When I began making my way through Holdeman’s book, I indicated that I was starting with chapter one. As I move through it I see that there are no chapter divisions, it is all one chapter, so from here on I will designate by page numbers.
As I am reading at approximately the 120 page mark and onward, I see that Mr. Holdeman is dwelling at great length on the idea that the Old Testament Jews were God’s church. It is not my intent to comment on the truth or fallacy of that statement right here, but rather to point out the problems in his methods.
We have heard that idea that if one is to tune a piano, one should always tune it to the tuning fork than to another piano. The tuning fork has the truth. If you tune a piano to another piano, there is the chance, in fact, the certainty, that you will be off, because the piano loses it’s true tuning. It always has to be tuned again to the tuning fork. This is the problem I see with much of John Holdeman’s writings. He claims the rightness of his position because some ancient writer agrees with him. He proves that Menno held a certain position, or that Dietrich Philip did. He links hands with these long dead men to form what he believes is an unbreakable chain. Dear friends, in all honesty, can you tell me where the Bible teaches such things? I must again quote a scripture that I have used before…”For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ> (1 Cor. 3:11) Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. No other foundation is sure.
He does a lot of proving as to how they carried out excommunication and shunning. Perhaps his time could have been better spent teaching about true salvation from a scriptural standpoint, and forgiveness of sins. He teaches more about condemnation and judgment. He spends some time condemning usury, but what would he think of the Holdeman people today? They refrain from collecting usury, but pay it in huge amounts so that they can operate on a grand scale. They receive money from the Schowalter Estate that is generated from usury, so could we assume that usury is only wrong when it comes from one’s own holding? Is it good to take interest money when someone else holds the principle? What would John Holdeman himself think of this? There is another inconsistency here and it is that if a brother has money, he is forbidden to put it into the bank and draw interest, but he can buy property and rent it out and thereby gain. If the idea is that we give of our money and we are generous, that we do not oppress the poor, could the wealth of the brethren not be put to better use? I don’t necessarily condemn usury, or the drawing of interest, but I am simply pointing out where Holdeman’s teachings are not being followed in this area. He also condemns other historical groups because they did not practice the laying on of hands at baptism, but forgets to mention that he was not ordained by the laying on of hands. There are many inconsistencies and gaps if one will look for them with an honest mind. It is not the intention to simply bash John Holdeman, but rather to encourage people to learn to think critically, and to discern error, even if it means discarding the teachings of one’s parents or a dearly respected minister. Can you walk alone? The bible tells us we must be prepared to. If it means separating from parents and family, from loved ones, then we must be willing. It is a sad thing to do, but the joys of knowing Christ far outweigh the burdens.
On page 136 he tells us that the Baptists also claim lineage through the Waldenses and Mennonites, but he disqualifies them. He says “I would yet remark that they never could have belonged to the true and faithful Mennonites, for they would not have received them into their community, in their covetousness, avarice and usury, and worldly mindedness in building of houses and meeting houses, and such pride inpomp of dress, and many other lusts of the eye and flesh and in the pleasures of this life….” By this statement he condemns the Church of God in Christ Mennonite of today. Today the Holdeman people are wealthy and at ease. They build churches costing upwards of a million dollars, when something much simpler would suffice. New homes are built on the grandest scale and clothing and furnishings are of the finest. Much unnecessary travel takes place and a great deal of entertainment has taken the place of spirtitual meetings. The array of activities for young people and older ones as well is staggering. Pot lucks, cookouts, games, picnics are written into the schedules sometimes 3 or 4 times a week. Once again I am not criticizing anyone’s lifestyle,per se, but am saying that according to John Holdeman, the present day Church of God in Christ Mennonite would be disqualified from the lineage. After all of this he launches into his condemnation of baptism by immersion, apparently unmindful of the fact that the word baptize (baptizo) means to immerse. I thought he had studied Greek. He bases his chosen method of baptism on what he believes is the historical mode of other lineage groups. Not good enough, Mr. Holdeman. Your tune is sounding rather flat! Go find your tuning fork!