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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do Mennonites have a Peace Theology?

I have found myself wondering lately if Mennonites have a peace theology. The 16th century Anabaptists definitely had a peace theology centered on eschatology. A faith community doesn't send thousands to the gallows to be burned at the stake without a vibrant peace theology, in their case one heavily accented with eschatology, a belief that God, and God's peace, holds the future.

Twentieth and 21st century Mennonites, it seems to me (and maybe it goes back long before the last century), have worked hard developing a peace ecclesiology and a peace ethic, a sense of God's requirements and expectations of the church as a sign of the reign of God. But we have not had much to say about God that would be a peace theology, other than to talk about God's requirements of us. At its core theology explores the nature and character of God, and ecclesiologies and anthropologies are secondary points of inquiry.

It's an important question, and one I think about a great deal. Personally, I am inspired by three different approaches to peace theology, one is eschatological in nature, and perhaps most developed by the Anabaptists. History will find its culmination in the victory of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Another area has to do with an ontology of peace. That is, God created all things in goodness and beauty, and God is infinite peace. What is ultimately true and real is God, and that God is a God of beauty and peace. Finally, I have been influenced by Walter Wink's thought (drawing on Ricoeur) that creation is in bondage to powers of domination (violence), and that Jesus frees us from these powers. All three of these have long and rich traditions in the scriptures and Christian thought, and are well worth our exploration as we seek to articulate peace theologies for Mennonites in our time.


Anonymous said...

Phil, we as Mennonites already have our peace theology in place. It is part and parcel of a much broader and deeper, umbrella theology. In every generation we need to rediscover it – right here at College Mennonite Church. And here is what it is:
It is the Jesus of Galilee (Mark 16:7) whom we model, individually, as his followers, and whom we model, together, as disciples, as the living Body of Christ, “walking in the resurrection” and thus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. This grants us the power to live as Jesus lived, continuing where he left off around A.D. 30.
This living witness to Jesus is not mere ecclesiology, is not mere ethics (ethics, rightly understood, in the sense of emulating Jesus) – both, essential elements within our overarching theology. Emulating Jesus is indeed also our theology of peace. Did not Jesus live a life of forgiving, suffering, nonviolent love, and then so die a forgiving, loving, suffering, nonviolent death, telling us to live likewise?
We are speaking of a living relationship with a person, which is far, far more than even a peace theology. It comprises the totality of Jesus, including his peace motif, whom we always loop back to and in a very real sense become, who as LORD is our living canon within the canon.
This accords with our earliest Anabaptist statements of 1524 (Zurich) and 1527 (Schleitheim), and the same truth is found throughout the five centuries of our existence in many a document.
It has carried us well over the centuries. May we also rediscover it here at College Mennonite Church, in 2013!
-- Leonard Gross