Separated Unto God– John C. Wenger, 1951
Separated Unto God – John C. Wenger
In 1951 J.C. Wenger wrote a book titled, Separated Unto God. The book has gone through several printings. It was a much needed breath of celestial air at the time. It is still a breath of that kind of air. It is not necessarily a simple book to but it is not really difficult either. Its basic premise is that the life of a believer in Jesus Christ is a life that is Separated Unto God.
The emphasis in the 1950s was to move in the direction of separation from the world. The world was deceptive. Education was potentially dangerous. The war was over. Life was good but, how to live a separated Christian life in such a world? We must be separate; but how? The Anabaptist community had been concerned about that question.
The Mennonite General Conference in 1944 and years following saw the need to put in writing some teaching on the subject of separation from the world. John C. Wenger was the man chosen to do the writing. His writing on the subject became the book: Separated Unto God.
In Wenger’s words,
“Two major convictions underlie the preparation and writing of his book. The first is that Christendom as a whole has not been sufficiently cognizant of the sharp separation between the church of Christ and Satan’s world. Even the small Christian denominations which emphasize nonconformity to the world have not always had a truly Biblical point of view. This book is therefore an effort to bring before the Christian of our day a witness to an area of truth in the Word of God which is commonly called nonconformity to the world, but which I have preferred to entitle separation unto God. The second conviction is that it is imperative to deepen the conviction with which the truth of separation unto God is held by members of (Anabapatist groups) and Society of Friends. The conception of the people of God as being separate from the world and as belonging exclusively to the Almighty is found through out the Bible.”
He follows this with examples from the Scripture and goes on to say,
“Being nonconformed to the world is not a matter of rejecting science and inventions, nor is it the maintenance of a cultural status quo, nor is it difference for its own sake. One cannot be nonconformed to the world by adopting a few symbols of nonconformity while remaining carnal and unspiritual in heart. Nonconformity to the world is the natural outcome of having been born again and of being alert to the spiritual issues which confront Christians living in a given culture”
“I have attempted to put down in writing the essentials of the position adopted originally by the Anabaptists over four centuries ago and as developed and augmented by the Mennonite Church and its sister bodies both in their oral and written teaching program since that time.”
He goes on to explain commonalities with Christendom but notes the emphasis of the Anabaptists on nonconformity to the world.
Dress issues had taken up much time in the Anabaptist groups in the late 1800s and early 1900s. How can we be separate? What approach can we take to fulfill the concept of being God’s people in this world? Wenger’s approach was based on the early Anabaptist idea of Two Kinds of Obedience. One kind is from obligation. The other is from principles and a child-like heart of love. Hence, Separated Unto God is not a book of rules but a book addressing many areas and applying principles for separation based on a focus on being like God and answering His call on life. He does not shy away from specific topics but tends to provide historical understanding of how transitions occurred.
Is this book useful today? Could the basic convictions underlying this writing help current Anabaptists find their way in today’s world? I think, yes. Rules, while useful, eventually run against changing times. Principles do not. The application of Scriptural principles will never go out of date.
It is time for a new book; a shorter one focused on applications of Scriptural principles for this age. The proliferation of innovation and invention in all areas calls for new thinking of application of Scriptural principles. Wenger did a great service to the Anabaptist community. A new book is now in order.
The complexities of modernity and post-modernity will require more intensity and concentration of applications of God’s Word to life. May the Good Lord raise up men and women with that level of conviction and dedication in our day.