Dear Direction editors:
Re: July 1981 issue of Direction.
The analysis of influences on Mennonite Brethren theology was both interesting and enlightening.
With an issue devoted to this topic framed in a somewhat negative tone about the influences from outside the Anabaptist circle it might be in place to suggest an article or a series outlining the contributions from others. While we may have been and are vulnerable (suggesting it is bad) to such influences we might look at the positive side of such influences. From the particular experience of this writer the following might be suggested for starters.
A Calvinist emphasis on the adequacy of God and assurance of salvation. The Mennonite Brethren circles in which I gained my early theology were so steeped in Arminianism that stories abounded of deathbed terror due to lack of assurance of salvation.
An emphasis on expository preaching. I have heard expositors among us, e.g., F. C. Peters, G. W. Peters, but it seems to me topical preaching is much more popular. One has to go to non M.B. evangelical churches to hear the teaching ministry that spends long periods of time in teaching the great books of Bible doctrine. In our history, expositors like Ironside and DeHann have had a profound influence.
This was a particularly beneficial influence when the anti-intellectualism of our rural heritage honored simplistic preaching. The influence of North Western College, Moody Bible Institute and certain model expositors could be chronicled.
A thrust for evangelism when we were stuck in ethnic isolation and small town preservation of values and fear of moving beyond our bounds.
Cooperation with evangelical churches has both taught and challenged Mennonite Brethren as well as provided an outlet for our energies. Evangelicalism thus provided a realm of cooperation broader than our own circles. It has often taken the form of city wide crusades or other evangelistic efforts. It is now symbolized by the National Association of Evangelicals but predates that organization.
Mennonite Brethren reared workers are active in independent missions, para-church agencies, and every stripe of evangelical church across North America. This indicates several things: these agencies have provided a ministry in places where our denominational energies sometimes could not take us, they provided opportunities for service which we had not exploited. It also shows that Mennonite Brethren churches have produced willing and able workers who get involved rather than sit idly by when they move to an area where we may not have planned a church. The negative fact that many Mennonite Brethren choose other evangelical churches in cities where there are M.B. churches needs research and analysis.
Evangelical theology has provided a continuing call to biblical faithfulness and loyalty to Christ when we have become engrossed in our ethnic narrowness and denominational self-preservation. The church must always be larger than any group. Mennonite Brethren as well as every other denominational grouping need to hear that warning. The current emphasis on searching out our roots needs the tempering effect of other evangelicals reminding us about the broader scope of the church.
Loyal J. Martin