I don't endorse all of these totally, but do find them very refreshing and largely on point:
1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.
2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
3. Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalised Jesus, and has left the churches ill-equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.
5. Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender and baptism is for believers.
6. Spirituality and economics are inter-connected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.
7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding non-violent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
(From Stuart Murray's The Naked Anabaptist, 45-46.)
(From Stuart Murray's The Naked Anabaptist, 45-46.)
C. Arnold Snyder summarizes the convictions widely shared by Anabaptists by the end of the 16th century as the following:
- Christians are to follow the example of Jesus and obey his teachings, whatever the consequences.
- The Bible is authoritative on ethical and ecclesial issues as well as theology.
- Church and state are both divinely ordained but are to be kept seperate.
- Churches are communities of baptized disciples who are accountable to and for one another.
- Church discipline (including the use of the 'ban') is crucial to maintain the purity and distinctiveness of the church.
- Followers of Jesus are to share their resources freely with one another.
- Nonviolence and truth telling are essential aspects of discipleship, so Christians should not fight or swear oaths.
- Suffering is normal for faithful disciples and is a mark of the true church.
- Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but keeping the commandments of God counts for everything. ( 1 Cor 7.19)
- For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but faith working through love counts for everything. (Gal 5.6)
- For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation counts for everything (Gal 6.15).
Here are key excerpts from a paper summarizing Anabaptist hermeneutics by Stuart Murray:
[Within the Christendom framework,] It was soon recognised that it was impractical to require the whole population to accept New Testament ethics, so Old Testament norms were adopted for all except the monastic orders. Church leaders also realised that the New Testament provided no guidelines for organising the kind of sacral society or hierarchical Church which were emerging, but they found many hopeful structures in the Old Testament. Consequently, the authority of the Old Testament grew and much New Testament teaching tended to be regarded as applicable only in the religious orders, in the eschatological kingdom, or as unreachable ideals.
By emphasising justification by faith [the Reformers] focused attention on the New Testament and on Jesus as redeemer, but they would not allow Jesus to be normative for ethics as well as soteriology. Though they insisted on the freedom of biblical interpretation from the scrutiny of political or ecclesiastical authorities, in practice they often deferred to these authorities.
Anabaptists came to realise that reforming the state church system was inadequate and that forming believers' churches was essential. After some initial uncertainty, they comprehensively rejected Christendom and its symbols.
The implications for hermeneutics of the Anabaptists' rejection of Christendom were profound and led to the development of an approach to biblical interpretation that was very different from that of the Reformers, an approach that resulted in alternative perspectives, especially on ethical issues and ecclesiology.
(1) The Bible as Self-interpreting
Most Anabaptists regarded Scripture as Christocentric, treating the words and example of Jesus as the clearest and most accessible portion of Scripture. All other passages were interpreted in the light of this. They acknowledged that the Old Testament was less easy to interpret, requiring careful handling lest it detract from the centrality of Jesus and the radical newness of the new covenant.
The centrality of Jesus in Scripture was foundational for Anabaptist hermeneutics and theology. He was regarded as the one to whom all Scripture pointed and witnessed, and his words and deeds were authoritative and normative.
(3) The Two Testaments
From this Anabaptist conviction that Jesus Christ was pivotal to biblical revelation flowed the priority they accorded to the New Testament. Most were convinced that the new covenant he introduced made it impossible to put the Old Testament on the same level as the New. Although many acknowledged the essential unity of Scripture, the Anabaptists' Bible was not flat, and many emphasised the discontinuity between the Testaments.
(4) Spirit and Word
Accused of both literalism and spiritualism, most Anabaptists were committed both to the normative role of Scripture and to the active involvement of the Holy Spirit in the process of interpretation.
(5) Congregational Hermeneutics
This conviction that the congregation was where Scripture should be interpreted, rather than the university, the preacher's study or the mind of the individual, was significant in some Anabaptist groups. However, this too must be understood in the context of other important convictions.. . . . And the Anabaptist emphasis on obedience as a prerequisite for understanding Scripture meant that only a community of would-be disciples could expect illumination.
(6) Hermeneutics of Obedience
The importance attached to ethical considerations in interpreting Scripture, both in the legitimising of interpreters and the testing of their conclusions, is clear from Anabaptist writings. However, this principle overlapped with others in certain ways which in some measure qualified it.
The synthetic model that can be extracted from Anabaptist hermeneutical principles and practices is that of a Spirit-filled disciple, confidently interpreting Scripture within a community of such disciples, aware that Jesus Christ is the centre from which the rest of Scripture must be interpreted.
- Generous Justice by Tim Keller. Keller on Justice. Nuff said.
- 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Rob Plummer. Plummer is a fantastic teacher and I am real excited about diving into this one. Should be very helpful.
- God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by Jim Hamilton. A whole Bible biblical theology. Finally. This one will be a gem I am sure. Hamilton loves his canon.
- 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner. Schreiner has spent many, many years dealing with this complex topic. This one leans toward New Covenant Theology.
- The Mission of God's People by Chris Wright. Sort of a follow-up to his "The Mission of God," which was a fantastic read. Wright will argue for a more holistic mission and I am eager to see his proposals.