In this issue A. J. Klassen presents a historical survey of the attitudes toward Scripture which have characterized the Mennonite Brethren Church. As background for this survey, he outlines the earlier Anabaptist-Mennonite use of the Bible.
Both groups stressed the importance of open discussions, believing that the Holy Spirit moves most clearly when brethren search together. Moreover, the early Mennonite Brethren deliberately identified themselves with the Anabaptist heritage.
And yet, the two accounts seem, to this reader, to breathe a different spirit. Behind the Anabaptist documents lies a spirit of adventurous discipleship which was in keeping with the revolutionary character of the sixteenth century. Behind the M.B. materials breathes the gentler “warm Christian spirit” of nineteenth century pietism. The Anabaptist Scripture wielders were “overwhelming and aggravating.” An M.B. leader urged that everything divisive or personal should be excluded from Bible discussions: “No other purpose but inspiration should determine the chapter or theme for discussion.”
It is a truism that each age tends to find in Scriptures that which is appropriate to the spirit of that time. And that is not wholly bad. But it is a danger. And as the writer states, a high view of Scripture is no guarantee of a proper use of it. This raises disturbing questions. In what spirit or spirits did our fathers read? What determines the questions we ask and the methods we use? How should we read?
Dean Klassen has not addressed himself to the how of reading in this article. What he has done is to lay a foundation for the raising of these harder questions. He has promised to address himself to such questions in another article. We urge other readers to ponder these issues and to use the pages of Direction to help the rest of us learn what it means to rightly divide the word of truth.