Reflecting Back, Looking Forward

Eberhard Arnold, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday:

“On this day I have been espe­cially conscious of my lack of abilities and of how unsuited my own nature is to the work I have been given, remembering how God called me and how I have stood in his way, with the result that so much of what God must have wanted to do has not been possible. When I look back on the years that Emmy and I have been seeking, it is a miracle that we are still allowed to be a part of this community. This is only possible because of God’s infinite power and forgiveness.

“Another thing concerns me very much: the powerlessness of man, even of the man who has been entrusted with some task. Only God is mighty. Even for the work that has been given us, we are wholly without power. We can­not fit one single stone into the structure that is the community. We cannot protect the community once it has been built up. We cannot devote ourselves to the cause using only our own strength.

“But I believe that this is precisely why God has called us: we know we are powerless. It is hard to describe how all our own power must be stripped from us; how it must be dropped, dismantled, torn down, and put away. What I wish is that this dismantling of our own self-will might be carried out to its full extent. This is not attained easily and will not happen through a single heroic decision. God must do it in us. But when even a little of our own power rises up, the spirit and authority of God retreats at the same moment and to the same degree.”

Eberhard Arnold was born July 26, 1883 in Konigsberg, Germany.  He died November 22, 1935.  In those 52 short years he established a community of believers called the Bruderhof that still exists today.  His writings and those of his children, some of those important to his thoughts and writings, and some of his grandson Johan Christoph Arnold can be found and downloaded at .

The story of his son’s life (J. Heinrich Arnold) and the continued growth and struggle of the Bruderhof after having been driven out of Germany by the Nazi regime is recorded in a book titled Homage to a Broken Man.  I highly recommend it’s reading.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting Back, Looking Forward

  1. I went to and read “Why We Live In Community”. What exactly is your idea of a community of Torah Believers? Would it be more of a community like the Orthodox (or Amish) tend to live in – or a “commune” like Arnold seems to be promoting? What is it that you are envisioning as a community?

    I know that Torah can only be truly lived out in terms of community – but what exactly is “community”?

  2. The Orthodox, the Amish, the Bruderhof, the 12 Tribes, these are all examples we can learn from. My specific vision comes from archaeological research on the Hebrew people in the 1st century C.E. and before. They lived in what is called an insula – a square-shaped row of homes surrounding an interior courtyard. I would like to see some sort of modern adaptation of that.

    As for details like will there be a shared purse, I’m not really worried about it. At first there certainly won’t be, but as we continue to explore real community we will develop along the lines that the Spirit and the Word guide us. And I suspect that the reluctance we experience when contemplating such an idea today will vanish in the face of true necessity and practical considerations.

    In other words, while I don’t think a common purse is the way to begin, and I’m not even necessarily advocating it as a goal to work toward, I wouldn’t be surprised if the lines of distinction between a common purse and individual earnings begin to blur.

    I’m ready to go there if the Father leads, how about you?

    (I also think personal protections would need to be built in to such a model, and that such a move would need to take place for a specific reason, not just because we felt like it was a good idea, but because the Father presented us with circumstances which seemed to require it.)

    You ought to read Homage to a Broken Man. It is a great book for presenting the positives and the negatives. It presents much to be emulated and a lot to be carefully avoided.

  3. So more like the cohousing community style – which to me appears to be a great mix of community with family structure while yet maintaining individual families. I very much appreciate the dependence upon the leading of the Spirit, wisdom and flexability that you are showing in all of this!!

    I’ll read that book.

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