The Genius of Brethrenism -- By: Albert T. Ronk

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 02:0 (NA 1969)
Article: The Genius of Brethrenism
Author: Albert T. Ronk


The Genius of Brethrenism

Albert T. Ronk

The conceptual use of Brethrenism in this theme-title does not imply disparagement as do some words suffixed with -ism. The basic word carries connotations which alone invest it with dignity. Moreover, the title words in combination are so germane to the theme that the subject is introduced forthwith. This analysis sets itself to disclose the characteristics of Brethrenism as represented in the Brethren movement originating in the German Palatinate in 1708.

Defining it in general, Brethrenism is a characteristic of the true Church from its beginning. It issues from the life and teachings of Jesus. Centuries of time and multitudes of heretical movements have come and gone but the stream of truth, and the holy brotherhood in Christ—true brotherhood—flow on unerringly toward the unknown seas of eternity. The problem of each individual and movement is to be in the stream of both the Truth and the Christian Brotherhood.

A strong indication of some characteristics the Brethrenism of the Schwarzenau Brethren assumed may be gathered from the time and place of their origin. The beginning of the eighteenth century in Germany found the religious atmosphere under a strong challenge of pietistic activity. The developing pietism was the result of Philip Jacob Spener’s call for reform in the state churches. His plea was one for renewal of spiritual life and personal piety. His appeal was to those who wanted to be Christians with all earnestness. August Herman Francke, somewhat younger but a co-worker with Spener, had experienced a sharp regeneration in conversion. His appeal was to those who would wrestle in repentance to a clear break with the world.

It may be denied that Alexander Mack and his little band at Schwarzenau were actually pietists. It is certain that the organization effected in 1708 was not a conventicle of the pietistic

movement. Yet, they were separatists, and were surrounded with such strong pietistic teaching and activity that they expressed pietistic ideas in their meager writings yet extant. Alexander Mack wrote:

True believers and lovers of the Lord Jesus always have their eye singly and strictly directed to their Lord and Master in all things; they wish to follow and obey him in all commands he has given them, and showed them with his own example; and thus they learn in their simplicity to understand the, mind of the Master, even in the very smallest matters.1

When asked about the testimony of the Holy Scriptures and the leading of the Spirit of God, he replied:

“He that hath an ea...

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