the weblog of Alan Knox


Posted by on Jul 14, 2007 in blog links, church history, definition, elders, gathering, love, service | 11 comments

Today, Dave Black began a series on the Anbaptists called “What I Have Learned From the Anabaptists“. At one point, he says:

Like the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century, who longed for a restoration both in the structures and the practices of the church and whose vision differed from the magisterial model, so I believe it is time for an alternative vision of church and society, one that is Christocentric and follows the pattern of Jesus by obedience to His teaching and His example. More than anything we need a return to the pure Word of God as the only guide to Christian conduct and thought. A classic case in point: today we find congregational participation in our gatherings squelched by an unbiblical emphasis on the “clergy” and a corresponding passivity among the “laypeople.” The motivation behind limiting congregational participation is undoubtedly noble (to ensure “quality,” to protect against heresies, to maintain order, etc.). Still, such motivations seem biblically unsustainable.

He later describes why these motivations are “biblically unsustainable”. Read the remainder of the article. And, then, ask yourself, “Do I understand the church and the church meeting through studying Scripture, through tradition that I’ve been taught, through business models, or another method?”


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-14-2007

    Does blacks site have a feed? I can’t seem to find one.

    His continued thoughts on anabaptists would be most interesting for me to read!

  2. 7-14-2007

    Stephen (sbhebert),

    As far as I know, Dr. Black’s site does not have any type of feed. I’m also interested in Anabaptist studies, so I will probably link to each article here.


  3. 7-15-2007

    I grew up Anabaptist (Mennonite Brethren) and so pretty much everything I write is filtered through those glasses.

    But even the Anabaptists, with the expressed intention of keeping purely to the scriptures, had (and continue to have) certain reactionary hermeneutics that color their practice, as does every movement that begins with an intention of faithfulness to scripture. Hence, the second- and third-generation descents into legalism, and the need for continual renewal.

  4. 7-15-2007


    I’ve noticed the historical tendency for 2nd and 3rd generations to drift into legalism. Do you think this is because the 2nd and 3rd generation spend more time studying the writings of the 1st generation than they spend studying Scripture? I don’t know if this is true, just a question, really.


  5. 7-15-2007

    I think that it’s because every reform movement spends a great deal of energy writing and preaching about the particular issue that needs reform. Luther said that the church is often like a drunk who, having fallen off the left side of his horse, gets back on and promptly falls off the right side.

    Every generation, as you say, must continue to go to the scriptures. I mean, the beginning of just about every denomination or brotherhood I’ve heard of has some amazingly great stuff at its roots.

    I guess if one is starting a reformation, one ought to instruct his followers not to hold his own words as sacred, but to continually go back to the scriptures, turning their backs to the founders, if necessary.

    I’m glad God loves his people even when we don’t destroy the high places.

  6. 7-15-2007


    You said: “I guess if one is starting a reformation, one ought to instruct his followers not to hold his own words as sacred, but to continually go back to the scriptures, turning their backs to the founders, if necessary.” I’m not planning to start a reformation, but I do think you are correct.


  7. 7-16-2007

    Perhaps church reformation movements are trying to reform something that started out flawed in the first place, causing an even more confusing movement than what triggered it.(Looking like a family tree)

    You would have to back-track to the deepest roots of the Church where Christ (and many Christians) is waiting for us to return so He can grow us on the correct vine.

  8. 7-16-2007

    Jeff: Everything is flawed. We can’t start over unflawed. The idea that we can is incredibly presumptuous.

    Even the Reformers, even the Anabaptists, even the Restoration movement did not start from scratch. Many of them thought they were. I think that’s where the legalism comes from. We need a historical humility about our intentions.

    Perhaps we need to remain right where we are, ministering in faithfulness to those around us, confident in the fact that Jesus is putting treasure in cracked earthen vessels.

  9. 7-16-2007


    I have a theory that reforming the church should be one of the least of our worries. If the church is made up of believers – which it is – then the church will change as believers change. As the Spirit teaches us who we are in Christ, he will also teach us and lead us into right relationships with one another. The gospel is about personal transformation which brings us into a new kingdom – a new community with all the saints. The community will not change until the members of that community are being changed and are following the Spirit.


    I think we can live in community as God intends, but not by following the Reformers, the Anabaptists, the Restoration Movement, or even the early church fathers. We must learn to listen to and follow the Spirit individually. Only he can change our lives and make us into the community that God is creating.


  10. 7-16-2007


    I agree. And that was what I was trying to explain. Not changing the church institution (flawed) but returning to Christ (deepest roots, no flaws) so He can change and grow us each personally. He is the vine and we are the branches.

    Did the Spirit start showing you these things before or after you entered seminary? What do your peers and teachers think of your theories? Just curious.

  11. 7-18-2007


    I almost missed your questions. I don’t know the answer to your “when” question. But, some students and faculty would agree with me, some would disagree.