As I progress though the AMBS class called “Understanding Anabaptist Approaches to Scripture,” I would like to share what is distinctive compared to my evangelical background and why I feel it is important.
When I was growing in faith as an evangelical there was always a strong emphasis on sound doctrine. The old adage was, “if you’re just one degree off, you may end up 100 miles in the wrong direction.” You can find evangelical books about essential doctrines and what you need to believe (maybe 14 things) to be a Christian (I thought there was just one!).
To me this sounds like what C. Norman Kraus described as theological legalism. It started with the early Reformers’ focus on justification by faith. In generations immediately after Luther and Calvin, theological scholars started defining faith as rational assent to correct doctrine. This definition would emphasize the importance of the correct formulation of doctrine and has led to a lot of dissention and dissimulation ever since. Today a pastor can get fired for even hinting at universalism.
At the core of the Anabaptist approach to scripture is Christocentrism (Christ-centeredness) with a commitment to discipleship and obedience to His teachings. The early Anabaptists were not interested in, and quite suspicious of, theoretical theologizing. Christ was the center of their way of life rather than the center of a theological system.
For me it started with an understanding of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed and this led to an expanded understanding of salvation and redemption as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus. For me the most important doctrines (teachings) are those taught by Jesus.