Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Pacifist Reading of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective [A paper proposal]

[Ted Grimsrud]

 [Back in June 2006, the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary hosted a conference reflecting on the 1995 Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (a few papers from the conference that were published in Mennonite Quarterly Review, July 2007, may be read here). I prepared a proposal for a paper that was accepted by the conference. However, after writing the proposal I learned that the conference would conflict with the birth of our first grandchild so I had to withdraw from the conference. Unfortunately, I never wrote the paper, either. I just recently rediscovered the proposal and found that I still like it and still hope to write such a paper. I post it here hoping to stimulate a bit of discussion and also in order to link with posts I have put up at my blog on “How Pacifists Should Read Christian Sources.”]

The Mennonite Church USA identifies itself as a peace church.  In many circles, were people to be asked what is most distinctive about Mennonites, the large majority would mention pacifism as one of MC USA’s most characteristic distinctives.  This paper will test this perception with a close reading of the first eight articles of the Confession from a “radical pacifist” perspective.  These first eight of the 24 total articles are clearly marked off as the core, overtly theological content of the Confession.

The paper will examine several other fairly recent Protestant Confessions for comparison’s sake.  None of these other Confessions are from traditions that understand themselves to be pacifist.

In what ways is the core theological content of these other confessions similar to and different from the Mennonite Confession?  Do we see evidence that the pacifist commitment of the Mennonite tradition leads to different articulations of this core content?  We will be testing the assumption that the difference between pacifist and non-pacifist theologies should be expected to lead to noticeably different articulations of theological basics. Continue reading

Confessions of a Birthright Imperialist

[This is the fourteenth 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

Shalom Mennonite—March 17, 2013—Revelation 18:1-24

When I started this series of sermons on Revelation, back in the mists of time, I talked about it as sermons on 21st century America according to the book of Revelation. As the series has unfolded, I’ve had a lot more to say about Revelation than the 21st century. But today I want to focus a little more on our present world.

I think Revelation, chapter 18, might speak more obviously to the 21st century than anything else we have considered thus far. This chapter focuses on a critique of the great city, called here Babylon—probably with Rome in mind, but also most other imperial capital cities ever since. John challenges his first readers with how they think about the empire they are part of. As such, I think Revelation, chapter 18 works as a good challenge for us today to think about how we feel about our empire.

Reading Revelation 18 as Americans

So, let’s start with an exercise. As I read Revelation, chapter 18, let the imagery stimulate you to reflect on how you feel about being part of our nation. What here maybe rings a bell or triggers a thought? What parallels between ancient Rome and present-day America are suggested by this vision? Continue reading

Revelation Notes (chapter 18)

Ted Grimsrud

[See notes on Revelation 17]

Revelation 18 continues the envisioning of God’s work of transformation, from Babylon to New Jerusalem.  In Revelation 17, we read of Babylon’s comeuppance. At the end of chapter 16, the seventh of the full out plagues had been visited upon the city Babylon. The greatest earthquake the world has ever known splits Babylon into three parts. A loud voice, presumably God’s, had cried out: “It is done!” (16:17). Yet, the visions John reports are far from over.

Chapter 17 focuses on what happens to Babylon—a rather gruesome picture. However, we should not think of this picture as a prediction of what will happen in the future—rather the vision is simply part of Revelation’s broader message about our purpose (or “end”). When read in context, then, chapter 17’s vision actually is part of the bigger movement the book portrays of movement toward the New Jerusalem. In a paradoxical sense, the “destruction” of Babylon might actually be its transformation—or, at least, the transformation of the human city from Babylon to New Jerusalem.

Babylon falls, crushed by the self-destructiveness of its ways. But in the destruction lies the seeds of the city’s hope. Babylon is “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17:6)—”blood” that links the witnesses with Jesus. That is, the “blood” of self-giving love that leads to Babylon’s downfall, the destruction of the three great Powers of evil (dragon, beast, and false prophet), and the re-creation of Jerusalem as a city of healing. The healing, as we will see, is not only for the faithful witnesses but also for the kings of the earth and the nations.

First, though, the destruction of Babylon requires more attention. So John gives us another vision in chapter 18, also of the destruction of Babylon but from a slightly different angle.

Revelation 18:1-3

The vision features a different angel than the angel of chapter 17 who was one of the seven angels who had poured out the plague bowls in chapter 16. It begins with an assertion that indeed “Babylon the great” has met its doom. Instead of being a place of beauty and power, a true city of the gods, Babylon is actually pretty disgusting, a home for demons, foul spirits, foul birds, and foul and hateful beasts. Continue reading