If you are a regular reader here you should have noticed the “A Living Alternative” ad on this page before. The book was written by a bunch of my online Anabaptist minded friends from the MennoNerds group which I am affiliated with. Although I personally have no official association with Anabaptism outside of the MennoNerds network; it is an expression or tradition within the Christian faith which I have discovered mirrors my own personal views regarding how this thing called the Christian life is to be lived out. I have gained much by reading Anabaptist writings and the testimony of the original 16th century Anabaptists is truly inspiring.
Anyway, now that I have finally finished reading the book for myself let me tell what I thought about it. Firstly, it is a collection of 20 essays over about 300 pages written by twenty different people. reading the book could be likened to a certain degree to how I experience fellowship when the church that meets in my house assembles together. Everybody brings something unique to the table, some people open up and share from a very personal place within while others tend to be very academic and have the ability to make a seemingly insignificant portion of scripture come alive with meaning and beauty. And then there are others still who never seem to share a lot of 'info' yet they encourage and inspire with the fruits that are evident in their lives and stories.
A Living Alternative has this kind of a feel to it. Some people like Chris Lenshyn and Steve Kimes take a look back at the history of the church (something that really appeals to me) to remind us of what the church once looked like and where it may have wondered off the path. Others like Drew Hart and Deborah-Ruth Ferber remind us of the value of those persons and people groups whom the church has often ignored and even oppressed and that their voices are equally importanat and vital to the life of the church. Tyler Tully shares in his chapter how the scriptures were compiled and written (the OT in particular) and how they should therefore be understood and interpreted (this chapter is probably best read slower than the other chapters and may need a few extra reads to be fully digested). Several others shared on very specific topics such as the importance of community and an outward focused church, hospitality and the gifts of the Spirit. Benjamin Corey contributed a great piece as well which really just highlighted Jesus as the centre of all that Anabaptism stands for.
Some of my favorite parts of the book were the chapters on hospitality by Hannah E. Heinzekehr and Deborah-Ruth Ferber’s chapter on being a single person in the church and her thoughts regarding celibacy. Robert Martin’s chapter on ‘Starving the Beast’ was also a great read which looked at how kingdom people can offer a tangible alternative to the systems of oppression and power which the empires of the world operate by. I could not help but think though that Roberts chapter could just as easily have substituted the words government or empire with the word church and it would still be frighteningly accurate. This is an area where the Anabaptists and organic churches can be a real example to the rest of the church. Showing how, under Christ’s headship, there is no need for abusive hierarchies as we learn to “submit ourselves one to another”.
I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those who perhaps have grown up outside of the Anabaptist tradition as it really covers all of the fundamentals of a faith centered on Christ that will be able to withstand the coming waves that a Post-Christendom world is and will be throwing at those of us living in a Westernized culture. I am not saying that everyone should become Anabaptists but rather that there are treasures within the Anabaptist tradition that almost all other groups have lost sight of and could benefit from. It is a genuine alternative to Protestant and Catholic or left and right wing religion. In all my years growing up in Protestant churches how is it that I had never heard the word praxis before? I can honestly say that, while I did not agree with every single word written in the book, every contributing author has brought something of value to the volume of work which I could take hold of and apply in my own life. If you want to find out more about A Living Alternative click on the image of it in this article and if you want to read other articles and blogs by the authors go check out the MennoNerds by clicking over here. In closing, let me leave you with 2 of my favorite quotes from the book. The second one in particular really resonates with me:-
“I value the Holy Scripture above all human treasures but not as high as the Word of God, which is living, powerful and eternal, and which is free and unencumbered by all the elements of this world.” - Joanna Harader quoting Hans Denck
“(The Anabaptists) Protested what they saw as halfway measures taken by Luther and other magisterial Reformers in purifying the church of Roman Catholic elements. There ideal was to restore the New Testament church as a persecuted remnant as it was in the Roman Empire before Constantine. To them, the magisterial Reformers were all stuck in Constantinianism and Augustinianism. These were the two main diseases of medieval Christianity that the radical Reformers wished to eradicate from their own independent and autonomous congregations, if not from Christianity itself.” - AO Green quoting Roger Olsen