Theological Education and The Genius of Brethrenism -- By: Joseph R. Shultz

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 02:0 (NA 1969)
Article: Theological Education and The Genius of Brethrenism
Author: Joseph R. Shultz

Theological Education and The Genius
of Brethrenism

Joseph R. Shultz

This is a response to “The Genius of Brethrenism”

It is a privilege and pleasure to respond to Dr. Ronk’s article “The Genius of Brethrenism.” The supreme value of this research and writing is in the fact that it is the work of a man who has both lived it since the beginning of the modern movement and still loves it. There is inherent value in his seeking to define the life, mind, and mission of The Brethren Church in an ecumenical age when all established doctrines and principles are being questioned. It is most relevant for even those who are in full accord with the Church to excavate and examine the foundations in order to reaffirm the faith and determine the nature of mission for the twenty-first century.

Before I seek to develop the implication of this article for theological education, I would want to examine certain emphases in the article. First of all, it would be necessary to qualify the entire approach of placing Brethrenism in the context of Pietism. In recent years many good articles have been written concerning the origins of Brethrenism in relation to Pietism, the Reformed, and Anabaptism. The weight of evidence would force us to do no less than consider that Brethrenism at best was eclectic and did not emanate from one pure stream. The very fact that it organized itself into a church is a strong indication that Anabaptism had a significant influence among its early members. It is undoubtedly true that Brethrenism does have a strong element of Pietism. However, there is also abundant evidence even today that Brethrenism was also influenced by many aspects in the movement of the Radical Reformation.

Secondly, Dr. Ronk’s statement concerning the mission of the church is far too restrictive. The statement, “The considered

Brethren mission to practice and teach apostolic doctrines of the sacraments was the only justification for creating a new and distinctive church fellowship,” is not documented. Further, “It is the conviction of this writer that the only justification for the continuance of this church fellowship is to practice and teach the same distinctives as the founding fathers did” is far too restrictive and tends to sacerdotalism and religious legalism.

The reverse side of these statements necessarily reads that other churches are not practicing the “Apostolic doctrines of the sacraments.” This is most difficult to demonstrate from either a traditional or exegetical view point. The church historian Dr. Donald Durnbaugh clearly demonstrates that one of the primary principles for the origin of the Believers’ Church was the “fall of the Churc...

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