Anabaptist-Mennonite Confessions of Faith: The Development of a Tradition. By Karl Koop. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press; co-published with Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2004. Pp.178. $22, Can.
Based on Karl Koop’s 1999 doctoral dissertation, completed at the University of St. Michael’s College and the Department of Theology of the Toronto School of Theology, this historical-theological study details the development of the sixteenth-century Dutch Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage into fully developed confessions, which appeared in print in the Republic of the United Seven Provinces in the beginning of the seventeenth century, the “Golden Age” of Dutch Mennonitism.
Koop examines the history and theology of three Mennonite confessions of faith that he considers representative of early seventeenth-century Mennonite identity: the Waterlander Corte Belijdenisse des Geloofs (“Short Confession,” 1610), the Frisian-High German Corte Confessie (“Jan Cents Confession,” 1630) and the well-known Confessie ende Vredehandelinge (“Dordrecht Confession,” 1632). The first was compiled to bring about a fusion between the Waterlander congregation and congenial English Separatists in Amsterdam, the second to unite the so-called Young Frisian party and the High Germans, and the third to reunite the divided Flemish factions in the Netherlands.
Starting from this confessional material, Koop argues that a codified, identifiable and coherent Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition could also play an important role for today’s Mennonites in their search for identity, and their desire to express their beliefs in the context of the church and the world. This respectable goal implies a necessary shift from the focus on the origins of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition to the process of consolidation, from movement to structure, and from social history to historical theology, along the way incorporating questions of the relevancy for the broader Christian world of the development of this tradition over the course of centuries and in different contexts.
Koop’s well-organized study starts with a chapter in which he emphasizes and defends the comprehensive, systematic and doctrinal character of the Mennonite confessions of faith against the downplaying of this genre in recent Mennonite studies-studies characterized by one-sided interest in orthopraxis at the expense of orthodoxy. He also makes a plea that scholarship not focus exclusively on isolating a common set of Mennonite beliefs, but that it relate the search for the heart of Mennonite theology to classical and modern Christian theology more broadly. He stresses that Christian beliefs can only be understood properly as developing, not static, traditions. Reconsidering a confessional heritage should not lead to splendid isolation, but should always be the point of departure in a dialogical process, striving after unity.
In chapter 2 Koop provides a survey of early Anabaptism as the context for confessional writing among Mennonites in the Netherlands. Their doctrinal endeavors, he says, must be understood as part of the general process of confessionalisation and consolidation in which Protestant Europe was involved from 1560 to 1650. Within the framework of the early Christians’ Creeds, inspired by the doctrinal and practical guidelines of their own leaders, such as Menno Simons and Dirk Philips, and in dialogue with orthodox and liberal Reformed (Calvinists and Arminians) and spiritualist and humanist coreligionists from their own ranks (Collegiants and Socinians), the Dutch Mennonites had to come to terms with the challenges of the established generation, questioning to what degree they could integrate in a society of growing prosperity and tolerance.
The complex historical development within these circles, leading to the acceptance of the confessions Koop is considering, is outlined in chapter 3. Included, as well, is an analysis of the confessions’ literary and structural characteristics, compared with the Calvinist Confessio Belgica and the Lutheran Confessio Augustana, which in some respect could have served as models for Mennonite confessional writings. Following the sola Scriptura principle in the most radical way, Mennonite confessions above all must be regarded as summaries of Scripture itself. Koop notes a quantitative preference for New Testament references, particularly the Gospel of Matthew, while the Reformed gave priority to Pauline letters. The function and authority of the confessions is described in chapter 4, including treatment of the conflict in the Flemish congregation, “bij het Lam” in Amsterdam, which resulted in a nationwide schism between the confessionalist Zonnists and the a-confessionalist Lammists in 1664 and that lasted for about one and a half centuries. Koop corrects traditional pejorative views on the value and authority of the Mennonite confessions, by stating that doctrine was the essential presupposition to the moral behavior expected from those belonging to the community of faith, though in general the confessions were attributed a representative, rather than constitutive, authority.
In chapters 5 and 6, Koop presents the theological content of the confessions in light of the heritage of the Anabaptist founders and in view of the larger Christian tradition. In chapter 5 he gives attention to the central theological themes related to God, humanity, Christology and salvation, concluding that, on the whole, the confessions reflect the teachings of the wider church. Their pursuit of holiness made them overemphasize free will, enabling grace and the exclusive divine and holy origins of Christ’s flesh, believing that only what was truly heavenly and holy could save and regenerate fallen humanity.
Inherent in Protestant individualism is the problem of whether this holiness has to be appropriated to the inner or to the outer person, to the individual or to the community, directly by the Spirit or indirectly by the letter. The more spiritualistic wing of the Waterlanders proved to be less exacting guardians of the boundaries between the community of the saints and the worldly society than were their more biblicist coreligionists. Some considered assurance of salvation to be more dependent on experiencing God as an inner voice than on the strict obedience to his commandments. The pacification confessions in particular show a tendency to moderate formerly divisive subjects, all related to the distinctive boundaries of the church without spot and wrinkle: rebaptism of apostates, disciplinary marital avoidance, the prohibition to marry non-Mennonites, nonparticipation in lower government and so on, concerns more or less explicitly grounded in the Melchiorite-Mennonite doctrine of incarnation. The discontinuity in the seventeenth-century confessions from the sixteenth-century heritage, therefore, becomes preeminently visible in ecclesial themes. Differences in the formulation of other articles of faith, such as creation, soteriology and eschatology should, in my opinion, not be overestimated in order to demonstrate a peacefully developing interconfessional plurality. The only question that mattered was if salvation could be found beyond the sharply defined boundaries of their own concept of the true church.
In his final chapter Koop tries to accommodate the doctrinal content of the Mennonite confessions with their focus on sanctification, to the general Christian creedal tradition. The appropriation of this confessional tradition presupposes an analysis of the continuity and discontinuity of the early Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. “The changing direction of certain points of view suggests not so much the development of a tradition, but a developing tradition” (150). This insight-not expressed, however, in the subtitle of the book-makes the study of the confessional tradition into an important hermeneutical tool for evaluating our own context, focused on ecumenical dialogue and freed from self-satisfied isolation, according to the author.
Koop has presented a clear and concise evaluation of the seventeenth-century Mennonite confessional tradition in the Netherlands. His plea for integrating the confessional material in the interpretation of the Mennonite tradition certainly opens new perspectives for research into the transformation of early theological Anabaptist-Mennonite tenets through later periods and into modern times. The question remains whether his selection of confessional documents is representative. Two of them are pacification documents and show a tendency to avoid extreme formulations of doctrine and practice, paving the way for unification of formerly divided parties and for a gradual integration in society. The incorporation of the “Thirty-three Articles” of the Old Frisian (not Flemish, p. 105, n. 17) Mennonites (ca. 1615), added to Van Braght’s Martyrs Mirror as an identity marker of the truly Mennonite heritage, would have corrected the irenic mood of both the selected seventeenth-century confessions and their modern interpretation. Koop’s study gives an impetus to further research on the calling and authority of the leaders in the development of the confessional tradition and on the role of concordances (such as that by Pieter Jans Twisck) and indexes of biblical references as tools in the implementation of the sola Scriptura principle.
There is a lot of work to be done in this field, including the demythologizing of modernist concepts, such as the hermeneutical community and the activist peace witness. The historical-theological approach should refrain from too great an eagerness to mould a tradition in consonance with actual demands. In many respects the past must be considered as passed. Each era has its own agenda. Yet, it is not possible to compose an agenda without evaluating all aspects of a tradition, the confessional-doctrinal tradition included. Of such tension, this provocative study bears ample witness.
University of Amsterdam SJOUKE VOOLSTRA
Deutschland 1500-1648: Eine zertrennte Welt. By Hans-Jrgen Goertz. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schningh. 2004. Pp. 286. ?16,80.
Hans-Jrgen Goertz has here published a second book on German history in succession to his Pfaffenha und gro Geschrei. Die reformatorischen Bewegungen in Deutschland 1517-1529 (1987). Like the earlier work, it is based on a lecture series; but the present work is more wide-ranging, more ambitious and more theoretical. The sub-title, which can be translated as “a world dismantled,” expresses the theme that over the course of “the long sixteenth century,” in the period from the Reformation to the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Germany lost the essential unity that it had enjoyed at the end of the Middle Ages in the framework of the Roman church and the Holy Roman Empire.
In the introduction the author commits himself to a cultural history model that “links together the self-perception (subjectivity) and the external determinants (objectivity) of human beings,” and in which “the sphere of Unconditioned (religion) precipitates itself in the conditioned (culture).” In this way Goertz seeks to be faithful to his two callings as a historian and as a theologian. This is a far cry from the social history reductionism imputed to him by his critics in the culture wars now swirling around Anabaptist historiography.
The content of the book is heavily loaded toward the preconditions of the Reformation and the early Reformation, so that two-thirds of the text is devoted to the same subjects treated in the Pfaffenha book of 1987. These subjects are treated, however, in a different way; the earlier book reshaped traditional narrative within the common denominator of anticlericalism. Here narrative does not disappear, but it is compacted into very economical summaries, which stand beside ample discussions of the views of major contemporary scholars, and rigorous discussion of interpretive terminology. Besides an anticlerical mood that went together with an intense preoccupation of the laity with their souls’ salvation, Goertz regards the political and social situation in Germany, in which the authority structures of the clergy and the aristocracy (especially the growing power of the territorial princes) were interlaced with communitarian self-government of townsmen and villagers, as predisposing factors for the Reformation. To be sure, Martin Luther’s theology of the freedom of God, which generated the pamphleteering slogans of the “freedom of the Christian” and the “priesthood of all believers,” was the radical fact that stood at the beginning of the Reformation. But after the Reformation message was spread by popularly directed pamphlets and radical preaching, it gained revolutionary resonance from the anticlerical in the 1520s mass movement that it became for the “common man,” the subject without authority, but with a voice in the communitarian structures of German towns and villages. Thus the real German Reformation was not an elite phenomenon but a popular movement, strictly speaking an ensemble of popular movements that were both social and religious. The great disaster of this popular Reformation was the collapse of the German Peasants’ War of 1525, which led to the ebbing of the Reformation as a social movement and its institutionalization into the territorial churches of the several Evangelical princes and cities and its doctrinal standardization, most notably by the Augsburg Confession of 1530. The Old Church centered in the Roman papacy had been an authority structure, like aristocratic “feudalism.” Goertz endorses the statement of Peter Blickle, the major contemporary historian of the Peasants’ War, that the Marxists were wrong to see capitalism as the major threat to the feudal order in the Reformation era. Economic innovation did not have epoch-shaping consequences in the sixteenth century. The major threat to “feudal” authority in the Reformation movement was not capitalism, but the tendencies toward communitarian self-government by the “common (lay) man,” to which the Reformation gave a temporary impetus in the early 1520s, but which was denounced by Evangelical university theologians and was clearly in decline by the end of the 1520s. In Goertz’s eyes German Anabaptism was a noble, but fore-doomed, effort to preserve the popular Evangelical movement of the early Reformation.
Viewed in this way, the rest of the long sixteenth century was a recessional. In the 1520s, history, so to speak, had been in “fast-forward,” but afterward it tended to stagnate. Politically, attempts by the Schmalkaldic League to dominate the Empire and nudge it towards the Christianity of the Augsburg Confession, and the effort of Charles V to establish military mastery of the Empire and prepare the way for the withering away of Protestantism and the restoration of the Old Church, failed because neither had the resources to dominate the politically heterogeneous Empire. Goertz provides an excellent discussion of the interpretive paradigm “confessionalization,” according to which the various German rulers tried to coordinate state and church power in their territories, and the correlative notion of “social disciplining,” in which the higher strata of town and court tried to “raise up” the lower rural strata for their own good and the power of the state. He notes the growing skepticism among historians that such “top-down” agendas could be generally successful, and the efforts to better understand the complex interaction between elite and popular culture beneath the surface of officially confessional societies. He also surveys the ground war, sometimes educational but more often coercive and brutal, to regain territory for Catholicism, and the connection between the Counter-Reformation and the emergence of a more rigorous and distinct type of confessional Reformation, the Reformed “Second Reformation.” Finally, in the author’s view, the Empire fell into a “crisis” of stagnation from which the more aggressive Catholic and Calvinist rulers attempted to escape by the desperate expedient of war among the Imperial estates. The ensuing Thirty Years’ War brought material and spiritual exhaustion to Germany, solved none of the problems that had precipitated it and could be stopped only by the intervention of the great powers of seventeenth-century Europe. Thus the ultimate outcome of the Reformation was to leave Germany “disassembled.”
This is a very compact book; this review by no means does it full justice. For advanced students and general readers with a good background in German history, it is very worthwhile reading to learn both about early modern Germany and the emergence of history as a more self-reflective, theoretical discipline.
Queen’s University JAMES M. STAYER
The Courts and the Colonies: The Litigation of Hutterite Church Disputes. By Alvin J. Esau. Vancouver: U. of British Columbia Press. 2004. Pp. 384.
Consider three dimensions to our lives: our assets (both physical and financial), our marketable skills (what economists call human-capital investments) and our religious affiliation. Most of us acquire, exploit, swap and dispose of attributes along these dimensions in competitive market environments. Precisely because of that competition, in each of the transactions we usually obtain something close to the best deal available.
If market competition protects us as consumers, employees or church members, for exactly that reason many of those with whom we transact dislike it. Our mutual funds would prefer the latitude to underperform the market without losing our accounts. Our deans would prefer the ability to pay us less than the going wage without forfeiting our services. And our pastors would prefer the freedom to preach as they please without facing empty pews.
Yet should firms, employers or preachers try to insulate themselves from that competition, they potentially incur costly incentive and selection effects. Suppose a church discourages exit by retaining the assets of those who would leave. Necessarily, it cuts both the incentive of existing members to exert effort, and the odds that its most productive potential members will opt to join.
Alternatively, suppose a church discourages exit by restricting human-capital investments (for example, by urging schoolchildren to stop at the eighth grade), and so limiting the jobs a member might find in the outside world. Because many of the returns to elementary education accrue in later years, it reduces the incentive for its primary-school children to study. Because quicker students enjoy education more than slower students, it also reduces the odds that its smartest children will join the church at all.
Consider three churches that used some of these restrictions. The Amish coupled religious membership with restrictions on education. Presumably, they crippled their children professionally, and reduced the attractiveness of the outside job offers those children would receive. In the process, they would have lowered the chance that its members would leave the church, but also would have lowered the average intellectual ability of the children who joined in the first place.
The 1970s Mennonite communitarian groups allowed higher education but expropriated a member’s assets. Because a member lost access to those assets if he left, the groups effectively levied a wealth tax on exit. Disproportionately, they would have attracted recruits who had invested heavily in education, but held few physical or financial assets for the groups to take. Hence the dichotomy: the Amish recruited from among those who wanted to invest in physical assets but not their human capital; the communitarian groups recruited from those who had already invested in their human capital and had little wealth left for the groups to impound.
Many Hutterite communities, by contrast, banned higher education and private property both. Necessarily, they reduced the incentives for their children to study, for their adults to work hard, and for their smartest and most industrious children to join the church at all. What is more, as a result of the policies a dissident who chose to leave opted for a world in which he had neither the wealth to buy a farm nor the skills to find a high-paying nonfarm job. In effect, the Hutterites limited religious competition by imposing massive financial penalties on dissent.
All of this may go some way toward explaining the claustrophobic Hutterite landscape that Alvin Esau describes-for some of these colonies seem to have resembled less the manicured farms of Shipshewana than the “white trash” trailer parks of Arkansas. When the Lakeside Colony in Manitoba (a colony with “a long list of economic and spiritual difficulties,” reports Esau, p. 83) expelled half its members, for instance, the ousted families refused to leave. Where, they seem to have asked, did the church expect them to go? They had no money to buy the neighboring 400 acres. Neither had they any skills to land them a job at the local bank. Instead, they stayed on the colony and made do as best they could. But the best was not very good. They piled junk machinery around the buildings and scavenged it for parts. They collected old appliances and (to the chagrin of the local environmental protection agency) melted them down for the copper. The colony itself they transformed into a dump.
All of this may also explain why the Hutterite church turned to litigation. If an Amishman left his church, at least he kept his farm; expel him, and he disappeared. If a dentist left Reba Place, at least he kept his license; expel him, and he would have disappeared too. If a Hutterite left the church, he kept nothing. And precisely because he kept nothing, even when expelled he sometimes refused to budge. By staying, he could at least use the colony’s land and facilities, and live in the colony’s housing. By staying, he both averted the church’s exit penalty and (what is essentially the same thing) could live in part at church expense.
Because expelled dissidents rationally refused to leave, in the late 1980s Hutterite leaders began to sue to evict them. The story begins with Schmiedeleut senior-elder Jacob Kleinsasser. A member of the Crystal Spring Colony, Kleinsasser (at least as Esau tells the story) seems to have been both a sucker and an autocrat: he fell for financial scams, and brooked no dissent. Approached by outsiders promising low-interest loans and oil and gas deals, he apparently risked and lost millions in Hutterite funds. Much of that money he had obtained from his own Crystal Spring Colony. Important to the story here, each Hutterite colony is financially independent.
A prudent man might have lain low for a few years, but not Kleinsasser. Instead, writes Esau, when Daniel Hofer, a Lakeside Colony member and a longtime troublemaker, began complaining about a patent dispute, Kleinsasser rose to the bait. Hofer was mad. He had invented a new hog feeder, he claimed, and Jacob Kleinsasser’s brothers in Crystal Spring had stolen his invention and patented it. They had indeed patented a hog feeder, the brothers replied, but they had invented it themselves. Yet not only had Crystal Spring patented a feeder, it had assigned it commercially. That assignee had then sued the other Hutterite colonies for unauthorized use, and (unbeknownst to those colonies) paid much of the recovered money to Crystal Springs.
Put up and shut up, Kleinsasser told Hofer. Kleinsasser controlled the church, and when Hofer complained louder the church threw Hofer out. Hofer refused to go. He had done no wrong, he insisted. Instead of expelling him, the church should investigate Kleinsasser and his brothers.
Rather than investigate, the church (still under Kleinsasser’s control) sued to evict. Crucially, Kleinsasser had allied himself with the Bruderhof. Although the Hutterites had traditionally avoided the courts, the Bruderhof-who had (re)joined the Hutterites in 1974-had not. Instead, when Bruderhof church leaders expelled dissidents (something they did liberally, Esau reports), they kept the property the dissidents had brought to the group, but made certain the dissidents themselves left. If the dissidents refused to leave voluntarily, according to Esau, they sometimes sued them. If upon leaving the group, the dissidents formed anti-Bruderhof networks, the leaders sometimes sued them yet again. And if journalists and academics wrote essays critical of the Bruderhof-well, sometimes they threatened to sue them too.
Borrowing a page from the Bruderhof, when Hofer and his allies refused to leave Lakeside, Kleinsasser sued to remove them. The ploy backfired. Faced with the suit, Hofer raised the financial fiasco Kleinsasser had created. With the mess now public knowledge, Hutterites across the colonies began to question Kleinsasser’s leadership. Faced with an insurrection at a churchwide conference, Kleinsasser called for a confidence vote-and lost.
Rather than generate new leadership, however, the no-confidence vote just split the Schmiedeleut. When Kleinsasser lost the vote, recounts Esau, he refused to capitulate. The majority of representatives had voted against him, but he still had many supporters. Because many colonies included both pro- and anti-Kleinsasser members, the vote split individual colonies. Because of the rampant endogamy within the church, it split families. And in the ensuing chaos, it (yet again) split off the traditional Hutterite colonies from the Bruderhof.
Instead of ending the litigation, the split spurred it. Kleinsasser had not hesitated to sue Hofer, and his allies did not hesitate to sue their rivals now. Although outnumbered, they still claimed to represent the “true” church. In that purported capacity, at the various colonies they now sued for tactical gains. They called in the Mounties in bulletproof vests. And sometimes, the litigation strategy worked. Seeing litigation as part of the Bruderhof influence to which they objected, the anti-Kleinsasser Hutterites refused to retaliate. Facing a legally docile foe, writes Esau, the Kleinsasser faction could-and did-manipulate the courts to tangible tactical advantage.
It is a sad tale Esau tells, and he gives us enough detail to let us pick the normative lessons we want to draw. Did the Hutterites go wrong in filing the eviction suits? Did they go wrong in picking bad leaders? Or did they go wrong years ago in imposing such massive financial penalties on internal dissent? Esau cautiously offers his own reflections, but mostly he gives us a good read. Like families, like churches-happy churches are all alike, Tolstoy might have said, but unhappy ones can go bad in their own, maddeningly readable ways.
Harvard Law School J. MARK RAMSEYER
A Mind Patient and Untamed: Assessing John Howard Yoder’s Contributions to Theology, Ethics, and Peacemaking. Edited by Ben C. Ollenburger and Gayle Gerber Koontz. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Publishing House. 2004. Pp. 356. $25, U.S.; $38, Can.
John Howard Yoder’s stature continues to grow. One indication of this may be seen in the March 2002 Notre Dame conference on Yoder that included more than forty scholarly papers-an extraordinarily stimulating, but also somewhat chaotic, conference! This book, which includes sixteen of the papers, captures both the stimulation and the chaos (an additional seven conference papers were published in the July 2003 Mennonite Quarterly Review).
The collection gets off to a strong start in Part One, “Firmly Grounded Without Foundations: Yoder’s Patient (Non-)Method.” Harry Huebner takes Yoder’s insights and deepens them, bringing out especially the importance for Yoder (and us) of moving from life to theory “straightforwardly,” without the distorting influence of strong theoretical methodology that tries to force reality into a mold. Huebner captures well Yoder’s sense of confidence that truth is to be found, and lived out, via an open encounter with reality.
Gerald Biesecker-Mast focuses on Yoder’s practice-centered theology, taking Yoder’s side in the face of critiques from Stanley Hauerwas and Michael Cartwright that Yoder’s ecclesiology, especially his view of the sacraments, is deficient. Biesecker-Mast persuasively reads Yoder as orienting everything toward the “vulnerable and nonviolent character of God’s actions toward humankind” (51).
Chris Huebner’s essay, which may be the most provocative in the book, seeks to read Yoder in light of Paul Virilio’s link between the phenomenon of “speed” in Western culture and widespread violence. Though placing Yoder’s concrete, biblically-oriented ethical thought with that of a contemporary speculative intellectual such as Virilio may be like trying to mix oil and water, when Huebner turns to his direct interaction with Yoder, he opens up the profundity of Yoder’s notion of patience as an antidote to our world’s “speed” obsession.
Peter Blum’s interesting attempt to place Yoder in dialogue with Jacques Derrida perhaps comes across as a bit redundant following Huebner’s essay, as Blum also seeks to explicate some of the significance of Yoder’s notion of patience. However, the theme is indeed worthy of close attention.
The other four parts of the book cannot match the excellence of Part One, unfortunately. Part Two, “The Church, Power, and Exile: Yoder’s (Non-) Constantinianism,” includes essays by Thomas Heilke and J. Alexander Sider. Heilke’s wordy essay examines the historical meaning of Constantinianism, appreciating some of Yoder’s emphases, but also raising some strong challenges. However, Heilke seems to be taking a bit of a literalistic approach to Yoder’s use of the Constantinian metaphor, failing to give enough attention to its symbolic layers.
Sider, as well, focuses narrowly on the historical accurateness of Yoder’s generalizations about Constantine (perhaps unfairly putting too much weight on Yoder’s Christian Attitudes Toward War, Peace, and Revolution manuscript, which was not intended as a work of technical historical scholarship). Sider makes the important point that peace church participants in ecumenical conversations need to do their homework better than Yoder did when they raise anti-Constantinian concerns, but he offers little guidance for doing so.
The other two essays in this section, by Duane Friesen and Alain Epp Weaver, provide quite helpful perspectives on Yoder’s thought in relation to Judaism and Israeli/Palestinian issues. Friesen summarizes Yoder’s later work comparing believers church Christianity with diasporic Judaism, lifting out the “seeking the peace of the city” motif as a needed balance to the critique of Constantianism.
Weaver perceptively brings Yoder into dialogue with the late Palestinian Christian critic Edward Said, focusing on the theme of exile. Weaver helps us see how insights from Yoder and Said provide material for the recovering of exile as a critical concept for a theology of the people of God seeking shalom for all (and for a peaceable political theory as well).
Part Three’s two essays delve into the cross-fertilization between Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. Paul Doerksen traverses familiar territory in summarizing the parallels between the two. The essay finally touches on the more interesting differences near the end: (1) concerning the voluntary nature of the church (linked presumably with different beliefs concerning infant baptism, though Doerksen does not mention that issue) and (2) concerning the connection of worship to ethics.
Craig Hovey does what Doerksen should also have done, focusing on the differences. He discusses three: (1) attitudes toward “liberalism,” (2) the translatability of Christian norms to the state, and (3) the possibility of the world’s responsiveness to Christian norms. Hovey thus highlights key issues, but disappointingly stops short of pushing out the relevance of these differences for post-Yoderian Christian ethics.
In Part Four, though Gerald Schlabach writes sympathetically of Yoder’s thought, one wonders about this attempt to link Yoder closely with Augustine. Surely, in some sense Schlabach is being playful when he tries, in effect, to present Yoder as an “anonymous Augustinian.” Yoder can be brought into such a close connection with Augustine only by a decision to view pacifism as at least somewhat peripheral to Yoder’s thought.
A. James Reimer provides some interesting reflections on law and civil institutions that stand in significant tension with Yoder’s thought. However, one has to wonder why this essay is in this particular book. Reimer does not actually engage Yoder’s thought directly much beyond repeating John W. Miller’s bizarre accusation that Yoder was a Marcionite.
In Part Five, “Theology, Ethics, and the Bible: Yoder Reading Scripture and Tradition,” Douglas Harink’s perceptive essay packs a great deal in a brief space and could have benefited from a few more pages. He reads Yoder as a “Pauline theologian” with significant affinity with such major scholars as J. Louis Martyn and Richard Hays. In effect refuting some of Reimer’s ideas, Harink shows how Yoder follows Paul in developing a theology that has at its heart concern for “the shape of the cosmic and moral order.”
Willard Swartley gives a close reading of Yoder’s Jubilee thesis in relation to Luke’s Gospel, by and large affirming Yoder’s argument, but doing little to help us place the Jubilee thesis in the broader context of Yoder’s peace theology.
Rachel Reesor Taylor focuses on Yoder’s treatment of Anselm’s atonement theology. She recognizes that Yoder appreciated Anselm, but faults him for reading Anselm too much through the eyes of later Protestant theology. However, the relevance of this critique is limited due to its focus on an extraneous element of Yoder’s work; a discussion of the soteriological implications of Yoder’s broader theology would have been of much more interest.
Thomas Finger, in an important discussion of Yoder’s approach to doctrinal theology, argues that Yoder did not offer a clear and strong enough affirmation of the transcendent aspect of faith. That is, Yoder came closer than Finger would like to reducing theology to ethics. However, Finger is not clear enough with what precisely he means by “theology” and “ethics.” Yoder tended to link theology and ethics too closely to make it intelligible to say that, for him, the former could be reduced to the latter.
In the end, this is a useful book primarily because it focuses on issues of importance that engaged Yoder. However, with a few exceptions (e.g., chapters by Gerald Biesecker-Mast, Alain Epp Weaver, Douglas Harink, Chris Huebner and Harry Huebner) the essays rarely either go beyond or provide renewed depth to Yoder’s own insights. Given the extent of Yoder’s published legacy (and still growing!), the reader interested in Yoder’s thought may well be best served by first tracking down Yoder’s own writings.
Eastern Mennonite University TED GRIMSRUD
Seeking Cultures of Peace: A Peace Church Conversation. Edited by Fernando Enns, Scott Holland and Ann Riggs. Telford, Pa.: Cascadia Press; copublished with Herald Press and Oikumene World Council of Churches Publications. 2004. Pp. 260. $ 22.95, U.S.; $34.95, Can.
When Friends, Brethren and Mennonites met unofficially at Newton, Kansas, in 1935, they coined the label “historic peace churches.” Twenty years later, in the aftermath of World War II and the subsequent formation of the World Council of Churches (W.C.C.), significant theological conversation between representatives of the historic peace churches and the state churches of Europe took place at the Swiss village of Puidoux. Over the next decades, the series of Puidoux Conferences (1955-1973) served as a landmark for such ecumenical dialogue.
In June 2001, another Swiss village, Bienenberg, was the site of a consultation entitled “Theology and Culture: Peacemaking in a Globalized World.” This gathering of mostly historic peace church folk was prompted by encouragement from the 1999 W.C.C. Central Committee, which in turn was carrying out the mandate of the Harare W.C.C. Assembly in 1998. At that assembly, a motion from a German Mennonite delegate, Fernando Enns, led to the “Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010.”
This book documents the historic peace church response to that invitation for further ecumenical participation. The call for papers emphasized the need for theological reflection on contemporary culture and politics in a global context. The chapters published here come from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America; of the contributors, eight are Mennonite; three, Quaker; four, Brethren. Not all papers presented at Bienenberg are included in this volume.
The first two chapters position the historic peace churches’ consultation in the larger history of W.C.C. dialogue on questions of war and peace. Konrad Raiser (general secretary of the W.C.C., 1993-2003) notes the dilemma evident at the 1948 founding of the W.C.C. “While there was a reasonable agreement that ‘war is contrary to the will of God,’ the representatives of the churches could not agree on the conclusions about church practice that should be drawn from the churches’ basic agreement” (20). He reviews the considerable difficulties, as well as the achievements, in seeking ecumenical agreement in an area in which theology is deeply influenced by traditions of churchly support for nations at war. A Mennonite, Fernando Enns, seeks to bring historic peace church thinking into interplay with current W.C.C. theological efforts, indicating that the requisite globalized context demands movement beyond conventional just war and pacifism. He states that historic peace church theology “does not consist first of all in interpreting written historical doctrines, but in a continuing process to explore how to be a people of God, the body of Christ” (30), living as nonviolent peacemakers.
In a chapter titled “Globalization and Claiming Truth,” another Mennonite, Neal Blough, posits the “salvation narrative of peace” beginning with Abraham as the antidote to the Babel event, embodying themes consonant with modern globalization. Blough calls for classical theological convictions to ground the faith commitment to the nonviolent Messiah, which undergirds the important peacemaking role of the church engaged in mission. In a thickly argued essay, Peter Dula, also a Mennonite, brings John H. Yoder’s theology into conversation with such postmodern global theorists as Richard Falk, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Beginning with the claim that “the inexorable march of capital” has displaced the state as the functional equivalent of Constantine, Dula extends Yoder’s work to argue that the faithful non-Constantinian church must express its Gospel-inspired vulnerability in economic dispossession as well as in political powerlessness.
A Quaker theologian, Ann K. Riggs, argues for a contemporary appropriation of the John Woolman legacy toward exposing the seeds of war and violence in much of contemporary culture. Along the way, she suggestively illustrates the processes of inculturation in a comparison of English common law and Quaker decision-making in the seventeenth century. J. Denny Weaver, a Mennonite historian and theologian, here summarizes his familiar critique of classic Christology and atonement theology, drawing on black, feminist and womanist scholars (see his The Nonviolent Atonement, 2001). His harsh judgment of virtually all post-Constantinian theology, along with his effort at sharply distinguishing ecclesiologies, marks this essay as perhaps the most provocative in a setting of ecumenical dialogue.
In “The Gospel of Peace and the Violence of God,” Scott Holland of Bethany Seminary (Brethren) attempts a “poetic of place,” inspired by reflection on his early 2001 visit to a Nigeria traumatized by recent bloody interreligious conflict. His efforts at empathetic understanding move from vivid narrative to evocative theologizing, as he recognizes the need to go beyond simplistic platitudes about the love of God. In the end, he argues, only an affirmation of transcendent mystery, reminiscent of Rudolph Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, can lead the way toward meaning in this horrific situation. “God is love but not a pacifist” (139).
Two biblical studies connect ancient text to contemporary context. A Brethren exegete, Daniel Ulrich, uses the language of “reproof” from Leviticus 19 to reframe familiar Matthean texts on love of neighbor, enemy and erring disciple, closing his essay with suggestions for fitting modes of reproof at both societal and individual levels in the modern globalized world. Moises Mayordomo, a young Mennonite scholar at the University of Bern, surveys the “gallery of inner-church antagonisms” (124) in a number of New Testament writings and then explores more carefully the role of Paul as mediator in texts from Romans and I Corinthians.
The writers from beyond the North Atlantic axis all respond to the conference goal of reflection on how specific contexts pose challenges to peace theology. Alix Lozano of the Mennonite Seminary in Bogot places the biblical ideal of shalom over against the endemic culture of violence in Colombia, as a basis for outlining essential characteristics of a peace church: solidarity, healing, hope, education and space to be “sanctuaries of peace.” Korean reunification as a prophetic task for the churches is the central theme for Sang Gyoo Lee, identified as an “Independent/Mennonite” in the conference program. Patrick K. Bugu, a minister of the Nigerian Church of the Brethren (E.Y.N.), reviews the eighty-year history of this missionary-initiated body, outlining the development of its practical theology of reconciliation. Although peace theology was never taught as such, Bugu states that “We are peacemakers without claiming to be pacifists” (136). In “The Power of Historiography,” a Mennonite, Alfred Neufeld, draws heavily on his grounding in the Paraguayan context, both Mennonite and national, to demonstrate how the way history is written both shapes identity and determines ethics, for better or worse. He makes the case for a prophetic rewriting of national history as an appropriate Christian investment.
The latter section of the book is focused more on the practice of peacemaking. Debbie Roberts, a Brethren peace studies professor at the University of LaVerne, brings the perspective of feminist theology, especially the work of Sallie McFague, to bear on current conflict resolution theory and practice. Her critique intends to overcome some of the perceived deficiencies of conventional white male Eurocentric assumptions. In “The Sacred Nature of Places,” a Quaker, Elaine Bishop, highlights the importance of land, and human spiritual connection to the land, in several religious and cultural traditions, thus demonstrating the need for theological attention to land rights in efforts at peace-building. A Scottish Quaker, Alastair McIntosh, in the final chapter, builds from varied theological and psychological sources to construct an imaginative paradigm for the interplay of power and community.
The conferees also prepared several valuable documents, included here as appendices. The first, “Epistle from Bienenberg,” addressed both their historic peace church constituency and the ecumenical church. After confessing some shortcomings of the historic peace church witness, the epistle offers specific suggestions to the W.C.C.’s Decade to Overcome Violence. The second twelve-page study paper represents a further effort at direct dialogue with W.C.C., as it engages a 2001 council document on the protection of endangered populations. Based largely on the presentation by Duane Friesen, a Mennonite, challenging the assumption that nonviolent strategies fail to address issues of justice, the essay was reshaped and signed by thirty-six participants. Its five major points culminated in the affirmation of an “eschatology of trust in the victory over evil of God revealed in Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection” (241).
These brief summaries can only hint at the rich and variegated banquet served up at Bienenberg. What is missing, unfortunately, is the process of digestion. Although the conferees were able to agree on certain affirmations as evidenced by the appendices, the range and diversity displayed in these essays virtually cry out for dialogue, for interaction, for the conversation promised by the title. Of course there was discussion; the editors inform us that taped transcripts are archived at both Mennonite Central Committee (Akron, Pennsylvania) and the W.C.C. in Geneva.
The Bienenberg gathering clearly documents a new level of ecumenical engagement by the peace churches. Further evidence is the presence of two Mennonites, Fernando Enns and Hansulrich Gerber, in important W.C.C. roles. What is less clear is the degree of theological agreement and self-understanding within historic peace church circles. One case in point, which impacts ecumenical conversation, is the ongoing debate over the place of historic Christian creedal formulations in peace church theology. This volume provides valuable resources for ongoing conversation.
Goshen, Ind. J. R. BURKHOLDER
How the Bible Came to Be: Exploring the Narrative and Message. By John W. Miller. New York: Paulist Press. 2004. Pp. 188. $18.95.
The present book grows out of John W. Miller’s long experience of teaching Bible in lay settings and as such is well organized and clearly written. The clarity of the text is abetted by numerous charts and diagrams, which aid both understanding and memory. Miller has divided his story of the canon into two major sections, the first covering the Tanak, the Hebrew Bible, and the second the Christian Scriptures. The book concludes with two helpful supplements. The first presents selections from early sources documenting the history of the development of the canon, while the second discusses several alternative views regarding how the canon came to be.
Perhaps in line with its orientation toward a lay audience, several important nuances are blurred in discussing the dating of the canon. Miller takes what can be referred to as a “maximalist” approach to the evidence. He opts for an early dating of the time when the biblical material became canonical. This is quite in order, but in doing so he blurs the distinction between canon as an open set of authoritative documents (i.e., the “canon” is yet open), as a fixed set of documents (i.e., a closed canon) or as documents with a fixed text. For example, Jeremiah existed in two quite different textual forms up until the beginning of the Christian era. Only the standard Masoretic Text as now printed in our Hebrew Bibles is considered canonical. When did this form of the book of Jeremiah become canonical? (I find no reference to Masoretic Text in the book’s index.)
In line with Miller’s maximalist position, he posits the closing of the canon in the second century B.C.E. because, according to rabbinic tradition, the rabbis did not add a book to the list of canonical books-the Hebrew canon as a fixed set of books was closed before the Christian era ( 8). This claim raises the question, “considered canonical by whom'” since the book of Esther was not found at Qumran and some have concluded that it was thus not considered canonical by them. Moreover, the date and reliability of this rabbinic position, found in the Talmud, is open to discussion.
Such complexities and differences aside, Miller has presented a clear narrative regarding the development of the Hebrew canon. In this narrative he stresses that additions to the set of “canonical” books does not devaluate the books already canonized, but extends and interprets them. This is an especially important perspective to bear in mind when discussing the addition of the Christian writings to the Hebrew canon. They were not a “new” Bible, but additions to an old one. He returns to this topic at the end of the book.
However, when we come to the stages in the canonization of the Hebrew Bible, Miller’s discussion raises considerable difficulty. He divides the canonization process into two stages. In the first stage Deuteronomy and the “Deuteronomic History” were “canonized” in the pre-exilic period from Hezekiah and Josiah. However, since 2 Kings ends during the captivity in Babylon, it is clear that this material was not written in its entirety (or at all’) until at least the exilic period.
The remainder of the Hebrew Bible was crystallized at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the catalytic figures of the second stage of canonization. Thus Genesis through Numbers were added at the beginning of the deuteronomic canon, while the Latter Prophets and the Writings were added to the end. Since many scholars would claim that Genesis through Numbers as well as Jeremiah show the hand of a deuteronomic editor, it would have been helpful if Miller had discussed, in an excursus perhaps, what he considers to be the literary relationship between Deuteronomy and the Tetrateuch, Genesis-Numbers. His comparison of the leading figures and the themes of the material canonized in these two periods is very insightful.
The third stage of canonization is marked by the addition of Christian writings to the Hebrew canon. In this stage, the Hebrew Bible, now translated into Greek, is placed in codex form and the Christian writings are bound together with it. Miller emphasizes the inherent connection that is signaled between the original Hebrew Scriptures and the new Christian writings by using a codex, instead of discrete scrolls. The very form of using a book indicates the integrity of its parts. This emphasis is greatly appreciated. The process of canonization was a process of addition-new materials were added to what was already authoritative-rather than being a process of subtraction in which the new materials replace or relegate the previous canon to historical background.
Miller sees Marcion and Gnosticism as the engine driving the canonization of the new Christian writings. It was the nascent church’s defense against heresy. This view casts the process of canonization as a top-down process. There is obvious truth to this position shared by many. Yet it is striking how variegated the new canonical codices were. None of the earliest Christian collections contain our present New Testament canon. Coupled with the findings of Origen in the second century regarding those books used and considered canonical by different Christian communities, it would seem that there was a great deal of local choice regarding what were the authoritative Christian writings.
Following completion of the Christian canon, Miller adds two valuable chapters on reading and understanding the canon as a theological unity. He begins by hinting that Marcion really won after all, since the Christian church came to read its Bible like Marcion did. He attempts to redress this erroneous reading by describing where and why Christian reading of the Bible went wrong and then suggesting a different reading of the biblical narrative. These chapters are very useful in developing a canonical perspective for the interpretation of Scripture.
All in all, this is a helpful book addressed to a lay audience that could be fruitfully used in high school and college classes. In the view of this reviewer, the chapters on the stages of the canonization of the Hebrew Bible should be supplemented by other readings, but the overall thrust of the book, especially the final chapters, is an extremely pertinent corrective to the way many, if not most, Christians read their Bible.
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary PERRY B. YODER
Romans. Believers Church Bible Commentary. By John E. Toews. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2004. Pp. 463. $24.99, U.S.; $34.99, Can.
The six denominational groups that sponsor the Believers Church Bible Commentary series do not have a long track record of historical-critical biblical scholarship. The series foreword offers an explanation: “Believers church people have always been known for their emphasis on obedience to the simple meaning of Scripture.”
The 2004 publication of John E. Toews’s commentary on Romans added the nineteenth volume to this series. This commentary amply rewards those readers who sincerely desire to grow in their knowledge of “the simple meaning of Scripture.” Such readers also need to attend carefully to Toews’s disciplined exegesis and interpretative work. The route toward a deeper grasp of Paul’s letter to the Romans often demands that certain traditional understandings be set aside.
John Toews succeeds in offering a coherent reading of Romans that builds on what has come to be called “the new perspective” in Pauline studies. The groundbreaking book by E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress Press, 1977), is often credited with opening up this paradigm. However, throughout his thirty years of scholarship and teaching (while also filling senior administrative posts at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and Conrad Grebel University College), Toews has been exploring similar themes, especially in Romans. Briefly stated, this new paradigm views Paul as a Jewish-Christian apostle who was called into a mission to the nations leading to incorporation of Gentiles into God’s covenant people through Christ. Paul did not dismiss Judaism as a religion based on salvation by works; Paul views Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism, not its replacement.
In his commentary within the believers church theological tradition, Toews masterfully challenges the dominant understanding of Paul’s theology that has prevailed ever since Martin Luther in the sixteenth century highlighted the doctrine of justification by faith as the core Gospel affirmation. Toews also shows how the distinctive Anabaptist emphases on justice, peacemaking and discipleship are grounded in the Gospel as enunciated by Paul.
The structure and organization are guided by the Believers Church Bible Commentary template prescribed for all of the writers. There is an introduction and a concluding collection of essays, an outline of Romans, a bibliography, an index of ancient sources and a brief biographical sketch of the author. In the commentary proper, Toews also proceeds within the Believers Church Bible Commentary format. He discusses each unit of text under the prescribed headings: Preview; Outline; Explanatory Notes; Text in Biblical Context; and Text in the Life of the Church. However, Toews has also moved beyond this established pattern by incorporating summaries at several levels. Under “Comments and Observations” he wraps up the Explanatory Notes for most units. Under the caption “Summary of Argument” he progressively recapitulates the way that Paul presents his case in Romans 1-4, 1-8 and 9-11. There is no such summary for 12-15. As the final entry in the commentary proper, before his essays, Toews offers a carefully crafted four-page concluding essay entitled “The Theology of Romans.” These summaries provide excellent syntheses of the overall argument of Romans, as Toews understands it. Readers who get lost in the often detailed and complex exegetical discussions in this commentary will find these summaries helpful as they try to find their way back to the big picture of Paul’s persuasive case. Such readers will also find the Essays section to be a useful avenue back into the overall argument of the epistle.
In the dedication, Toews acknowledges the contribution of his students in Romans classes “from whom I learned so much.” He also includes an impressive bibliography. However, when reading this commentary one wonders at times who among Pauline scholars have been his main conversation partners; one can often read long sections without encountering references to the debates still ongoing about numerous interpretive issues. At other points Toews amply connects his exegetical conclusions to those of other scholars. For example, on the exegetical and interpretive question of whether texts such as Romans 3:22 and 26 should be read as referring to “faith in Jesus” or to “the faith of Jesus” Toews lists an impressive number of scholars who support (as he does) the latter (subjective genitive) reading (109).
In the Text in the Life of the Church sections Toews includes a variety of compositions. Sometimes he continues largely in the mode of exegesis or biblical theological reflection (for example, in short pieces on “Gospel” and “The Obedience of Faith” on page 49). More often he takes the occasion to discuss the history of the interpretation of the theme being discussed. For example, he traces the influence of Augustine and Luther in common understandings of “original sin” and contrasts these with Anabaptist understandings (165-167). He laments the legacy of Augustinian and Lutheran distinctions between law and grace and points out that sixteenth-century Anabaptists understood the law positively as God’s instruction for Spirit-empowered living (213-217).
One manifestation of Toews’s determination to invite readers of Romans to see things differently from traditional Protestant interpretations is his decision to highlight the word “sin” in two ways: by capitalizing it and by using bold letters. He explains: “Paul radicalizes the apocalyptic understanding of Sin. Sin is a power that enslaves (therefore it is always in bold.)” (34; see also 91). Repeatedly Toews reminds his readers that Paul views sin as a cosmic enslaving power; according to Paul’s gospel the Messiah Jesus defeated sin once for all, thereby freeing Israel from its oppressive power.
While substantially agreeing with Toews in his reading of Paul’s apocalyptically oriented theology, this reviewer found the eye-catching technique of putting Sin in bold letters throughout the commentary to be quite distracting. I wondered whether one might not need also in comparable fashion to use bold lettering for all other powers. Indeed, in his discussion of 5:12-21 and 6:1-7:6 Toews treats “death” and “life,” and “grace” and “righteousness,” in comparable fashion. Why not also highlight “God” and “Christ” and “Spirit,” I wondered. And when the word “all” also appears in bold letters for the sake of emphasis (234) I conclude that there must be better visual strategies of conveying the power realities in Paul’s apocalyptic gospel.
Toews might have been expected to offer comparable visualizations of power realities within Paul’s theology and ethics in his discussion of Romans 13. However, he does not put the words “governing powers” in bold. What Toews provides here, however, is a perceptive reading of 13:1-7 in its literary and political/cultural context. And he takes the occasion to articulate the anti-imperial posture explicit within Paul’s gospel. Here Toews echoes John Howard Yoder, but also a resurgent political reading of Romans among scholars. The concluding sentences of his summary of the theology of Romans explicitly express this theme: “Paul frames Romans as a political manifesto-Jesus is the son of God and the only Lord worthy of confession. Caesar is not Lord, and Caesar does not bring salvation, justice, and peace. But Jesus Christ does!” (368).
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary JACOB W. ELIAS
Treasure in Clay Jars: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness. Edited by Lois Y. Barrett. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 2004. Pp. 172. $18.
What would a missional congregation look like? Inspired especially by the post-India writings of the late Lesslie Newbigin, the Gospel and Our Culture Network has sought in a series of books, of which this is the seventh, to lay the theological groundwork for “the missional encounter of the gospel with North American culture.” Like Newbigin, the seven authors of this volume write from a committed Protestant ecumenical perspective that is broadly evangelical in tone and intent.
Treasure in Clay Jars, though scholarly in analysis and reflection, is not an ivory tower tome. Having selected nine North American Christian congregations from diverse historical and theological backgrounds that were considered to be “becoming missional” (ix), the writers visit them in teams, describe them in an introductory chapter and reflect on their expression of eight patterns of missional faithfulness. The result is a revealing snapshot of North American congregational character at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is also an illuminating illustration of a particular theological approach to mission in the Western context.
The missional congregation in this analysis is a local body of disciples of Jesus whose very being is an expression of God’s mission, including personal, corporate and public life, and witness in word, deed and essence. Mission is not a local or global set of programs or activities. Rather, it is essential to the nature of the church. Members of the local congregation do not see their “mission” simply as forays into the wider world; rather, every part of their life together is an expression of the reign of God in conformity to Jesus. It is embedded in worship, Bible study and prayer-resulting in countercultural character, discernment of missional vocation, movement in reconciliation toward multi-cultural identity, communal commitment both to one another and to the stranger, and observable transformative impact on the wider society (160-161).
Theologically, the missional church movement could be described as an ecumenical evangelical response to the traditional conservative evangelical church growth and missionary movement. Among these writers there is an implicit and sometimes explicit rejection of “growth” as a primary criterion for congregational vitality and a corresponding emphasis on “faithfulness” (33). Simultaneously, the idea of “mission” is attached to the whole life of the whole people of God rather than to the support of specific people, programs or activities. There is almost no reference, for example, to the “sending” of missionaries in the traditional sense.
However, the writers make an even more fundamental theological critique, a rejection of Western Christendom (127). Throughout the book there is a pervasive, self-conscious sense that the old assumptions of European Christianity are to be challenged at the core both from the Bible and from Christianity’s minority status in the West. The truly Christian stance for the church, then, is a “missional” one as illustrated in these pages. For the two Mennonite members of the writing team (Lois Barrett and Linford Stutzman), this in turn provides a prophetic platform both congruent with the Anabaptist embrace of the believers church and in harmony with their peers from other traditions who make the same critique of Christendom.
The nine congregations that the team visited and reflected on are, at least on the surface, quite diverse. For example, the Boulder Mennonite Church of Boulder, Colorado, is clearly at the opposite end of some spectrum from the Holy Ghost Full Gospel Baptist Church of Detroit, Michigan. The Mennonites are characterized by a member at Boulder as people who “have a hard time expressing [their faith] verbally” (153), whereas in contrast the Holy Ghost Full Gospel Baptist, whose leader has planted or oversees thirty churches worldwide (10) and which is “part of a worldwide network of charismatic churches” (137), is obviously characterized by unapologetic verbal witness. Both, though, are at home in this study because of their incarnational community engagement.
Other congregational contrasts could be cited at length, such as those between the Spring Garden (Baptist) Church of Toronto and the Transfiguration Parish (Roman Catholic) of Brooklyn, New York. But each of the nine fits in some significant ways the missional paradigm of the authors.
The missional paradigm as applied to these nine congregations appears to have two particular weaknesses: (1) It gives little recognition to the role of the Holy Spirit, and (2) it virtually ignores the place of new church formation and cross-cultural mission. Do these weaknesses apply to the “Gospel and Our Culture Network” as a whole? I believe they may, though that deserves further research.
Regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, it is true that one of the eight patterns of missional faithfulness identified by the writers is “dependence on the Holy Spirit” (117-125). However, even a quick reading of this section reveals that it is somewhat strangely titled; the section is all about prayer. That there is a potential relationship between prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit is undeniable, yet the two are not the same. The global spread of the Christian church in the twentieth century is closely related to the spiritual vitality of pentecostal and charismatic renewal movements that focus on the role of the Holy Spirit in mission. Yet the creators of this particular missional paradigm seem mostly unaware of that reality, or perhaps choose to ignore it. In actuality, Western Christian missiology and ecclesiology is being fundamentally challenged and reshaped by pneumatological considerations. (This contemporary focus on the Spirit, like the critique of Christendom, has significant Anabaptist roots.)
On the place of new church formation and cross-cultural mission, though the second of these might arguably be restricted to another volume, the first (new church formation) is certainly critical to any discussion of the missional congregation. Though one might choose, as do the authors, to emphasize faithfulness rather than growth, both are key elements of any missional paradigm, and thus the almost total absence of reference to new church formation (“church planting,” in some vocabularies) initiated by missional congregations is conspicuous and regrettable.
These weaknesses notwithstanding, the “Gospel and Our Culture Network” in general and the writers of this volume in particular are to be commended for accepting the challenge of re-envisioning the Western church in a missional form rather than parroting the heresies implicit in old or new forms of Western Christendom. Their decision to do this in interaction with and analysis of specific Western Christian congregations is laudable. Too few theological treatises have been so well grounded in reality.
Does the emergence of “missional church” language in Western mainline Protestant churches (and in the Mennonite Church) herald a vital, new missionary encounter of the Christian church with our culture? Perhaps, though that is not yet clear. Could Anabaptist missiologists and theologians help get beyond the faithfulness/growth polarity still rather obvious in Treasure in Clay Jars? Why not? To embrace both is part of our spiritual heritage.
Eastern Mennonite Missions RICHARD SHOWALTER
The Book of Flying. By Keith Miller. New York: Riverhead Books. 2004. Pp. 262. $23.95, U.S.; $36, Can.
This first novel might rightly be titled The Book of Writing or The Book of Reading or The Book of Dreaming because these entangled activities figure prominently in the fantastic quest of Pico, orphan, poet, librarian, storyteller, thief and pilgrim. Born a wingless child of winged people in a city by the sea, Pico learns to read before he can walk and is raised to maintain an ancient collection of books in a place where no one reads. Each evening he watches his mother fly among the winged beings at the shore, and there he rescues from a splash the beautiful, winged Sisi. Like Romeo and Juliet, their romance was forbidden because of tribal difference; nonetheless, Pico teaches Sisi to read and tells her stories from “an inner sky vaster than the one she traversed” (9). He also pens love poems in purple ink on parchment, but eventually social pressure and her own desire for flight tear Sisi from him. Beneath a huge mushroom that suddenly sprouts between tiles in the library floor, Pico discovers a historical (or prophetic) document written and hidden during a fire resulting from a war between the winged and wingless people. It also describes a city to the east, Paunpuam, the morning town, where one could read The Book of Flying and thereby obtain wings.
Thus our hero packs his bag with a few books and some food and sets out on a journey to gain his wings and win his love. With each obstacle, he gathers knowledge and skill, offering stories and verse in return. He first encounters a Robber Queen, an insatiable murderer, predatory lover and skillful thief who teaches him how to pick locks, throw knives, roll cigarettes and imbibe in strong drink. “Climb down out of your brain, poet,” she commands. “You’re tangled in the cobwebs of your dreams. Welcome to the land of your body, with all its guilt, all its ecstasy” (38). From a minotaur who cooks gourmet meals and shares his love of literature, Pico obtains access to the dark forest, his labyrinth. And from a bookish rabbit, he learns the limits of empirical knowledge and articulates the poetics of his own way of knowing:
When you have learned the name of every part of a plant or beast, learned the function of each vein, each strand of chlorophyll, when you have heard the twitter of each nerve and felt the twitch of each root hair, felt the shedding of skin, bark and scale, the church of the heart and the turn of the leaf to the sunlight, why then that object is yours to command. I am master of the forest . . . .
“I work with names as well,” Pico said. “I am not a namer but a renamer. In my art I arrive at the nature of a thing by calling it something else. The sky is the sea glittering with minnows caught in the net of the rain, a flute at dusk is a lover’s tongue in the ear, an eye is a talon, a cinder, a star” (74-75).
And a dream seller reminds him of the gift of his own dreams-desire, fantasy and belief.
Weary and worldly wise, Pico next reaches the Mountain City where tales of his journey serve as the source of his identity and verse. Distracted from his quest for a time, he lives in a brothel among whores and artists who celebrate art as the highest form of theft and deceit. An urban clutter of cafes, taverns and book stalls, this city (like New York sometimes) is blind to its own insularity:
“Other cities? What other cities'”
“Are there no other cities near here'”
“This is the city. There is only one, unless you trust in fairy tales. The books are written here, read here” (110).
But worse than self-indulgent isolation, a gruesome menace lies just beyond the city’s borders, that threat weirdly prefigured by a story about a book that devours its readers. In order to extract himself and return to the rigors of his own quest, Pico must suffer a personal loss, face his shadow self, consume the flesh of his lover and nearly perish in a desert wilderness.
He does eventually reach the morning town where he reads The Book of Flying, but it is not reading but his journey-construed as falling-and the actual experience of falling that ultimately give him wings. What awaits the hero’s return in the city by the sea remains for readers to discover.
The novel could be paraphrased with uncanny concision by a fragment of the ancient Sufi poet, Rumi:
The way of love is not
A subtle argument.
The door there
Birds make great sky-circles
Of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
They’re given wings.
But poetry’s economy deprives us of the pleasure of the story, and this book is nothing if not a story of many stories. It is an extravagant composition of tales and myths in an age plagued by theoretical and critical suspicion of narrative, authors, heroes and even syntax. It is a celebration of literary art in a time when more books are being published than ever before, but paradoxically, fewer people read serious literature. The language, sometimes staggeringly gorgeous-sometimes just excessive-is often as lyrical as poetry, and many passages deserve to be read out loud, more than once. For readers unfamiliar with fantasy and science fiction, some of the stock characters and grotesque turns in the latter part of the novel may seem alarming or strange. But one of the delights of this book is the way it combines a high literary sensibility with the conventions of lowbrow genre fiction. Another is the whimsical pen and ink illustrations by the author. A third is the instance of surface beauty on almost every page, always tugged by a sense of tragedy and sadness.
Of interest to readers of this journal may be the author’s background. Keith Miller grew up in east Africa (Tanzania and Kenya), the American child of longtime Mennonite educators and missionaries, and part of an extended family network of cross-cultural workers in Africa that spanned several generations. He attended and graduated from Goshen College in 1991, and wrote the novel while he was living in southern Sudan on a Mennonite Central Committee assignment.
It remains for others to discover how this novel fits in the larger body of Mennonite literature, which largely remains in the realms of realism. For my part, I will offer trace Mennonite reverberations. For instance, when Pico is drafted into the robber’s band at knifepoint, he protests unhappily, “…I don’t think I’ll be much good. I’m a pacifist, you see” (24). More broadly, the book takes up the suffering, righteous migrant theme explored by many Mennonite writers, most notably Rudy Wiebe in The Blue Mountains of China. The grim hero-holy or not-must, in Pico’s words, “tramp a forsaken trail to probable death” (170). His quest for unearthly perfection, like the ideals that drove the radical reformers, is a determined desire for flight (or some kind of transcendence) in a fallen world:
. . . we are all searching for some pristine story . . .
The story we all remember but never find (258).
Pennsylvania State University JULIA KASDORF
On Baptism: Mennonite-Catholic Theological Colloquium, 2001-2002. Edited by Gerald W. Schlabach. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press. 2004. Pp. 146. $16, Can.
This book includes exchanges on the topic of baptism that took place via electronic correspondence in 2001 and 2002 under the auspices of the Mennonite-Catholic Theological Colloquium, a group of fifteen scholars seeking “sustained theological conversation between” the two traditions. The paper that served as the starting point for discussion is by the Catholic theologian Fritz Bauerschmidt, who argues that baptism incorporates children into “a visibly distinctive social order that is set apart from the world to be the instrument of the world’s salvation,” so that the critical factor “is not the age of the baptized but the social posture of the Christian community.” Responses from Joseph Capizzi, Thomas Finger, Stanley Hauerwas, Ivan Kauffman, Walter Klaassen, Alan Kreider and Gerald Schlabach explore various aspects of Bauerschmidt’s presentation, highlighting differences between and common understandings of ecclesiology, catechesis and sacrament. Kreider and Bauerschmidt, especially, undertake a discussion of the place of history in grappling with this topic. Complete reference citations accompany each text. Texts have been edited for publication, but not revised in light of the responses they generated, allowing the book to convey the participants’ original dialogue.
Just Policing: Mennonite-Catholic Theological Colloquium, 2002. Edited by Ivan J. Kauffman. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press. 2004. Pp. 126. $14.50, Can.
Like the exchange on baptism, described in the volume above, a Mennonite-Catholic exchange on the ethics of policing and warfare appears in this book. Gerald Schlabach’s opening proposal, “Just Policing: How War Could Cease to be a Church-Dividing Issue,” explores the differences between policing and warfare and how both traditions view these activities. He proposes a concept of “just policing,” suggesting that it addresses some of the unresolved challenges of social responsibility inherent in Mennonite experience and theology, as well as redirects the resources of Catholic just war teaching toward a policing mode that seeks the common good. Responses by Joseph Capizzi and Denny Weaver critique the proposal as misconstruing both the just war and pacifist traditions-critiques to which Schlabach replies. Further responses from Ivan Kauffman and Stanley Hauerwas round out the discussion.
Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange World. By Stuart Murray. Carlisle, U.K.: Paternoster Press. 2004. Pp. 343. 9.99.
Stuart Murray, chair of the Anabaptist Network in Britain and editor of the journal Anabaptism Today, “invites Christians in western culture to embrace marginality and discover fresh ways of being church and engaging in mission.” Writing in an accessible style to British readers who assume a Christendom framework for thinking about the place of church in society, Murray uses his own experience as an urban church planter to challenge the church-state-culture combination that he believes still hobbles the imaginations of British Christians. Almost half the book is given to a 1700-year survey of church history, detailing the rise, domination and demise of Christendom. Post-Christendom does not mean post-Christian, he argues, instead insisting that a post-Christendom world offers the church an opportunity to offer a new, compelling and relevant message to society. Features of such a church include interactive learning, church discipline, peacemaking, radical sharing of resources, and Christocentric theology and ethics.
Homage to a Broken Man: The Life of J. Heinrich Arnold. By Peter Mommsen. Farmington, Pa.: Plough Publishing House. 2004. Pp. 349. $15.
For a quarter of a century, Heinrich Arnold (1913-1982) was leader of the communal Bruderhof movement that his father, Eberhard Arnold, had launched in Germany in 1920. Drawing inspiration from sixteenth-century Anabaptists and contemporary Hutterities, the Bruderhof has had a stormy existence that included harassment in Hitler’s Germany, economic and interpersonal crises in Paraguay, and periods of creative growth in North America. Peter Mommsen, Heinrich’s grandson and a journalist, presents a sympathetic, often heroic, story of Heinrich’s role in these events. Chosen by his father to lead the movement, Heinrich contended with his brother-in-law, Hans Zumpe, for years. Misunderstood and outmaneuvered by shameless rivals, Heinrich was twice excluded from the community, separated from his family and-according to Mommsen-fearful for his life. Moving to New York in the later 1950s with his loyal wife, Annemarie, Heinrich helped the Woodcrest Bruderhof flourish, even as the Paraguayan communities under Zumpe collapsed. Humble but bluntly plainspoken, Heinrich became a well-known spiritual guide and social activist, and the final sections of the book detail his contacts with major figures in the U.S. civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.
– Noted by Steven Nolt
The Mennonite Quarterly Review