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JDM 2022

August 12-13, 2022

The Speaker

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Jonathan Seiling

Jonathan Seiling is a historian and translator with a specialized focus in two fields: early Anabaptism and concepts of “nature” in religious philosophy (PhD, Toronto, 2008). As an undergrad student he first became interested in Anabaptist studies through courses with Werner Packull. He has collaborated with several scholars on major translation projects and is the publisher at Gelassenheit Publications (est. 2012).
Raised in rural south-western Ontario and baptized as a Mennonite, he has worked in various roles including youth summer camps, youth pastor/worker, and refugee/immigration services. He has also taught courses at several universities, including a two-year position at the Institute of Peace Church Theology at the University of Hamburg, working with Fernando Enns on ecumenical projects (2014-16). In partnership with Emmy Barth Maendel, he is preparing a translation of Jakob Hutter’s writings and a collection of documents surrounding his life and ministry.


2022 Lectures

Early Anabaptists on Gewalt, Gelassenheit, and Ordnung

In Tyrol and Moravia, during the 1530s early Anabaptists were forced to reflect theologically on how a Christian should respond to violent persecution. Was violence permitted by God in any circumstance? What does that Bible say about God’s ordained authorities using “the sword?” Initially Anabaptists explored a diverse range of ethical options, many of which contrasted sharply with both Catholic and Protestant views on these matters. Having experienced the violent peasant revolts of the mid-1520s, Anabaptists began to articulate what could be called varieties of non-violence. In the Tyrol, the imperial authorities also used the calamity of the Münsterite rebellion to justify harsher persecution in the mid-1530s. We will consider the two decades between 1526 and 1545 and contrast ideas on “the sword” held by Anabaptist writers, and clarify their rather unique Anabaptist positions on non-violence and their relationship to the governing authorities. Beginning with the debate at Nikolsburg, centering around Hans Hut and Balthasar Hubmaier, in which the Schwertler and Stäbler traditions became identified, various Anabaptist writings provide evidence of a complex series of arguments, some of which have received scant attention by scholars.
Throughout these controversies we will note how early Anabaptist ideas reflected upon Gewalt, Gelassenheit, and Ordnung, as key pervasive elements. In an era of formation as a separated Anabaptist Gemeinde, amid persecution and struggles for economic survival, the nascent Hutterite tradition faced specific options in terms of a non-violent ethic and developed a consistent confessional position, even in the midst of tensions with neighbouring Anabaptists. The conclusion will offer a conceptual summary of non-violent Anabaptist writings to point out where gaps and unresolved challenges can be found.

In the three lectures we will explore the writings and ideas of Anabaptists in the Tyrolean and Moravian contexts, including:

Lecture 1: Gewalt
Clemens Adler (1529), in contrast to Wolfgang Brandhuber, Hans Hut and Balthasar Hubmaier
Friday, August 12, 2022, 7:30 PM CST

Here we look at the concept of the Spirit and Word, how the Bible offers conflicting views on violence and how Hut, Hubmaier, and Adler suggested conflicting biblical passages could be interpreted. Does God ordain the Sword for use by the pagan government, while forbidding it for the elect? In an era of horrific persecution, how could this view be justified? Brandhuber’s statement on the sword is also a foundational marker for the development of non-resistance in the Stäbler tradition.

Lecture 2: Gelassenheit
David Burda, “the Bohemian” from Schweintz (c.1530/31, Commentary on Romans 13 ) in contrast to Jakob Hutter and Jeronymus Kaels
Saturday, August 13, 2021, 9:30 AM CST

In this case, Burda’s text provides further context for the split in the Austerlitz community, leading to the exodus with Reublin to Auspitz. Burda’s argument for how Romans 13 provides a clear mandate for Christians to remain nonresistant is coupled with the notion of how the state can justify the use of violence. Hutter’s subsequent letter to the authorities is an example of protest and admonition for justice, while Kaels’ confessional document written from prison (1536) offers a key “Hutterian” statement on nonresistance.

Lecture 3: Ordnung
Gabriel Ascherham in contrast to Peter Riedemann
Saturday, August 13, 2022, 1:30 PM CST

Ascherham’s virulent and disdainful critique of Hutter is well known, but his view on government and nonviolence has rarely been explored. Here we will see the continuities and contrasts of his writing (c.1540) with two of Riedemann’s writings: the Confession of Faith and the lengthy letter which summarizes his positions (1545, also attributed to Jakob Hutter by Braitmichel).

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