Just today, I came across a blog post in the newsfeed on someone’s Face Book page and it makes me stop and wonder do people actually take the time out to think about what they are saying? Is Anabaptism a joke now? Seriously, I see constantly people mix and matching things with Anabaptism and developing all these silly names. For instance, the article in question stated:
The truth is, I’m a misfit. Episcopanglican succinctly capturing the awkward dynamic of my being too traditional, i.e. paleo-orthodox, for The Episcopal Church and too untraditional, i.e. postfoundationalist, for the Anglican Church in North America. While I’m at it, however, I’ve decided to further complicate things by integrating my Anabaptist inclinations.
The new word? Anapiscopanglican.
This is almost as bad as Brian McLaren describing himself as a “missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.”
To me this type of stuff is disrespectful, and if those that originally were branded with the pejorative “Anabaptist” was around at presents what would they think? Yeah it is a push by some to redefine Anabaptism as this all-embracing ecumenical chorus of “We are the World”. Nevertheless, it is not.
Calvinism does not even have to deal with such issues where people feel that they can just add or take away whatever they like. I think many people have reasons for doing this; some do it because it is fashionable to do so. Some grew up around it and rejected it because it made them appear to be outsiders. While in the end some out of sheer ignorance of what the Anabaptists taught. R.C. Sproul illustrates my last point when addressing those that call themselves “four-point Calvinists”. He wrote:
There are a host of folks who call themselves four-point Calvinist because they can’t swallow the doctrine of limited atonement. Sometimes they say, “I’m not a Calvinist and I’m not an Arminian, I’m a Calminian.” I think that a four-point Calvinist is an Arminian. I say that for this reason: When I have talked to people who call themselves four-point Calvinists and have had the opportunity to discuss it with them, I have discovered that they were no-point Calvinists. They thought they believed in total depravity, in unconditional election, in irresistible grace, and in the perseverance of the saints, but they didn’t understand these points.
Only once have I encountered an exception to this general rule, one self-proclaimed four-point Calvinist who was not a no-point Calvinist. This person happened to be a teacher of theology. I was interested in his position, so I said to him: “I want to hear how you handle this, because I trust you. I know you’re knowledgeable in theology, and I want to hear ho you think this through.” I expected that he would not have an accurate understanding of the T, U, I, and P. But to my astonishment, when he went through them, I found that he had them down as clearly as an strict Calvinist ever articulated them. I was rejoicing, but also amazed. I said, “Now tell me about your understanding of limited atonement.” When he gave me his understanding of limited atonement, I discovered this man was not a four-point Calvinist, he was a five-point Calvinist. He believed in limited atonement and didn’t know it.
My point is that there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches. However, I think that if a person really understands the other four points and is thinking at all clearly, he mustbelieve in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic. Still, there are people who live in a happy inconsistency. I believe it’s possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, although I don’t think it’s possible to do it consistently or logically. However, it is certainly a possibility given our proclivity for inconsistency.
Consequently, I am going to refer to what the Schleitheim Confession states to answer in the voice of the Anabaptists themselves. Article IV reads:
We have been united concerning the separation that shall take place from the evil and the wickedness which the devil has planted in the world, simply in this; that we have no fellowship with them, and do not run with them in the confusion of their abominations. So it is; since all who have not entered into the obedience of faith and have not united themselves with God so that they will to do His will, are a great abomination before God, therefore nothing else can or really will grow or spring forth from them than abominable things. Now there is nothing else in the world and all creation than good or evil, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who are [come] out of the world, God’s temple and idols. Christ and Belial, and none will have part with the other.
To us, then, the commandment of the Lord is also obvious, whereby He orders us to be and to become separated from the evil one, and thus He will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.
Further, He admonishes us therefore to go out from Babylon and from the earthly Egypt, that we may not be partakers in their torment and suffering, which the Lord will bring upon them.
From all this we should learn that everything which has not been united with our God in Christ is nothing but an abomination which we should shun. By this are meant all popish and repopish works and idolatry, gatherings, church attendance, winehouses, guarantees and commitments of unbelief, and other things of the kind, which the world regards highly, and yet which are carnal or flatly counter to the command of God, after the pattern of all the iniquity which is in the world. From all this we shall be separated and have no part with such, for they are nothing but abominations, which cause us to be hated before our Christ Jesus, who has freed us from the servitude of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God and the Spirit whom He has given us.
Thereby shall also fall away from us the diabolical weapons of violence—such as sword, armor, and the like, and all of their use to protect friends or against enemies—by virtue of the word of Christ: “you shall not resist evil.”
I find the sentiments expressed in the comments section by a Paul Clutterbuck very interesting and on point. The comment states:
[T]rying to combine Anabaptist radical evangelicalism with a tradition that stands squarely within Christendom introduces a level of cognitive dissonance that for most people is difficult to resolve. Sure, you can attend a Mennonite church on Sunday morning, an Anglican church on Sunday night and an Episcopalian service during the week; the problem for many people is that the radical Reformation was intended as a critique of Christendom, and in my experience the Mennonite inheritors of the radical Reformation remain highly critical of not only the status quo but also the churches that they say have always supported it. That doesn’t mean they’re out waving placards against injustices and environmental degradation (although some may do that), but their eschatology does tend to be more pessimistic (most often dispensational-premillennial), and so is their view of the ability and role of the Church to do anything about the state of the world. So although you might be able to find a balance in your own life, you’ll end up disagreeing with just about everybody else.
One way of resolving the cognitive dissonance would be to remain in a more traditional context, but one that supports both evangelical faith and Christian Anarchism. Christian Anarchism, to my knowledge, is a more recent and postmodern movement across the whole Church that works to critique and (where necessary) subvert the status quo.
Even though the commenter resigns Anabaptism to Mennonitism he does recognize that “the radical Reformation was intended as a critique of Christendom”. You are doing a disservice to the Anabaptist movement by combining it with the very entity that it was in opposition. If you are an Anglican, Pentecostal or Lutheran remain there just attempt to find a church that allows its members to express themselves slightly beyond the parameters of said faith group. If one looks, at initial Anabaptist teachings and practices from a systematic perspective, everything they taught and did was interconnected and when you discard or replace one aspect the entire belief system loses its power.
In light of that if any traditional concepts of death was actually true, I would think it would be safe to say that the original first generation Anabaptists would be “rolling over in their graves” at the stuff that is carried on in their names. Much disfavor would be shown towards what’s been going on.
I think that from time to time I may write more spontaneous, less formal posts regarding the above type of treatment Anabaptism receives at present.