I have been doing a lot of studying and reading and I am ready to write a new post based on some of the things I have learned. Unless these things are exposed to the light, many people will continue to be held in the grips of religious bondage and mind control.
I have been reading from Ben Giesbrecht’s book, Keeping the Faith. I want to spend some time going through this book and dealing with some of the methods which I see that are used to keep people’s minds under control. He teaches at great length on the lineage and makes what might seem to be a very strong case for the Holdeman church being the One True Church, based upon what might appear to the unthinking reader to be an unbroken lineage from the time of Christ until now. Let us assume for a moment that an unbroken lineage is in fact a necessity in order for a church to be a “true church.” Does Giesbrecht prove with any clarity that there is in fact such an unbroken lineage? It would be useful for any interested reader to do a thorough study, but the truth is, any claims of lineage are shady at best. If one puts importance on a lineage, then one should be able to prove it with absolute certainty. There is no such certainty in any of the claims of lineage. The writers are reduced to quoting writers that lived centuries ago who appear to have some of the same beliefs held by the Holdemans today. They rely extensively upon the Waldenses, and even the Cathars. At another time I will give more information on these two sects, but association with them should be treated very cautiously. There is a very accurately researched historical novel about the Cathars in France at the time of the Inquisition, called The Good Men by Charmaine Craig, which reveals exactly the kind of people the Cathars were. The Cathars were known as The Good Men, and there is also a ten hour video series on youtube that gives historical information about the Inquisition. This series is based on information which comes from files that were recently released from the archives of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church kept extremely accurate records of the Inquisition, (priests recorded accurate transcripts of many trials) and there is a huge hoard of these files kept at the Vatican. When a portion of these files was released, a story of fascinating proportions emerged. Lest anyone claim that these are made up stories and the stories of John Holdeman and other Mennonite writers are the more accurate, keep in mind that these are the true stories as recorded by the Catholic Church, and it is not a flattering picture. However, this is where a true picture of some of the heretical sects of the day emerges. Just because they were tortured by the Inquisition does not mean that it is wise to associate oneself with such. And yet, somehow a picture of them has been passed down which encourages so-called Holdeman scholars to identify with them. I have watched the series on youtube but I am unable to locate it in its entirely right now. Here is a link to the PBS website that has some information about the Cathars. http://www.pbs.org/inquisition/cathars.html There is also a link on the page to a pdf that gives more information. Read this and you will see the questionable logic in linking one’s lineage to the Cathars, Albigenses and Waldenses. If I locate the entire series of ten videos, I will post it at another time.
In any case, let us proceed with a look into Ben Giesbrecht’s book. To be fair, the book is well-written and put-together. It just so happens though, that he is pursuing an entirely futile goal. A lineage which proves that today’s Holdeman church is the One True Church is a waste of good time. This creates an idolatry that should be alarming to anyone who truly wishes to follow Christ. The church becomes an iron-clad bubble that insulates the individual from true access to the Godhead. Everything must come through the filter of the church, the ministers, and the entrenched beliefs. Anyone wishing to read the Bible independently, to listen honestly to the voice of God through the medium of the Holy Spirit and to act independently and accordingly will find himself in much the same shoes as the long-ago martyrs of the Cathars and Waldenses. In this regard they are an historical pattern. Don’t forget the Holdeman purge of the early 1970s. During this time “heretics” were rooted out and expunged. The psychological and spiritual/emotional torture of that time was quite unbearable, and could be compared to the physical torture and death of the middle ages. The methods were eerily similar.
On page 122-123 Giesbrecht makes some assertions that bear a closer look, for here he reveals the true nature of the heart of the Holdeman church. He has been expounding at some length on the lineage and the claims of being the one true church when he says this: “Many would be the consequences of abandoning this vision. There would be AN IMMEDIATE LOSS OF POWER (emphasis mine.) We would make ourselves susceptible to the immense flood of diverse teaching and interpretation that abounds in our day,and there are many points of view that are brilliantly expounded. If we lack conviction that we are in the true faith, where truth is protected, we reach out to other options. The result is confusion and lack of unity.
This approach is consistent with Anabaptist belief. Henry Bullinger, a reformed church leader of the sixteenth century wrote that the Anabaptists maintained and demonstrated and taught “the one true God-blessed church and community of Christ….and of course shall have nothing in common with Evangelicals or any other church.” They hold to this their church, alone, and have no community at all with other churches.
In the next paragraph he makes this claim, speaking of the avoidance: “Loss of application in this article of faith would result in loss of power in this important area.”
Do you find this troubling? I do. Here he freely admits that “power” is necessarily wielded by men in the propagation of the One True Church. Power held by men is always a scary thing. It blatantly invites corruption. Nowhere does he speak of the power of Jesus Christ to heal, to deliver and to set sinners free. He speaks of the power of the church to reprimand, excommunicate and subsequently shun individuals so that the Church can remain pure. There have been untold rivers of tears shed and hearts broken when individuals have been on the receiving end of this “power.” Power cannot implement mercy. Power must wield an iron fist. Power is worked out behind closed doors and implemented with brutal force. Power does not listen to the plea of the widow, the mother or father, the young person or anyone who is struggling. Power puts the sanctity of the Church first, number one above all other considerations. Power can wipe you out in a meeting where your “case” is presented, with you having no opportunity to present an opposing viewpoint. The members of the church are required to acquiesce to the action, whether they agree with it or not, in order to escape the same fate themselves. This is the meaning of “power.” This is the Inquisition. This has become more important to the leaders, and even the people who are brutalized under it, than true Holy Spirit living, or a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Deep in their hearts the people know something is wrong, but because of the factor that is mentioned above, which must be implemented, they turn off their minds and allow themselves to be manipulated by fear and mind control. When Ben Giesbrecht claims that the One True Church teaching undergirds all else, he means it. First and foremost, it must be in place. Without it he has no power. Without it, church members would read and study for themselves and learn the truth. Without it they would doubt when he speaks. Without it they would have the courage to leave, believing that God exists fully in the universe, and not only within the iron bars of the Holdeman church.
Giesbrecht goes on at length, quoting ancient writers who state their “beliefs” about baptism, one true church, one true baptism, and other claims. How does he justify this? Where is the Bible? Where are the words of Jesus, when he says that the only commandment is to love one another and to love God? To abandon all to follow him? These are somewhat woven into the doctrine, but only within the context of the power of the teaching of the lineage and the one true church. Ponder this deeply.
I will have more to say about Ben’s writings, as well as more on the end times, please come back to read.