living conditions of the Colony Mennonites, the Hutterites quickly went to work trying to educate and offer social aid to the different Mennonite groups. Holding preaching services and hymn sings, some repentance progress was made. However, it was still a hard, upward fight. On one occasion, when the Hutterites came into a church building that the Mennonites had generously opened for them to worship in, the Hutterites were met with a framed picture of Adolf Hitler. The picture was front and center … right over the communion table!The war ends
We know how part of the war story ended. Germany lost the war, Hitler committed suicide, and soon all the atrocities of the Nazi party were being broadcast to the world. The Mennonites as well as conservative Protestant, Catholic, and Evangelical groups repented of their support of this antichrist. Mennonite leaders even repented publically. The Mennonites of South America followed suit, and eventually the political answers of the little German Führer were vehemently discarded.
Yet, somehow, something was lost by this pandemic compromise. I believe that something was particularly lost from the Mennonites. Compromise of this magnitude from mainline Protestants and Catholics was one thing … the world was somewhat used to seeing that. But when even the “radical Christians” were seen bending their knee to this evil, then something deep was lost.
The German church that emerged out of WWII Germany was anemic. Secularism has claimed the day, and today radical Christianity is virtually unheard of there.How did this happen to the Mennonites?
When I lived in Germany 20 years ago, I was a new convert to many of these Anabaptist ideas like nonresistance and separation from worldly politics. Walking into a Mennonite church there, I noticed on the walls the war memorials of Mennonites who had fought in the war. My guide was a man in his seventies who remembered the war period well. I asked him, “How did this happen? How did the Mennonites get swept up into all of this Nazi nationalism?”
He somberly told me, “It came over us like a revival.”
That was an impressive answer, and I am sure that at the end it did indeed come on them like that. But was it completely unexpected? I now think that the compromise was more insidious than the Mennonites were aware of. As the years go by and I watch the way modern conservative Mennonites respond to politics, I can somewhat understand how this could happen again. I now think that instead of being a sudden change, it rather happened because of a long time of slow compromise. James Peter Regier says it well in the conclusion of his excellent essay on this historic time period of Mennonite history:
It seems then, that the biggest flaw of the Mennonites was not any immediate error. Instead, it was the natural consequence of years of gradual theological adaptations and compromises to better fit within the German community. When National Socialism came, the Mennonites no longer had the capacity to resist.Have we learned our lesson?
Have we learned our lesson? Have we learned that trusting in “good” political strategies is a really bad idea? The Mennonite lady at the pretzel bakery said that things are getting so bad that Mennonites simply have to start getting involved in politics.
It is exactly because the world is getting so bad that it is time to leave the failed solutions of the world and to start showing a model to the world of what the world would look like if we all would simply follow the teachings of Jesus.So is voting a sin?
As we have seen, the issue is a subtle one. On the one hand, it seems so innocent. We might ask, “So what’s wrong with just telling someone who our choice would be for President?” That may seem innocent enough, but perhaps it is just this type of subtlety that warranted Jesus casting this rebuke: “Beware of the leaven of Herod.” Akin to the insidious pathos of pharisaical thinking, Jesus warned that the infection of “worldly political thinking” can grow in us, leading to our eventual spiritual destruction.
Jesus’ use of the metaphor “leaven” in this context is sobering. This word picture brings to mind the way we use leaven (today called yeast) in cooking. The small amount of yeast necessary to make a loaf of bread rise starts out seemingly innocuous and insignificant. However, once added to the dough, it is not long before that small bit of yeast affects the entire loaf, often swelling it to two or three times its original size. It happened to the Mennonites in Germany during WWII, and it can easily happen today if we look to worldly politics for our answers.
How is it with us today—in what way do we apply Jesus’ warning to “beware of the leaven of Herod?” Have we learned our lesson from history? We must learn from history that the world never has, and never will, come up with a lasting ultimate solution to their problems. Their shortsighted cures will always lack the clarity to see the root causes of their disease. As Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
If through this political season you have felt yourself infatuated with the agenda of worldly solutions, then please accept this lesson from the Mennonite Nazis and repent before you find yourself venerating the devil himself!
 For example, the Mennonites of Danzig shared a formal relationship with the Moravians of Herrnhut, who were only a few hundred kilometers away. When these Mennonites made their way to Russia, a large revival followed.
 This salute is often translated as “Hail, Hitler.” However, the German word “Heil” can also have connotations of “salvation” or “healing.” Thus the salute could have been used in the sense of seeing Hitler as a savior or healer of the German nation.
 Hans-Jürgen Goertz, “Nationale Erhebung und Religiöser Niedergang,” Mennonitsche Geschichtsblätter 31 (1974): 64. Quoted in: Mennonite Life, Mennonitische Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Prussian Mennonites, the Third Reich, and Coming to Terms with a Difficult Past, James Peter Regier, March 2004. http://www.bethelks.edu/mennonitelife/2004Mar/regier.php (Without Regier’s article, my article would not have been possible.)
 Emmy Barth. No Lasting Home: A Year in the Paraguayan Wilderness. Plough Publishing House, 2009, 39-48. Available online at: http://cdn.plough.com/~/media/Files/Plough/ebooks/pdfs/n/nolastinghomeEN.pdf
 “Emil Händiges offered his public repentance at the Fourth Mennonite World Conference in 1948. Referring to such Anabaptist and Mennonite founders as Conrad Grebel, Thomas Müntzer, and Menno Simons, Händiges recalled that the movement had, among other things, been founded on a teaching of nonresistance.” (Quoted from: Regier, Mennonitische Vergangenheitsbewältigung.)
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (November/December 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.
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By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
Many people are of the opinion that America was founded as a Christian nation. The early Americans knew better!
This is Article 11 from the Treaty of Tripoli, one of the first treaties the United States entered into. It was a treaty between the U.S. and Tripoli made in 1796 (during George Washington’s presidency).
“As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims, and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mohammedan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries” (emphasis added).
My concern for this message is to expose a detour that our Anabaptist churches took in the past century. As I was growing up, the message that I heard was what I call a “save ME gospel.” Now the term “kingdom of God” was used very loosely—as it is in many church circles—but I don’t think I ever heard, in all my growing up years, a message specifically on the kingdom. In this message I want to make it very clear what the kingdom of God is.
It is not about us! That is where the problem came in the shift of focus when I was growing up. The main thing in the messages that I heard was “We need to get saved!”
That certainly is true, but “getting saved” is a means to an end; not an end in itself. Unfortunately, “getting saved” was made an end in itself, and much of the revival preaching was focused on that end. Therefore, I would like to make it clear what the original gospel of Jesus Christ really was.
The original gospel message
The original gospel was the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent …” Now, the classic words usually following this would be, “… or you will be lost,” or “you will go to hell!”
But Jesus did not say that. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In other words, “The kingdom is right there for you to grasp, it’s at hand.” Six verses later, after calling His first four disciples, it says He “went about all Galilee … preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Mt. 4:23 Do you know that Jesus never called the gospel anything else but “the gospel of the kingdom”? In every instance where you find the content of the gospel described, it is “the gospel of the kingdom.” Every time, in the entire gospel record!
Jesus’ two most important statements were the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer. Both of these begin and end with an emphasis on the kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of God.” “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
Referring to the end of time, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” I ask you a searching question: Has the gospel of the kingdom been preached unto the ends of the earth, or has it been a “save ME gospel”?
Now I want to make one thing clear before proceeding: God uses imperfect means. I believe the gospel has been preached in many parts of the world, and despite a wrong emphasis, many people have been reconciled to God.
Parables of the kingdom
Basically all of Jesus’ parables focus on the kingdom: the kingdom is as a treasure in a field, the kingdom is as a merchant, the kingdom is as a net, the kingdom is as leaven, the kingdom is as a mustard seed …
I want to ask you a question: If I were to ask you what the seed was in the parable of the sower, what would you say?
[Response from someone in the audience: “The Word of God!”]
That’s what most people say! And that is true in a general sense, but specifically it says it is the “word of the kingdom”! I never noticed that until recently. We are so used to reading our Bible through certain lenses. Six months ago I would have probably said the same thing [as the responder from the audience.] When Jesus interprets the parable of the tares, He says the seed is “the children of the kingdom.” That excites me!
Here I am, speaking to approximately 400 seeds! What should happen is that all you seeds will go out there and be planted and grow up to be a kingdom expression of the gospel! Not just a personal experience of people getting ready to go to heaven, but a kingdom expression of the gospel should grow up around every kingdom Christian. Because you are the “seed of the kingdom.”
The kingdom in church history
But, when we turn to the history of the church, it is not very far along before we see a drastic change in focus. How many of you can recite the “Apostles’ Creed”? [A few raise hands.] Tell me, what is the word that the Apostles’ Creed begins with?
That’s interesting! The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father.” Neither the Apostles’ Creed nor any of those other major creeds after the first centuries say a single thing about the kingdom. Only the Creed of Constantinople says at the end, “… and He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” It places the kingdom “out there” somewhere in the future, but says nothing about its present reality.
The result of losing the kingdom centrality in the gospel is a difference in a person’s outlook. If the focus is on ME, then the preaching I heard all my life was truly “gospel preaching,” where the most important thing in the world is for me to “get saved.” And before I proceed, I want to make it clear that “getting saved” is a very important thing, and heaven and hell are two very important realities we must resolve in the right way.
But that is not God’s most important concern for the present age. What God wants is a corporate expression, a society of the redeemed. Thus, personal salvation is an important means to an end and not an end in itself. God cannot express His kingdom until He has redeemed people that He can use to show to everyone what the whole world would be like if everybody obeyed the King!
That’s what Christianity is all about. We are talking about community, society, corporate relationships, so that the world looking on can say, “Wow!” It is like what the queen of Sheba said when she saw Solomon’s court: “What a great God they must have! What a beautiful kingdom! I cannot believe what I see! I did not know that human beings could live together this way!”
That’s what kingdom is all about!
But you see, if you concentrate only on your personal salvation and you don’t really make the kingdom to be the heart of your gospel—as did Jesus, Paul, and the others labored to teach it—then you have individual Christians who have no vision for submission to a corporate practice. I wonder just what the world looking on does see?
The great paradigm shift
Now, I stand here guilty with all of you; we have all been involved in this paradigm shift. It is because we have not been taught that the end of our salvation is to be involved in something larger than ourselves.
The kingdom of God is the society of the redeemed. As I mentioned, this gospel of the kingdom was lost in the early centuries to an individualistic salvation. And during the last century Anabaptism swallowed it also, and we wonder why we have so much individualism now. It is the fruit of a distorted gospel. We need to get back—it is a burden of my heart—to the kingdom gospel, instead of a “save ME gospel.”
Jesus used the word “kingdom” (in reference to the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God) at least 124 times, and He never referred to the gospel as anything else. If Jesus focused on the kingdom, then that is the centrality of His message, not a marginal issue. He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.” Lk. 4:43 He tells us very explicitly why He came—to preach the kingdom!
Is the kingdom ever taught today? Well, in dispensationalist circles, the kingdom is to happen somewhere off in the future. You know, I think the Devil has used every strategy he can think of to get the focus off the kingdom. I really do! So the dispensationalist has put the kingdom off into the future … it is coming. This makes Jesus’ teaching irrelevant for today. That is what some people do with the teaching about the kingdom.
Other people, such as Augustine and Calvin, made the kingdom the central theme of their teaching, but it was a carnal kingdom ruled by force. Thus we have these two distortions, two wrong concepts, of the kingdom of God. So the message is lost.
Why did Jesus focus His message on the kingdom of God? Because that was God’s original purpose; that is why man was created. Salvation was not the main theme of God’s original work with man. Man was not “lost” when he was created. God created man so that he would have dominion and express God’s authority on this earth.
The first use of the word kingdom in the Bible is in Exodus 19:6, where it states, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests …” That makes it very clear what serving God is all about. We are mediating God’s rule on earth. He is the King; we are simply His subjects expressing His rule and authority, first of all in our own lives and fellowships, and then to the conscience of the world around us. Notice God says “ye shall be unto me,” not unto us (as humans) a kingdom of priests. The purpose of the kingdom is to show God’s benevolent rule, through us.
The world does not understand God. When they think about God, they view Him as a negative entity, as some sort of grumpy sovereign out there who enjoys giving lots of rules to make life hard … His ways are not good, and if you follow them, you will never be happy. That is the world’s concept of God. Therefore God’s purpose is that through this society of the redeemed, this little colony of heaven on earth, the world would get a glimpse of His true attractive character and have a desire to respond properly to Him.
Now the Devil has perverted the idea of the kingdom, which is why people have difficulty with it. Some leaders have perverted the idea of God’s kingdom and left a bad taste in our mouth. In the Old Testament, God initially wanted all men to be that kingdom of priests, but this purpose got lost, so He chose a nation. We will not take the time to do so now, but it is an interesting study to go through the Old Testament and see what God wanted to do with that nation. He told them, “I want to lift you up on high, so that all the nations will say, ‘What a God they have! What laws they have! What nation has been more blessed?’” He said, “I will make you the lender and not the borrower. You will be number one among the nations … if you keep all of my commandments.”
You see, that is the only way people will be blessed, by a total surrender. Now, I told you of the fragmentation that has taken place in our churches. We don’t understand submission of our lives to God and to each other for the sake of the kingdom of God.
We saw that in the Old Testament that God wanted a kingdom that would demonstrate to the whole world what a nation would look like if God was the King. And only briefly did the world ever see that, under David and somewhat under Solomon. That was it. Then we come into the New Testament.
I want to show you that the preaching of the gospel as being the gospel of the kingdom didn’t end with Christ. My goal with this message is to make all of you passionate church builders. I want you to forget about yourself, and get your relationship with God established, and then lose yourself in something bigger than yourself!
Look in Acts 19:8. What did Paul preach? “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God was Paul’s message; it was not a “save ME gospel.” Now look at Acts 20:25. “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.”
I want to ask you another searching question. When you “preach the gospel,” do you preach the kingdom of God? I hope so, and if you haven’t been doing so, I hope you start! Now let’s go to the end of Paul’s life, described in Acts 28:23. “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God.” Again, we see that the kingdom was the message! Then after Paul ends up a prisoner in his own rented house, what is he preaching in the very last verse of Acts? “The kingdom of God!”
Now, I think if Paul’s gospel had been a “save ME gospel” it would not have been stated that way. The coming of the kingdom of God was the message.
A present reality
This kingdom is a present reality, and the effects of the kingdom show, as in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25. This is what should happen when the kingdom is genuinely expressed.
If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
This is the kind of authority that the gathered body has when it is gathered in unity. It is a true kingdom expression of authority. Psalm 89:7 tells us that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.”
What is the church, as denoted by the Greek term ekklesia? If you ask most people what that means, they will say, “the called out ones.” My question is, “called out to what?” Are they called out just to enjoy each other’s fellowship?
In Acts 19, when the uproar took place in Ephesus, the town clerk came on the scene and said, “We are going to be criticized for this disorder. If something needs to be resolved, there is a proper order. If anything needs to be done, it shall be determined in a lawful ekklesia (assembly).”
If you had gone to a Greek town and asked for the ekklesia, they would have taken you to the town council! It was a governing body; ekklesia means a body of people called out to govern (guide, lead). Now suppose you went to the U.S. Congress when they were dismissing, and asked them what had happened that day. Suppose they said, “We had a wonderful fellowship together! We were so encouraged! We had a fellowship meal, and it was a wonderful potluck dinner; you should have seen it! I was so glad I came to Congress, because I was so discouraged, but now I am really inspired!”
You would probably say, “That is not the reason you were supposed to be meeting together! You were not supposed to be there for yourself! You were supposed to be there to make good laws for this country, for yourself, for the assembly, and for the whole nation.”
A kingdom of peace
And that is why we are here, to give guidance to the nations. The early church demonstrated that. Concerning the Pax Romana, history books tell you that it was because the Roman army was so formidable and its punishments so terrifying that other nations dared not resist Rome’s rule. But if you read the early church writings, you get a different story. They say the reason for those 200 years of peace—which coincided with the first centuries of the church—was that the Prince of Peace had come and established a kingdom of peace, and this kingdom’s prayers and influence were keeping the world at peace! Interestingly, those 200 years of peace ended about the same time that the early church began to lose its practice of nonresistance.
The most tragic compromise the church ever made was its compromise of nonresistance.
Since that time, some of the most horrible things have happened “in the name of Jesus”: the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery in America, the American Civil War, and World Wars I and II.
People say, “What do you do with a man like Hitler?” Well, most of the people in Germany were Lutherans. If the church had never lost its stand on nonresistance, Hitler would have had no army! Almost none of the wars in Western civilization would have ever occurred. Do you see now what happened to this kingdom? It got messed up with tragic and unspeakably horrible consequences.
I have to tell you—and I have heard this in testimonies from various people—that the most powerful testimony of the church has been its testimony of nonresistance. We live in a world that is sick of war, hatred, violence, killing, and all the things that go along with war. To hear that there is a group of people—the Anabaptists—who for 500 years has been able to live together in peace without the sword is about the most appealing message we could ever give to the world.
I hope that by now you understand what the gospel of the kingdom is: a gospel that says, “Yes, God wants to save human beings and take them to heaven, but the most important part is that He wants them to be an expression of His kingdom here on earth.” I will again state my definition of the kingdom of God: A group of people who show to everyone what the whole world would look like if everybody obeyed the King!
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.