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Christian Communal Ism of the Hutterian Brethren

Christian Communal Ism of the Hutterian Brethren

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Published by: Charles Cobalt Forsythe on Jun 22, 2010
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http://www.anabaptistchurch.org/hutterite_community.htmVisited Apr 22 '09
“The Christian Communalism of the HutterianBrethren”
By Robert FriedmannAmerican Society for Reformation ResearchDecember 29, 1954The epistles and confessions of faith and the tracts [of the 16th century] by Jacob Huter, Peter Riedeman,Ulrich Stadler, Peter Walpot, and all the lesser known brethren, the numberless martyrs and witnesses to their faith, clearly disclose three major motives which produced the Christian communalism of the Hutterian Brethrenwhich has endured for almost 500 years. 
Motive one
is brotherly love in action, the strong longing of Christians for brotherly sharing and togetherness. 
Motive two
is "Gelassenheit," a term derived from the mystics and almost untranslatable. It means yieldingabsolutely to the will of God with a dedicated heart, forsaking all selfishness and one's own will. 
Motive three
, finally, is obedience to the divine commandments, understood as the inevitable consequence of the attitude of Gelassenheit. As one gives up one's own will, one naturally accepts God's commandments as the basis and guidepost for all further actions. 
Motive one
: the idea of love - brotherly togetherness and mutual giving and sharing - was present among the brethren at all times. It was the very center of Jacob Huter's work. He visualized the brotherhood as a greatfamily. Since in such a family all material things are shared as a matter of fact, this should also be the case in atrue Gemeinschaft, or community. And so we read throughout our records confessions like this: "Love is the tieof perfection. ... Where she dwelleth she does not work partial but complete communion. It means havingeverything in common out of sheer love for the neighbor. "Where Christian love of the neighbor does not produce community in things temporal, there the blood of Christ does not cleanse from sin." In short, "Private property is the greatest enemy of Christian love." In love, all men are considered equal and united in the onenessof the Spirit. The references to communal living in the Book of Acts in these early tracts, however, serves not asa motivation but rather as an undergirding of this love-motive, as an exemplification of how it works, and as anassurance that this way is the right one. It was never to be understood as a strict commandment of God to befollowed in obedience without any further questioning.The second motive is "Gelassenheit," a term of great richness, meaning self-surrender, yieldedness, the givingof one's self to God's guidance, even unto death. Among the Hutterites it also means the forsaking of all concernfor personal property, thus leading almost naturally to a complete community of goods. At the earliest period thisidea of Gelassenheit almost dominates the thought of the brethren. "To have all things in common, a free,untrammeled, yielding, willing heart in Christ is needed," writes Ulrich Stadler about 1536. "Whosoever is thusinwardly free and resigned (gelassen) in the Lord is also ready to surrender all temporal possessions." To therejoinder that such a community of goods is not a commandment of the Lord, the same brother answers asfollows: "To serve the saints in this way with all one's possession is true and genuine self-surrender (Gelassenheit), and it is also the way of brotherly love. In summa: one brother should serve the other, live andwork for him, and no one should do anything for himself." Elsewhere we read, "If you want to become a discipleyou must resign to such a Gelassenheit and must renounce all private property."

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