On Sunday May 14th we continued our Teaching Series focusing on our Core Values, with Randell Neudorf talking about Truth in an Anabaptist perspective. We have been trying to record this series but our good recorder didn’t work so we were only able to capture the talk on a cell phone. You are welcome to listen in, and you can still hear what is being said, just be aware that it isn’t the best audio quality.
For those of you wanting to skip the audio here are some of the points and images Randell shared.
It is important to start by acknowledging the postmodern elephant in the room. Wikipedia states that postmodernism,
“…asserts that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual and constructed to varying degrees. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to … moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.”
This is the context that many people are understanding truth in. That is why our current definition of truth leaves room to ask questions. Here is how The Commons has been talking about the word Truth:
“We foster an environment where it is OK to ask hard questions. We look to the narrative outlined in the Bible to inform our decisions and shape our actions. We believe that through prayer and open and honest conversations that God will help us move towards truth in tangible and practical ways.”
If I was to pick one verse for talking about truth it would be Jesus’ words recorded in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! …Without me, no one can go to the Father.” A more recent depiction of this idea can be found in William Kurelek’s Painting called “Toronto Toronto.” It depicts Jesus on the steps of Toronto’s old City Hall, and you can almost hear Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” to anyone who is willing to take the time to notice.
As I was thinking about “What does truth mean for The Commons?” I was reading a book called “Anabaptist Essentials” by Palmer Becker. Anabaptist is a way of following Jesus that embodies the spirit of our wider Mennonite tribe. I was looking at the section called “Jesus is the Center of our Faith.” The rest of the ideas and images in this post are taken from Becker’s book.
Placing Jesus as the center might seem obvious but it does give a different emphasis to churches teaching from an Anabaptist perspective.
Becker says that many churches would emphasis that:
- Christianity is primarily about beliefs.
- Christianity is primarily about spiritual experience.
- Christianity is primarily about forgiveness.
- Christianity is primarily about eternal salvation.
Palmer goes on to say that although all these things are important, for Anabaptists “Christianity is primarily about following Jesus in daily life.” (p. 31 & 38)
This emphasis on Jesus ultimately changes the way we look for truth in the bible. Becker contrasts how this plays out in the Anabaptist tradition differently than other Christian traditions (p. 46 & 51):
- Many Christians emphasis the Bible, rather than Jesus, as our final authority.
Anabaptist Christians emphasis Jesus, rather than the Bible, as our final authority.
- Many Christians emphasis that all Scriptures are inspired and equal in authority.
Anabaptist Christians emphasis all Scriptures are inspired but not equal in authority.
- Many Christians emphasis that the Old Testament reveals God’s will for social ethics, while the New Testament is a guide for personal ethics.
Anabaptist Christians emphasis Jesus, the fullest revelation of God and God’s will, is the standard for both personal and social ethics.
- Many Christians emphasis that applications do not always need to coincide with the teachings of Jesus.
Anabaptist Christians emphasis that applications must not counter the teachings and spirit of Jesus.
Becker says that the Bible is not a flat book for Anabaptists and that we read everything that comes before or after the gospels through the strong lens of the life, teachings and spirit of Jesus. Becker says that “Anabaptists have a high regard for the Scriptures and an even higher regard for Jesus. Jesus, even more than the Bible, is our final authority.” (p. 50) He sees this same sentiment in a great quote from Shane Claiborne “We believe in the infallible Word of God. His name is Jesus!” (p. 50)
After thinking or The Commons definition of Truth in contrast to this Anabaptist emphasis on Jesus, it made us ask a couple questions.
- As an Anabaptist Church, do we need to rework our definition of truth?
- How would you define Truth for The Commons?
Click on the images below for the other talks in Our Values Series: