Evangelical Encounters with Anabaptism: Scot McKnight and “The Original Third Way”

As an aspiring scholar of American religious history, one of my main areas of interest are “encounters” between American evangelicals and Anabaptists. (Not necessarily literal encounters, mind you — that’s why I’ve employed the quotation marks.) Some contemporary examples include megachurch pastor and author Greg Boyd and Scot McKnight, celebrated author and blogger at The Jesus Creed.

McKnight’s most recent “encounter” with Anabaptism occurred on this morning, when he posted “The Original Third Way: Anabaptism.” (HT to Tom Grosh at Emerging Scholars Network for sharing this link.)

McKnight’s analysis of the original Anabaptists as creating a “third way” between Catholicism and Calvinism is intriguing, and his characterization of Anabaptism’s core doctrines (based on his reading of Stuart Murray’s The Naked Anabaptist) ought to provoke some interesting conversation and debate, particularly among Mennonite and other Anabaptist scholars.

From McKnight’s post:

Stuart Murray attempts . . . to get to the core of Anabaptism by focusing on seven essential features. The elements are not unique to Anabaptism, but together they make up what Anabaptism is.

1. Jesus is example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. Anabaptism is Jesus-centric; he is to be followed and worshiped.

2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. Jesus-centered Bible reading and a community of followers is how the Bible is to be read.

3. Christendom, characterized by collusion and compromise, distorted the gospel and marginalized Jesus and left churches ill-equipped for mission.

4. Wealth and money have distorted the church; connection to the poor, helping the powerless and persecuted is part of the anabaptist approach. Such may lead to opposition and martyrdom.

5. Churches are to be committed communities of discipleship and mission and worship … gifts are for all and baptism is for believers.

6. Spirituality and economics are related.

7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel.

Read the complete post here.

I have my own thoughts and concerns about his conclusions, but I want to hear from you. Readers: How do you respond to McKnight’s characterization of Anabaptism’s “core features”? How do you see the theological posture of American Evangelicalism affecting McKnight’s assessment? What do you make of his terse articulation of the Anabaptist theology of peace? How are these seven features reflected in the Brethren in Christ Church’s own core values?


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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