Here are several essays I have written on theological, exegetical, and historical topics. I’m keenly aware none of them is perfect, but I pray you will find them useful in understanding the Scriptures and living together as Christ-communities. Your constructive responses are welcome.

The “Divorce Evil” and the Response of the Mennonite Church (1880s to 1905) — In 1905 the Mennonite Church in the United States and Canada officially resolved that no divorced and remarried person should be accepted as a church member. How did they arrive at this absolute position, given the strong consensus among early Anabaptists that divorce and remarriage were permitted in cases of adultery? The reasons are complex and not fully clear. I have written several blog posts discussing various historical factors that probably helped pave the way for the Mennonite Church to take a harder stance against divorce and remarriage… In this paper I will discuss several more immediate factors… These factors include the development of Mennonite periodicals, the practice of church conferences, the eventual development of a General Conference, and, perhaps most importantly, a growing concern about the ‘divorce evil’ in America… I will share a lot of primary source evidence, mostly from Mennonite periodicals, that shows how Mennonites took an increasingly hardline stance against divorce as they became increasingly concerned about the ‘divorce evil’ in society around them.Note: To discuss this essay, visit this blog post where I first shared it.

Red Letter Reductionism “This essay is about red letter theology and red letter Christians. It is about the authority of the New Testament and the nature of the gospel. First, we need an introduction to red letter Christianity. Then we will ask whether it is harmless. To answer our question, we will consider the promise of the Spirit, the limits of pre-Pentecostal revelation, and the nature of apostolic authority. We will take a close look at Paul, examining his gospel and his apostolic claims. We will examine John 3:16 as a test case for red letter theology and then ask whether this theology paints a shrunken, two-dimensional Jesus. We will consider the relationship between the Sermon on the Mount and the gospel and ask whether Anabaptists are truly excited about the gospel. Finally, we will consult Matthew’s opinion on red and black letters, then conclude with two clarifications and five suggestions for readers of this essay.” Note: Two good places to discuss this essay are here (where I reference an older version of this essay) and here (when I posted a 2017 version of essay).

Giving Account for Our Use of Hebrews 13:17“Of all the verses in the New Testament that exhort Christians to honor their spiritual leaders, perhaps the strongest is this verse in Hebrews 13. No other verse, after all, uses the word “obey” to describe the relationship of Christians toward their church leaders… What kind of relationship does this verse depict between leadership and the rest of the church? What kind of authority does this verse give to local church leaders? What obligations does it suggest church members owe their leaders? What does it suggest about church membership? Why did the author of Hebrews include this verse for his readers?… Here I would like to sketch, as clearly as I can, some of my conclusions about what this verse means and how we should and should not use it today.”

“I was delighted to see that Dwight had written an essay on the oft-misinterpreted and oft-misapplied verse in Hebrews (13:17a) that implies we are to “obey our church leaders.”The essay is both deeply humble and exegetically precise. In it, he challenges the consensus view. I encourage you to read this powerful and relevant article in its entirety... My hearty thanks to Dwight for these very helpful clarifications. It this is a topic that interests you, I urge you to peruse his entire website.As you read Dwight’s essay, try to keep an open mind, especially if you’re involved in a church that requires you to sign a church membership covenant. No, I’m not pretending that Dwight’s interpretation is not without problems or is adequate in and of itself. But I am convinced that something like this has the potential of edifying the body of Christ in a very big way.” —David Alan Black, professor of New Testament at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of multiple books, especially on NT Greek. (See Black’s blog and scroll down to Wednesday, April 1, 2015, 9:34 a.m.)

125 Years of Seven Ordinances: An Historical and Biblical Review **ABBREVIATED ROUGH DRAFT** — “Why do conservative Mennonites traditionally observe seven ordinances? What is the biblical or historical basis for this practice, or for the term ordinance? How has the observance of seven ordinances become for some a primary mark of the true (or at least truest) Church? And if these ordinances are so important, can you list them? In case you can’t, here they are: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, foot washing, the holy kiss, the Christian woman’s veiling, anointing with oil, and marriage. In this essay I would like to sketch the historical origin of our list of ordinances, compare our traditional understanding with the Bible, and propose some responses.”  Note: For explanation of why I’ve posted a rough draft, and to discuss this draft, please see this blog post.


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2 thoughts on “Essays”

  1. I came across your blog via several rabbit trails I was on. 🙂 I have to say I have been greatly blessed. I have seen some of your responses on Asher Witmer’s blogs and in following his writings I am happy about the questions that are being asked and the careful thought given to the authenticity and biblicity (is that a word? :)) of today’s Anabaptist churches. The essay on “Red Letter Reductionism” resonated in a powerful way with my own thoughts and experience. I am one of those who have left a very conservative Anabaptist setting in reaction to an over emphasis of Kingdom ethics at the expense of the great doctrines of theology. I value my heritage and many of the truths that I have been taught and still adhere to some of the classic Anabaptist teachings (Headcovering, non-resistance, etc). I have however a much deeper motivation to follow them because I now see the gospel as a work that Christ did on my behalf; He sought me, He called me and He saved me. And He continues to sanctify me as I walk in obedience to Him. It is now about the work He did and not so much about what I can “do” to stay “saved”. I am confident that He will complete what He has begun in me. I could say much more and I realize that it is impossible to give a good summary of my journey in such a little bit of space. What I really want to say is that I am greatly encouraged to see, bit by bit, a return to the true gospel in our Anabaptist circles, the gospel of good news of Christ’s redemptive work and the power of grace to motivate us to walk in holiness! Thank you!

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