The Dogmatic Imagination: The Dynamics of Christian Belief. By A. James Reimer. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2003. $9.99, U.S.; $15.79, Can.
James Reimer boldly titled this slim collection of essays The Dogmatic Imagination in an attempt to ?counter the common misconception that confessions, doctrines, dogmas and creeds . . . necessarily mean rigidity, inflexibility and intolerance, as in the words ?doctrinaire? or ?dogmatism.?? Instead, he argues in his introduction, doctrines, creeds and dogmas historically were seen as dynamic’as ?symbols of faith that developed over time? (xiv).
Reimer, a professor of religion and theology at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, and director of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles, including the recent Mennonites and Classical Theology: Dogmatic Foundations for Christian Ethics (Pandora Press, 2001). If one placed all contemporary Mennonite theologians on a continuum, with one end being ?appreciators of classical, trinitarian orthodoxy? and the other end being radical ?constructionists? of various sorts, Reimer would clearly find his place among the former. For Reimer there are some eternal truths, some moral obligations imposed from beyond human experience and a somewhat discernible cosmic design and purpose. Moreover, the faith symbols of the Christian past continue to illuminate those truths and responsibilities. ?The challenge for us,? he says, ?is to take basic Christian beliefs (doctrines) of the historic Christian faith and, together with our youth, re-imagine their meaning for today? (3).
The author describes such a theological task as more like a game of Scrabble than a jigsaw puzzle. In a puzzle, there is a predetermined outcome. However, with Scrabble’while people have to respect the game’s rules, and while there are fixed components such as the number of squares on the game board, an unalterable alphabet and a predetermined value for each letter’within the limits and rules of the game, there is ?virtually unlimited freedom? (4). Throughout most of the book, Reimer is faithful to this vision of theological reflection as dynamic and imaginative. Given that, the book’s cover image of a white-bearded male God reaching down toward earth’William Blake’s ?The Ancient of Days’?seems ill chosen.
The essays themselves, which deal with traditional themes in succession, generally are relatively ?open,? leaving some questions unresolved even while being clear about some core truth claims. Although the essay headings themselves read a bit like Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (e.g., God the Father, Jesus-Christ, The Fall, Salvation, The Church, Baptism, Prayer, Sexuality, Judgment, Life Everlasting), the tone and content of each piece is considerably more dynamic, providing fresh interpretations of some theological themes. At times the reader is reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s ?second navet,? an infusion of new meaning into old terms to provide continuity with past symbols. Reimer says he seeks to ?enliven our imagination concerning [dogmas of the church]?to go deeper by enriching our language? (6). Such would appear true in, for instance, Reimer’s brief discussion of God’s existence (xiii-xiv) and his comments about heaven, judgment and hell: ?The biblical image of ?lake of fire? with its ?weeping and gnashing of teeth? is meant to convey figuratively the seriousness of sin, and the conviction that evil cannot be committed with impunity? (75). Regarding parables about the ?end time,? he writes: ?The bodily departure of Christ makes possible his return in a new form’as a transforming power (the Spirit) within us and within the world? (80).
At other times Reimer, while acknowledging theological tensions around certain issues, offers more traditional renderings of theological themes. After identifying several of the historical options for understanding how Jesus? death may be salvific, he casts his weight with the legal substitutionary-satisfaction model, noting that ?it can be meaningful only if we understand Christ’s death on the cross as God himself dying on our behalf, bearing our sin? (41).
Overall, Reimer worries about domesticating ?the Jesus who followed the way of the cross and called us to do the same? (68) and softening the message of salvation (37). He describes the church as being ?with spot and wrinkle . . . . We have come to realize that the world is within us? (49). Yet he calls for a pursuit of holiness (sanctification) as well as a recognition of our fallenness. Those involved in current debates in the church regarding homosexuality will find insightful Reimer’s distinctions between ?forbearance? and ?tolerance,? and his broader (though brief) comments about homosexual unions, exclusion and church polity (88). Ecumenical throughout the text, he expresses appreciation for high church sacramentality (55) and for the Catholic embrace of the senses in worship (70).
Reimer seeks to be faithful both to the Bible and to the early Christian creeds (and faithfulness to these texts is not always the same thing, critics will note). He speaks as a Mennonite, but is not afraid to criticize Anabaptists throughout history for problematic beliefs or behaviors. To illuminate most of his essays, Reimer draws extensively on his own experience and on contemporary popular culture’films, novels, poetry’perhaps as much as on the Bible and the creeds themselves. Such source citation makes the text all the more engaging and accessible, especially for young people in catechism classes. It also evidences his own willingness to ?embrace the world in which we live’?though ?through the eyes of traditional wisdom? (2).
The first twenty-one essays in the text were published over a two-year period (1993-1995) in The Mennonite Reporter, now The Canadian Mennonite. The last three essays, slightly longer meditations on ?The Faithful Church,? ?The Corporate Church? and ?Soldiers or Martyrs,? are thoughtfully written, but might have been better integrated into earlier essays or at least placed alongside essays with similar themes. All of the pieces begin, in a way that hooks the reader, with personal storytelling.
With its references to terms rarely used in some theological circles today (prelapsarian, rapture, revival), the text serves as a bridge between several generations of Mennonite believers. With its imaginative rendering of some traditional themes, and with its ability to articulate core Christian convictions, the text would be useful for youth catechism or for studies with new (and older) members of the church.
Goshen College KEITH GRABER MILLER
Paul Among the Postliberals: Pauline Theology Beyond Christendom and Modernity. By Douglas Harink. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press. 2003. Pp. 283. $23.99.
In The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology, George Hunsinger argued that if postliberal theology depends on the continued existence of the so-called ?Yale school? it is in serious trouble. Douglas Harink’s Paul Among the Postliberals should give theologians like Hunsinger hope: postliberal theology does not need to be tightly construed in terms of the influence of Hans Frei and George Lindbeck upon their students. For Harink, postliberalism owes far more to Karl Barth than it does to Frei or Lindbeck (though that dichotomy is by no means clean; Frei and Lindbeck were each also shaped by their readings of Barth). Barth heralded a contemporary mode of doing Christian theology that was not overly determined by the dogmas of liberal Protestantism: faith in progress, the priority of Enlightened rationality to religious belief and a reductively historicizing approach to scripture and tradition. By following Barth’s lead in rejecting these foci, postliberalism, at least as Harink renders it, takes promising shape.
Paul Among the Postliberals makes three chief contributions to contemporary theology. In the first place, Harink furnishes his readers with an accessible exegetical account of the relation between Christ’s faith and the church that places the political emphases of postliberalism squarely within the compass of the New Testament. Secondly, he promotes a telescopic view of Christian history by insisting that we live in a cultural climate where the raison d’tre of Paul’s missionary activity can be seen and felt afresh. And lastly, but to my mind most importantly, Harink begins to address contemporary concerns with the extent to which theology has been separated from the disciplined study of Scripture in the academy for the last century-and-a-half. Perhaps the best way to extract these themes from the text is by rehearsing the book’s argument.
Harink first examines ?the new perspective on Paul,? a trend in contemporary New Testament scholarship that began with Krister Stendahl’s important essay, ?The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West.? Stendahl and others influenced by him argued that Paul’s account of the Christian life is misunderstood if read through post-Reformation eyes: Paul’s concern was not his guilty conscience and imputed righteousness (which is how the doctrine of justification by faith through grace comes down to us), but with the way the cosmos has been changed through Jesus? faithful obedience unto death and God’s vindication of that faithfulness in the resurrection. Harink argues two points: first, the new perspective on Paul is right’that is, justification is best conceived in terms of God’s putting to death of the world and raising it anew in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and second, that the Christian life must therefore primarily concern a politics that negotiates how to live in the light of Christ’s faithfulness, just as postliberals since Barth have been saying (though perhaps on exegetical grounds that are less surefooted).
The second and third chapters introduce the theology of Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder, respectively, as capably as anything I have seen. Here, Harink deepens his display of theology’s apocalyptic character by showing how both Hauerwas and Yoder echo Paul, who maintained that there can be no more decisive rendering of the way the world is than that revealed in the cross of Christ. Chapter 2, on Galatians and Hauerwas, is especially helpful in regard to the common criticism that Hauerwas does not engage Scripture deeply or, for that matter, often, in his work. By rehearsing the central themes of Hauerwas’s theopolitical vision in terms of its continuities with Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Harink provides a way of reading Hauerwas as enmeshed in an exploration of the deep logic of Scripture. In Chapter 3, Harink exhibits how ?the politics of Paul? forms the bridge between Yoder’s political Jesus and the church’s mission in history. Yoder, Harink argues, picked up and extended Paul’s use of ?powers? language, creating the possibility for the church to appreciate how it remains in fundamentally the same position as Paul with respect to the world; our task, like his, is to puzzle through what it will mean to say ?Jesus is Lord? in whatever cultural idiom we encounter.
The idiom we encounter today is often that of ?multicultural pluralism.? The question that shapes the final two chapters of Paul Among the Postliberals is thus: ?How do you pronounce the Lordship of Christ in a multicultural world’? Harink’s answer is, ?Not without the Jews.? Much Christian theology, in a trend that theologians like N. T. Wright maintain reaches back to Paul, treats Israel as (at best) prolegomenal to Christian existence, dispensable after its life has been recapitulated in the new life Christ brings. Inasmuch, however, as postliberals react against modernist assumptions regarding universal reason and individualism’assumptions that blossomed in the Constantinian climate of Western Christianity’it is (at least for Hauerwas and Yoder) absolutely central to their theological and political vision that the Jews have been called by God in all their corporate fleshiness and particularity to be the chosen people. Importantly, then, for postliberals the continuing pertinence of the Jews for the social shape of the salvation Christ brings cannot be set aside in favor of some ?wider? or more cosmopolitan account of redemption. And Paul, Harink argues, maintained this perspective too: there is no hint in Romans, for instance, that Paul thought Christ or the church replaced Israel as the people of God. Rather, for Paul, the shape of Christian existence is to be configured largely in terms of continuity with Israel, in, that is, shaping a gospel culture out of the fusion of two peoples, Jew and Gentile. The question to be asked is not ?Does the church replace Israel as God’s elect’? but ?How does the church extend the election of Israel to the nations’? That question, Harink maintains, needs to be made central to the church’s witness and mission today if the church is to be a people among the peoples capable of faithfully proclaiming Christ as Lord.
Despite the undeniable strengths of Paul Among the Postliberals, I have a set of reservations. Here, I will elaborate two of them. In the first place, I am not convinced that this is a book about ?postliberals.? This is in part because I question (with Hauerwas and Yoder) the usefulness of the term. If postliberalism is to be defined as a rejection of central tenets of liberal theology, then virtually everyone writing in theology today is postliberal in one regard or other. If it is to be defined also, as Harink suggests, by an appreciation of Barth, then the parameters have been tightened somewhat and Hauerwas and Yoder certainly fit. But I struggle to envision either of these (extraordinarily idiosyncratic voices) as representative samples. Frei, Lindbeck, Hunsinger, Placher’these are the names that deserve pride of place as ?postliberals,? and a book purporting to be about postliberalism should have to deal with them, or at least account for why it does not.
I suspect, however, that the presence of ?postliberal? in Harink’s book can largely be accounted for in terms of alliteration: Paul Among the Postliberals rolls off the tongue much more smoothly than any of the alternatives I can imagine. The book is really about Paul, Hauerwas and Yoder, which leads to my second reservation. Paul Among the Postliberals is a decidedly muscular book, pervaded by a sense of crisis and the correlative desire for clear alternatives. This is also to say that the book is not hard enough’not in the sense that it is an undemanding read, but in the sense that the position it adopts is too easily won. Very little, for instance, of the apostle’s pathos or capacity to put himself under the judgment of the gospel he announces to the nations makes it through to the pages of this book, and this despite much talk of cruciformity in Paul’s ethic. This need for clear alternatives and a right way to read Paul, I think, not only perpetuates a diremptive mistake with respect to the New Testament’Paul is either the apostle of God’s apocalypse or he is consumed by an overwhelming sense of human frailty and capacity for failure’but also facilitates misreadings of Harink’s other two protagonists, Yoder and Hauerwas, both of whom discovered that if Christ’s church is God’s ?new humanity? it is therefore to be encountered only as something essentially fragile. I would have liked to see Harink negotiate a way for Christians ?beyond Christendom and modernity? that mirrors not only the triumph of God’s apocalypse in Christ, but also the patience, self-criticism and capacity for repentance that Yoder and Hauerwas (following Paul) think central to the church’s social shape.
Duke University J. ALEXANDER SIDER
Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts. Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. 2000. Pp. 232. $16.
Recovering the Scandal of the Cross is not written from an exclusively Anabaptist point of view but the authors are well versed in Mennonite thinking on the atonement and integrate those perspectives into their broader ecumenical and evangelical approach with integrity and respect.
One of the strengths of this book is that it was coauthored by a New Testament scholar and a theologian. The interdisciplinary approach is especially important on this topic. The book contains nine chapters’with the first half of the book devoted to the biblical material and the last half to contemporary theological and missiological issues arising from the atonement.
The first chapter sets the agenda. The authors review briefly early church constructions of atonement theology and then move on to Anselm before raising contemporary challenges. One important theme of this chapter, and indeed, of the entire book, is enculturation. Concepts of the atonement, whether situated in the early church or later centuries, are necessarily enculturated. But contextuality is both necessity and problem. A concept dependent on its enculturation for meaning in one culture will not necessarily communicate in another culture. God’s mission is, therefore, dependent on witnesses being able to communicate understandings of the atonement across those cultural divides.
Chapters 2 and 3 of the book outline the biblical understandings of the atonement. The arrangement of the ideas in these chapters is roughly chronological. The authors discuss Jesus? own thoughts about his death, discerned through the Gospel grid, and then move into a survey of the multiplicity of images that Paul used. They then discuss the rich variety found in Luke, John, Hebrews and 1 Peter. At the end of Chapter 3, the authors use an apt musical metaphor to describe the interaction of the various atonement images in the New Testament: ?Heard together, their harmony is sometimes delicate. At other times the effect is more complex, with wonderful hints of powerful melodies contending with countermelodies. That all belong in the same choir is nonetheless assured? (86).
In some ways, Chapter 4 is the heart of the book’for it is here that the authors introduce the concept of mission into their analysis. The chapter begins with a description of the contemporary dilemma. Some people have a high view of the importance of the atonement’but their concept of it is fixed and rigid, and has little to do with the actual biblical material. Others have a low view of the importance of the atonement’for them the concept is outmoded, outdated and, for some, a hurtful notion that ought to be discarded. The atonement is ?in the dock? (89). As a case in point, feminists have objected to penal substitution atonement because it portrays God as a punitive father and legitimizes abuse in human relationships. Taking mission seriously means taking this critique seriously as well. In response, Green and Baker suggest that a wider variety of New Testament imagery not only counters the more harmful elements of penal substitutionary atonement but offers space and scope for addressing some of these contemporary concerns.
In Chapter 5, the authors begin the constructive task. They first assess the various theologies of the atonement that have been articulated in the centuries between the New Testament writings and the current scene. They summarize and evaluate the four major models of atonement theory, Christus Victor, satisfaction, moral influence and penal substitution. Their treatment here is far from comprehensive; that would take more than one book, but it is a good overview. They look to a major figure, and sometimes more than one, for each of the models and then assess the models in light of the work done earlier on the biblical material. They conclude that understanding the saving significance of Jesus? death is not so much the result of any particular theory, as it is an ongoing theological task in the service of mission. The ongoing work is to articulate the mystery of the cross in the ordinary language and metaphors of a culture in dialogue with the biblical language and metaphors.
The remainder of the chapters, 6 through 9, model atonement theology in the service of mission. Chapter 6 is a poignant recounting of Norman Kraus’s struggle to communicate the atonement in Japan. In Japan’s shame-based culture, Kraus found little affinity with the penal substitution theory of the atonement. But the Japanese did have a great deal of affinity with the shame and honor culture of the New Testament. Green and Baker credit Kraus with not only helping Japanese Christians understand the saving activity of Jesus? death, but also contributing significantly to the understanding of the atonement more generally since we all, whatever our culture, deal with some issues of shame and honor.
Chapter 7 returns to the feminist critique of the cross’named as one of the most significant contemporary challenges in Chapter 4. Darby Kathleen Ray is a feminist theologian who works seriously with the criticisms of Western feminism in her critical reworking of the patristic Christus Victor model. Green and Baker give Ray credit for helping Christians think about and resist the forces of evil and violence outside themselves. They criticize her work, however, for not giving adequate consideration to the evil we encounter in our inner selves and in our relationships.
Chapters 8 is the most moving. The authors describe what they call ?ministry moments,? situations in which church leaders have found gentle and meaningful ways to connect the atonement with the needs of people. Rowan Williams ministering in secular Great Britain, Bishop Kisare leading the Mennonite Church in Tanzania through a multilayered conflict and Curtis Chang working with college students in Boston attest to the transforming power of a contextual use of atonement theology.
The last chapter summarizes the book by introducing the metaphor of ?craft.? Atonement theology is something that we can and must learn to do effectively and authentically. No one model of the atonement can speak to every situation in which the atonement matters. Our task as Christians is ?to find context-specific ways to make the word of the cross accessible and challenging to varied audiences? (221).
I have found this book useful’personally and in teaching’and recommend it to pastors. If a book can embody a ?non-anxious presence,? this one does. It can be a helpful companion as people work through issues that have sometimes tied them in knots.
I am especially appreciative of the hospitality provided in this book for Anabaptist perspectives and experience. My only wish, and it is a deep one, is that Green and Baker would have perceived and integrated the nonviolence that resides at the core of the cross into their understanding of the atonement. It is such an important notion’so key in some of the texts, such as 1 Peter and Luke, given serious attention in this book’that not to deal with nonviolence seems sad. That oversight, however, may not so much be the failure of the authors as the failure of the heirs of the Radical Reformation.
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary MARY H. SCHERTZ
Die ?Hiesigen? und die ?Unsrigen.? Wertverstndnis Mennonitischer Aussiedlerfamilien aus Drfern der Region Orenburg/Ural. By Regina Lneke. Marburg: N.G. Elwert Verlag. 2000. Pp. 425.
This book, appearing as Volume 81 of the series published by the German Society for Folk Studies? ?Commission for Germany and Eastern European Folk Studies,? is divided into four parts. In addition to an introduction, Part One offers a review of the literature on Russian-German Mennonites, and a short presentation of their history and central teachings, along with references to their reception by Mennonites in Germany. Part Two describes the range of their life ?between the cultures? in ten different areas, including school, occupation, residence, congregation, state and culture in general. In Part Three the author devotes some 100 pages to discussing in more detail the impact and reshaping of values that evangelism and Bible studies have had on these Mennonites. Here Lneke offers an assessment of sermons by Klaus Hornischer, Johannes Reimer, Gerhard Hamm, Abraham Fast and Wilhelm Pahls. Part Four is devoted to the theme of acculturation and integration, supplemented with a detailed bibliography of primary and secondary sources along with sixteen photos.
The significance of this book is grounded in the author herself who pursues her research as an uninitiated non-Mennonite. Lneke’s understanding of Mennonite history and customs is based largely on her reading and observation, maintaining an emotional distance in her interviews. The long list of well-known authors and experts in Mennonite theology and history’names like Brednich, Eisfeld, Epp, Fleischhauer, Friesen, Gerber, Kahle, Sawatsky, Stricker, Toews, Unruh’testifies to her serious effort to construct a well-rounded picture of the Mennonites, an effort further enhanced by her knowledge of English.
At the same time, her non-Mennonite background can also lead to misinterpretations and false conclusions. Thus, for example, the concepts of ?Mennonitengemeinde? and ?Mennoniten-Brdergemeinde? (MGB) are some-times switched around or used in a confusing way so that an elder, Wilhelm Lwen (MGB), is described as a ?Mennonitengemeinde? (243). The evangelist Wilhelm Pahls is described as a Mennonite, which is simply not true (247). Wilhelm Lwen immigrated to Germany from Kirgisstan, not from Orenburg.
Lneke rightly notes that the points of departure for research in this field are very difficult (82). Reducing the interviews to two family groups from Brake, however, seems to be too limited, especially in light of the fact that more than 30,000 people emigrated from the villages of Orenburg to establish congregations in places like Nmbrecht, Bielefeld, Detmold. Elders such as P. Rempel, A. Neufeld and P. Grunau would have surely been ready to give interviews if they had been asked to do so by the author.
Yet, as a whole, the results of this study can be useful for immigrants of Mennonite and, in part, Baptist background beyond the specific names or places. Illustrations of art work and descriptions of baptismal and funeral services hold true for the homes of most Russian-German Mennonite immigrants, regardless of whether they came from Orenburg, Kirgisstan or Kasachstan. And the stories of these Mennonites will likely be quite similar to the reports given in the interviews with the two family groups from Braken.
My impression is that the dissertation by John N. Klassen, a Canadian now residing in Germany, offers a more accurate and complete overview of Aussiedler Mennonites. A place-specific and detailed description of the values of Mennonite-German Russians from the villages of the Orenburg region remains to be done.
Bielefeld, Germany HEINRICH KLASSEN
Mennonite Low German Dictionary/Mennonitisch-Plattdeutsches Wrterbuch. By Jack Thiessen. Madison, Wis.: Max Kade Institute. 2003. Pp. 549. $39.95, cloth; $24.95, paper.
The term ?Mennonite Low German? in the title of Jack Thiessen’s new dictionary’as explained in his preface, ?History of Mennonite Low German’? refers to the Low German/Low Saxon dialect spoken in America and elsewhere by Mennonites whose forebears originated in the Netherlands. They migrated from the Netherlands to Prussia in the sixteenth century, to Russia several centuries later, from there to America, and more recently from Russia to Germany. They call their dialect Plautdietsch.
Sixteenth-century Mennonites in the Netherlands spoke dialects native to their ancestral home regions. Religious persecution forced them to flee to West Prussia (Poland) where they settled among Low Prussian (Low German) people whose spoken language they could understand. In time, Mennonites in Prussia accepted the manner of speech of their neighbors, adding some Netherlandic words and expressions. Their spoken word was not known as ?Mennonite? at that time because they simply adopted the tongue of their neighbors. Mennonite populations in Prussia never exceeded 10 percent of the total in any one region. One wonders then, why their dialect is now known as Mennonite Low German? What became of all the other speakers?
Political changes in West Prussia following 1772 intensified land-ownership restrictions on Mennonites, suppressed the widespread use of dialects in public offices and promoted use of the Standard (High) German language.
When Mennonites in Prussia migrated to New Russia (now Ukraine) before and after 1800, they founded closed villages where they spoke their Plautdietsch dialect in isolation from the Russian/Ukrainian language. Back in Prussia, people eventually yielded to official language policy and adopted Standard German. Thus, Mennonites in Russia became sole custodians of their Low German dialect, known today as ?Mennonite Low German.? In Russia, virtually no Low German literary activity existed. Some disdained Low German as a barnyard language, unsuitable for use by self-respecting Mennonites. A minority switched to the ?more refined? German of Schiller and Goethe, but most continued with Low German in their homes, on their farms, within families and in the company of friends. However, public meetings or worship services were usually conducted in Standard German by all but a few. Some Old Colony Mennonites worshiped in Low German as some do in Canada to this day.
Jacob H. Janzen and Arnold Dyck were the first Mennonite writers of note to publish in Low German. Janzen began his works in Russia around 1910, whereas Dyck began writing and publishing his more numerous works in Manitoba in the 1940s. Scarcely any reference literature and no dictionaries were available at that time. Although orthographies in the works of Janzen and Dyck differed from each other, both served later writers and lexicographers as useful references.
In the late 1970s, Jack Thiessen and Herman Rempel of Manitoba began publishing Low German dictionaries. Rempel’s most recent is Kjenn Jie noch Plautdietsch? (Can you still speak Low German’), published in 1995. Thiessen’s third publication is the volume currently under review.
The cover of Thiessen’s most recent dictionary depicts a conservatively attired Mennonite couple, possibly of Old Colony persuasion. The volume contains 303 two-column pages of Low German words defined in German and in English, and 181 two-column pages of English words defined in Low German. Thiessen indicates more than 25,000 entries.
Thiessen explains in ?Guidelines to Mennonite Low German Orthography? that it is of fairly strict phonetic nature and follows the basic principles of German spelling. His endorsement of these principles promotes ease of reading among those familiar with written German. He follows substantially the Fehrs-Gilde (Low German Literary Society and Publishing Company, founded in Germany, 1916) guidelines for writing the Low German/Low Saxon language as spoken by about eight million people in northern Germany. (A million or more Low Saxons in the Netherlands spell in the Dutch manner). Thereby, Thiessen reaffirms the affinity of Plautdietsch to sister dialects of the Low German family of dialects.
Vowels followed by a single consonant are usually spoken long (with some exceptions) and those followed by two consonants are short. Theissen adds that an h after a vowel may indicate its length or enhance word recognition by creating visual resemblance to a familiar German word, such as: wohne (wohnen; to reside), ahm (ihm; him) and ahre (ihre; hers), as advocated by Fehrs-Gilde.
Thiessen exceeds suggested usage of silent h in Kohma (Kammer; pantry), Kroohn (Krone; crown), lohte (lassen; to let), Moohd (Mode; fashion) and Rohda (Raderer; wheeler), but falls short in a (ihr; her), neie (nhen; to sew), Rua (Rohr; pipe), snijch (sehnig; sinewy) and tole (zahlen; to pay).
Phoneme-Letter correspondences are clear and helpful, although several consonant clusters, such as sch and zh, do not seem to relate to symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet as quoted.
Centuries of geographical isolation between speaker groups and the absence of a standardizing literature have contributed to the evolution of variations in pronunciation of Low German words. Such differences create problems in writing the dialect phonemically. For example, many Plautdietsch words contain a palatalized k, pronounced among speaker groups variously as tj or kj. The Low German word for ?church? is written and spoken as Kark in most dialects. But, in Plautdietsch it is spoken Tjoatj by Mennonites whose ancestors remained in Russia until the 1920s and later. On the other hand, descendants of those who migrated from Russia to America in the 1870s largely speak and write it as Kjoakj, more like Kark. Thiessen deals with the problem by spelling palatalized k as tj. This may satisfy families of post-1920s migrations, but perplexes those of the 1870s. Perhaps a solution to’or escape from’the problem would be to list both spelling forms, whether tj or kj, as in Tjoatj and Kjoakj.
Use of the ijch cluster’as in toodrajlijch (zutrglich; advantageous), needijch (ntig; necessary) and windijch (windig; windy)?which Thiessen employs, seems absent in Low German/Low Saxon literature in dialects other than Plautdietsch.
Thiessen’s treatment of the initial consonant v demonstrates harmony with the widely-accepted Fehrs-Gilde guidelines. His spellings and definitions of Vahang, (curtain), Vaspa (afternoon lunch), Veadel (quarter part), Vodalaund (fatherland), vom (from), von (from or of) and vondoag (today) are above reproach. Some writers of Plautdietsch use initial f in these words.
Thiessen includes numerous Russian/Ukrainian and English words that have made their way into Plautdietsch. Since not all speakers are equally familiar with foreign language words, some of those listed may be unfamiliar even to fluent readers. Following are examples from the dictionary:
Russian: Saula (salt-cured fatty pork rind), Samogon (Russian homemade liquor), Remont (renovation), Schemmadaun (a large suitcase), Plemmenitj (nephew), Trubb (pipe), Prepaul (all is lost), Prewaulj (abyss).
English: Beila (boiler), Rdita (radiator), Fenss (fence), Firteleisa (fertilizer), Gopha (gopher), Honeymoon (honeymoon), jleiche (to like), Koa (car), Kombein (combine), Trock (truck).
The range of vocabulary in Thiessen’s latest dictionary is remarkable. This reviewer finds few omissions thus far. Those interested in expanding their vocabulary in Mennonite Low German will not likely find a better reference dictionary. It makes a strong bid for recognition as Thiessen’s masterpiece.
Kelowna, British Columbia REUBEN EPP
Die deutschsprachigen Siedlerschulen in Paraguay im Spannungsfeld staatlicher Kultur- und Entwicklungspolitik. By Jakob Warkentin. Mnster, Germany: Waxmann Verlag. 1998. Pp. 444. ?34,80.
Jakob Warkentin, the author of this volume on ?Schools of the German Colonies from the Perspective of Official Cultural and Development Policies,? is a Mennonite with extensive experience in the Mennonite schools of Paraguay as well as in the public schools in Germany. Warkentin began research for this work, an academic dissertation, in 1973 under Leonard Froese, a Mennonite, a professor of comparative education and a one-time rector at the University of Marburg, Germany. For the next 20 years, while working full-time as a teacher and administrator, Warkentin continued his investigations. The extent of his research’the bibliography includes well over 350 entries’results in a comprehensive and exhaustive study covering all the schools of the German-speaking colonies in Paraguay, most of which are Mennonite, and supplies ample background valuable to all interested in the history and sociology of the Paraguayan Mennonites.
An example of special interest to this reviewer is the attention given to Menno Colony, until recently often neglected in reports. This group long opposed any change in education; thus hardly anyone from within wrote about their schools. They had come to Paraguay because their traditional way of life, including their German schools, became threatened in Canada. With sensitivity and apparent fairness Warkentin describes the status of these schools as they existed well into the 1930s and 1940s. These schools followed a fossilized tradition that ?clung vehemently to a system that made trained teachers, didactically oriented teaching materials with practical exercises superfluous . . . [for them] the Bible, the Gesangbuch, the catechism and the Fibel covered the whole gamut of necessary reading materials, while inherited patterns and formulas served as the basis for teaching penmanship and arithmetic? (180). Although there may have been additional factors involved, Warkentin sees the change in Menno coming about as a result of Menno Colony people mingling with the Mennonite refugees who came from Russia in the late 1940s, many of whom stayed in Menno for extended periods from the time of their arrival in Paraguay until they could settle in Neuland Colony. For many in Menno this resulted in an expansion of their experiential horizon as they fraternized with coreligionists speaking the same language but who had come through very different experiences and who attached great value to formal education. Once the resulting change in education in Menno began, it could not be stalled. Today the children and young people of the once tradition-bound Menno Colony have the same educational opportunities as do those of the formerly more progressive colonies. Menno Colony currently cooperates with the Paraguayan educational authorities and is open to educational aid from Germany in the same way as are those colonies of Mennonites who came to Paraguay directly from Europe.
The wider historical background included in this volume also makes it a welcome supplement to the writings of Peter P. Klassen or, on the topic of Nazism among the Paraguayan Mennonites, to the volume by John Thiesen. On the latter topic, Klassen writes as one who experienced this movement and was affected by it whereas Thiesen essentially confined his research to documents written in English. Warkentin, not having arrived in Paraguay until after World War II, writes from a more detached position than did Klassen. Warkentin demonstrates his reflective stance on this issue by explaining that these isolated Mennonites were completely unprepared when confronted with the barrage of Third Reich ideology sprung upon them by Max Kliewer and others. They capitulated because they had not been taught to think in terms of politics. With a background that tended to equate Volkstum (peoplehood, i.e., being German in this case) with Christentum (being Christian) they became easily confused.
Warkentin is optimistic about the changes and the present status of the German heritage schools in Paraguay, among which the Mennonite schools play the most important role. Teachers with a German heritage but from other than Mennonite background now come for training to the fully accredited teacher training institute (Lehrerseminar) in Filadelfia, and Mennonite teachers trained there teach in government schools. The topics discussed at Mennonite teachers? conventions testify to an awareness of the world in which they live, and include such topics as Mennonite integration into the wider society, education and economic progress, biculturalism, and prejudice against indigenous and other Paraguayans. He concludes that for the Mennonites of Paraguay the days of isolation are a thing of the past.
Warkentin is to be commended for his careful research and significant contribution to Mennonite studies.
Goshen College GERHARD REIMER
Hutterite Songs. By Helen Martens. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press; co-published with Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2002. Pp. 330. $28, U.S.; $38, Can.
In Hutterite Songs, Helen Martens’s musicological dissertation is made available to a broader audience. The author offers an overview from the origins of the songs in the sixteenth century to the contemporary Hutterite community, whose musical repertoire continues to preserve the old songs. In an interesting way, the reader is shown the current relevance of songs from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries so that the hymnody of present-day Hutterites offers a window into the history of the songs. This study, a reworked version of Martens’s unpublished dissertation from the 1960s, focuses less on the content of the songs or their confessional-spiritual themes than on the melodies, which the author uses to classify the songs according to various historical and musical traditions. Like other confessional groups of the sixteenth century, the Hutterites drew upon the existing melodies of well-known sacred or secular songs to compose their own texts. This work by Martens is an indispensable addition to the research of Rudolf Wolkan, who focused on the hymns of Anabaptists in general; the work of Vaclav Bok, who analyzed the textual content of Hutterite hymns; and Ursula Lieseberg’s study of the songs of Peter Riedemann and the martyrs.
Martens’s main source for research was the book Die Lieder der Hutterischen Tufer, published in 1914 by the North American Hutterites. The book contains the texts of 347 songs, but does not include notated melodies. The historical compilation is based on three hymn codices that seem to have been written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The hymns included here derive from the early sixteenth century through 1725, with thirteen songs from the seventeenth century and two from the eighteenth, mostly written by Hutterites or Anabaptists. Most of the hymns deal with biblical or historical themes, including sixty-two songs that describe the fates of Hutterite and Anabaptist martyrs.
The main problem in precisely classifying and describing the hymns and their melodies was the fact that the Hutterites did not hand down notated melodies, but only textual remarks. For example, ?To the tune of Des Grafen von Bern? instructs the singer according to which melody the song should be sung. Although Martens was able to identify nearly all the melodies in the literature of music, the central question remained’were twentieth-century Hutterites still singing the old melodies? Had the old melodies died out, or were they only related to the old songs in a few verses, as was the case with other early modern folk songs?
Martens started visiting several Hutterite colonies in Canada to record their singing with a reel-to-reel recorder. Afterward, she was able to compare these recordings with melodies she had collected from the general literature of music history. An initial test with a Hutterite community in Manitoba was successful in the sense that the melodies the Hutterites had kept in their tradition were nearly identical to melodies of the sixteenth century. Martens then began to record and transcribe the Hutterite singing systematically in various colonies. Transcriptions of these melodies are included in the book.
Regarding the oral transmission of melodies throughout the centuries, the central topic of her research, the author explicitly points out the difficulties and problems that arise from the changeability of the melodies either through oral tradition or repeated copying throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Martens opens her book with a short overview of Hutterite history. In the following chapter she examines Hutterite hymns and the significance of singing for life within the colonies. The songs offered not only the opportunity to express inner convictions, but also provided excitement and entertainment by telling the stories of martyrs. Furthermore, the hymns performed an important function in building up and strengthening the confessional identity of the Hutterites by stressing confessional and moral themes. Singing took place in church services as well as at celebrations, such as weddings. Singing could also be used as a means of communication, as imprisoned missionaries (Sendboten) kept in the same building could exchange messages by singing when writing or talking was impossible. Hutterites who were sentenced to death and taken to their place of execution also chose to sing to communicate with the surrounding spectators and sympathizers.
Regarding studies of the development of the Hutterite confession, Martens’s research reveals an interesting change in the Hutterite attitude towards the use of musical instruments. This attitude changed as significant discrepancies emerged between practical church life and early prescriptive confessional texts, such as Peter Riedemann’s Rechenschaft. While Riedemann had not forbidden the use of music instruments, hymn writers like Paul Glock or Wolf Sailer condemned them as a departure from God. Such discrepancies between early prescriptive texts and later practices also emerged in other aspects of community life. Martens’s research also confirms another aspect of current knowledge about Hutterite confessional identity. In keeping with the importance of the communal holding of goods in Hutterite theology, the hymn about Jesus? discussion with the rich young man is the most popular song.
The following chapters of the book are divided according to the tradition of the melodies the Hutterites used. They took melodies from various traditions, including court songs that came mostly from the Middle Ages, Meistersinger songs, Roman Catholic liturgical songs, Lutheran and Reformed songs, songs from other Anabaptist groups or other religious minorities, folk songs and sacred folk songs. Although the original tunes and the tunes the Hutterites now sing are not always similar’there are even differences today between the three Hutterite groups of the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut and Lehrerleut’Martens was able to locate the origins of most of the tunes.
Through Hutterite tradition some old tunes of Meistersinger songs have survived. Thus the melody of Peter Riedemann’s ?Du Vater aller Gte,? which Riedemann took from the old Meistersinger song ?Brenberger,? seems to be the only short version of this song known today. But there are also dissimilarities between the old and the current tunes: some old songs that are given in the codices with melodies of the Meistersinger are sung by the current Hutterites with other tunes, which might be explained by the original length of the songs. Martens notes the sacred song ?Verbum bonum.? This song was actually abolished by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), but the tune survived within the Hutterite church through Wolf Sailer’s ?Es trat zum Herrn.? The fact that the Hutterite repertoire also contains Lutheran songs of the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries shows the influence of the ?Krntner Transmigranten,? who in the eighteenth century provided the Hutterites with ?fresh blood? and new songs. Contact with the Mennonites, which intensified throughout the nineteenth century, is also responsible for the entry of several Lutheran songs into Hutterite tradition.
This book, a precisely drawn musicological study, provides important insights into the history of Anabaptism, but also explores the oral tradition of old songs. The author only occasionally links her categorization to the specific context of the current or historical church situation; but this was not the original intention of the study. Further research will be required to analyze the functions of the songs in the collective identity of the Hutterites and the development of their confession in greater detail. But, as Martens concludes, the songs and their example of the martyrs played an important pedagogical role in building up a new identity in times of crisis, especially in the instruction of youth and adults during the eighteenth century.
From the European, German-speaking context it should be emphasized that Martens quotes most of the songs in both English and German. A few smaller, more specific critiques concern the short historical overview at the beginning of the book in which some Hutterite sources, e.g. the Chronicle, are sometimes quoted too uncritically. Some historical events are also tied together in a cursory way. From the historian’s point of view one would have appreciated more detailed descriptions. Furthermore, the subdivisions in the bibliography are not quite comprehensible. For example, Vaclav Bok’s basic study of the songs of the Hutterites is inexplicably not included. A register, at least of names and places, would have been helpful. Besides these merely formal weaknesses, Martens’s study is captivating and will be indispensable for historians of the sixteenth-century Anabaptist movement as well as for musicologists researching current Hutterite singing or the oral tradition of historical songs. The transcriptions of the tunes included in the text will be of great importance in further research.
This study is a testimony to the distinctive culture of singing among the Hutterites. It is also the first extensive investigation into how modern Hutterites use and keep their traditional songs and what singing means to Hutterites in the twentieth century. For the Hutterites themselves the transcription of their songs will be of invaluable use; some melodies may be lost in the future due to assimilation into the surrounding English-speaking culture.
University of Innsbruck, Austria ASTRID VON SCHLACHTA
Myths America Lives By. By Richard T. Hughes. Foreword by Robert N. Bellah. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 2003. Pp. xv + 203. $29.95.
Americans have always thought themselves exceptional. Nothing out of ordinary in this’ethnocentrism is a human universal from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle. As Samuel Eliot Morison pointed out in The Oxford History of the American People (1965), all of the first Americans called themselves by a name that meant ?We, the People,? while calling their neighbors something roughly equivalent to ?Sons of She-Dog.? But the Americans of the English colonies, and their descendants, ratcheted up their ethnocentrism a notch into the conviction that God had specially blessed their nation so that it might fulfill a divinely ordained mission.
Americans? understandings of their divine blessing and mission have taken several forms over the years. A number of good books written between 1963 and 1975?Sidney Mead’s The Lively Experiment and The Nation with the Soul of a Church, Perry Miller’s Nature’s Nation, Ernst Tuveson’s Redeemer Nation, Martin Marty’s Righteous Empire, Robert T. Handy’s A Christian America, Conrad Cherry’s God’s New Israel and Robert Bellah’s The Broken Covenant’reconstructed the origins and outworkings of these religious visions of America. All these books were published right around the time Richard Hughes was in graduate school, and one of the beauties of his new book, Myths America Lives By, is that it summarizes this literature in a single readable volume. Hughes defines an American myth as ?a story that conveys commonly shared convictions on the purposes and meaning of the nation? (2). From the work of his predecessors Hughes distills five major myths’The Chosen Nation, Nature’s Nation, The Christian Nation, The Millennial Nation and The Innocent Nation. To each of these he devotes a chapter, arranged chronologically based on when each myth became widely accepted. After discussing the first four myths Hughes inserts a fifth chapter explaining how those myths combined to produce the nineteenth-century doctrines of sacred capitalism and Manifest Destiny. The sixth chapter, which is less about a myth of national innocence than a myth of the nation’s essential goodness, carries the story through the twentieth century.
The book might better be titled ?Religious? Myths America Lives By, for Hughes leaves aside the nonreligious myths that have long given Americans a sense of national meaning, such as America the Land of Opportunity or America the Land of Freedom. Nor does Hughes attempt to unravel the tangled and sometimes contradictory ways that Americans have used the religious myths as their language for debating national direction. For instance, the myth of America the Chosen Nation was used to argue against as well as for Manifest Destiny, and the myth of America the Christian Nation has been used to argue for government restraint on capitalism as well as against such restraint. Instead, Hughes’s main interest is exploring how Americans have deployed their religious myths to rationalize the exercise of power by the strong against the weak. And for the telling of this story, Americans of the past have certainly given Hughes plenty of material to work with.
Hughes begins each chapter by describing the background, emergence and spread of that myth. He is especially good when showing the ahistorical character of the myths’the way they imagine that America stands outside the flow of ordinary history that carries other nations along. For example, on the myth of America as Nature’s Nation, Hughes illustrates how Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other founders actually talked as though ?the United States simply reflected the way God himself intended things to be from the beginning of the world? (56).
Hughes continues by explaining the legacy of each myth, emphasizing the dark side. His moral standard is what he calls the American Creed’that all people are created equal and entitled to liberty. By this measuring stick, Hughes argues, America’s religious myths have not served it well. He rehearses how the powerful (white males) regularly deployed these myths to gild the national sins of Eurocentrism, discrimination against women, racism, stealing land from the Indians, slavery, oppression of the poor, self-interest in foreign policy and imperialisms military and economic.
Hughes then records voices of dissent raised against the hypocrisies of these American myths. In an unusual but noteworthy move, perhaps half of the dissenters Hughes puts on stage are African-Americans. This has the admirable effect of bringing African-Americans into the center of debates over national purposes, rather than relegating them to a set-aside chapter. Readers are treated to the eloquent and stinging rhetoric of Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells and numerous others. Hughes’s technique here also has the unintended consequence of suggesting that these arguments over national purpose can be read as white vs. black arguments, with whites cast as the Pharisees and blacks as the prophets of God. This impression is reinforced by the dust-jacket photo, which pictures a line of white faces in profile looking away from the camera, while in the middle of the line a single strong black face sends a knowing look straight at the camera. Hughes, of course, knows the story is not this simple, and he includes some evidence to the contrary. But Hughes’s intended audience’the historically unsophisticated’will finish the book believing that these are self-serving white myths, and blacks see right through them.
Much of Hughes’s material will be familiar to the historically literate. By design he relies on secondary literature, and many of his examples are common in the literature (e.g., Dwight Eisenhower’s ?Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith’and I don’t care what it is’). Hughes tends to repeat his favorite quotations, which gives the book a bit of a didactic flavor. The book seems to be an attempt to counteract that flood of exasperating’and exasperatingly popular’books that continue to teach America the Credulous that the USA sits at the right hand of God. One of the dust-jacket blurbs puts ?George Bush and company? into the camp of those who ?should read [this book], and fast.? Indeed, Hughes himself occasionally suggests that distress with present-day political developments has partly motivated his writing. But thinking that the Paul Wolfowitz crowd might read this book’much less change their policies in response’is a bit of a stretch. The book will likely be most useful to college history teachers whose students arrive on campus presoaked in uncritical versions of these myths. As a supplement to a regular textbook in an American history class, Myths America Lives By might be helpful in dislodging the notion that America is God’s second-favorite child. And that’from a point of view either historical or Christian’could only be a good thing.
Seattle Pacific University MICHAEL S. HAMILTON
Reaching Beyond the Mennonite Comfort Zone: Exploring from the Inside Out. By Will Schirmer. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Publishing House. 2003. Pp. 172. $14.95, U.S.; $21.95, Can.
In Reaching Beyond the Mennonite Comfort Zone, Will Schirmer offers a ?how others see us? mirror for Mennonites. In doing so, he speaks as well for us who have partly broken through the ethnic and other barriers that surround North American Mennonitism: those of us with bass voices and melody-line aptitudes; those of us who know in German the first verse of ?Gott ist die Liebe? but who are otherwise strangers to the language; those of us who hyphenate our alien surnames with our spouses? proprietary ones, not for gender equilibrium but for a name-game Librium; those of us who’ve learned to sanctify Bid Whist by replacing the jokers with a rook (i.e., a European crow); those of us who are most highly prized as trophies from the military, drug culture, other denominations or non-Caucasian race.
Schirmer begins by walking readers around a two-way window of stereotypes, revealing on one side false perceptions outsiders have about Mennonites and, on the other side, inaccurate impressions Mennonites have of outsiders. However, he fairly points out that, despite such preconceptions, many Mennonites are intent upon making non-Mennonites feel welcome in their churches. That was certainly my experience when, in a U.S. Navy uniform, I walked into Philadelphia’s Norris Square Mennonite Church in 1966. Nevertheless, as Schirmer suggests, welcoming and long-term acceptance are different things. Expectations that newcomers to the Mennonite community will be interested in genealogies, farming or a cappella singing should be lowered. Instead, we should be helping each other to become better Mennonites by becoming better Christians’that is, persons who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and, in fellowship with other believers, are seeking to be faithful followers of him.
Schirmer helps us think through other potential barriers to would-be Mennonites: preservationist attitudes; the scarcity of first-generation Christians in Mennonite churches and consequent paucity of conversion testimonies; hostile attitudes toward patriotism; opposition to ?off-the-wall? (or ?throw-up’) music. We also erect obstacles to Mennonites of a different stripe or place through mistrust due to cultural or doctrinal differences, as well as misgivings and regrets brought about by denominational merger.
Schirmer is not content to be merely descriptive. He offers sociological insights into why it is difficult to break into close-knit communities’why, as someone else has put it, the line over which people must step to enter such a fellowship looks from the inside like the painted lines on a gymnasium floor, and from the outside like an eight-foot-high concrete wall. One might add to Schirmer’s explanations that, contrary to what one might suppose, very small congregations (which, sociologically, have become classic primary groups) can be the most difficult of all to penetrate. It may be easy to cross over into the membership circle, but that is not the same thing as full acceptance in the fellowship circle as ?one of us.?
Another way Schirmer helps Mennonites is by suggesting ways to stretch ourselves in order to become more accepting of others and more sensitive to the unconscious barriers we erect. On the other side, he offers help for would-be Mennonites who are both attracted to and perplexed by what they see.
I appreciated several things about Schirmer’s book: his balance; his ability to offer correctives without seeming to be judgmental; his underscoring of the fact that we are Christians first and, then, Mennonites; his affirmation of the best of what it means to be Mennonite; and his clear commitment to the Great Commission. Groups can appreciate his contribution too. There are questions for group discussion following each of his ten chapters.
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary ART MC PHEE
Eyes at the Window. By Evie Yoder Miller. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2003. Pp. 517. $22.95.
Historical novels such as Eyes at the Window take on dual roles because they are an attempt to accurately reflect the story and the spirit of a historical record and also to be engaging as a work of fiction. Some may focus more on the historical record, attempting to be true to the work of the historian; others try to focus on simply telling a story and allowing the historical record to serve as a prop and context.
The historical story of the murder of a baby girl in the home of John and Magdalena Hochstetler in 1810 is known by many listed in the The Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler. Harvey Hochstetler’s 1912 massive genealogy told the story of how John, the father of the murdered child, and his brother Solomon were not on good terms. Solomon was blamed for the killing until an old age, living at the edges of the Amish community. Eventually both brothers moved to Holmes County in Ohio, although they were never reconciled.
Solomon was blamed based on the account of a witness, Barbara, a sister of the mother, Magdalena Lehman. Barbara, who had come to the house to help her sister, said that she had seen a man with a hunting shirt at the window. The man was believed to be Solomon. Solomon, however, denied the killing; his wife, Barbara, testified that he had been at home during the night of the killing, and a jury did not indict him. Still, a cloud hung over his life and he lived as a pariah among the Amish in Walnut Creek, Ohio.
The accusation was false. Fifty years after the tragedy, a Henry Yoder, then seventy years old, confessed that he had suffocated the baby. Yoder had been a young man in love with Barbara Lehman (who had given some stimulus to accuse Solomon) and apparently visited the family and killed the child on the fateful night when the rest of the family was out looking after the maple syrup in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Henry Yoder, who lived a few more years after his confession, was placed in the Amish church’s ban. Criminal charges were pursued although nothing came of it because of legal complications (not least of which was having an Amish minister bring the case to the attention of the civil courts). The Wooster, Ohio judge left the punishment to the local church.
The confession vindicated Solomon, who had become a tragic character, given to alcoholism and alienation. If being accused of a killing was not sufficient, he was already somewhat marginalized for being a Braucher, a folk healer in the community. Both the genealogy (written by his grandson) and Evie Yoder Miller portray him sympathetically. He was able to join the church that was to become the Walnut Creek Amish Mennonite Church (today, Walnut Creek Mennonite). Another source for the story is Ervin Schlabach’s The Amish and Mennonites at Walnut Creek (1981).
Yoder Miller’s fiction stays close to the historical facts and provides much additional historical context as well, including the westward movement of the Amish Mennonites to Ohio and Indiana and Iowa. We learn of the Amish Mennonite minister’s meetings and some of the tensions of the Amish Mennonite community that were to lead up to the great division of the Old Order Amish and the Amish Mennonites, who in the twentieth century joined the Mennonite Church. In addition there are interesting historical accounts of such things as butchering hogs, ordinations and baptisms.
As a novelist, Yoder Miller gives voice to at least eight of the people in the story and gives them over fifty chapters in which to tell their parts of the story between 1810 and 1861. She especially gives an authentic voice to the women in the story.
Scottdale, Pennsylvania LEVI MILLER
Anabaptist Preaching: A Conversation Between Pulpit, Pew and Bible. Edited by David B. Greiser and Michael A. King. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Publishing House. 2003. Pp. 238. $22.95, U.S.; $34.95, Can.
Preaching is such an integral part of a worship service, but with so few resources that analyze and critique Anabaptist preaching, David Greiser and Michael King offer a much-needed contribution to the world of Anabaptist worship with their book, Anabaptist Preaching. With its fourteen chapters, written by men and women who have studied and experienced various forms of Anabaptist preaching, this book offers not only helpful background for understanding the roots of Anabaptist preaching in a time when little preparation was done before Sunday morning, but also, and perhaps more important, insights into preaching’s current state and thoughts on where it is going, as preachers today face a diverse group of listeners in a postmodern world.
Each chapter is written by a well-known and respected homiletics professional in the Anabaptist world, from seminary professors to active pastors and preachers, including June Alliman Yoder, Nancy R. Heisey, Dennis Hollinger, Lynn Jost, Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, Rene Sauder, Mary Schertz, Nathan D. Showalter, Rebecca Slough, David A. Stevens, Ervin R. Stutzman and Mark R. Wenger; each of the editors also contributes a chapter. Each essay adds to the previous one, yet offers its own contribution, covering topics such as preaching and postmodernity, biblical preaching, narrative preaching, collaborative preaching, Old Testament preaching, prophetic preaching, ethical persuasive preaching, narrative preaching, preaching within the context of worship, multicultural preaching and preaching for effective hearing.
With little repetition among the chapters, each essay could stand well on its own for a reader interested in a specific topic, but as a broader collection of fourteen essays, the book will be formative for any seminarian studying to preach in the Anabaptist world. Those who are already actively serving as preachers and have advanced beyond seminary studies will also find helpful guidance and practical ideas, as well as inspiration, in chapters such as Mary Schertz’s suggestions on reading the Bible in new ways and Nathan Showalter’s thoughts on preaching in multicultural contexts.
While all the chapters are worthwhile and offer much to the preacher, three chapters are particularly noteworthy. David Stevens reminds us in his chapter, ?The First Covenant in the Twenty-first Century: Mining the Old Testament for the Postmodern Anabaptist Pulpit,? of the importance of the Old Testament for preachers. While Anabaptists tend to focus more on the New Testament, especially the Gospels, Stevens reminds us of the power of preaching from Old Testament texts. June Alliman Yoder in her chapter, ?Collaborative Preaching in the Community of Interpreters,? also encourages preachers to acknowledge the role of collaboration (with the Holy Spirit, the Scripture text, expert knowledge, people in the congregation and the worship setting) in sermon preparation and delivery. For example, in regard to collaboration with the Holy Spirit, she writes, ?I propose that preaching is the work of both the human being and the Holy Spirit. It is a true partnership . . . I dare say that first and foremost the preacher is a collaborative partner with God. Thus the task that is most important, for the preacher, is to be in a healthy, listening relationship with God? (114). Finally, the book ends powerfully with a chapter by Ervin Stutzman, ?Preaching Grace to Hardworking People.? Stutzman encourages the preacher to first find grace with God before attempting to communicate the grace of God. Stutzman offers helpful historical background on how Anabaptists understand grace, as well as how current preachers can incorporate a theme of grace in their sermons.
The editors did well in ensuring a helpful mix of the history of Anabaptist preaching along with the important issues facing the preacher in a postmodern world. While preaching is not an easy task, encouragement and inspiration in these pages can help guide the preacher, through the written word and through the Holy Spirit, to be true to biblical faith as well as the Anabaptist heritage.
Greiser and King also include, at the end of the book, a study guide to accompany each chapter. The guides offer two to ten questions concerning the content of each chapter. Beyond seminary classroom discussion aids, the study guide seems somewhat irrelevant to the already rich content of the chapters. And even in a classroom discussion, the questions seem more objective than subjective, not allowing for as much original thought by the reader as one would expect from a study guide at this level.
Ironically, the title contains an error, one that homiletical scholars should have noticed. The title of the book would have been more inclusive and more grammatically correct by inviting a conversation among pulpit, pew and Bible. To include only two of these conversations at a time, as the word ?between? suggests, takes away from the heart of the content that follows.
Greiser and King have offered an inspirational book to the preachers of today and tomorrow in Anabaptist church communities. Any preacher will be challenged by new ideas, reminded of a formidable history of a homiletical pattern that has changed dramatically in past generations and made more valuable to his or her congregation as a preacher of the Word. Anyone interested in appreciating the background of the Anabaptist world of worship, specifically preaching within the context of worship, should not hesitate to read and be inspired by how God is leading those who preach.
Goshen, Ind. SUE L. CONRAD
. Mary R. Friesen, earlier from Menno Colony, presently of Winnipeg, gave an additional reason in a conversation in June 2004. She reported that a few of the more progressive and concerned leaders from Menno heard a visiting scholar from Germany say that if Menno Colony continued the status quo with its antiquated and unproductive schools they would be nothing but white Indians (weie Indianer) in a generation or two. While this may seem as a pejorative and demeaning evaluation of their indigenous neighbors, it spurred them on to seek and bring about change.
The Mennonite Quarterly Review