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January 1973 · Vol. 2 No. 1 · pp. 28–29 

Book Review

Consultation on Anabaptist-Mennonite Theology: Papers Read at the 1969 Aspen Conference

ed. A. J. Klassen. Fresno, CA: Council of Mennonite Seminaries, 1970.

Reviewed by Abe J. Dueck

In July of 1969, representatives of the five Mennonite seminaries met in Aspen, Colorado. The Council of Mennonite Seminaries convened this consultation for the purpose of exploring their common understanding of the Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage for the life and work of the church in the modern world. One paper was prepared by a representative of each of the seminaries and these have now been published in this single volume.

The topics of the papers range rather widely. The first and most lengthy is entitled, “Anabaptist Vision and Mennonite Reality,” and was presented by John H. Yoder. Its purpose is to seek to understand present Mennonite reality in terms of its recent history and then relate it to the Anabaptist Vision. Although the Old Mennonite experience is used for this purpose, Yoder maintains that the results would be essentially the same if a similar description of the experiences of the General Conference Mennonites or the Mennonite Brethren were attempted. The main phenomenon of the last century is described as a “series of borrowings from surrounding Protestantism in an effort to renew the Mennonite reality.” The result of the many renewals, Yoder argues, has not brought Mennonitism closer to the Anabaptist Vision, although it was often assumed that we were returning to Anabaptism. Mennonites continue to be a small Corpus Christianum: “Mennonitism still finds its identity most properly on the ethnic community level. These are the bones behind the changed face; this is what kept the organism alive for four centuries” (p. 34).

The next two papers are by William Klassen and Myron Augsburger. Klassen discusses the topic, “What does it Mean to be Biblical?” He maintains that the perspective of freedom is central in the Biblical message, and then suggests various tests of freedom. One of the tests is freedom from professionalism, and Klassen maintains that a paid pastoral ministry can easily result in a loss of freedom in the pulpit. Augsburger’s paper deals with the concept of conversion, and this is related to the Anabaptist emphasis on discipleship. He therefore underlines the significance of the initial surrender to Christ, but he also emphasizes that transformation is a continuing process.

Two papers were presented by Mennonite Brethren representatives. The first, “Discipleship in a Secular World,” by A.J. Klassen, relates the recovery of the Biblical teaching of discipleship among the Anabaptists to the more recent recovery of the meaning of this concept by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer’s call to “religionless Christianity” is a call for the Christian to get out into the world and to be a disciple in a “world come of age.” David Ewert’s paper, entitled “The Covenant Community and {29} Mission,” explores the missionary task of Christians in relation to what it really means to be the Church. Ewert emphasizes the task of the laity, the function of the informal witness alongside the formal witness, the necessity that the preaching of the word and deeds of love each have authenticity in themselves, and the total integration of the task of missions with every other aspect of the Church’s existence.

The five papers brought together in this volume are a very worthwhile step in the process of stimulating theological conversation between groups which have a vast common heritage and which can continue to help each other in the quest for greater faithfulness. It is to be hoped that a number of Mennonite Brethren readers will also seek to benefit from the insights offered in these papers.

Abe Dueck
Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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