Authored By

  • Dan Ziegler
Published On
Saturday, March 5th, 2022

Have you ever wondered what is behind the unique set of convictions that define conservative Anabaptists (Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, Brethren, and related groups)? We Mennonites often call them “distinctives” – deeply rooted practices among the “plain people” that are uncommon within much of the rest of Christianity, like: 

  • Non-resistance (conscientious objection to violence and participation in war)  
  • Not swearing oaths  
  • Not suing another person 
  • Strong teaching against divorce and remarriage 
  • A focus on servanthood and surrenderedness 
  • Simplicity and non-accumulation of wealth 
  • Foot-washing 
  • Church discipline  
  • Abstaining from political involvement  
  • Mutual aid and communal sharing 
  • Non-conformity and modesty in dress 
  • Women’s head covering 
  • Greeting one another with the holy kiss  
  • Distinct gender roles within family and church, etc. 

Are we plain folks privy to some kind of special revelation? Or are we really just quaint cultural oddities – an anachronistic tribe of Germanic ascetics, suffering from the long-term effects of too much scrapple and over-ripe sauerkraut? The truth, of course, is that we are neither.  We non-conformed Anabaptists are just regular folk, no more astute or intrinsically spiritual than our neighbors.  

So, what drives the uniqueness of the conservative Anabaptist faith?  

Authored By

  • Dan Ziegler
Published On
Saturday, March 19th, 2022

In my previous essay, we discussed what is behind the conservative Anabaptist way of life and faith.  I shared that after 35 years of study and immersion in this faith community, I have become convinced that the answer is the way we Anabaptists understand and apply Scripture - the Anabaptist hermeneutic.  This hermeneutic is driven by three questions: “What if Jesus is who He says He is?”, “What if He means what He says?”, and “What if He’s talking to us?” 

I observed that we Anabaptists are a people who emphatically believe Jesus is who He says He is. Therefore, most of us come to Scripture through Him.  The 1963 Mennonite Confession of Faith describes this Christocentric approach to the Bible: 

“The message of the Bible points to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is to Him that the Scriptures of the Old Testament bear witness, and He is the One whom the Scriptures of the New Testament proclaim. He is the key to a proper understanding of the entire Bible.” 

With Christ at the center of our understanding of Scripture, there are two more principles that round out the way we non-conformed Anabaptists approach the Bible.