BRETHREN-L ArchivesArchiver > BRETHREN > 2008-07 > 1215477160
From: Merle C Rummel <>
Subject: Re: [BRE] Pietism and Anabaptism2
Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2008 20:32:40 -0400
> One of the strengths (and sometimes weaknesses) of the Brethren is the balance or the lack of balance between Pietism and Anabaptism. The early Brethren borrowed from both systems of thought. They realized the necessity of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They also realized there was a need for structure in their religious lives. The Pietists emphasized the personal qualities of our relationship with God. The Anabaptist realized the need of community among believers.
> During the past 300 years there have been swings from one side to the other. In the early days there was a strong dose of Pietism, later Anabaptism became dominant. The Brethren have suffered when they lost their balance. When every man did what was right in his own eyes, the community suffered. When the community framed miiniscule rules the personal relationship was threatened. There were times that the Brethren inched towards legalism, but there were other times and places where the Brethren majored in the mystical and otherworldly.
> A wise balance between the two systems gave the Brethren the best of both. When unbalanced there were problems.
I've been debating how to answer this - because I cannot accept your
statements - yes, we like to say that we are "Pietist Anabaptist", but
that can only be truthfully said in reference to our origins.
The Brethren are only one of two denominations that began in the Pietist
movement of Germany. We were aberrations. The Pietist movement were
Bible Study fellowships, who were attempting a return bring a to "First
Century Christianity" or as it was called: "Primitive Christianity".
They were reaching out to Christians in all the Churches. (There were
very few in Western Europe in that time who were not members of one or
another of the three legal Established Churches: Lutheran, Reformed or
Catholic. You were baptized one as an infant, and what you did about
that as you grew up, was your own affair.) The Pietists did not form
churches, they worked within a church community (even though most were
persecuted for it). The Pietist brethren sought to bring a change in
the personal relationship of a person with Jesus. In so doing, they
opposed many of the Established Church procedures, based on "works"
(church attendance and tithing, and the resulting clergy), and that is
where the problem arose. The only other church to form out of the
Pietist brethren, was a remnant of John Hus followers who lived at
Herrnhut, in Moravia, Eastern Germany. They became the Moravian
Brethren, the "Unitas Fratrum", under the protection of Count Ludwig von
Zinzendorf. When Alexander Mack baptized the 7 persons, his mentor:
Hochman von Hochenau, was vehemently upset.
Two hundred years before, at the time of the Lutheran Reformation, and
the formation of the Reformed Churches of Zwingli and Calvin, there was
a third group, who actually were an extension of the German Mystics of
even earlier centuries. They were called the Anabaptists ('baptized
again") because they did not accept infant baptism, saying that it did
not fulfill the scripture: "Believe and be baptized!". They refused
even the response to that, that the "Believe" was of the parents, who
then had their baby Baptized. They promoted an "Adult Baptism", where
the individual himself must personally believe in Jesus as Savior, in
order to be baptized. Since everyone had already been baptized as an
infant (so they would go to heaven if they died, and not to hell - and
nearly half of the babies died within their first 5 years), this was
being "baptized again!" The Catholic Priest (Menno Simons) recanted in
his Catholicism, and began the Anabaptist Mennonites.
The Pietist Alexander Mack had read, and accepted this Anabaptist
concept, and the baptism at the Eder River, at Schwartzenau Germany, in
1708 (300 years ago) was an immersion baptism, based around this
Anabaptist belief. Where he directly got the concept from is unknown,
although it was near this same time that Jacob Ammon, of Switzerland,
brought a revival to the Mennonites which are known today as the Amish.
As far as we can know, the early Brethren were Not Anabaptists, except
in their Adult Baptism. They were accepted by the Mennonites in
Friesland Holland, when persecution became too great for us to remain in
the Palatinate, in Wittgenstein. The reason the Brethren decided to
come to America was because they refused the Mennonite Anabaptism,
especially as their youth were marrying into the Mennonite families
there in Holland.
Here in America, the early Brethren were Pietists, they were not
considered Anabaptists. The records tell how at Germantown the Brethren
prayed and sang so loud, that it hurt the ear, clear down the street
(well, here in America, they did not have to hide their religion - they
no longer met in a noisy waterwheel mill). The first baptism was
observed by neighboring families. The Brethren held "open" services,
and attracted new families into their faith, almost everywhere they
lived. This especially seen among the Carolina Brethren migrants, and
also among those who had moved on to Kaintuck. In Carolina, Elder David
Martin, son of the Elder George Adam Martin, a leading, non-Ephrata
Pietist, promoted the Pietist faith in "Eternal Restoration" (which
developed into Universalism - that God loves his creation so much, that
he will not leave them in Hell for eternity). Ephrata developed the
Pietist relationship with Jesus into Celibacy - following St Paul's
comment against marriage - that one's life can be more completely
devoted to Jesus, if the demands of spouse and family are not present.
Other early Brethren seem to have followed this belief, more or less.
Alexander Mack Jr went to Ephrata, where he was Brother Timotheus,
before he fled in disagreement to Conrad Beissel, the "Superintendent",
fled with the Eckerlins to Mahanaim, below Roanoke VA -"four hundred
miles toward the setting sun". Christopher Sower's wife left him and
went to Ephrata, although she later left Ephrata and returned home. The
Brethren minister, George Boone, brother of Daniel, is said to have
lived as a "Solitary" in the Ohio River hills, after his wife died.
Elder Jacob Miller, seems to have also lived as a Solitary, on the Great
Miami River. An 1806 letter by the Harshbargers indicates that he "was
living alone, with the English Preacher" (Samuel Boultin). His second
wife, Barbara (Lybrook) Miller (married in Franklin Co Va in 1801), is
found (by family tradition, and almost certainly in the census) here in
Indiana Territory, with her brother, Philip, at the Four Mile. We do
not know what early Pietism was like - especially as the Brethren
believed and practiced it. (This is why I keep promoting, that someone
translate the Berleberg Bible [so I can read it] - the 1740s Pietist
Bible - which is mostly scriptural commentary -it is a Bible of 8
volumes, 1000 pages each - many pages are a single scripture, and a page
of commentary on it.)
Dr Dale Brown was a professor at Bethany Seminary, and had just written
his book about Pietism. I took his Pietism class.
Dale Brown said it very clearly. "The Brethren do not know what Pietism
was!" His book is a study of the European History of Pietism, how it
started, how it spread throughout Germany, some of the Radical
expressions of Pietism, and how it was opposed by the existing
churches. He said that he did not know what Pietism was like to the
early Brethren. The Reason: We are no longer Pietists. We have not
been Pietists since early in our History.
Dr Floyd Mallott, professor of Church History, also at Bethany Seminary
at that time, made a corresponding statement: "What happened to the
Brethren during the Revolution? They Changed!" The Brethren after the
American Revolution were much different from the Brethren as they were
in the early days and up to near the time of the American Revolution.
From what I have been saying, from what I found with the Brethren who
went to Kentucky, the "Frontier Brethren" - they were of the Pietist
tradition, there are different comments, that are so different from the
Brethren are today. Then there was the rejection of them by the Annual
Meeting Elders - first in North Carolina, in the 1790s - over
"Universalism" - when Elder Jacob Stutzman (come to Uwharrie, Rowan Co
NC from Pipe Creek in Maryland) wrote the famous letterback to his
brother-in-law, to Elder Michael Pfautz at Pipe Creek, Frederick Co MD,
which led Annual Meeting in 1798, to place "John H" on the Ban, which
spoke against the Carolina Universalism. Elder John Hendricks (?
"John H" ?) immediately disposed of his farms in North Carolina and
moved to the Drakes Creek, in Warren Co KY (now Simpson Co). He
promoted Eternal Restoration there, although I have found it in a number
of families in other Brethren Churches of Kentucky and even among the
children of Elder Jacob Miller, here at the Four Mile in Indiana.
Then we find the rejection of these "Frontier Brethren" after the
opening of the National Road (1826) to Richmond IN - when the rush of
migration brought the eastern Brethren to western Ohio (the origin of
the present churches of Montgomery Co, and vicinity). The Brethren
coming from out east, found Brethren churches already here, churches
that were different. They wrote back: "What do we do with these
'Strange' Brethren?" Annual Meeting advised: "Avoid them!'
("Avoidance" - the Ban)
To answer Dr Floyd Mallott "What happened to the Brethren during the
Revolution? They Changed!" Annual Meeting and the Elders faced the
persecutions of the Revolution by withdrawing into the
Anabaptist/Mennonite "Community". They dare not be the Brethren that
attracted community attention any longer, it brought persecution. They
chose an isolation from society about them. It was "closed" - only
Brethren allowed! And - from the conflicts with the Radical Pietism at
Ephrata - they closed it out. Essentially, Pietism was no longer
permitted to be a part of the Brethren. They denied it, wherever they
met it -and threw the "heretical" elders out of the church. They
demanded adherence to the decisions of Annual Meeting -with all these
new concepts (per Brethren Historian, Abraham Cassel). And the Frontier
Brethren refused, and there were those of the later Far Western Brethren
who refused - and they were no longer part of the Brethren.
As Dr Dale Brown said - we Brethren no longer know what Pietism is. We
are NOT Pietists.
Yes, we hold concepts that the Pietists held - but the Anabaptists held
these concepts long before the Pietists came. They both believed in the
necessity of personal Bible Study, and in living the Bible as it taught
what faith should mean. The term: "First Century Christianity" is
common to both movements. They believed that the Established Church was
a false church, following men, and not Christ. They believed in a soon
return of Jesus Christ, in Judgement of Sinners: the End of the World.
They believed that we would soon be facing the "Judgment" and we were to
But we reject beliefs that both movements held. Both groups seem to
have originally held - to the "Gifts of the Spirit", including "faith
healing", and "speaking in tongues". Both Menno Simons and Alexander
Mack use phrases that are remarkably similar to phrases used by the
Pentecostal Movement and the more recent Charismatic movement. The same
could be said of their predecessors - the German Mystics, and Peter
Abelaird and the Cathari before them (each about 200 years apart - and,
within limitations, it can be said of similar heresies clear back to 100
AD). It has long been accepted that some of these "heresies" proclaimed
by "the church" over the centuries, often are nearly the same. (Does
God try trying to bring about "His Church", and man constantly remakes
it into what man is comfortable with?)
No, there is no "balance" in the Brethren, between Pietism and
Anabaptism, because there is no longer any real Pietism in the church,
it was essentially removed from the denomination -back during the
Revolution. We use the term today, but we do not know what Pietism was.
Now, I admit, to Jane Davis - that many of these "Frontier Brethren"
(after 1800), and remnants of the "Far Western Brethren" (about 1860)
went to Missouri, and the early church there, likely, was much
different. But many of these went to Missouri as Disciples of Christ,
Methodists and even as Universalists, not as Brethren - already driven
out of the Brethren denomination (their term was "ejected"). I still
find it interesting, to have found the 1850s people of the Liberty
Church (Disciples of Christ -originally the Lost River Brethren Church),
Orleans, Orange Co IN - calling themselves "Dunker Christians". -
because, they didn't know what to do, not belonging to the Brethren back
east, any longer.
This has become a "treatise"
Merle C Rummel
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