Reformation 500 WEEK 12 the Anabaptists Part 2
The ana-baptizers or re-baptizers (they called themselves simply Brethren) not only rejected their Roman Catholic infant baptism, but they rejected Luther and Zwingli’s attempts to reform the catholic church by the Bible, attempting instead to start from scratch and build a new church from the New Testament alone.
Both Zwingli and Luther accepted, in varying degrees, the union that existed between church and state. Zwingli defended this union on the principle that Christians are obligated to reform all of life (even the state) according to Scripture. Many reformers later rejected the union of church and state but without also rejecting infant membership in the Christian church by virtue of the covenant of grace.
To the Anabaptists, separation from worldliness meant separation from the world; and the state belongs to the world. On the basis of Matthew 5-7, the “Anabaptists thought that the only proper response to the challenge of living in but not of the world is Christianity against culture” (Nichols, The Reformation, 63).
Some Anabaptists were more extreme than others. Thomas Muntzer, originally an advocate of Luther, advocated radical reforms “as one of the leaders of the Peasants’ revolt” (Nichols, 60). Claiming the inner light of the Spirit was more important than the written word of Scripture, he felt that true believers “should join in a theocratic community to bring about the Kingdom of God” (Gonzalez, 41). He led a meager army of peasants into battle at Frankenhausen. “His inner light informed him to kill the godless nobles,” and when his army was defeated, “he was beheaded [May 27, 1525]” (Nichols, Luther, 143).
“It was partly as an attempt to curb extremism among their ranks that a number of Anabaptist leaders met in Schleitheim, Switzerland, in 1527…and issued the Confession of Schleiteim [the first theological confession of the Reformation],” containing “the seven fundamental practices and principles held by most Anabaptists” (Gonzalez, 70): (1) believer’s baptism only; (2) those who refuse to amend their lives after two private admonitions are banned from the community; (3) the Lord’s Supper is for believers only; (4) true believers must separate themselves from all that is not united with God and Christ; (5) the qualifications for clergy leave out the need for formal training; (6) Christians must be pacifists; (7) Christians must not swear an oath, for Jesus said, “Do not swear at all” (Matt. 5:34).
Since false doctrine was an offense against both the Church and the State, heresy was a crime punishable by the government. Both Catholics and Protestants regarded the Anabaptists “as a revolutionary sect, dangerous to society,” and thus they “were imprisoned, fined, drowned, burned at the stake, tortured” (Kuiper, 207).
In 1533 certain Anabaptists proclaimed that the city of Munster in Westphalia, Germany, “was going to be the new Jerusalem with community of goods and without law.... Soon Munster was besieged by an army of Catholics and Lutherans… At last, on June 24, 1535, the city was taken. A terrible massacre followed. The leaders were horribly tortured” (Kuiper, 208).
Today the direct descendants of the Anabaptists (minus the revolutionary violence) are the Mennonites, the Hutterites, and the Amish.
NOTE: These Posts were written and designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .
Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert: Reformation500 The Anabaptists Pt 2
For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 12
|Official Seal of the RCUS|
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS). As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began. We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.