Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In these two papers, Menno challenged the church of his day on many of the fundamental issues that have been debated throughout church history. His beliefs include that the Bible is the word of God and should be literally applied as instructions for Christian life and that baptism is for believers on confession of faith, not for infants who could make no such confession. The bread and wine of the Communion are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, not literally converted into such during Communion. Salvation is not earned but granted by the grace of God, dependant only on the faith of the believer and not earned in any other way. However, true believers demonstrate their faith by living as they are commanded to live in the writings of the New Testament. Those who profess belief but live in opposition to the principles taught in the New Testament are not Christians at all and have no claim on the promises made to Christians.

The principles espoused by Menno in these and other works were embraced by some Anabaptists, who later identified themselves as Mennonites in honor of Menno. The Mennonites disagreed on the interpretation of these and other issues and split repeatedly. In one of these splits, in 1693, Jacob Amman and his followers separated from the Mennonites to form the Amish community. One question leading to the split was that of separation from the world and maintenance of a simple life more or less free of worldly technology. Subsequently, the Amish split into several groups, the most fundamental of which still reject or restrict the use of many modern conveniences (such as automobiles, televisions, and telephones) to maintain their separation from the world and proximity to God. The Christian themes of forgiveness and repaying evil with good were profoundly demonstrated by a Pennsylvania Amish group in 2006. A non-Amish man took ten Amish schoolgirls hostage. He shot all of them, killing some and seriously injuring the others, then shot and killed himself. The response of the relatives of the dead and injured girls was to forgive the perpetrator and to pray for him and his relatives. The principles and spirit of the “Confession” and “The New Birth” were still affecting lives four and one half centuries after they were written.