The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism: A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirk Philips. By John D. Rempel. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 1993. Pp. 272. $29.95 U.S. $38.95 Can.
In the conclusion to his groundbreaking study, John Rempel notes that he has tried to "think the thoughts and join in the emotions of Hubmaier, Marpeck, and Dirk" as well as to "critically distance" himself from the subjects of his study (197). Rempel has succeeded admirably in achieving his goal of empathetic yet critical study. His detailed analysis is a valuable and original contribution to Anabaptist scholarship; just as important, it brings a much needed historical referent to theological and liturgical discussions, particularly those taking place currently in Mennonite circles. Historians, theologians, pastors and all who are concerned with issues of theology and worship will be amply rewarded for time spent with this careful study.
The primary scholarly achievement of this work is its sophisticated theological analysis of the writings of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck and Dirk Philips, especially in regard to eucharistic questions. Such a study has never before been attempted. It leads Rempel to correct and nuance previously held generalizations, central among them the view that "all Anabaptist eucharistic teaching is derived from Zwingli" (33). The situation was considerably more complex than the received wisdom would have had us believe. Rempel's exploration of the relationship between christology and ecclesiology also is illuminating; it not only sheds light on sixteenth-century discussions but also provides a solid base for deeper theological reflection and the reconsideration of present ecclesial practice.
The study demonstrates significant differences in the christological positions of these three Anabaptist representatives--most markedly between Marpeck's emphasis on the humanity of Christ and Dirk's Melchiorite position, which emphasized Christ's "celestial flesh." As Rempel demonstrates, christological positions impinged upon eucharistic doctrine and practice in complex (and not always logical) ways. Dirk, for example, backed away from the logical consequences of his christology in order to protect his ecclesiological commitments. The heart of Rempel's work explores these historical cases and brings to light the many nuances of sixteenth-century discussions. The contemporary relevance of the sixteenth-century case studies is a secondary concern for Rempel but forms an important sub-text throughout. It is interesting to note, for example, that (despite past "recoveries" of Anabaptism) contemporary theological work among Mennonites has not engaged the sixteenth-century Anabaptist conversations in any serious way (205-09). One can only hope that, as a result of Rempel's work, future theological work among Mennonites will take the Anabaptist tradition and discussion seriously as a beginning point for further reflection.
An approach which compares and contrasts inevitably points to nuance and difference; such observations aid our understanding of the complexities of the sixteenth-century movement. But Rempel's study also points to fundamental commonalities that underlay Anabaptist differences. Rempel notes that Anabap-tist eucharistic theology was determined most generally by "the tendency toward spiritualism" (199). The Anabaptist movement as a whole critiqued the medieval sacramental tradition, agreeing that "the relationship between God and humanity is unmediated" and that "grace cannot be transmitted by material means" (199). The emphasis fell, rather, on the direct, unmediated work of the Spirit within individuals and their response of faith. From this "spiritualist" root adult baptism emerged, as an outward response to the inward ("spiritual") event of faith. As a critique of the sacramental view this spiritualism was successful, but it left a profound theological dilemma at the heart of the movement, to which Rempel returns again and again in his analysis. The fact that this same dilemma has been inherited by the faith children of the Anabaptists gives particular contemporary relevance to Rempel's observations.
If the relationship between God and humanity is directly "spiritual" and incapable of being mediated by material elements, what significance is to be given to the material elements of water, bread and wine? If the material elements are essentially disconnected from the "inner" spiritual events to which they ostensibly point, then one can quite easily dispense with the outward elements altogether with no particular loss although the church would again become "invisible." If, on the other hand, the ordinances are celebrated "because the Lord commanded them to be observed," the result is a formal observance of "obedience" but devoid of any essential connection with the divine reality; baptism and the Supper would then be dutifully performed but devoid of grace.
As Rempel notes throughout, all Anabaptists were caught between the poles of a spiritualist critique of the sacramental claims of the medieval church and the felt need to maintain a very high ecclesiology. An emphasis on the "outward ceremonies" by which the church was made visible in the world seemed to threaten a move back toward the sacramental--as if, for example, the waters of baptism or a worthy celebration of the Supper could mediate salvation. On the other hand, a devaluation of the "outward ceremonies" threatened to make the church invisible altogether--as in the step taken by a good number of former Anabaptists who came to embrace a full-blown spiritualist position (e.g., Bünderli, Entfelder, Kautz, Obbe Philips).
The spiritualist approach questioned the "mediating" potential of material elements, but it also was premised upon an optimistic anthropology and a very high view of regeneration by the direct activity of the Spirit, with a consequent demand for a visibly holy life in the world by those so regenerated. Ecclesiological practice in Anabaptism was often defended in terms of obedience to dominical commands (go forth, preach, baptize), but, most fundamentally, the pure, visible church emerged from the regenerative activity of the Holy Spirit. Anabaptism, as Rempel notes, regarded the church as the prolongation of Christ's earthly ministry; it was an extension of the incarnation. The church as "the Body of Christ" was a literal description for the Anabaptists, not a metaphor. Anabaptists demanded a material witness to the spiritual but, in a significant reversal of the sacramental tradition, that was to be a response to grace rather than a means of grace.
Speaking christologically and ecclesiologically, if the emphasis falls on the church as the material prolongation of the incarnate Christ, there is a danger of overemphasizing human response at the expense of God's grace. On the other hand, if the emphasis falls on the "heavenly" or spiritual Christ over the incarnate Christ, the ethical force of his earthly life and walk can be seriously weakened. In an interesting concluding comment, Rempel notes that one result of the recent recovery of the "Anabaptist Vision" has been to highlight precisely the ethical and ecclesial dimensions of the eucharistic tradition: "The current emphasis is on the Supper as an act of remembrance and as a sign of community. In both cases, the focus has been on human actions" (224-25).
Rempel's conclusions with respect to contemporary Mennonite church practice are guarded--in the view of this reviewer, more guarded than they need to be. But clearly Rempel finds Pilgram Marpeck's christology and eucharistic theology the most congenial and potentially fruitful of the three Anabaptist views surveyed; in particular, Rempel commends Marpeck's view as a positive Anabaptist contribution to the ongoing ecumenical discussion (226). It was Marpeck who recognized the inherent dilemmas in the Anabaptist view and who best overcame them. Rempel summarizes: "Christ, in both his natures, is at work in the world. Therefore, he can be present and is present in the Supper, giving us himself. Marpeck preserved the event of bread and wine as the concrete and paradigmatic locus of this presence" (215). Or again, a few pages later: "Through the unity of external and internal, we are given a communion with the body and blood of Christ, that is, a gracious encounter with God as he took flesh in Christ" (217).
John Rempel has demonstrated the extent to which Anabaptist christology, eucharistic theology, anthropology and ecclesiology were multifaceted and in a dynamic process of change during the sixteenth century. By pointing contemporary Mennonite discussions back again to the sixteenth century, Rempel has done the church an important service. Revisiting those discussions empathetically, yet critically, is a most fruitful way to initiate and "locate" contemporary reflections. Rempel has surveyed some of the central tributaries that fed into our theological tradition with loving care. And he has shown us that their waters ran deeper than we imagined.
Conrad Grebel College ARNOLD SNYDER
Plain and Amish: An Alternative to Modern Pessimism. By Bernd G. Längin. Trans. by Jack Thiessen from Die Amischen. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 1994. Pp. 416. $15.95.
Bernd Längin has clearly spent a good deal of time in the company of Amish. His observations take us well beyond the platitudes and stereotypes of a more superficial genre to create a description of earnest but necessarily flawed human beings. His portrait includes Amish boys practicing karate and smoking cigarettes, Amish men falling asleep in church, and Amish women fighting depression in less than satisfying marriages.
He is able to invoke the lives of personal acquaintances to illustrate the shift from farming to previously unusual or even proscribed occupations. He can report on the lack of consensus within a church district, many of whose members he knows, over the use of the "kerosene-operated" refrigerator and other technologies. In short, Längin demonstrates an admirable familiarity with Amish life as it is actually lived. Längin is particularly strong in his detailed descriptions of community life: visiting, communion services, baptisms, weddings, etc.
Unfortunately, the lengthy sections of more abstract commentary on Amish life seem unconnected to the author's own observations. He serves up the kind of hackneyed conclusions one might expect from a reporter after a weekend visit. For example, we cannot take seriously Längin's contentions that "the migration of the Amish to the United States brought no break in style of life" or that "they have barely changed" or that "all the Amish together are copies of simple, deeply religious Alemannic farmers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries." Likewise, the author's references to "the somber ways of the Amish passed down with the genetic code of their Alemannic heritage" or to the Amish home being "the refuge of the family for a totally pious life" or the claim that "they take everything serenely in stride" are not only unsupportable but are actually inconsistent with Längin's own first-hand observations.
These contradictions are magnified by problems in organization and style. Within and between chapters the author hops from one topic to another, guided by no evident structure or rationale. In a typical two-page section the discussion ranges from buggies to the division of church districts, from land prices to typical Amish names and The Budget. These topics crop up again in other contexts but there is no way to connect the references, short of taking copious notes and organizing them oneself. There is an "Index of Persons" and an "Index of Places" but no subject index. Four chapters on European roots and the early American experience are interspersed in no discernable pattern with six chapters on various aspects of life in Allen County, Indiana. Why the relatively small and in some ways unusual Allen County settlement should be used as the basis for the author's generalizations about the Amish is not explained, other than by a warm reception he received there.
Längin's verbose style frequently meanders into the downright obtuse. What is the meaning of: "Thus they do not have to change as long as their insular style of life does not force them to do so and as long as God does not wish it otherwise"? Or: "A tourist bus has set its sights on Grabill, though it has long since ceased to be a secret best seller." There may be problems with translation (the book is a translation of Die Amischen: Vom Geheimnis des einfachen Lebens, published in 1990); but that will be little consolation to the reader who faces slow going through densely written asides and digressions.
On the subject of tourism Längin displays an outraged self-righteousness on behalf of the Amish: "Many a believer has sustained inner hurts from interactions with the worldly and from the confusing abomination of tourism." And later: "The snap-shooter photographers frequently zero in on the Amish like a big-game hunter on his quarry. They are a plague. . . ." How this criticism squares with Längin's own snap-shooting (the book is amply illustrated with photographs of the Amish taken by the author) is not clear, other than Längin's reassurance that they were "not posed."
At one point Längin dresses in Amish-style clothes and drives an Amish buggy into the town of Grabill, Indiana. There he is offended by the camera-toting tourists wearing gaudy Bermuda shorts who take him for an Amishman and attempt to engage him in conversation. But there is something surreal about this tableau of an Amish impostor being annoyed by the pestering of naive tourists. Just who is entitled to play the role of injured innocent here?
Readers may be intrigued by the book's subtitle, "An Alternative to Modern Pessimism," but may be disappointed by the lack of any systematic treatment of that theme. The Amish way of life and religious philosophy implicitly represent such an alternative but the author does not make the kind of explicit connections that, by virtue of his selecting that theme to be featured in the title, a reader might reasonably expect.
Several substantive errors might not have survived a more thorough editing. Examples include a reference to "church-run" schools and the hypothesis that as one moves west the Amish churches tend to become more conservative. In a similar vein: "Today the worldly who want to join the Amish church [sic] are mainly those who have worked on Amish farms and fall in love with one of their fair maidens." There is little evidence (and Längin offers none) that the small, albeit steady, stream of "seekers" that approach the Amish each year are motivated to do so by love of their "fair maidens."
Plain and Amish is valuable because it provides the reader with what might be called in-depth glimpses of Amish life. The uninitiated will come away with some vivid impressions and images of what an Amish home or an Amish church service is like. This is an unabashedly subjective book. That is its strength as well as its weakness.
Alfred University, Alfred, New York MARC A.OLSHAN
The Limits of Perfection: Conversations with J. Lawrence Burkholder. Edited by Rodney J. Sawatsky and Scott Holland. Waterloo: Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies. 1993. Pp. ix + 137. $13 Can. $10 U.S.
According to the editors, this book is an apology for J. Lawrence Burkholder's thought. They tell us that Burkholder was silenced by the ideologues of the recovery of the Anabaptist vision. Appealing to their progenitors (the generation of Mennonite scholars preceding Burkholder), scholars of his own generation have considered his thought "heretical" and hence have placed it outside the Mennonite mainstream. The editors hope that this will not occur with the current generation of Mennonites.
The bulk of the book is a long and interesting narration by Burkholder of his struggle with being a Christian in a world of sin and evil. From his friendship with a World War II soldier, to his involvement in relief work with MCC in China and later with the United Nations, to his role as president of Goshen College, Burkholder was not able to let go of either his Christian conviction that Jesus calls us to be loving, kind and peaceful or of his awareness that in this "dog eat dog" world power and violence are necessary for survival. This struggle has caused him not only personal anguish but also grave doubts about the dominance of the "Anabaptist Recovery" and the "Concern" versions of Mennonite self-understanding.
According to Burkholder, what Mennonite thinking desperately lacks, especially in the modern world, is a theology of power and justice to guide our political, social and professional involvements. Our moral thinking is primarily sectarian. Yet God is not only concerned for a few secluded, pious, perfectionist Christ-followers; God is concerned for all the people of this world. Christians therefore belong in the world.
"Responsibility" and "effectiveness" should not be bad words for Christians. We cannot and should not retreat from history or shy away from involvement in, and even control of, its direction. To feed a hungry child is to exercise power; by definition it entails responsibility for and control of history. Moreover, implicitly we all know this, which is why in our business lives, educational institutions and work place we naturally accept our complicity in the affairs of history.
But our theologians tell us something else. "Politics"--as in The Politics of Jesus--has been euphemized and redefined as "prophecy" in order to be able to say we are "politically involved." But this is merely a rationale for retaining our sectarian identity. Moral ambiguities due to sin, says Burkholder, are just as prevalent within the church as they are in the world. In these respects Burkholder argues that it is a mistake for Mennonites to attempt to extricate themselves from the theology of the Niebuhrs. They were right about many things, but especially about the pervasiveness of sin and hence the necessity of compromise.
The rest of the book contains three essays, five "conversational responses" and a selected bibliography. Rod Sawatsky's essay analyzes and applauds Burkholder's thought from the paradoxical perspective of a "Sectarian Realist." He says about Burkholder that "he does not simply chastise Mennonites on the basis of an idealistic `ought' but seeks to understand why sociologically that ideal cannot be attained under modern conditions. He remains a sectarian, however chastened, as well as a realist" (61).
J. Denny Weaver accepts Burkholder's challenge of social responsibility but rejects the notion that we are forced to choose between the traditional sectarian and church-type ecclesiologies. He argues that the issue of social responsibility is fundamentally about the nature of the church and that the "Socially Active Alternative Community," his proposed third option, falls into neither the church nor sect camp. Weaver, speaking out of the tradition which Burkholder attacks, suggests that Burkholder has not fully understood the ecclesiology of the Anabaptists. He is critical of Burkholder for not spelling out the ecclesiological implications of his discomfort with current Mennonite peace theology, arguing that when that job is done there are ways of accommodating Burkholder's concerns for greater responsibility in the world without giving up a believers' church ecclesiology. An alternative community can indeed be socially active.
A. James Reimer places Burkholder's theology in relation to the thought of John Howard Yoder and Gordon Kaufman. He suggests that each represents a distinct Mennonite ethical paradigm. He reviews Burkholder's effort to integrate experience and the Sermon of the Mount and how that led him to a Niebuhrian understanding of the relationship of love, power and justice. His own proposal for a "Theocentric Christology" attempts to refine some of Burkholder's concerns. Reimer suggests that this process necessitates a particular reading of the Bible, early church history, Anabaptist history and modern and postmodern culture. He especially emphasizes, apparently over against mainstream Mennonite ecclesiology, that "there never has been a pure church within history, a pristine Christian community" (107). He asks that we therefore not "demonize a whole era with one grand generalization: the Constantinianization of the church" (106). He asks readers to open themselves anew to the classical view of God by rereading the Bible and classical and Anabaptist history.
The conversational responses are very brief but insightful. Ted Koontz finds much less disagreement between the idealists and Burkholder on applying discipleship ethics to the world "out there." Both agree that it cannot be done. But there is a real debate about how to apply Christian ethics within Christian institutions like Goshen College. Koontz questions Burkholder's claim that all the problems of the world are also present in Goshen College and suggests that this might be the crucial test of Mennonite ethics. N. Gerald Shenk reflects briefly on Burkholder's contributions in relation to the evils of events like Sarajevo. Gordon Kaufman wonders why Burkholder did not question the absoluteness of the normativity of Jesus, since Burkholder's problems originate there. Such questioning would have let him avoid the "compromise trap" which is not helpful in resolving moral issues. Duane Friesen lauds Burkholder's approach to ethics, over against Stanley Hauerwas' emphasis on character ethics and calling for "the church be the church." Then Friesen suggests two critiques of Burkholder: that he advances a docetic, disembodied Jesus, (Friesen prefers Walter Wink's aggressive Jesus) and that Burkholder's ethics in the end uphold just war ethics and not pacifism. Friesen advocates that "the norm for the state is nonviolence" (128) because God as revealed in Christ does not have two moral wills. J. Richard Burkholder concludes the conversational responses with his own biographical reflections in relation to Burkholder's. He raises two important questions: Which Jesus are we following and to whom are Christians responsible? Although he appreciates Burkholder's struggle with ambiguity, "Christian realism" is not the only alternative to the Anabaptist recoverers.
This book raises important issues for Mennonite life, even though they are as old as Christianity itself. Burkholder is of course right in suggesting that modern Mennonites do not take sin seriously enough. He is also right that the reductionistic tendency of the modern "recoverers" is far from adequate. But does it really follow from such acknowledgements that "compromise" and "responsibility" should become the new Mennonite watchwords? I am not at all convinced of that. Compromise assumes that we can clearly see both the ideal and the limits of the world. In point of fact, we cannot see that clearly at all. Perhaps Burkholder and his defenders are not taking sin and ambiguity as seriously as they appear to be.
The central issue of this book--how to be Christian in this world--deserves to be further debated. I am not convinced that stating the matter in terms of a polarity of two irreconcilable paradigms is helpful other than perhaps for purposes of historical clarity. But having established that, we must struggle together with the matter of how we who regularly worship a transcendent, gracious God and simultaneously live in a sinful, evil world can faithfully and responsibly live as Christians, whether as teachers, farmers, politicians, administrators, executives or whatever. Although this book would have benefitted from an additional "editorial read," it makes a good start in raising matters of crucial importance to the Christian life. Let us hope the discussion continues.
Canadian Mennonite Bible College HARRY HUEBNER
Clerical Discipline and the Rural Reformation: The Synod in Zurich, 1532-1580. By Bruce Gordon. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang. 1993. Pp. 297. $48.80.
Bruce Gordon's book is a study of the workings of the synod in Zurich in disciplining its clergy from 1532 to 1580. While not specifically a work on Heinrich Bullinger, it is the fourth study in English that focuses on his leadership in Zurich. The book has three main chapters, plus an introduction, a conclusion, a prosopography, a bibliography and an index.
Gordon defines his task as analyzing the synod's role in enforcing discipline among the clergy of Zurich, particularly discipline of the rural clergy by urban clerical leaders and magistrates. In Chapter 2, the first major chapter, Gordon deals with the theological and historical background of the synod in Zurich. After a discussion of the synod's late medieval background, he discusses its actual founding in Zurich within the theological context of reform in the thought of Zwingli. The final portion of the chapter deals with Bullinger's understanding of discipline and of the synod.
The third chapter focuses on the synod's structure and composition. After the initial meeting of a Zwinglian synod in April 1528, the synod met twice a year until Zurich's disastrous defeat at Kappel in 1531. In 1532, during the confusion following that defeat, Bullinger drafted ordinances that gave the synod its institutional form. Gordon analyzes these ordinances, discusses the synod's records, describes its agenda and explains its relationship to other structures of the Zurich church. The synod's purpose was to preserve the unity of the church through regular admonition and discipline of the clergy. The control of the Reformation in the countryside was especially important, and the Zurich magistrates hoped to accomplish this by controlling the ministers.
The fourth chapter, entitled "Disciplinary Cases in the Synod," delves into actual cases. Clergy were examined in two areas: doctrine and morality. The synod was the theological and practical overseer of the Zurich church. Though part of its role was correcting erring ministers, perhaps its most important function was pedagogical. Heresy was not a great problem, but ignorance was, particularly among the rural clergy. The synod also supervised the ministers in their role as overseers of the moral life of the community. In this role, the minister acted as an agent of the magistrates, often providing information in cases before the morals court (Ehegericht).
When it came to matters of doctrine and worship, the synod's task in the rural areas was complicated by the ignorance of the clergy, many of whom had been priests prior to the Reformation. One major task was to adjudicate conflicts between congregations and their ministers, particularly with regard to the worship service. Gordon deals with these issues along with the importance of the catechism, the care of the poor and the care and visitation of those who were ill.
The second general concern of the synod was with the moral conduct of the ministers. Gordon uses an anecdotal approach to the morals cases addressed by the synod. This gives the reader an interesting view into clerical life in Zurich in the sixteenth century.
Gordon's study drives home the point that the Reformation was a city phenomenon imposed on the countryside where a residue of Catholics and groups of Anabaptists resisted the official Reformation. Frequently the Reformed minister was not easily accepted by people in rural areas because he was a representative of the magistrates in Zurich. Nonetheless, Gordon believes that the synod was largely successful because the theology of Zwingli and Bullinger was inclusive and the Zurich church was flexible.
This is a very useful and informative, if somewhat technical, study. Its span covers the crucial half-century from the early Reformation to the inception of orthodoxy in Zurich with the acceptance of the Genevan theology. The study is based on difficult archival sources as well as on a number of printed sources. Aside from the text's inclusion of numerous quotations in Latin and Swiss German, Gordon's book offers little to criticize and much to praise.
The University of Akron J. WAYNE BAKER
God's Call to Mission. By David W. Shenk. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 1994. Pp. 229. $10.95 U.S. $15.25 Can.
David W. Shenk grew up as the child of missionaries in Tanzania, East Africa. He graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and earned a doctorate in anthropology and religious studies education from New York University. David has been a church planter and pastor and is presently director of overseas ministries for Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM)--the organization he has served for over thirty years.
According to the book's introduction, God's Call to Mission
is not a defense of mission; it is a critique of insensitive mission. [It] is not an effort to prove the validity of mission. Rather, this book describes mission from the perspective of the Bible. This exploration hears the call for mission to engage cultures gently. It is a confession of faith in God's call to mission and a narrative of the church in mission (16).
While in many respects the book is a personal statement, its content was informed by the twenty-one affirmations of the "Manila Manifesto" of the Lausanne Covenant on world evangelism (reprinted as an appendix) and by "the Anabaptist heritage of the global Mennonite and Brethren in Christ denominations" (16). More specifically, it amplifies a thirteen-page statement of EMM's mission strategy (available on request from EMM, Salunga, Pa., 17538).
Addressed to the general reader interested in Christian missions, the book employs nontechnical language in a casual style while at the same time assuming the global awareness of a world traveler. Questions for discussion and reflection are appended to each chapter, together with suggested background scriptures. In the view of the author and his publisher, this makes the book equally suitable for use as a college text on world missions or as a study guide for a Sunday school class or congregational discussion group.
The thirteen chapters are grouped into three sections. Chapters 1-5 present a biblical foundation for mission; Chapters 6 and 7 survey the contemporary context of the global church; Chapters 8 through 13 describe some keys to congregational mission: ways churches can give authentic witness to Jesus' lordship within a pluralistic world; the four P's of fruitful mission (prayer, plan, praise and partnering); servant leadership that empowers the church for mission; practical ways whereby congregations can encourage generosity for mission; ways of sorting out which aspects of local culture should be included in church life and which should be excluded; and exemplary stories of indigenous churches engaged in socially conscious mission.
For a book addressed to a college-level audience, the author begins well. Students in my classes, as he suggests, are commonly uncomfortable with both personal and corporate involvement in missions because missionaries have often seemed arrogant about their own convictions and insensitive to the faith commitments of others. Both my students and I would agree with Shenk that today "mission should be gentle, sensitive to the needs and perspectives of others."
For this reviewer, Christian mission as described by Shenk seems to become gentler and more sensitive as the book proceeds from the earlier chapters to the later ones. Most successful in my view are Chapters 12 and 13, which share stories from African and Latin American settings that provide models that churches in the northern hemisphere would do well to imitate.
For example, the story of holistic mission among the Cuzco Quechua (Peru) reads, as Shenk suggests, like a new chapter in the biblical Acts. Likewise, Chapter 12 narrates stories of indigenous East African churches--Tanzanian Zanaki, Hamitic Somalis and Kenyan Maasai--illustrating how Christians in each society must discern for themselves what shape the gospel shall take in their particular cultural context. As these new indigenous churches go through such a process, Shenk says, it is "important that representatives from the global church be present as a sounding board" (203). What Shenk might also have said is that Christians in the northern hemisphere could benefit equally from the presence of global church representatives as our own church bodies struggle to find their way through the culture wars that now confront us.
Similarly, the many practical suggestions included in Chapters 8-11 and the excellent description of the church's contemporary global context (Chapters 6-7) will be helpful to anyone interested in learning from the example of Christians around the globe.
There are other elements of this book that I find less successful. First, Shenk's handling of missions history is far too gentle. Contrary to the impression given by author and publisher, the book contains no clear "critique of insensitive mission." The general reader will likely miss altogether Shenk's few critical words which I quote in full: "[In addition to] the positive contributions of the modern missionary movement, there has also been violation of people and cultures. There is no need to elaborate; ample books have been written about that deep wrong. Some of the critique is exaggerated; some is true" (123).
God's Call is a critique of Christian missions only for the reader already familiar with the ample documentation of the "deep wrong" to which Shenk alludes. These students of Christian missionary experience will be able to fashion their own critique by making the appropriate reader-supplied contrasts and comparisons between traditional missionary activity and Shenk's more culturally sensitive mission practice. My problem with Shenk's wholly rosy picture is that, for readers who are not missiologists, the past will hold no obvious lessons.
Second, I'm troubled by the many vignettes that seem to replay verbatim encounters Shenk has had over the years with a wide variety of intellectual sparring partners--seat mates on international flights, for example, where Shenk seems always to have gotten the best of his non-Christian adversary. Are these real conversations? How can they be so accurately remembered as to merit quotation marks around the words exchanged? I wonder how Shenk's protagonists may have remembered these conversations. Would they judge his stance to have been sensitive and gentle? Stories of this sort seem to me to illustrate well the arrogance of Western Christians about whom "ample books have been written."
Finally, in the opening chapter Shenk embraces a view of history borrowed from Arend Theodoor van Leeuwen's Christianity in World History (1964) that interprets the modern secular age as the outcome of the triumph of Judeo-Christian theology: "The concept of forward-looking secular human development is absent in all societies until they have been exposed to the Bible or to cultures which have been nurtured by biblical faith" (Shenk quoting van Leeuwen, 24).
This seems an odd anthropology for an Anabaptist to espouse. It is a viewpoint better suited to discussion than assertion since it seems to bless too easily any contemporary trend, any subordination of the non-Western to the Western. How different in its consequences is this doctrine from the Social Darwinism that sanctified the "deep wrong" of past missionary practice?
In God's Call to Mission David Shenk does us a favor by challenging the easy cultural relativism of the global tourist. Would that his critique of culturally insensitive missions were equally forceful.
Goshen College RONALD STUTZMAN
The Story of Low German & Plautdietsch: Tracing a Language Across the Globe. By Reuben Epp. Hillsboro, Kan.: The Reader's Press. 1993. Pp. 133. $12.95.
As the subtitle indicates, Reuben Epp traces the origin, the history and the linguistic development of the Low German language "across the globe," citing examples from diverse communities around the world. With data and observations based on extensive readings and on his native speaker experiences and personal involvement in Low German linguistic communities, Epp validates Low German as a bona fide language. He places its origin in the wide context of the Anglo-Saxon and other Lowland languages and follows its development in the Plautdietsch of the netherlandic Russian Mennonites, which he defines as "a Nether Prussian dialect of the Lower Saxon branch of Low German, laced with loan words from other languages and dialects" (96). Epp goes on to develop the descriptive aspects of Low German in their historical context.
One of Epp's motivations was to instill language pride and appreciation in the speakers of Plautdietsch. To create this appreciation, he offers etymologies arising from the cultural context and makes passionate, sometimes sweeping statements about the language. Under "Proud Facts" (115) he says: "In the Middle Ages Low German held greater international rank than did English." Or "Plautdietsch, as a member of the eastern Low German family of dialects, . . . ranks among the best in Low German." Then he adds that "Low German has a writing system . . . looked upon by scholars as 'quasi official' in rank"--meaning that Low German is a written language, not just a dialect.
Epp also emphasizes that Low German is a stable language spoken in diverse geographic areas and that it has remained relatively unchanged linguistically over the centuries. He maintains that it lends itself to refined, even poetic expressions. (Epp's point is well taken. He ably demonstrates that Plautdietsch is not only a vehicle for folk humor but also for expressing profound pathos and feelings in poetry and prose.)
In his attempt to promote pride, Epp sometimes stumbles into subjective nostalgia. For example, he attributes to Low German "certain unique, life sustaining qualities that seem to evade precise description," adding that "in this regard it seems different from other languages." But does not every language fulfill the linguistic needs of the speakers of that language community? Do not native speakers of any language feel that theirs is the language in which they can best express themselves? To suggest that one's own language has qualities that elevate it above other languages seems somewhat provincial, if not slightly nationalistic.
Epp is at his best when describing dialectal differences and linguistic shifts in the Low German communities in Europe, Russia and North America. He is especially interesting when focusing on distinctions between Chortitza and Molotschna Plautdietsch, which have retained their differences to this day. Epp believes that a side effect of these differences was that Molotschna speakers placed more value on their language and felt a certain "smugness" regarding their Plautdietsch as opposed to that spoken by Chortitzers. In the same context he attributes many Plautdietsch speakers' lack of respect for their language to their ignorance of the history and linguistic status of the language. While this may in part be true, this lack of respect probably results more from the outside pressure of the wider non-Plautdietsch environment, since no Plautdietsch speaker lives in a linguistically monolithic setting today.
Epp regrets that Mennonite educational institutions have not shown greater interest in "studies in the Low German language in which Menno Simons once wrote many of his works" (109). He questions "what motives lie behind such noninvolvement." The reviewer will let these institutions respond to this question on their own!
In this popularly written work the author communicates his own appreciation for his Low German language and heritage, a topic he has pursued for many years. Here he has brought together information on the interrelationship of Low German and English and the origin of Plautdietsch. He aspires "to present the history of Low German and its relationship to the English language in a way that readers will find interesting and enjoyable" (xiv). In this he has succeeded. Epp's work cites an impressive number of recognized language authorities and is thoroughly and meticulously documented in detailed end-of-chapter notes and bibliography useful to scholars intent on researching Low German. It is also good reading for the lay person interested in language.
Goshen College GERHARD REIMER
Discipleship. By J. Heinrich Arnold. Farmington, Pa.; Plough Publishing House. 1994. Pp. xxii + 282. $12.50.
J. Heinrich Arnold's central message in Discipleship revolves around the Anabaptist idea of Jesus and his kingdom, to which the following words speak eloquently:
Jesus is the kingdom of God. When he forgave sins, that was the kingdom of God. When he gathered his friends in unity, that was the kingdom of God. When he drove out demons and impure spirits, that was the kingdom of God. Every deed of his mission among men was the kingdom of God (272).
Arnold, in true Anabaptist fashion, also lifts Jesus above the intellectual constructs of this world:
The idea that Jesus brought a new philosophy or founded a religion is completely false. His person, his spirit, his cause, his healing, is not a philosophy, like that of the Greeks or Egyptians. He was and is a person, and it is he himself who meets us (206-07).
A third passage merits quotation as well, in light of the book's title: "Discipleship is not a question of our own doing; it is a matter of making room for God so that he can live in us" (v).
All the passages brought together in this volume are the words of Arnold, who, until his death in 1982, had been the head of the Hutterian Bruderhof groups descended from the movement begun in 1920 by his father Eberhard Arnold. The form and structure of the volume is the work of Hela Ehrlich and Christopher Zimmerman, who, with others, brought together isolated snippets and passages to create a highly readable volume. It is at once a genuine devotional book and a "theology" based upon what the Anabaptist scholar Robert Friedmann was wont to call "existential Christianity," that is, a Christianity that is conscious of being more than systematic theology and doctrine.
However, a theological overlay is very much part and parcel of Discipleship, thanks to the careful deductive work of the compilers.
The volume is divided into three sections, "The Disciple," "The Church" and "The Kingdom of God," which again reflects a solid, ongoing Anabaptist understanding of Christianity: taking seriously the individual's relationship to God and to fellow human beings (discipleship), locating the individual within the group (church) and reminding the reader that although the church and the kingdom of God are closely connected, they are not synonymous.
The "Introduction" notes that Arnold tended at times to be almost aggressively forthright: "There were those who felt he was too blunt. Yet it was precisely his simplicity that made his witness accessible to so many" (xv). Henri J. M. Nouwen in his "Foreword" notes approvingly that "Discipleship is a tough book" (ix).
Each reader will find passages that speak to the heart, others that are less striking and some that provoke disagreement. For example, I thought that the child-teenager's natural discovery of his or her sexuality was not fully taken into consideration (65).
Some passages that caught my eye have to do with the culture and tradition of the Bruderhof which emerged out of the German youth movement of the 1910s and 1920s (83-84); Arnold's view that 2 Cor. 12:7-9 is central for understanding personal discipleship (79); his awareness that imperfection and pain are also part of the Bruderhof experience (104, 105); and his clear link between love and joy (127).
Another provocative passage stated the Bruderhof desire "to react with strong emotion or excitement when God is attacked, when brothers and sisters are mistreated, or when the church is harmed" (208). When this reaction is combined with the fighting spirit of the Bruderhof's "Covenant of the Lord's Supper" (214-16), written by Heinrich Arnold and signed by all the members in 1975, which "declares war" twelve times against a host of evils round about, this attitude could lead--and probably has led--to a crusading or even a strident spirit which is unwilling to listen or to engage in a two-way conversation. Of course, the Apostle Paul used such warrior language, and Jesus could also be sharp, as in the cleansing of the Temple. Even so, the symbols and spirit one chooses need to be in tune with the basic message one desires to emulate, which for the Bruderhof movement revolves around Christ's love and joy.
Every human encounter includes a tension between individual rights and needs on the one hand and the needs of the group on the other hand. Arnold, for example, notes that "we must be willing to sacrifice our natural talents for the sake of the whole Body" (116). In regard to self-sacrifice, I was pleased to discover that this book begins with the vertical idea of the individual and his or her conscience and its outworking, rather than with the concept of church. In my judgment, discipleship finds its ultimate fulfillment only when it begins with the individual and then moves to the question of relationships. To do otherwise shortchanges discipleship in general and conscience in particular. For each of us is born into this world as a individual creature, and each of us leaves this world as an individual, personally responsible to the Eternal. There is no way of circumventing this fact.
The volume ends with the call to enter into the vision of Jesus:
What a great gift it would be if we could see a little of the great vision of Jesus--if we could see beyond our small lives! Certainly our view is very limited. But we can at least ask him to call us out of our small worlds and our self-centeredness, and we can at least ask to feel the challenge of the great harvest that must be gathered--the harvest of all nations and all people, including the generations of the future (279).
Discipleship is a fine tribute to a man who attempted to lead a close community in the better way to human fulfillment.
Goshen, Indiana LEONARD GROSS