Monthly Archives: February 2012

Anabaptism as a Hermeneutic

Ted Grimsrud

Paper Presented to Anabaptist Seminar — Eastern Mennonite University — April 8, 2006

My introduction to Anabaptism came nearly thirty years ago when I first discovered that there was a Mennonite congregation in my hometown, Eugene, Oregon.  I had just started reading John Howard Yoder and was anxious to learn to know actual Mennonites.  The pastor of Eugene Mennonite Church, Harold Hochstetler, loaned me several of his books. I especially remember Guy Hershberger’s The Way of the Cross in Human Relations and the festschrift for Harold Bender that Hershberger edited.

Not too long afterwards, I ended up at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and studied Anabaptism with Yoder and C. J. Dyck.  A couple of years later I was able to teach Anabaptism for the first time in a congregation.  I served as interim pastor at Trinity Mennonite in Glendale, Arizona, and taught a course mainly for people new to the Mennonite faith.  Several senior members in the congregation, including Guy Hershberger himself, also sat in on the class.  Strong affirmations I received from Guy meant a great deal to me.

Anabaptism as a resource for ethics and pastoral ministry

From the start, my main interest in the Anabaptists was ethical and pastoral.  My interest in Mennonites came out of a desire for faith that underwrote peacemaking and community-building.  Yoder and Hershberger directed me to the 16th-century Anabaptists as an important resource for embodying those concerns.  I have always been interested in the connections between the events told in the Bible, the events of the 16th century, and our own quest to live faithfully.  I never felt comfortable with the idea that one could approach the 16th century in a fully objective way.  The questions I have asked of the 16th century (as of the Bible) have always been self-consciously along the lines of what might I learn for today from those events. Continue reading

What is God Like?

[This is the fifth 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 4:1–5:14—Shalom Mennonite Congregation—February 19, 2012

The book of Revelation is a mystery, right? Scary, intimidating, fantastic, wacky, off-putting—maybe, also, fascinating and even inspiring. I think it’s worth wrestling with, and it may even have special importance for us as we who live today in the center of the world’s one great superpower.

When we take up Revelation, though, just like any other religious text, so much depends on what we are looking for. The date of the rapture and the identity of the Antichrist (ala the Left Behind books)? Or the lunatic ravings of a hallucinating first-century fanatic (that’s what D. H. Lawrence thought)? Or words of encouragement in face of a vicious authoritarian state (like South African theologian Allan Boesak 30 years ago)? Or a challenge to American imperialism (the great American prophet of the 1960s and 70s William Stringfellow)?

And what kind of God do we expect to find “revealed” in this book? We all tend to try to find what will reinforce our already existing beliefs. We don’t always look very kindly toward images and ideas that threaten what we think we know. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from the social thinker John Kenneth Galbraith: “Sometimes we face a choice, do we change our minds or do we prove that we don’t need to. When faced with such a choice, most of us most of the time get busy with the proof.” Continue reading

A refreshing reading of Revelation

A review of Nelson Kraybill. Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation (Brazos Press, 2010).

Ted Grimsrud—published in The Conrad Grebel Review 29. 3 (Fall 2011), 107-109

Nelson Kraybill, New Testament scholar, former missionary in Europe, former president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and currently pastor at Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, has written a fine book that displays abilities honed in each of his roles just mentioned.

Apocalypse and Allegiance combines solid scholarship, an accessible style, theological depth, spiritual encouragement, and social critique. Kraybill packs an impressive amount of content in a relatively small space, addressing both general readers and scholars with a refreshing perspective on the book of Revelation.

Kraybill’s scholarly strength is his understanding of the historical setting for the book of Revelation, with particular expertise in political and economic dynamics. So we get information and visuals that put us back into Revelation’s first century environment.

In particular, Kraybill does an excellent job in presenting Revelation as resistance literature that challenges the imperial ambitions of Rome with a vision of a humane, peaceable alternative politics. And, to the reader’s benefit, Kraybill does not simply describe a fascinating ancient document but also makes perceptive applications to the present day. Continue reading