A Word about Our Name

quest_for_piety_and_obedienceI’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.

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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6 Responses to A Word about Our Name

  1. Great project Devin! I came across the blog while looking for on-line materials regarding Luke Keefer Jr.’s perspective on inerrancy. Hope to connect with you further regarding the blog at one of the upcoming Brethren in Christ gatherings.

  2. devincthomas says:

    Thanks for the affirmation, Tom! I’d love to connect further about this project.

    The problem for Brethren in Christ studies (especially for those of us who are avid users of the Internet) is that very little BIC-related information is available online. I assume you’ve already read Luke’s piece on inerrancy in “Reflections on a Heritage”; in my experience, that’s the extent of study done on inerrancy among the BIC.

    However, I’d like to see a more nuanced historical review than Luke presents in that paper. My own research suggests that there was a significant contingent among the church (esp. after the turn toward American Evangelicalism in the 1950s/60s) that would have embraced language like “inerrant” and “infallible” to describe our view of the Bible.

  3. Yes! And if I remember correctly, the paper was written to clarify the Brethren in Christ’s understanding of Biblical authority. In the small window of observation which I have of the Brethren in Christ, there are a number among the Brethren who currently affirm some understanding of “inerrancy” and “infallibility.”

    Although defining these terms can be difficult, this morning a brother in Christ demonstrated his familiarity with the terms by affirming “The Chicago Statements on Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics” when discussing the importance of teaching Biblical authority in youth ministry. This is a great concern of mine as I see the ‘Souls in Transition’ while engaged in campus ministry. In my work, I tended to affirm our place in the Biblical story, e.g., http://www.intervarsity.org/gfm/esn/resource/loving-god-in-the-flesh-in-the-real-world … which reminds me it is time to clear some snow for the family.

  4. Pingback: A Word about Our Banner « the search for piety and obedience.

  5. Pingback: A New History of the Brethren in Christ | The Search for Piety and Obedience

  6. Pingback: Welcome to the New and Improved "Search for Piety and Obedience" - BIC Historical Society

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