As I mentioned last month, I am participating in an online course called ““Exploring Anabaptist History and Theology.” When I wrote the last blog, it was the first week of the course, and we were still looking at the very beginnings of the the Anabaptist movement. Well, we are now in the fourth week, and we finally got to Menno Simons (our Mennonite namesake), which just goes to show how much more to the Anabaptist movement there was other than our particular stream.
In learning about Menno and reading some of his writings, an interesting question came up. For all the ways that our tradition finds its source and inspiration from him and his views on theology and discipleship, Menno held on to a particular belief that would have been considered heretical in his time and even today by “orthodox” standards of Christianity. In short, he maintained a belief that Jesus had human flesh that came directly from heaven but was not at all from Mary. For what it is worth, this “celestial flesh” theology stands in contrast to a strict understanding of the orthodox belief that Jesus was fully human and fully divine.
There could be much more discussion about what celestial flesh really means, why Menno held this belief, how the orthodox belief came to be, and what it means to be fully human and fully divine. The question that was posed to us in the course, however, was, “What is the place of doctrine in Anabaptist theology and practice?” If the person that gives our specific tradition its name held a view that would largely be seen as unorthodox, do we have any need for the category of “orthodox” and if so, how does it function in our life together?
I have my own ideas about how to answer this question, but I’m afraid that if I put them out there some might consider them the right (orthodox?) answer. My sense is that the Columbus Mennonite community has a strong emphasis on being open to questions and wrestling with matters of faith in ways that attempt to honor diverse views. On the one hand, as someone who works closely with Christian Education in our community, I often wonder where the boundaries of our faith tradition are that we hope to pass on. On the other hand, part of me cringes at the idea of "boundaries" since I've seen how easy it can be to use them to push people away.
I’d love to hear how you would answer these kinds of questions. I’m not saying you need to do my homework for me, but if you could respond in 300-500 words and get it to me before Friday, that’d be great.