Dr. Jared Burkholder, chair of the Department of History and Political Science at Grace College, Winona Lake, Ind., recently participated in a symposium at Bridgewater College on the history of the (Schwarzenau) Brethren tradition’s relationship with evangelicalism. He writes about the experience and the intersection of evangelicalism with Pietist and Anabaptist groups at The Pietist Schoolman, a blog where he regularly contributes. A portion of his post appears below. Click here to read the complete article. In addition to serving as the co-editor of The Activist Impulse (WipfandStock, 2012), which he writes about here, he is the co-editor of Becoming Grace: Seventy-Five Years on the Landscape of Christian Higher Education in America (BMH Books, 2015), which will be released in April.
Recent Conversations on Evangelicalism and Pietist-Anabaptist Identity
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Bridgewater College, which is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, just outside Harrisonburg, Virginia. The occasion, spearheaded by Steve Longenecker, was a symposium on the history of the (Schwarzenau) Brethren tradition’s relationship with evangelicalism.
The intersection of evangelicalism with Pietist and Anabaptist groups is a topic that has interested me for years. Back in 2012, David Cramer and I co-edited The Activist Impulse, a volume of essays on this subject. The title comes from the notion that evangelicals and Anabaptist groups have always shared a desire to live out their faith (activism) in real and meaningful ways, even as they have pursued this in ways that are sometimes contradictory. The object of the book was to provide space for contributors to write about and reflect on historical and theological intersections with an underlying theme of revisiting the traditional notion, shared by many Anabaptist writers, that evangelicalism is a threat to Anabaptist distinctiveness. Although both David and I would be somewhere within the neo-Anabaptist crowd and are sympathetic to evangelical-Anabaptist engagement, our goal was not to prove the above notion wrong, but rather to problematize it and offer essays that explored the tensions that are inherent in the topic.
The book was generally well-received, but some online reviews, such as those by Ted Grimsrud and two by Devin Manzullo-Thomas (found here and here), did provide some healthy pushback. (Other print reviews can be found in the Mennonite Quarterly Review and I am told that reviews in Fides et Historia and Brethren Life and Thought are still in the works.) I will resist the temptation to address the criticisms they raise and point instead to one of the central themes of our discussion in Bridgewater: the difficulty of definitions.
Click here to read the complete article.