(Old Facebook Post – Revised)

How would Anabaptist churches be different if we taught a doctrine of “continually renewed minds” rather than only one of “nonconformity” (Rom. 12:2)? What if Paul never mentioned clothing/hairstyles/music/etc. in this verse… or chapter… or entire letter, but he did stress humble and loving thinking within church members, springing from worship of the God who has mercifully welcomed all peoples in Christ?

Reader response:

“What if Paul never mentioned” is treading on dangerous ground for anyone that believes the Bible to be God’s word and authority. The fact is Paul did mention these things, not to be legislated, as in legalism but rather because they are affected by the “renewed mind”. There is a fine balance between the two. The Anabaptist churches have gone too far on one side, while I believe the more modern churches have gone too far the other way. It is very interesting to observe what happens to individuals that are brought up in either extreme. Separation from the world in dress is a carry over from the Old Testament Jewish law that stated they were to have fringes of blue on their clothing. There is significant meaning behind the “plain” dress of the Mennonites that doesn’t get taught today. While I do not practice the traditions of our fathers, I do have an appreciation for them.

My reply: I should clarify that I definitely do believe Paul (elsewhere), Jesus, and other NT writers give some direct and indirect instructions about such things, and that a Holy Spirit-renewed mind will be eager to obey God in such matters. I also agree with your generalizations about Anabaptists and “modern churches” and reactionary tendencies. However:

  1. Let us please have enough fear of God to read Scriptures in context and not abuse them to buttress our own scripts!
  2. Focusing on nonconformity without the deep root of Holy Spirit mind renewal will not bear good fruit, leading only to deadly Romans 2 self-righteousness, Romans 14-15 judgmental church members, and an ossification of traditions that prevents the Romans 16 in-gathering of all nations.
  3. I’m not sure it’s good theology to base our separation from the world on attempts to find modern external equivalents to fringes of blue… If that’s the basis for our current practices, then perhaps we understand the gospel as poorly as churches that require no obedience to God’s Word.