Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Brethren and Their Interpretation of History

On June 21, Warren Groff addressed the 1958 Annual Conference on "The Brethren and Their Interpretation of History." Groff suggested several clues to the Brethren understanding of history - its origin, meaning and direction.

The chief clue, according to Groff, is Jesus Christ. The early Brethren stand with the New Testament witnesses in testifying that the cluster of events connected with Jesus of Nazareth, the "anointed" of God, has had a unique impact upon life. This segment of history illuminates the rest. Jesus Christ has changed the way we look at life. ... His coming, as Alexander Mack would put it, has brought into history a dramatic and decisive call for a life of loving obedience to God.... It is to Jesus Christ that we turn for primary insight into history's dynamic, pattern, and goal.

Groff continues, When Jesus Christ serves as our primary clue, history is seen as personal, purposeful, and providential. History is personal. The Brethren would agree with the over-all Biblical view that historical events are not simply the result of blind fate. They are bounded by the intention, ordering, and continuing activity of God. ...

History is purposeful. In and through Jesus Christ, the inaugurator of the "new covenant," ... God has declared His interest in and pattern for history. As understood by the Biblical witnesses and the early Brethren, history is purposeful as the arena of divine-human encounter. That which basically gives meaning to historical events is the coming of God to man.

Groff goes on to suggest that a third basic theme in the interpretation of history ... is at least implied in the life and thought of the early Brethren, informed as they were by the Biblical proclamation: History as the drama of man's encounter with God reveals the ever-present realities of judgment and renewal.

Warren Groff concludes his address with questions of where we stand today as Brethren.
  • Do we live so as to acknowledge the sovereign activity of God as the primary power in the world, today and tomorrow?
  • Are we oriented toward life as obedient disciples under the Lordship of Christ?
  • Are we really oriented toward God's coming action in Jesus Christ or ... is our faith most deeply in the might and power of our own hand?
  • Have we as Brethren adopted the idolatrous substitute of our own righteousness and program of good works?

Source: The Adventurous Future, chapter 23