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By: Paul Emerson

A recent news report in an Anabaptist publication reported that a Mennonite educator had left a Mennonite institution to take a similar post in an American Baptist institution. The news item was particularly noted by this writer because of the heritage from which he comes.

The American Baptist churches, formally the American Baptist Convention, and before that the Northern Baptist Convention, is the theologically liberal wing of the Baptist family. The present writer came to the Anabaptist family from the conservative wing of the Baptist family in 1984. This writer’s family had been Baptists for over 200 years, tracing their church family back to England. They were battle weary from the conservative versus liberal doctrinal struggles of the late nineteenth century continuing through much of the twentieth century.

The writer’s immediate family supported a break from the Northern Baptist Convention in the early twentieth century—a break which caused much painful interaction within the extended family. This writer well remembers heated discussions between his father and his uncle. This uncle was a minister in the Northern Baptist Convention, and the writer’s father was a lay leader in a congregation that had separated from the convention. The uncle was heard to say that it was just fine for a simple plowboy like this writer’s father to believe the Bible, the exclusivity of the Gospel, the miracles of Jesus, and the literal account of Creation, but the educated uncle knew better than that. No educated person with sophistication could rest his faith in such simplicities. Such attitudes still persist in most liberal Baptist circles, but they might not be so blatantly expressed. They are more hidden today than they were sixty years ago.

The point of the proceeding is this: The previously mentioned educator is apparently comfortable associating himself with a non-Mennonite theological group. Could it be that he is making no change at all? Could it be that he and the Mennonite institution he served have already left historic Anabaptist principles? Could it be that the basic doctrines of Christianity have been cast aside? If so, he is making no change at all by moving from one post-Christian, post-Anabaptist institution to another post-Christian institution that is part of a group that long ago left its Biblical moorings.

The historical perspective on all this seems to demonstrate that the mainline Mennonite body is following the same trajectory that others have followed in the past. Over time bureaucrats who often tend toward theological liberalism gradually gain control of the machinery of a denomination. The grass roots of the denomination wake up one morning and find that they are on the outside looking in. That wakeup call came to the Mennonite family at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1983, where an attempt was made to censor the previous Sword and Trumpet editor for proclaiming the truth. It was much too late for many who had been lulled into apostate sleep by a fake gospel. For northern Baptists that wakeup call came in 1907, and it was also too late for those who truly intended full faithfulness to the Bible. The liberal battle cry of “No creed but Christ” was a cop-out to avoid full submission to the Scriptures. So it is today. Christ cannot be truly known apart from the Scriptures. The Scriptures are to be acknowledged as completely trustworthy.

To continue full fellowship with a body that refuses to endorse the inerrancy and authority of the Bible is folly and will slowly pull one away from Christ and into the quicksand of total unbelief.

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