One of the things that first got me jazzed about Mennonite theology was how Mennonites talk about “the Third Way.” It’s a phrase the Mennos have used to describe their historic refusal to be conformed to the kind of thinking that, frankly, makes wars.
Even back when Menno Simons was mixing it up in the radical reformation, Anabaptists didn’t agree with forcing Christians to choose a Protestant or Catholic side. Anabaptist ideals are that no one should be forced to do anything, and even today we don’t consider ourselves Catholic or Protestant.
Third Way thinking is foundational to peacebuilding and conflict mediation in Mennonite tradition. When two sides face off with mutually exclusive demands, it takes creative thinking to find a way around the binary options; that is, to find a “third way” that doesn’t require one side to dominate the other.
It’s easy for me to see why people from outside the Mennonite church would find this idea attractive, and it drew me in right away. In the forward to a classic book about this aspect of Menno theology (Paul M. Lederach’s A Third Way) mustard seed conspirator Tom Sine writes,
“And I would urge persons in the Anabaptist tradition to share this book with their non-Mennonite friends. Many Christians are looking for a third way. I urge Mennonites not to keep their biblical insights under a basket, but to share their understandings with Christians from other backgrounds.”
“Third Way” talk is big in the Emerging conversation. Emergent writers and speakers and bloggers consistently resist demands to choose sides. Liberal/conservative, high church/low church, saved/unsaved, heaven/hell – there’s a lot of mystery in emerging theology, and we’re ok with living in the tension of refusing to choose. Thinking this tension through has led to a new emerging use of “third way” language that the Mennonites have been working with for 500 years.
Justin at Radical Congruency looks for a third way:
“Conservatism is …. too intolerant, and liberalism is …. equally intolerant, though in the opposite direction. Neither is good enough for me as a follower of Christ. There has to be more, has to be a third way that is better.”
Third Way Café explains their name:
“Many times we think there are only two choices or options when actually there is a third or alternate way between two choices”
Emergent Village national coordinator Tony Jones explains why he was happy to speak with emerging Jewish counterparts:
“As emerging Christian leaders have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort to find a new, third way, we’ve been desperate to find partners for that quest.” [via Doug Pagitt’s blog]
Dig the blog title of Menno Pastor and Emergent media counselor Shane Hipps:
“Third Way Faith::Blog”