Anabaptist Quietism

The early Anabaptists were enthusiastic and vocal in sharing their faith with any who would listen to them, urging people to repent and become followers of Jesus.  Their testimony, even as they were led to the stake, was so worrying to the authorities that tongue screws were used to silence them.  But the pressure of persecution gradually convinced Anabaptists that keeping quiet about their faith was the only way to survive, and most adopted this stance (some even signed agreements exchanging vows of silence so as to be left in peace).  They became known as “the quiet in the land.”

While quietism was understandable in such contexts, like separatism, it has become embedded in the Anabaptist tradition.  Not speaking openly about one’s faith is now defended by some Anabaptists as a mark of humility, rather than as a hangover from a history of repression.  Their emphasis is on living out their faith, rather than talking about it.  But this approach to bearing witness to Jesus Christ is seriously deficient in a post-Christendom culture that knows little of what Christians believe and lacks the tools to interpret the way we live.

Stuart Murray, “The Naked Anabaptist” Page 165

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.  

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3 comments

  1. Robert Martin · July 26, 2012

    Bingo! Nailed it!

    What seems to have happened, though, in some of the efforts to “combat” quietism is to become highly involved in secular political debates and activist activities without any accompanying expression of the faith stance that gives rise to the positions. As noted, Anabaptists were outspoken BECAUSE they wanted people to come to Jesus in order to address societal ills and problems. Instead, I fear that the inheritors have gotten things backwards these days where we seem to want to impose kingdom principles on an unbeliving society rather than first reconciling people to the King.

    • chris lenshyn · July 26, 2012

      A major distinction to be aware of. Thanks. Like Eugene Cho keeps saying “Social Justice is important because the Gospel is important.”

      I wonder if another contributing factor to Anabaptist quietism is the response to loud and awkward evangelicalism… hmmm.

      thanks for your words!

      • Robert Martin · July 26, 2012

        That could very well be a part of it. Dr. David Fitch (@fitchest) and I discussed recently is on those lines. Mennonites and Anabaptists struggle with the idea of exclusivity when it comes to evangelism. To spread the gospel of Jesus is to state that Jesus is the one and only King, now and forever, and that can be interpreted by some listeners as intolerant. Mennonites and Anabaptists who focus on the grace and forgiveness of the gospel dislike this kind of stance because it implies that there may be something to the “if you don’t follow Jesus exclusively, there’s a serious eternal risk”.

        You can evangelize for Jesus without coming across as “fire and brimstone, get out of hell free, you’re damned if you don’t say the Sinner’s Prayer” kind of evangelism…but we must remember that ANY social stance we take is taken as an expression of the gospel AND as a way of opening the doors to point people to the gospel. Social activism outside of that context cannot be distinguished from any other contemporary reasoning and risks losing it’s effectiveness and power.

        I’ve pontificated enough..enjoy the rest of your vacation. 🙂

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