Ted Grimsrud

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Weakness in Power

In Biblical theology, Eschatology, Jesus, Politics, Revelation, Theology on January 22, 2012 at 4:38 pm

[This is the fourth in a series of sermons in interpreting America in the 21st century in light of the Book of Revelation. The series will continue, monthly for about two years.]

Ted Grimsrud

Revelation 3:1-22—Shalom Mennonite Congregation—January 22, 2012

So, what is the book of Revelation really about? Since it has been two months since my last sermon, you all have probably forgotten….Let me suggest one word that I believe is at the center of the book: Power.

We may read Revelation as a book of conflicts—the Beast vs. the Lamb, the Holy Spirit vs. the False Prophet, Babylon vs. the New Jerusalem. The question is: Who is more powerful? Which is actually the question: What kind of power is more powerful —the power to conquer through domination or the power to conquer through self-giving love? On this question hangs the fate of the earth, perhaps we could say. Certainly, for John the writer of Revelation, on this question hangs the fate of the churches.

The seven messages that make up chapters two and three, the first of Revelation’s many visions, set the book’s agenda. In my last sermon, I talked about “power in weakness”—how the little church in Smyrna, besieged, suffering persecution, with little visible power, actually was praised above all the other churches and proclaimed to be rich indeed.

Today, I will focus on “weakness in power”—how the big church in Laodicea, wealthy, comfortable, lacking in nothing, actually was condemned above all the other churches and proclaimed to be “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Howard Yoder and Contemporary Anabaptist Theology

In Anabaptism, John Howard Yoder, Mennonites, Pacifism, Theology on January 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

Ted Grimsrud – June 2011

Is there such a thing as “Anabaptist theology” for the present day? Is seeking to construct a distinctively Anabaptist theology an appropriate task for the 21st century?

John Howard Yoder did not consider himself a systematic theologian, and as far as I know would not have called himself a constructive theologian. However, his work certainly directly related to the task many Mennonites, and others who would also think of themselves as spiritual descendants of the 16th century Anabaptists see as vital for the viability of Mennonite and other Anabaptist communities—namely, self-conscious work at articulating their theological convictions in ways that might provide sustenance to their tradition.

Yoder’s model I will call “practice-oriented” theology. To help understand Yoder’s approach, and why it’s an exemplary model for those of us engagement in the work of constructive Anabaptist theology for the 21st century, I will first look at a quite different model for contemporary Anabaptist theology and reflect on the differences between these two models.

Tom Finger, like many other Mennonite writers wrestling with the challenge of working within the Anabaptist tradition (notably a marginal perspective in the history of Christian theology), seeks to find links of commonality with more mainstream traditions. In doing so, he takes an approach I will call “doctrine-oriented” theology.

Finger’s work has many characteristics unique to his own perspective, certainly, yet in relation to the key points I will focus on, his approach is at least somewhat representative of the general approach taken by Anabaptist-Mennonite theologians seeking rapprochement with mainstream theologies.

I understand the central characteristics of “Anabaptist theology” to be centered in an integration of theological convictions with ethical practices.  The ethical commitments of the sixteenth century Anabaptists such as their pacifism, their emphasis on economic sharing, and their rejection of the subordination of the church to nation-states, reflected a distinctive theology that placed central importance on commitment to the way of Jesus in costly discipleship. Read the rest of this entry »