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Brethren History – Conrad Beissel

by on August 6, 2014

“He (Beissel) depended upon emotional experience to yield intellectual guidance. The results of such a course are sometimes unusual to the point of being bizarre. Such was the case with Beissel.”
Studies in Brethren History, Floyd E. Mallott p.54.

Conrad Beissel was an extreme mystic. The problem of mysticism is notably illustrated in his life. “Emotional experience producing intellectual guidance” is a dangerous, spiritual course. Unfortunately it has been a chosen course of many people over many years.

Brethren, in their shift from Anabaptist to Pietist/mystic thought, have left the safety of truth and adopted the comfort of emotion and feelings. While the Pietist/mystic approach produces a warm devotion and fellowship, it cannot produce discernment and wisdom.

The net result has been a continual loss of stability among the Brethren. Emotion trumps truth. Politics trumps wisdom. Loyalty trumps Scripture. The list goes on.

Alexander Mack’s words continue to ring true:

“Where sin and error is not rebuked, but where it is said, ‘leave me alone in my own self-will, opinion and doing, and I will leave thee alone likewise; we will love one another, and be brethren.’ Alas! We have but too long stood in such pernicious, hypocritical love…. But now we have learned such a love, and have yet to learn it, which hate and reproves evil and wickedness.”

Small wonder then, that Mack was grieved with the leadership of Beissel here in America. The early Brethren were attracted to the charisma of Beissel and not to the steady direction of Mack. The resultant tension was very destructive.

It is time for Brethren to rethink their current direction. Mack calls for a rebuke of sin and error. He calls for a stand on truth. He would label many current Brethren situations, “pernicious, hypocritical love…” He experienced it among the Pietists and rejected it as wrong.

The no-force-in-religion idea has gone too far and has been misapplied. Individual conviction is useful to a point but that point has been passed. Loyalty is now the word for the Brethren. It will not work. It is not working. Are we going to be controlled by persuasive politicians like Beissel, or by thoughtful, Spirit-led, Godly men like Mack? That is the choice today just like it was in the early 1700’s.

The current culture and the politics of that culture represent the views of Beissel more than the perspective of Mack. The continued loss of spirituality and the concomitant loss of members in all Brethren groups witness against our current approach. It is past time for real revival.

What happens to someone who calls for revival? Jeremiah was accused of speaking against Jerusalem. He was essentially accused of disloyalty. Was he disloyal? He was the most loyal man in Israel/Judah in his day. For that he paid a price. A similar price must be paid today. Today, Brethren who call for real revival receive the same accusation.

Godly revival is not easy to recognize when life is processed by Beissel’s “guidance led by emotional experience” instead of by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

Are you willing to pay the price of being falsely accused? Are you willing to pay the price to secure a future for the Brethren? Does it matter? Does it matter to you? Are you willing to adopt the admonition of the founder of the Brethren? Or, do you prefer Beissel’s approach of emotions, enthusiasm and manipulation? Which will it be for you?

Alexander Mack’s approach was truthful, Spiritual, and Biblical. There are no issues of the Brethren that could not be cured by adoption of the above quote from Mack. He cuts to the quick and takes his stand for truth and right. That was Mack’s counsel for the Brethren of his day.

That is my counsel for the Brethren of this day.

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