Review of “Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be”

The other day I finished reading Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be by John D. Roth.  It’s one of the best church books I’ve ever read–it definitely deserves re-reading.

In order to avoid the common mistake of telling the Anabaptist story by starting in the sixteenth century, Roth opens up by relating the story of Jesus and His first followers, and summarizes the first three centuries of the Christian faith.  He then moves to the conversion of Constantine, the Roman emperor, and explains why that was a defining moment in the history of the church.

Roth provides an overview of the next thousand years, then explains the events of the Protestant Reformation.  Only then does he introduce the Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of the story.  Indeed, only against the background of the early church, the Catholic church, and the Reformation can we really understand Anabaptists as the reformers of the Reformation.  Only in this context can we see the striking parallels between the early church and the sixteenth-century Anabaptist movement, and between the sixteenth-century movement and the position we find ourselves in today.  (The parallels with today’s Mennonite church can be seen in various periods all throughout the history of the Anabaptist movement.)

As I continued reading, I was really appreciative of the scope Roth uses to tell the Anabaptist-Mennonite story.  It really is unique!  He gives us the how and why of Anabaptists’ break with the Protestant reformers, gives a straightforward account of their persecution (neither exaggerated nor understated), and explains the scattering of the Anabaptist-Mennonite church across the globe and how this dispersion has affected the faith.

Consistent with the insight and depth of the book, Roth brings us up to the present day (very present–the book was published only 10 months ago) and helps us understand what impact our past has on our present and our future.  He explains the trademarks that distinguish Mennonites from other Christians and helps us to see them as the framework for understanding the future path of the church.

I won’t get into the details of Mennonite history and theology here, since this is just a review of the book and not a retelling of it.  But I strongly encourage you to check it out for yourself.  It’s a very informative, well-written, sensibly organized, fascinating handling of the Mennonite story.  It’s an easy read, but thought-provoking as well.  Several times I was struck by Roth’s insight and had to put the book down to reflect on the powerful truths he illuminated.

Whether you’re intimately familiar with the Anabaptist-Mennonite story or have never even heard of it, this book would be a great place to learn more about this amazing chapter in the story of God’s dealings with people.

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Published in: on September 29, 2007 at 8:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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