Moravians, peace ethics, and bridal mysticism

How’s that for an interesting grouping of topics? As The Hermeneutic Circle continues to get retooled, I am taking some time this week to review some of my guest posts over at The Pietist Schoolman. I’ve enjoyed revisiting some of the topics I wrote about there and I continue to be grateful to Chris Gehrz for these opportunities.

Next to my rant to the Bartons that I mentioned earlier this week, two of my more popular posts were about sex. (go figure) The first of these focused on part of 18th century Moravian theology — their “bridal mysticism.” Like various other Protestant groups, Moravians gravitated toward the biblical teaching that the church is the bride of Christ and that one day, Christians would be united with their groom in heaven. For Moravians, this led to all sorts of interesting ideas, including the notion that marital sex was a sacrament. Like all sacraments, intercourse was a physical act on earth, that mirrored a spiritual truth. You can read my post about this here. I should also note that more accomplished scholars, such as Craig Atwood and Paul Peucker have written extensively about this and know much more than I do. Peucker’s latest book, in fact, addresses a scandal in the church (which insiders call the “sifting time”) that was intertwined with teachings of bridal mysticism. Since writing this post, I had the privilege of reviewing Paul’s book in Fides et Historia.

Another post that received much attention was my take on Goshen College’s departure from the CCCU and what was then their new openness to hire faculty in same-sex relationships. I tried to tease out the ways this was playing out in predictable ways among evangelical observers. In addition, I wanted to clarify that Goshen’s stance toward those in same-sex relationships was an extension of more recent shifts in the way many Anabaptists practice an ethic of peace and justice — rather than it being a result of moral compromise or caving in to cultural pressure, as many evangelicals would assume. Read this post here.

The third post I’ll mention was another piece about the Moravians — an attempt to think about the moral tensions of using violence for the purposes of self-defense by looking at 18th century groups who wrestled with this question during the Seven Years War. (Nonresistance was not an official teaching of the Moravians, but many of them embraced it. For a full treatment of the topic, check out my article in the Journal of Moravian History from a few years back.) For me, these tensions came to mind as the nation continued/s to experience the horror of mass shootings. To most, perhaps, there would not seem to be any more moral dilemma about taking someone else’s life to defend one’s own or that of other innocent people, so even to raise the question may seem odd. But for those in peace traditions, it has been a difficult question for centuries. Here’s the post.

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