A good Mennonite friend of mine from Buhler, Kansas, posted the attached video onto her Facebook™ Timeline. The video is produced by Matt Slick of CARM ministries and is called Are Roman Catholics Saved?
Obviously, I have disclosed that I fellowship with a Roman Catholic group on Saturday evenings when in Chicago (no – I am Mennonite, not Catholic). I fellowship with them because I enjoy the method by which they delve into the scripture readings for the service and because I have found within the Roman Catholic church a continued, obstinate dedication to old Mennonite values such as Communitarianism, Pacifism, Social Outreach, personalism in one’s relationship to Christ, and Grace – especially amongst the orders (Franciscans, Jesuits, Vincentians and the Poor Claire’s).
Having similarly attended numerous Baptist-oriented services, I have found myself all too often discouraged that while the evangelical Mennonites and certain “Baptist” groups share a commitment to Biblicism and the Evangelical message, that I have left too many of those services feeling that the fruits from that service were negative, judgmental and counter-productive – or just as often, having experienced what I often refer to as Evangelical-lite – meaning that I experienced Truth but was leaving the service still spiritually hungry. I have found certain Roman Catholic services (or Evangelical Free Services) to be a better mix for my own personal spiritual “character.” So I am a bit ecumenical by nature.
That is not to say that I agree with fellow Catholic Christians regarding infant baptism – but even in that regard, I have found my former understanding of their theology to be a bit over-simplified and am comfortable that a Roman Catholic who has completed the Catechistic process to be potentially every bit as much the adult believer as are Mennonites. That being said, I have wondered about the very close political ties between groups such as the Southern Baptist Conference and certain Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches – how can they, and we, cooperate so closely when the latter three churches also practice or do not exclude infant baptism. Our Mennonite churches in Congo / Zaire are part of the same ministerial structure as the pedo-baptists. How can group be judged so harshly and the others just easily forgiven? I have not yet received a great explanation in that regard.
Initially, my response to the video to note that I found it a bit simplistic and mentioned that I have seen too many fellow Christian spirits in the Catholic church to doubt their faith – these are people who consider themselves to be orthodox Catholics.
My recommendation was that we focus on what unites us and let God sort out the differences in the way that God will.
Then, I had the bright idea of looking up what CARM had to say about Mennonites – and Matt Slick has actually not only addressed the Mennonites, but unlike many professional teachers of apologetics, he addressed not the so-called “works-oriented” Mennonites (which is what we evangelical Mennonites call the traditional Mennonites and Amish, including our own fellow Russlander Alt Koloniers and Kleine Gemeinde), but he addressed the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference’s Statement of Faith directly. The MB are in every sense of the word just as Evangelical as the former EMB, the now-termed FEC and the old Krimmer Mennonite Brethren – we are all Baptist Christians.
Slick’s reaction was honest and useful:
“Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches - a few days ago someone e-mailed me about a comment I made on the radio show concerning the Mennonites. He sent me their statement of faith. After looking it over, I was rather discouraged. It wasn't clear enough on the Trinity, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and Christ's physical resurrection. So, I called them up. It turns out that the Mennonites do affirm the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and Christ's physical resurrection in a glorified body. I told him that the statement of faith was insufficient. I also was very polite and I did not want to sound like I was the doctrine Czar and was judging his denomination. Instead, I informed him that a lot of their statements could be affirmed by the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and that it was rather insufficient in a few important areas. It was a good conversation. He thanked me and said that he would bring the matter up to the counsel. Praise God. Hopefully, they will modify their statement of faith and make it more "pristine".”
Honestly, I find his openness and dialogue useful, interesting and worthy of consideration. Yet based on his examination of the Roman Catholic video (the general web-site more blatantly places the Roman Catholics on par with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims), I was still a bit unsettled. I have noted before that even though the MB Statement of Faith is more doctrinaire than is that of the old EMB or the FEBC, but that even the MB publication seems to leave a bit of room for congregational discussion. Recall, I have been a member of both conferences. Also, my friend, who posted the video, is a member of a Mennonite Brethren congregation in Kansas.
So then, the question is raised whether or not Slick’s observations should be passed on to the MB conference. The simple answer is sure, why not. Should they listen to him?
This is where being an evangelical Mennonite gets dicey. Normally, we pretty much buy into the greater socio-political structure of the American Religious Far Right, though I would argue that we often do a decent job of maintaining both centrist and Fundamentalist versions of Anglo-American Evangelicalism within our congregations and Sunday Schools.
But, where is Slick coming from? Are we accepting his credentials based on his personal testimony and the obvious success of his media ministry? Yes and no – or rather yes, we are listening to his testimony – that is what we, as Anabaptists do. And no – we might be perhaps a bit too quick to accept his opinion based on media success rather than on content.
Slick operates another website: http://www.mslick.com/ .
If you follow this website, we end up with a couple of important pieces of additional information – Slick is part of the Reformed Church (the Calvinists of Switzerland and the Netherlands). He is also a charismatic.
Importantly, I value his efforts and insights, so I am more than happy to include him in our dialogue… however, the differences between Evangelical Anabaptism and Dutch Calvinism are pretty major… my concern is that while he has access to our dialogue – is he willing to likewise listen to us? I am not so sure.
Most disturbingly, the Calvinists were actually the first to martyr the self-identified Anabaptists. The Calvinists have long been a state church demonstrably willing to use the force of law to their benefit and against others. The Calvinists have had their own weird way of dealing with infant baptism, social church membership and predestination – a rather awkward accommodation to state and financial power and authority that I have never been fully convinced of – especially when they are throwing rocks at Roman Catholic windows. Finally, Pietism, the term by which Evangelical Mennonism is most closely defined, came about because of a certain spiritual deadness observed within the Prussian Protestant Church – a church comprised equally of the Calvinist Reform movement and Lutheranism. Lots of questions…
Secondly, his website indicates that the Anglo-American Baptist movement sprang from Anabaptist roots – a complicated historical understanding that is far more popular these days within Southern Baptist understandings of history than within traditional Anabaptist orthodox historicism. Again, I more-or-less say pitch a big tent and welcome all to the love feast who desire to attend, but at the same time, Slick’s ministry is in apologetics and he makes a living off of excluding others from Christ’s church.
Finally, he is a Charismatic Reformed Christian. I have read his statement, and include the link below. Personally, I do not find it too be super radical. In fact, while I disagree with his findings, I yet find his perspective to be reasonable and worthy of consideration.
Beginning with Münster, Mennonites have long shied away from spiritual gifts and prophecy – especially as a sign of the Elect. Every century or so, we seem to have a Mennonite or Amish prophet rise up on his or her own claims – and are usually around to pick up the pieces in love that are left behind. Again, there is room in the tent, but it is not an emotionally charismatic tent. Proceed with caution and don’t go changing a 150-year-old statement of faith based on a contemporary, charismatic radio ministry.
One doctrine that Mennonites have traditionally been united on is the doctrine of the Fruits of the Spirit – as in the popular Evangelical or AGAPE musical Music Machine. We have all, evangelical and traditional, been a bit more preoccupied with spiritual fruit than with spiritual gifts.
I am not a preacher – and am not providing either an apologetic or counter-apologetic to Rev. Slick’s ministry. I am just making a few research observations for consideration. As far as I can tell, much of what he has to say is compelling and good for thought – but anytime anyone wants to exclude others over the splitting of theological hairs – we need first to determine what that teacher’s tolerance of our own theology seemingly is, and then whether or not the lack of tolerance on the part of one is a healthy addition either to our own self-identity or to that of the greater Christian faith to which we ascribe. Again, I would err more on the side of “Accept them all – Let God sort them out!”