Thank you Bennie Giesbrecht for giving me material for some relevant articles. Your book Keeping the Faith has provided a few morsels of information that profoundly underscore the points that I have been trying to make. I am thinking I will wrap up my review of your book but I have some more points that I wish to make.
Page 131 “Mennonites began to enjoy wealth and luxury and indifference set in.” How well this describes the Holdeman people of today. They enjoy wealth and luxury, and the indifference that has set in has had to be offset with a fierce legalism. Because true spirituality and Holy Spirit led living do not keep control over a system, a different structure has evolved. The Holdeman church has such power because they are family, because they all come from the same background. This introduces a very specific type of culture that bonds the people together. Wealth and luxury no longer mean that the group will disperse, but that the whole face of the group will change. It has always been the case that when the Mennonites have settled and become wealthy that spiritual coolness begins to take hold. These days the ministers are masking the fact of the spiritual coolness by forcefully hammering down the rules. People cannot get out. They have too much invested. The world around them is too difficult to absorb into their personal lives after generations of secluded and isolated society. Can you see the culture that has evolved? The power of the Church has more to do with culture than God.
Page 132 “A loss was perceived in the doctrine of excommunication and avoidance. They evidently did not succeed in halting the drift.” Ok, look at this. Bennie wrote this book at least 20 years ago, about the time the drift in the Holdeman church had been identified and addressed. Interestingly enough, the drift began to emerge as an issue shortly after the purge of the 70s, that great revival that was hailed as the revival to end all revivals. The church had been cleansed of much unrighteousness, only to find itself in the midst of a drift. Rather odd, don’t you think? A great revival should have brought on a renewed zeal for Christ, a commitment to following him at any cost. Instead, people had been forced to say whatever they had to say to get by, and suddenly the ministers found themselves facing a whole new problem; a drift. Here on page 132 we see that Bennie is more or less condemning the early Anabaptists because they were not able to halt a drift. He names many different ways in which this drift showed itself, but he continues to speak of excommunication and avoidance. Today, in order to make it look like the drift is being contained, excommunication and avoidance are held over people’s heads more often than ever before. It is interesting to note that often it is only the threat. If someone is out of order, the threat is so terrifying that they will verbally conform, and even though there is very little difference in their actual behaviors and practice, they have satisfied the staff. If a failure to halt the drift condemns the earlier church, then why does it not condemn the church of today? Have they halted the drift? Would they actually be able to say that they have “reversed” the drift? They remind one of the little Dutch boy who had his finger in the dike. You can stop up one leak, but others will spring forth just out of reach. Who can stop all of these leaks? Are there enough revival ministers, enough panels, enough members meetings, minister’s counsels to hold it all together? What is needed is true Holy Ghost revival, but this is prohibited from happening because it requires people to think for themselves and be willing to face any difficulty that might come. People desire their ease, their acceptance and the status quo. Who is willing to lose it all? I see very very few.
Page 173 “Surely it is the design of the enemy of the soul to destroy the people of God through any means possible, which includes the use of the economic system. His plan, his intention, is portrayed in the apocalyptic prophecy ‘And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand: or in their foreheads and that no man mighy buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Rev 13:16-17) Do we have our principles or faith established in such a way that in the last times, in the times when Satan is loosed, that there will be no compromising of our faith, no surrendering of the sovereignty of God for financial advantage? Do we, and will we, recognize and refuse the snares of Satan?
This is interesting if one also reads the book His Kingdom is Now by Samuel Byrnes. There appears to be a difference of opinion amongst the brethren. Let us see what Byrnes has to say about a mark, without which one will not be able to buy or sell. Page 14:
At the same time I would sometimes hear brethren make statements that seemed to me to belong more to the literal (dispensational) than to the spiritual (amellennial). For instance, I met one brother who believed in a literal mark of the beast that was yet to come. In fact he argued for it adamantly. His point was that the spiritual kingdom we are in is real, so therefore the mark must be real. I wasn’t sure if I could follow his logic.
Hey, notice that Byrnes is saying the opposite of what Bennie said. Bennie seems to believe in a literal mark of the beast, where Samuel Byrnes is scoffing at it. Whom shall we believe? Does a Samuel trump a Bennie? Has the official position of the church changed between the publication of the two books? Here we have two conflicting points of view. They need to get together on this and clarify their stand. Listen to what Byrnes says on page 15 of his book:
“We sometimes hear talk of a big computer over in Belgium called the Beast. This computer will supposedly be used to control everyone in the world to where they can’t buy or sell. Again, this is not new talk for me because I grew up with it. I would pose this question though: Does the fact that there might be something like this mean that it is a fulfillment of prophecy? To insist that this sort of thing is a fulfillment of prophecy forces one to accept an entirely different system of interpretation from what the church has historically embraced and taught. If time stands, we may very well witness the creation of a cashless society. We may even see efforts made to establish a one world government which may exercise more or less complete control over our economic lives. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of these things eventually came to pass. I do question though, whether they would be a fulfillment of a specific prophecy. I also question whether we as God’s people should concern ourselves overly much with these matters. It seems to breed a spirit of fear.
This is quite striking. He is saying that even though prophecy comes to pass, we should ignore it and not abandon his idea of the endtimes. He says that we are to hold to the traditional teachings even if world events show us that another interpretation of events might be accurate. He is saying that if a one world government should arise and a chip in the hand, and allegiance to this one world government should be required in order to maintain our economic position, we should ignore the possibility that this is indeed “the mark of the beast” and go ahead and allow ourselves to be marked. I’m not putting forth a position one way or another in this particular writing, but am showing you the absolute obtuseness of this kind of teaching. Never will they modify their position if it causes them to back up or change lanes in any degree. They will cling to their interpretation and beliefs even if actual events are unfolding according to the scriptures and another interpretation of prophecy. This should be very alarming to anyone who is watching world events with any kind of discernment. He really does not care to face great tribulation. He is going to ignore it and pretend it is not happening.
The main point of mentioning Mr. Byrnes and his book, however, is to point out that he and Bennie differ in their understanding of a literal mark of the beast. At least they did. Who knows what adjustments have been made in the meantime.