Guy Hershberger made a significant contribution to the development of peace theology in the (Old) Mennonite Church. Perhaps the greatest service of this book is to explain clearly the centuries-old doctrine of nonresistance as understood by Mennonites in the mid-1900s.
Although nonresistance was held as a doctrine since the early days of Anabaptism in the sixteenth century, Hershberger helped expand the concept. Many of the new ideas that Hershberger posed were explorations of the social implications of nonresistance. Particularly as Mennonites assimilated into society, their neighbors pressed them with questions about social responsibility.
At the time when Hershberger penned this volume, nonresistance and nonconformity were intimately linked. Together they formed the two primary distinctives of the Mennonite Church at mid-century.
As nonresistance and nonconformity faded into the background, peace and justice took their place. Today, peace and justice as a rubric is spoken of as the primary distinctive in the Mennonite Church. Unlike the doctrines of nonresistance and nonconformity, which were founded on peculiarly biblical logic, peace and justice may be touted as ideals by even secular groups. In this vein, Hershberger’s clear delineation of the differences between biblical nonresistance and liberal pacifism will be of particular interest to contemporary readers.
Convictions about peace seem oddly out of place in a world where dictators rule with an iron fist and terrorists snuff out innocent lives in pursuit of a cause. We can thank God that Hershberger joined his voice with other faithful leaders who pointed to a better way. May we too be stewards of the charism of peace which Jesus gave to his disciples.