I’d wager that most readers of this blog have read — or at least skimmed — Carlton Wittlinger’s seminal history of the Brethren in Christ, Quest for Piety and Obedience.
For those who haven’t, here’s the gist: in their more than two century history, the conservative religious group known as the Brethren in Christ have attempted to fuse their two founding theological strands — Anabaptism, with its emphasis on whole-hearted obedience to God, and Pietism, with its emphasis on a life-changing conversion experience and warm-hearted devotionalism — in their communal pursuit of the Kingdom. Along the way, they were influenced by other movements: Wesleyan holiness, with its emphasis on second-work sanctification, and American Evangelicalism, with its emphasis on church growth and “aggressive” evangelism — both of which they interpreted as complimentary underpinnings to their spiritual foundation.
A generation of Brethren in Christ scholars and historians — E. Morris Sider, Luke Keefer Jr., Owen Alderfer, Martin Schrag, and others — has worked to further confirm Wittlinger’s original findings: that the spiritual journey of the Brethren in Christ has been a “quest for piety and obedience.”
As but one in a long line of scholars writing about this unique Protestant group, I take my cue from those who have gone before. This blog serves as a way to continue the search for evidence of piety and obedience among the Brethren in Christ.
Thus, the title of this blog — “the search for piety and obedience” — is both an allusion to Wittlinger’s history as well as a statement of intent, as I seek to discover how the Brethren in Christ have succeeded — and failed – in their pursuit of God’s will for the church.