Gelassenheit: An Old School Anabaptist Spirituality


Gelassenheit is a word the Anabaptists borrowed from the mystics.  It refers to a deep sense of yieldedness to God’s will.  While mystics generally understood Gelassenheit to be an inner quiet that, it could be argued, resulted in a sort of detachment, the Anabaptist ethical emphasis understood it practically.  Gelassenheit isn’t simply about an individual’s interior life, but their relationships with one another.

Gelassenheit is about ridding one’s life of all obstacles to love of God and neighbour.  As the early Anabaptist Hans Haffner wrote in his devotional tract Concerning a True Soldier of Christ “When we truly realize the love of God we will be ready to give up for love’s sake even what God has given us.”

This commitment to yieldedness was central to the early Anabaptist understanding of discipleship.  Unfortunately it has largely disappeared from modern Anabaptist awareness.  I am convinced that a spirituality of Gelassenheit  is central to discipleship today.  Far from being a pietistic relic of the past, it is a timely necessity.

What we need now, more than ever, is a new spirituality of Gelassenheit.  One that seeks to remove all the obstacles to our love.  One that understands the intrinsic relationship between love of God and love of others.  One that will gladly set aside all privilege, wealth, honour – or any gift of God – for loves sake.

Mark Van Steenwyk, contributing author to “Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship” page 157 – 158

Vacation time. We are in Winnipeg for 2 weeks.  I am hopeful that this time will be a restful.  Therefore I will be staying away from social media and the blog.  I will however schedule posts on the regular Tuesday and Thursday’s which will be excerpts from books that have been significantly formative for me during this past year.  I hope they will be a blessing to you also. 

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you in a few weeks.


  1. joshgaudreau · July 24, 2012

    I first heard this term at CMU, and loved it immediately, being fairly well-versed in the mystics. I didn’t realize there was a direct connection, however.

    Agreed, this is a timely need in the Church, especially here in North America.

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