Friday, June 04, 2004

how appropriate

I've been reading through the essays collected in The Failure of American Baptist Culture, having just finished "The Baptist Failure" by Ray R. Sutton. One major thrust of Sutton's is that Anabaptist (and similar) beliefs are fundamentally "subjective," in that they are focused inward and are ultimately man-centered. (By contrast, Augustininian "objective" beliefs focus externally on the work of God through His Law, by His grace, in His Church and ultimately through His Son, etc.) He traces the outworkings of this subjective theology in multiple areas.

Just in time for the re-escalation of the blog wars, I read this section:

IV. Theology of Anabaptism and Exclusivism

Subjective ethics produces exclusivistic doctrine and practice. When Menno Simons gathered the Anabaptists into a peaceful community they were encouraged to separate from the world. In fact, there was not to be "the taking of oaths, participation in war and in the administration of justice. . . . Great stress was laid on separation from all non-Baptist Christians; this went so far as to demand that a marriage should be dissolved in which the husband or wife had been either excommunicated or convicted of unbelief (in anabaptism)." With that pattern established, Baptists have usually been exclusivists. They have separated from everything and everyone that counters their doctrines. Why? Because they individualize the faith. If the covenant is defined around oneself and one's personal belief, then he must isolate to grow in faith. On the other hand, if the covenant incorporates both the singular and the plural, such as the family and the historic church, isolation is avoided. Since this has not been the case, the intrinsically subjective definition of the covenant of God has led to separation.

(p. 169)

And of course, the inward focus of subjectivism results in the unyielding desire to enforce purity within the church via separation. All in the name of "Defending the Gospel," of course.

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