Early Distinctions in Absonderung or Separation

It is correct to say that Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz did not desire to separate from the church but instead they desired to “try to win Zwingli and the Zürich government for a re-establishment of the apostolic church”.[1]  This imagined apostolic church they desired would take the form of a “tortured church state structure, led by a decidedly Christian government and by Zwingli, to which the majority of the population would belong.”[2]

This is seen shortly following the first disciples’ baptism in January of 1525 when “the churchgoers Zollikon . . . gathered in the church for worship. Their pastor, Niklaus Billeter, is about to mount the pulpit, when” Georg Blaurock entered the church.[3] Then between:

the two an excited conversation takes place before the congregation. Blaurock asks the pastor the rhetorical question of what he intends to do. Billeter answers as a good Zwinglian: “I will preach the Word of God.” Blaurock replies: “Not you, but I have been sent to preach.” Billeter calls his attention to the fact that he has been sent, namely, by his superior at the canon seat of the Grossmünster Church in Zürich, which for ages had engaged the clergyman for Zollikon.

Blaurock was not satisfied by this information and continued to talk. Meanwhile, Billeter had mounted the pulpit and had begun to preach. But Blaurock was still disturbing, and Billeter interrupted his sermon, came down from the pulpit and turned toward the door, certainly not to vacate the place in the pulpit for the disturber but to shorten the tumult.[4]

Then the congregants made it clear that they did not want the pastor to stop the sermon so Billeter returned to the pulpit and continued while telling the audience that “if anyone wanted to show him his errors he should do so privately in the personage, but not . . . in the church”.[5] In response Blaurock interrupted the sermon again saying “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you make it a den of robbers.”[6] He then took a stick he had with him and rapped it against a church pew four times ultimately ending with “Deputy Bailiff Wuest, who was present in the church, arose and threatened the disturber with jail if he did not immediately desist.”[7] Six months later in the town of Hinwil we see a similar incident in the church pastored by Hans Brennwald. When the people arrived:

to the regular Sunday morning service of the church and awaited the pastor. But before he . . . appeared, that is, before the service began . . . Blaurock stepped up into the pulpit and preached, introducing himself with the explanation: “Whose house is this? Is this God’s house where the Word of God should be proclaimed? Them I am here as an ambassador from the Father to proclaim the Word of God” . . . Brennwald came too late; he was not able to expel the intruder and had to call on the bailiff for help.[8]

These incidents reveals two things regarding the perspective of the proto-Anabaptists. For Blaurock “the development of Anabaptist movement in Zollikon was too slow. He wanted to attempt to convert the population, if possible, at one stroke through preaching in the church.”[9] Even though the movement began just months earlier Blaurock felt that he had a role to play in the purposes of God and his role was to set God’s house aright.  Thus his continued reference to Matthew 21:13 suggesting that the state Church was connected to God but was corrupted and needed cleansing.

Early on there were two kinds of separation or Absonderung, the first being “separation from the world and its evil works”.  It consisted of shunning the unbiblical and immoral teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. This calls back to Georg Blaurock’s thinking and behavior. The other form is full “separation from the church”.

Generally when addressing Absonderung people will reduce it to something as simple as saying that the early members of the Brethren in Christ (Brüder in Christo) later the Swiss Brethren (Schweizer Brüder) sought to remain attached to the state church until they were left with no alternative. As seen with Blaurock it can be argued that the Anabaptists embraced “separation from the world and its evil works” universally from the initiation of the movement. For instance when one looks at the one many people hold as the ‘father of Anabaptism’ Conrad Grebel. Grebel felt that every:

reminder of the Roman mass must be eliminated. In its place a simple Supper was to come, in which only the installation words were to be read, and which would not be taken in the church but in the homes of believers, without clerical dress, with ordinary bread and ordinary drinking cups, as a symbolic meal demonstrating the fellowship of Christians with each other and with Christ . . . Baptism should not be given to children but, according to the usage in the early church, to adults who have become believers, and should signify that we have washed from sin . . . Baptism and Lord’s Supper therefore . . . lacked sacramental character.[10]

This conception of the community of God was founded on Grebel’s Biblicism. That is, it was on “the basis of their interpretation of the authority of the Scriptures.”[11] And it was this hermeneutic that led Grebel and his companions “to withdraw from the Reformed folk church in Zurich and set out to establish a church form to correspond to the pattern of primitive Christianity, namely, a church of the few who have come to personal faith in Christ and have been baptized on the basis of their faith . . . . But Grebel did not preach withdrawal only from the folk church, but also from the life of the state.”[12] Before commenting on the contents of Grebel’s position, one more account needs to be considered.

The Zollikon congregation was granted permission by the Zürich Council “to hold private gatherings had been granted to the Anabaptists on February 7, 1525, at the same time when they were prohibited from maintaining a separate church.”[13] In addition to this they “were not to baptize any more, but among themselves they might meet for Bible study.”[14] Georg Blaurock appeared and the baptizing of adults commenced once again leading to more sanctions by the Zürich Council in March regarding “baptizing, that is, against founding their own church.”[15]

The Anabaptists obeyed the Council’s demands and they created their conventicles or “Bible groups” and “ignored the church services and the pastor” based on the directive given them back in February.[16] This was not what the Zürich Council desired, they “had intended such gatherings to take place within the church; that is, the participants in these Bible groups should also go to church and regard themselves as members of the state church.”[17]

In August the Zürich Council forbade them from gathering privately and they were required to “go to church and there hear the word of God”.[18] Upon receiving this order the Zollikon Anabaptists gathered to decide how best to respond this this new mandate. The congregation arrived at the decision “to give up baptizing, simply live the Christian life together, and be obedient to my lords”.[19]  To put it another way, the “plan to organize an Anabaptist free church in Zollikon was buried; also the gatherings in the houses here and there were discontinued; the brothers would still remain bound to each other in the Christian spirit, but without an independent organization; they would render obedience to the regulations of the Council in regard to church attendance and membership in the state church.”[20]

In this instance we see that the Zollikon group began holding the same position as Grebel, a short while later they tried their best to maintain their autonomy within the parameters established by Zurich Council. When this was not enough they abandoned any thoughts of creating a community of genuine believers and began again to attend the Reformed state church. While this behavior seems out of character with the fearlessness and martyr’s spirit the Anabaptists are known for the reader has to be mindful that this was during the formative first year of the movement. With that being said while they conceded to the state church it was only in the areas of baptism and separation from the Reformed Church. No one are we told that they changed their views on any other matter.

From all of this we see that Conrad Grebel and the earliest Anabaptist community held to a position analogous to what is found in the Brüderlich Vereinigung or Schleitheim Brotherly Union that was drafted later in 1527. The Brotherly Union defined Absonderung in the following fashion. It says:

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.[21]

Therefore two years later the concept of Absonderung or separation comprised of a melding of separation from the church and separation from the world and evil works. But also at this time the accounts featuring Georg Blaurock and the fate of the Zollikon congregation demonstrate that separation in both areas was not universally and simultaneously held. They held both and one position

Another point worth looking at is how Anabaptists related to the state Churches varied by location. Blarock’s and the first Anabaptist congregation’s actions initially occurred in Zollikon then in Hinwil. But when you look at the city of Therwil you will get a different picture.

The Anabaptists relationship with the state church in the city of Therwil was a remarkably divergent from what occured in Zollikon and Hinwil. The Anabaptists actually thrived and functioned in the midst of the state church during the year of 1526. The reason being was that the priest that served there was considerate towards the Anabaptists and their message. This was evidenced by his benevolently opening his home to the Anabaptists for their meetings at the risk of his own welfare and life.[22] Thus from this chronicle it posits the fact that the state churches’ in an area response to the Anabaptist message early on determined how the Anabaptists viewed it and associated with it.

 

 

 

 

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[1] Fritz Blanke, Brothers in Christ: The History of the Oldest Anabaptist Congregation, Zollikon, Near Zurich, Switzerland (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), 20.

[2] Ibid., 12.

[3] Ibid., 29-30.

[4] Ibid., 30.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 31.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 14.

[11] Ibid., 15.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 67-8.

[14] Ibid., 68.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid., 69.

[20] Ibid.

[21] John Howard Yoder, ed., trans., The Schleitheim Confession (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977), 12.

[22] Johannes Gast, De Anabaptismi Exordio, Erroribus, Historijs abominandis, Confutationibus adjectis, Libri duo (Basel; 1544), 360.

 

My Absence and a Look at Free Will and Justification and Works

I’ve been extremely busy of late for the reason that I am entering into a PhD program. Well technically I am somewhat in except I had to revise my proposal to fit the parameters of the Historical Theology degree in place of the Religion Studies one that I was originally pursuing. During this whole revision period I had to familiarize myself with the original German language of the Anabaptists if you want to call it that. It is more like a semi-decent means of translating the material but anyway that explains why I have not posted anything in a while.

Even though I have not posted some good results was achieved overall in my understanding of Anabaptistica while writing the proposal. My comprehension of the nascent Anabaptist view of free will and justification has improved greatly. In order to accomplish this I had to return to a place where I initially caught the notion that the Anabaptists held to the notion of free will which was in the Brüderliche Vereinigung or the Schleitheim Brotherly Union. The very first article strongly states:

Baptism shall be given to all those who have been taught repentance and the amendment of life and [who] believe truly that their sins are taken away through Christ, and to all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and be buried with Him in death, so that they might rise with Him; to all those who with such an understanding themselves desire and request it from us; hereby is excluded all infant baptism, the greatest and first abomination of the pope. For this you have the reasons and the testimony of the writings and the practice of the apostles. We wish simply yet resolutely and with assurance to hold to the same.[1]

The portion of note is where the Brotherly Union speaks of “all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and be buried with Him in death, so that they might rise with Him; to all those who with such an understanding themselves desire and request it from us”.  J. C. Wenger translates this section as “to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with Him, and to all those who with this significance request it [baptism] of us and demand it for themselves.”[2] This passage was extremely controversial in the 16th century, so much so one would lose their life behind it.

To understand why this was the case one has to narrow the focus to be more specific, attention has to be on the term “desire” or “wish” in the case of Wenger’s rendering. These terms if read by someone that was Reformed they would immediately go on the offensives because of their belief in predestination. That one term challenges the very essence of the Reformed view of salvation. This is best illustrated in Ulrich Zwingli’s criticism of the Schleitheim Brotherly Union in his In Catabaptistarum Strophas Elenchus, 1527 (Refutation of the Tricks of the Catabaptists, 1527). He wrote:

For when they say that remitted are the sins of all who wish to walk in the resurrection of Christ and to be buried with him in death, they elevate free will, and next to that justification by works. For it is in our choice or power to walk in the resurrection of Christ, or to be buried with him in death, it is open for anyone to be a Christian and a man of perfect excellence. Then Christ spoke falsely the words: “No one can come to me except the Father who sent me draw him.”[3]

It is apparent that Zwingli immediately took notice of the term and how it is associated with the concept of free will.[4] The act of desiring something or to wishing for something is situated at the point prior to action but results from the unhindered mental conception of something. Zwingli rightfully sees it as an action thus exercising the free will is a work that leads to righteousness. In the previous quote he said that the first article elevates “justification by works” alongside free will. He charges “For they who trust in works make Christ of no effect”.[5] The reasoning is that Zwingli believes that if a person can wish or desire to “walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and be buried with Him in death” and ultimately to choose “to be a Christian and a man of perfect excellence” they control their salvation. This is stated even though the Swiss Brethren qualified their statement by saying that the person had to be repentant and modified their way of life prior to baptism. Zwingli acknowledged this but he felt that it was just subterfuge on the part of the Brethren. He wrote “[T]hey conceal justification by works, and though they admit remission of sins through Christ here, they clearly deny it elsewhere.”[6]

The Swiss Brethren never refuted the claim that they believe in free will. It is implied throughout all of their extant writings. However they did deny the notion of works righteousness. They believed they are saved by faith that works. That is works are so interconnected with faith that salvation is not possible without them. Around the same year as the drafting of the Brüderliche Vereinigung its primary contributor Michael Sattler is credited with penning the work known as Von der Gnugthuung Christi or Concerning the Satisfaction of Christ. In this document Sattler demonstrates the reality and gravity of the role works play in salvation. When speaking of the Protestant Reformers or “scribes” as he disapprovingly calls them Sattler critiques their interpretation of certain salvation related texts.

the scribes interpret as if a person could be saved through Christ whether he do the works of faith or not. If such were the case, why then should Paul say [in] Romans 2 that God will render to everyone according to his works, namely eternal life to those who strive after glory, praise and immortality with perseverance in good works, but to those who are quarrelsome and are not obedient to the truth, but are obedient to the evil, there will come disfavor and wrath, tribulation and anxiety, [namely] upon all the souls of men who do evil. He says, [in] Romans 2, Not those who hear the Law are righteous, but those who do the Law.[7]

Sattler reference to the second chapter of Romans encompasses verses 5-13 that advances the concept of:

“the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”

This scriptural passage contains what some at present deem “eschatological justification”, that is in due course the God of the Bible will render judgment on the entire world or a final justification will be carried out based on works one has exhibited in life.[8] In light of this we see that the Swiss Brethren didn’t deny justification through faith but the type of faith they spoke of is one that would be immediately accompanied by works or rather the works are a crucial component of faith.

Michael Sattler wrote “just as one speaks of justification through Christ so must one also speak of faith, [namely] that repentance is not apart from works, yea not apart from love (which is an unction), for only such an anointed faith as one receives from the resurrection from the dead is [at all a] Christian faith, and [it alone] is reckoned for righteousness”.[9] When a person experiences justification it is not attained without faith and said faith is characterized by works of repentance and love. Love is a sign that we have in our possession genuine Christian faith.

Returning to my original topic it can be said that the main problem that the Reformed had with teaching free will was that it ultimately implied that humans has the means to determine their destinies by means of their attitude towards God. And since works is a part of defining faith one can potentially lose their salvation or do not pass the irrevocable adjudication for a lack of deeds. It totally takes the matter out of the hands of God, thus contradicting the Reformed doctrines of predestination and God’s maximal sovereignty.

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[1] John Howard Yoder, ed., trans., The Schleitheim Confession (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977), 10.

[2] J. C. Wenger, “The Schleitheim Confession of Faith,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 19, no. 4 (1945): 249.

[3] Ulrich Zwingli, Selected Works of Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), the Reformer of German Switzerland, Vol. 1, ed. and trans. Samuel Macauley Jackson, Classic Reprint (1901; repr., London: Forgotten Books, 2012), 179.

[4] Ulrich Zwingli wrote his In Catabaptistarum Strophas Elenchus, 1527 in Latin. Prior to his replies he wrote out each article of the Brotherly Union in Latin as well.  When translating Zwingli’s Latin text into English Samuel Macauley Jackson employed “wish” in the fashion Wenger did years later. I have not found the Latin text of In Catabaptistarum Strophas Elenchus, 1527 to see exactly what term was employed.

[5] Ibid., 179.

[6] Ibid., 178.

[7] John Christian Wenger, “Concerning the Satisfaction of Christ: An Anabaptist Tract On True Christianity,” Mennonite Quarterly Review 20, no. 4 (1946): 247.

[8] From a scriptural context this judgment applies to the believer and unbeliever alike. For the Apostle Paul says that those who are not a part of the Christian faith will be judged by their obedience to the law God instilled in all people—that is the law of conscience.  However it appears that Sattler applies this passage to the believer even though he qualifies elsewhere in the document “How then did Christ do enough for our sins? Answer: [He did enough,] not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world, insofar as they believe on Him and follow Him according to the demands of faith”. Romans 2 does not seem to indicate that the unbeliever can only attain a good judgment from God through believing in Christ as Sattler states.

[9] Ibid., 251-2.

Part I: Evangelize the Gemeinde?

Recently a book was released that I functioned as one of the general editors and contributed a chapter entitled A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World. Just recently I got into a discussion regarding the meaning of something I wrote. The passage in question related to how I defined evangelism. I said:

Evangelism simply put is the transmission of said gospel to those who have not heard it in order for them to accept the invitation to become citizens of God’s Kingdom, which results in them becoming members of the ekklesia.[1]

The pushback I received related to the portion that says “the transmission of said gospel to those who have not heard it”. In my interlocutors’ comprehension evangelism is not limited to only those that have not been espoused to it. Instead it is a perpetual activity that occurs in the context of the local congregation. It is evident in the sermons that is preached weekly and it is found in the context of discipling. Well I am at odds with the above for the following reasons. Initially I am approaching the matter from a non-Protestant or repopish perspective. I look at the issue from a primitive apostolic perspective as indicated in the New Testament and history. Also from the ecclesio-centric understanding of the prototypical Anabaptists.

New Testament

Evangelism is inseparably tied to the gospel, you can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. The terms employed in the Greek is εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) which denotes literally “good news” often translated as “gospel”, the verb form of euangelion, is εὐαγγελίζω (euangelizo) to “announce” or “herald” or “proclaim” the good news or in English evangelize. These terms is seen employed within the context of sharing with unbelievers. Evangelism is heralding the message—making the pronouncement that relates to the king and kingdom. Thus once a Christian has delivered the message or the recipient have heard it all other things that come after is designated as instruction, apologetics or mentoring (discipling). Evangelism cannot be considered as being an aspect of encouraging sanctification for the reason there is a vast distinction between evangelizing and living one’s faith as a testimony.

Also it is important to note that how one defines the gospel will determine its use in the context of the Body. If it is a soterian gospel it will be employed inside especially when one holds to the traditional thinking that majority of the evangelism occurs within the fabricated structure called a “church”. Whereas if the gospel is an invitation to the kingdom then once the invite is accepted you do not need to keep inviting individuals that’s already present.

An objection to this point was it is difficult to escape a gospel that has a soteriological focus after all the Apostle Paul delineated a soterian gospel at 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. There Paul writes:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

If a person looks at 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 as representing the Protestant soterian gospel then there is a problem. Paul did not start that pertinent section (verse 3) off with Χριστός (Christos) or “Christ” and its relation to γραφάς (graphas) the “Scriptures” for nothing. He was focusing on Jesus being the “Messiah” or “Anointed One”. Many treat the term Christ as if it has lost its titular force as a result it has virtually became a last name for Jesus instead of serving as a title to designate messiahship in the minds of professed believers. In ancient “Judaism, “messiah” came to refer to a divinely appointed redeemer who would rule over a restored kingdom of Israel where the dispersed Jews would be gathered at the end of days.”[2] Hence when Paul began with highlighting the gospel he has already in the offset established the kingdom as being the topic. His referencing the scriptures recalls all the messianic promises associated with the kingdom and it’s sovereign.

The Messiah’s death, burial and resurrection was the thing that verified Jesus’ position as the foretold Messiah who would be king. His resurrection validates Jesus being the means in which we individuals experience the new birth which functions as the admission into the kingdom. In the very same chapter that is utilized to communicate the Protestant soterian gospel speaks of the kingdom as the end goal.

But Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised. Death comes to people because of what one man did. But now there is resurrection from death because of another man. I mean that in Adam all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again. But everyone will be raised to life in the right order. Christ was first to be raised. Then, when Christ comes again, those who belong to him will be raised to life. Then the end will come. Christ will destroy all rulers, authorities, and powers. Then he will give the kingdom to God the Father. Christ must rule until God puts all enemies under his control. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. As the Scriptures say, “God put everything under his control.” When it says that “everything” is put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself. God is the one putting everything under Christ’s control. After everything has been put under Christ, then the Son himself will be put under God. God is the one who put everything under Christ. And Christ will be put under God so that God will be the complete ruler over everything.[3]

Paul did not create a substitute gospel to replace the one Jesus demarcated all the Apostle did was provide the supplementary knowledge of how to enter the kingdom through faith in the Messiah.

The following is the initial reason why the Anabaptists did not evangelize when the Gemeinde gathered.

Anabaptist Reason I

The proto-Anabaptists known as the Swiss Brethren did not have the ekklesia organized in a fashion where evangelism would take place. The reason being that to them it is implied that the gospel was for all intents and purposes was an invitation in the fashion mentioned subsequently. Anabaptists viewed the gathering of the community (Gemeinde) as being something only the baptized member could participate in. They did not have it open for all.

Because a key aspect of their meetings was the Lord’s Supper and according to Article III of The Schleitheim Brotherly Union touching on the subject of “Bread” it states that only those who can partake of the Lord’s Supper must “be united in the one body of Christ, that is the congregation of God, whose head is Christ, and that by baptism.” This point is echoed by articulating that “whoever does not share the calling of the one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one spirit, to one body together with all the children of God, may not be made one loaf together with them, as must be true if one wishes truly to break bread according to the command of Christ.”[4] The entirety of the contents housed in the Brotherly Union articulate a separatist ideology and there would be no place for a nonbeliever in their presence nor would they try to evangelize someone at their conventicles since all present would be believers already.

The next installment of this article will cover the second Anabaptist reason why they did not evangelize in the Gemeinde.

 

 

 

 

 

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[1] Joanna Harader and A.O. Green, eds., A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World (New York: Ettelloc Publishing, 2014), 5.

[2] Ronald L. Eisenberg, Jewish Traditions: JPS Guide, JPS Guide (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008), 619-20.

[3] 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Easy-to-Read Version

[4] Michael Sattler, The Schleitheim Confession, trans. John Howard Yoder (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1977), 11.

The Problem of Balthasar Hübmaier and My View of Christianity

Out of all the Anabaptists particularly of the Swiss variety, I have issues with Balthasar-HubmaierBalthasar Hübmaier (1480?-1528). Yet concurrently I am tempted to look into this notorious character. Hübmaier may be one of the best-known Anabaptists even more so than Michael Sattler and Conrad Grebel who is counted as the “Father of Anabaptism”.[1] Some regard Hübmaier as one of “the most highly educated and respected theologians among Anabaptists”.[2] William Roscoe Estep said Balthasar Hübmaier was one of the most “brilliant stars in the Anabaptist firmament.”[3] Estep even goes as far as to call him “the Simon Peter of the early Anabaptist disciples.”[4] Baptists and other Protestants generally highly admire Hübmaier. This is the first of several issues that I have with him.

From the perspective of education, yes the man was in fact highly educated. The Bavarian born Hübmaier was viewed as being creative and “well trained in scholastic theology and patristics.”[5] He acquired his doctorate in theology in 1512. He served as a chaplain and in a pastoral role and was applauded for his oratory skills and he was an accomplished author. He was the 16th century edition of the “celebrity pastor”. All of these things embody that which I find myself holding a disdain for at this time in my life.

I have in my possession a number of academic degrees in the fields of Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, Christian Ministry, and Christian Education.[6] Looking back, I must ask myself what was the point in acquiring these things. Ever since I began to study Anabaptistica my view of the Bible and Christianity in general has become more simplistic and less cluttered. My writings and mind are no longer encumbered with elaborate and abstract theological terminology and concepts. I no longer celebrate those things and I no longer view myself as a systematic theologian. Now I just see myself as A.O. the Anabaptist.

My second is that he may have been one of the “false brothers” spoken of in the cover letter in the Schleitheim Brotherly Union. This reads:

A very great offense has been introduced by some false brothers among us, whereby several have turned away from the faith, thinking to practice and observe the freedom of the Spirit and of Christ. But such have fallen short of the truth and (to their own condemnation) are given over to the lasciviousness and license of the flesh. They have esteemed that faith and love may do and permit everything and that nothing can harm nor condemn them, since they are “believers.”

Lastly, my issue with Balthasar Hübmaier lies in his views and practices. The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online says of Hübmaier, “Although he was not a thorough-going pacifist, neither was he the militant advocate of war he has at times been represented. He did hold the possibility of a Christian magistrate and argued further that a Christian would make a better magistrate than a non-Christian.”[7] To me these above issues are parts of the core of Anabaptist belief and practice. The same source goes on to tell us that even though Hübmaier strayed away from Anabaptist thought in certain key areas such as nonresistance or a Christian’s relationship to the State he supposedly in “all other major doctrines . . . was in step with the majority of Anabaptists.”[8]

To a degree, I even question that, from what little I have read over the years Hübmaier dabbled in the so-called Church Fathers and the historic creeds and confessions. Whereas the other Anabaptists:

never attached the weight to creeds or confessions given to them by the remainder of Christendom; they were biblicists who produced a large number of confessions, not as instruments to which the laity or ministry subscribed ex anima, but as instructional tools for the indoctrination of their young people and as witnesses to their faith for distribution in society or as a means of better understanding between differing groups.[9]

Nonetheless, to his credit Hübmaier did say on a particular occasion that he would trust those sources “just as far as they use the Holy Scripture, and not more.”[10] On another instance, he said, “You speak to me much of Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Augustine, councils, histories, and old customs. I must somehow think that you lack the Scriptures, which do not want to come out of the quiver.”[11] While these are admirable sentiments, the “Fathers” are just too problematic and created a lot of confusion and harm within Christianity.

Yet in the end, I may look into Balthasar Hübmaier a little more than I have in the past for the very reason that I find that many of the proto-Anabaptists that I do trust borrowed some of Hübmaier’s arguments. He can function as a source that I will visit sporadically.


[1] Ruth A. Tucker, Parade of Faith: a Biographical History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 266.

[2] Ibid., 270.

[3] William Roscoe Estep, The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 1996), 77.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] I turned my degree in Christian Education into a Masters of Divinity that I am three courses away from completing as of the writing of this post.

[7] Johann Loserth and William R. Estep, Jr., eds., Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1990), s.v. “Hubmaier, Balthasar (1480?-1528),” accessed March 19, 2014, http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hubmaier,_Balthasar_%281480%3F-1528%29#1990_Update.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Christian Neff et al., Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1989), s.v. “Confessions, Doctrinal,” accessed March 19, 2014, http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Confessions,_Doctrinal.

[10] Balthasar Hubmaier, “On Infant Baptism Against Oekolampad,” in Classics of the Radical Reformation, ed. and trans. H Wayne Pipkin and John Howard Yoder, vol. 5,Balthasar Hubmaier, Theologian of Anabaptism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989), 280.

[11] Ibid., 290.

Anabaptists Rolling Over in their Graves

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.

Michael Sattler’s 20 Thesis

Some have deemed the following Michael Sattler’s “20 Thesis”; it demonstrates pre-Schleitheim Confession beliefs of the Anabaptists.

  1. Christ came to save all of those who would believe in Him alone.
  2. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who believeth not will be damned.
  3. Faith in Jesus Christ reconciles us with the Father and gives us access to Him.
  4. Baptism incorporates all believers into the body of Christ, of which He is the head.
  5. Christ is the head of His body, i.e., of the believers or the congregation.
  6. As the head is minded, so must its members also be.
  7. The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.
  8. Christ is despised in the world; so are also those who are His; He has no kingdom in this world, but that which is of this world is against His kingdom.
  9. Believers are chosen out of the world; therefore the world hates them.
  10. The devil is prince over the whole world, in whom all the children of darkness rule.
  11. Christ is the Prince of the Spirit, in whom all who walk in the light live.
  12. The devil seeks to destroy. Christ seeks to save.
  13. The flesh is against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.
  14. Those who are spiritual are Christ’s; those who are carnal belong to death and to the wrath of God.
  15. Christians are wholly yielded and have placed their trust in their Father in heaven without any outward or worldly arms.
  16. The citizenship of Christians is in heaven and not on earth.
  17. Christians are the members of the household of God and fellow citizens of the saints, and not of the world.
  18. But they are true Christians who practice in deed the teachings of Christ.
  19. Flesh and blood, pomp and temporal, earthly honor and the world cannot comprehend the kingdom of Christ.
  20. In sum: There is nothing in common between Christ and Belial.[1]

The 20 Thesis is originally a part of an epistle Michael Sattler sent to Martin Bucer (1491-1551) and Wolfgang Capito (1478-1541) two Strasbourg Reformers. The points of addressed related to “baptism, the Lord’s Supper, force or the sword, the oath, the ban, and all the commandments of God.”[2] These points functioned as a summary of Anabaptist beliefs Sattler attained via a meeting with the Gemeinde in Strasbourg. Sattler himself verifies the above by writing to Bucer and Capito, “I recently spoke with you . . . on several points, which I together with my brothers and sisters have understood out of Scripture, namely out of the New Testament”.[3]

The contents of the 20 Thesis is very fascinating and one can see obvious parallels with the articles in the Schleitheim Brotherly Union. Yet, one aspect genuinely stands out is the seventh thesis, which some have taken to denote that Sattler held to predestination.  It states, “The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.” To comprehend what is meant it must be read in blocks of text. Points 5-7 need to be looked at jointly to comprehend what Sattler meant in point seven. They read, “Christ is the head of His body, i.e., of the believers or the congregation. As the head is minded, so must its members also be. The foreknown and called believers shall be conformed to the image of Christ.” Addressing these ideas, C. Arnold Snyder elucidates:

Just as the outer baptism of water is the visible manifestation of the believer’s faith, so the community of baptized believers is the visible body of the risen Christ. The believing community, as the tangible “body of Christ,” will bear all the marks of Christ himself. Here again there is strict conformity between inner reality and outward manifestation: the believers will be spiritually conformed to Christ (Christ-minded), but this inward conformity must bear fruit in a visible conformity with Christ’s actions and commands.[4]

According to Snyder, the emphasis is on conformity to Christ’s image as evidenced by one’s thinking and actions. In general-fashion, Sattler paraphrased or directly quoted scripture within his writings while the overall theme dictated the emphasis. As Sattler delineated in the letter the subject matter had nothing to do with predestination.

In addition, it is widely known that amongst the Anabaptists especially during that early period there “was a very un-Protestant emphasis on the role of free will in the process of salvation.”[5] Also shortly, after his letter to Bucer and Capito the Schleitheim Confession was inscribed and it too had statements that conveyed the thought of free will.


[1] John Howard Yoder, The Legacy of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1973), 22-23.

[2] Ibid., 22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] C. Arnold Snyder, The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1984), 113.

[5] J. H. Burns, ed., The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450-1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 189.

Another Update on the Schleitheim Articles Series

Once again, I have to postpone my Schleitheim Confession series for a number of reasons, the first being that the articles of the confession are more than what they look like to be. So much history and particulars are present particularly when one read between the lines. It is very challenging to wade through. If I were to attempt to implement everything into the series, it would run for an extended period of time. I do not think a blog series should run for too long so I am refining the content of each part to address specific areas. I may devote much of the material I disclosed to be published in some form or another.

In the meanwhile, over on Young Anabaptist Radicals, I just completed a 3-part series on the Swiss Brethren, it can be found at the following links.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I am also in the process of completing my Master of Divinity degree in chaplaincy. I also have been involved in other writings activities that took up some time for research (more on this later). One last item of note if the readers will notice is that I have been privileged to contribute to some synchro-blogs. I will be participating in one on pacifism and I might contribute to one other before the series begins.

 

 

 

 

The Cover Letter and a Message

I express my deepest regret to those that was looking forward to the Schleitheim Confession series but I have been inundated with various things relating to school and contributing elsewhere on the internet. The series will go forward in the near future but I desired to realize three things with this post. The first was the above apology the second was to let you know that prior to the initial installment of the series I will post a unique article this coming week the details of which will be explained in said piece of writing. Lastly, I desired to present to you the cover letter of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527 reproduced from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online to prepare for the upcoming series. Thank you for your patience and without further ado the Introduction to the Confession.

 

May joy, peace, mercy from our Father, through the atonement[1] of the blood of Christ Jesus, together with the gift of the Spirit–who is sent by the Father to all believers to [give] strength and consolation and constance in all tribulation until the end, Amen, be with all who love God and all children of light, who are scattered everywhere, wherever they might have been placed[2] by God our Father, wherever they might be gathered in unity of spirit in one God and Father of us all; grace and peace of heart be with you all. Amen.

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord; first and primordially we are always concerned for your consolation and the assurance of your conscience (which was sometime confused), so that you might not always be separated from us as aliens and by right almost completely excluded,[3] but that you might turn to the true implanted members of Christ, who have been armed through patience and the knowledge of self, and thus be again united with us in the power of a godly Christian spirit and zeal for God.

It is manifest with what manifold cunning the devil has turned us aside, so that he might destroy and cast down the work of God, which in us mercifully and graciously has been partially begun. But the true Shepherd of our souls, Christ, who has begun such in us, will direct and teach[4] the same unto the end, to His glory and our salvation, Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters, we who have been assembled in the Lord at Schleitheim on the Randen[5] make known, in points and articles, unto all that love God, that as far as we are concerned, we have been united[6] to stand fast in the Lord as obedient children of God, sons and daughters, who have been and shall be separated from the world in all that we do and leave undone, and (the praise and glory be to God alone) uncontradicted by all the brothers, completely at peace.[7] Herein we have sensed the unity of the Father and of our common Christ as present with us in their Spirit. For the Lord is a Lord of peace and not of quarreling, as Paul indicates.[8] So that you understand at what points this occurred, you should observe and understand [what follows]:

A very great offense has been introduced by some false brothers among us,[9] whereby several have turned away from the faith, thinking to practice and observe the freedom of the Spirit and of Christ. But such have fallen short of the truth and (to their own condemnation)[10] are given over to the lasciviousness and license of the flesh. They have esteemed that faith and love may do and permit everything and that nothing can harm nor condemn them, since they are “believers.”

Note well, you members[11] of God in Christ Jesus, that faith in the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ is not thus formed; it produces and brings forth no such things as these false brothers and sisters practice and teach. Guard yourselves and be warned of such people, for they do not serve our Father, but their father, the devil.

But for you it is not so; for they who are Christ’s have crucified their flesh with all its lusts and desires.[12] You understand me[13] well, and [know] the brothers whom we mean. Separate yourselves from them, for they are perverted. Pray the Lord that they may have knowledge unto repentance, and for us that we may have constance to persevere along the path we have entered upon, unto the glory of God and of Christ His Son. Amen.[14]


[1] A most significant concept in the thought of Michael Sattler is that of Vereinigung, which, according to the context, must be translated in many different ways. In the title we render it “Union”; here in the salutation it can most naturally be translated “reconciliation” or “atonement”; later in the text, in the passive participle form, it will mean “to be brought to unity.” Thus the same word can be used for the reconciling work of Jesus Christ, for the procedure whereby brothers come to a common mind, for the state of agreement in which they find themselves, and for the document which states the agreement to which they have come. Heinold Fast suggests that here, in connection with “the blood of Christ,’ the meaning might be “fellowship”; cf: 1 Corinthians 10:16.

[2] Or, literally, “ordered”; the rendering of J. C. Wenger, “scattered everywhere as it has been ordained of God our Father,” is a good paraphrase if “ordained” may be understood without sacramental or predestinarian connotations.

[3] This term “aliens” or “foreigners” was interpreted by Cramer BRN, 605, note 1, in the geographic or political sense, as referring to non-Swiss. Kiwiet, Pilgram Marpeck, Kassel, 1959, p. 44, takes for granted the same meaning and says more sharply that at Schleitheim the Swiss Anabaptists broke communion with the German ones. This understanding is impossible for several reasons:

  • There was no such strong sense of national identity, divided on clear geographic lines, in the 1520s;
  • Sattler and Reublin, leaders in the meeting, were not Swiss;
  • The libertines whom Schleitheim had in mind, although Denck (or Bucer) might have been included, were (if Anabaptist) surely mostly Swiss; namely, the enthusiasts of St. Gall (H. Fast “Die Sonderstellung der Täufer in St. Gallen and Appenzell,” Zwingliana XI, 1960, pp. 223 ff.), and Ludwig Hätzer.

This term has a quite different reference; it is an allusion to Ephesians 2:12 and 19, testifying to the reconciling effect of the gospel on men who previously had been alienated by unbelief.

[4] “Direct” and “teach” have as their object “the same,” i.e., the “work of God partially begun in us.” Wenger’s paraphrase, “direct the same and teach [us]” is smoother but weakens the striking image of a “work of God” within man which can be “partially begun,” “cast down,” “directed,” and “taught.” There is, however, ground for Böhmer’s conjecture that the original may have read keren (guide) rather than leren (teach).

[5] The “Langer Randen” and the “Hoher Randen” are hills overlooking Schleitheim and not, as a modern reader might think, a reference to the fact that Schleitheim is near the (contemporary, political) border.

The original reads “Schlaten am Randen.” A good halfdozen villages in southern Germany bear the names Schlat, Schlatt, or Schlatten. One, near Engen in Baden, also is identified as “am Randen,” and until recently was held by some to have been the place of origin of the Seven Articles. The evidence, now generally accepted, for Schleitheim near Schaffhausen, is easily surveyed:

  • J. J. Rüger, a Schaffhausen chronicler, writing around 1594, identifies Schleitheim with the Seven Articles;
  • In the local dialect, the equivalent of ei in modern German is long a as in Schlaten, whereas the other villages Schlatten or Schlat have a short a;
  • Being subject to overlapping jurisdictions and therefore hard to police, the Klettgau, and Schleitheim on its edge, were relatively safe and accessible for Anabaptists and thus a most fitting meeting place linking the major centers in southwest Germany and northeast Switzerland. This was the first area where Sattler’s colleague W. Reublin had been active after his expulsion from Zürich early in 1525. This juridical situation continued through the century; Anabaptism was still alive in the Kühtal above Schleitheim as late as Ruger’s writing.
  • Professor F. Blanke reviews the question of place in Z, VI, pp. 104 f.; cf. also Werner Pletscher, “Wo Entstand das Bekenntnis von 1527?” MGB, V, 1940, pp. 20 f.

[6] According to Bohmer, one line of print was misplaced in imprint A. The text seems to say literally, “we were assembled in points and articles.” The verb here is again “vereinigt.” The “points and articles” may well have stood elsewhere in the sentence in the original text: “we have been united in points and articles” or “to stand fast in the Lord in these points and articles.” Wenger’s translation, “we are of one mind to abide in the Lord” is the best paraphrase but sacrifices the passive verbal construction which is important to the writer.

[7] Beginning with the parenthesis “(the praise and glory be to God alone),” the closing phrases of this paragraph refer not simply to a common determination to be faithful to the Lord, but much more specifically to the actual Schleitheim experience and the sense of unity (Vereinigung) which the members had come to in the course of the meeting. “Without contradiction of all the brothers” is the formal description and “completely at peace” is the subjective definition of this sense of Holy Spirit guidance. Zwingli considered the very report that “we have come together” to be the proof of the culpable, sectarian, conspiratorial character of Anabaptism (Elenchus, Z, VI, p. 56).

[8] 1 Corinthians 14:33.

[9] Ds. H. W. Meihuizen has recently asked with great thoroughness “Who were the `False Brethren’ mentioned in the Schleitheim Articles?” (MQR, XLI, 1967, pp. 200 ff.). Meihuizen s method is to survey the entire Reformation scene, Anabaptists of all shadings as well as Reformers, especially those at Strasbourg whom Sattler had recently left. Comparing the known theological positions of these men with the Schleitheim statements, Meihuizen concludes that Schleitheim must have been aimed against Denck, Hubmaier, Hut, Hätzer, Bucer, and Capito. One can agree with this description of the positions in question, without being convinced that the meeting was this clearly directed  against a few particular men who were specifically not invited. If any one person was meant, if would most likely be Hätzer, whom Sattler had just been with in Strasbourg, and who was the only one of these who could be accused of libertinistic leanings. For present purposes, i.e., in order to understand the meaning of this document, it suffices to be clear from the internal evidence (in agreement with Meihuizen):

  • That some persons previously attached to some of the positions condemned were present at Schleitheim in order to be participants in the event of “being brought to unity”; the “false brothers” referred to by the cover letter were therefore not only state-church Reformers but at least some of them were within Anabaptism;
  • That the greatest emphasis in the Seven Articles themselves falls on those points of ultimate theological separateness from the Reformed: baptism, relation between ban and the supper, sword, oath. Here the list is so parallel to the document from Strasbourg that one surmises that Sattler may have been developing his outline already when he was at Strasbourg;
  • That in the juxtaposition of the cover letter and the Seven Articles, Sattler affirms an inner linkage between the positions of the marginal Anabaptists and Spiritualists who differed from the Zurich-Schleitheim stream, and those of the evangelical Reformers.

[10] H. W. Meihuizen reads the phrase “to their own condemnation” as meaning that the Schleitheim assembly took action to excommunicate the libertines whom the text here refers to. “The Concept of Restitution in the Anabaptism of Northwestern Europe,” MQR, Vol. XLIV, April 1970, p. 149. This is not possible. The verb ergeben refers to the libertines’ abandoning themselves to lasciviousness, not to the Anabaptists’ action. In order to enable this interpretation Meihuizen must omit the parentheses which are in the original.

[11] “Glieder” (members) has in German only the meaning related to the image of the body; the overtone of “membership” in a group, which makes the phrase “members of God” unusual in modern English, is not present in the original.

[12] Galatians 5:24

[13] The use of the first person singular here is the demonstration that the introductory letter was written, probably after the meeting, by an individual.

[14] This is the conclusion of the introductory letter and of the epistolary style. The “cover letter” is not in the Bern manuscript, and the Seven Articles probably circulated most often without it.

Schleitheim Series Introduction

It is my aspiration to begin a series addressing each of the Schleitheim Confession articles.[1] This very important document played an integral role in the life of the 16th century Anabaptists. It always astounds me that

Title page of the Schleitheimer Confession (15...

Schleitheim Confession (1527)

everyone likes to take the Anabaptist moniker upon him or herself but very few delve into those things that defined this group. Yes, pacifism is trendy especially when high profile pastors, speakers or even denominational conventions adopt it along with feeding and clothing the underprivileged or advocating equality towards marginalized groups.

However, what about what mattered to these men and women that originally bore this name? Does it even matter to these new arrivals what the progenitors even cared for or thought about while they were experiencing this movement at its commencement?

No because with all things considered what is viewed at present as Anabaptism is a modified version of evangelicalism, and the goal is to see what novel idea can be employed to make Anabaptism look all nice and shiny for the consumers who typically happens to be other professed Christians.

My goal in this series is not only do honor to 16th century Radical Reformers known as the Anabaptists but shed light from a core text and establish how it is still relevant for doctrine and praxis.


[1] The series Anabaptism New-Defined was originally planned but given the nature of it more research and time is required thus it will occur at a later date.

Categorizing Anabaptistica

A short time ago, I ran across two of the most stimulating blog posts that relate to the purpose of this blog and my examination of Anabaptistica. Anyone that knows me and have come across my reflections here and elsewhere well know that I somewhat have adverse feelings towards lumping groups from various faith traditions with Anabaptism solely for the reason that these groups have adopted selected distinguishing beliefs that defined the original Anabaptists. I am the minority (for now) in this discussion but it seems to my astonishment that some have begun to make categorical distinctions already. The two articles are titled “Neo-Anabaptists” and wineskins for God’s new world written by Jarrod McKenna. The other is authored by Wess Daniels designated Open Anabaptism and a Community of (in)outsiders.

Now it is true that there are denominations that trace their roots to Anabaptism largely in some consanguineous fashion. The following is a chart listing the contemporary denominations that claim material heritage with Anabaptism.

Anabaptist_Denominations

This is not what I am speaking of because personally I do not see much difference other than perhaps dress and customs than any other Evangelical Protestant denomination. That is another discussion reserved for another time.  What I am talking about is the categorization of individuals such as myself, in addition to those groups and individuals that lack any physical descent with Anabaptism whether it is through blood relations or denominational ties. One will see the title Neo-Anabaptist brandished (even I refer to myself by this name at times) but that term is more fitting for the likes of John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, James William McClendon Jr. and Nancey Murphy.

At this time, I am going to present the various groupings highlighted in the blog posts and then award the overall classification all the mentioned assemblies would fall under technically speaking. This will function as an alternative to employing, a name that was used for several groups that held specific beliefs in common and undoubtedly felt that, they should not be massed in with others indiscriminately.

  • Anglican-Anabaptists
  • Charismatic-Anabaptists
  • Emerging church-Anabaptists
  • Baptist-Anabaptists
  • Mennonite-Anabaptists
  • Restorationist Anabaptists
  • Methodist Anabaptists

Jarrod McKenna classifies these groups into what he deems the “Emerging Peace Church Movement” or “Open Anabaptism.” According to McKenna this:

doesn’t signify a switching of denominations. Rather it signifies a conversion within their own tradition to a Christianity that rejects all domination. This ‘conversion’ is not based upon modernist liberal or fundamentalist assumptions but rather seeking a deeper immersion into this story which expresses the alternative nonviolent paradigm that is found in discipleship. A desire to see God’s love flood all areas of life; spirituality, sexuality, economics, ecology, personal transformation, political transformation… everything! A movement that longs to walk in the ways of Jesus Christ, rejecting the sword of violence and accepting the towel of service.

Today this ‘kingdom movement’ of justice, peace and joy is often referred to as the “Emerging Peace Church movement” or the “Anabaptist impulse.

Wess Daniels on the other hand feels that all of the individuals and groups are a “continued embodiment of the Radical Reformation.”  To me this is more succinct and an accurate descriptor for what is taking place. This movement is technically classed as Radical Christianity instead of Anabaptist proper.

Now I know many will ask why do you feel that you have to paint labels on these groups or deny them the use of the Anabaptist name? The answer to this question is found in the writings of the original Anabaptists.

The fundamental inheritors of the pejorative ἀναβαπτισμός (anabaptista) such as the Swiss Brethren would not accept an all-encompassing attitude on this matter. Scholars document that they strived to be distinct to the point where they  would even make it known that they had no connection to other groups that are presently classified as Anabaptists if they held to doctrines or too stringent praxis that did not coincide with their (the Swiss Brethren among others) view of holy scripture. Furthermore as indicated in article IV of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527, they felt that any fellowship with:

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.

The mention of all things “popish” and “repopish” are allusions to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which for the most part represent Constantine and Empire at least here in the West currently. The majority of the Protestant denominations and Rome maintain their historic positions and practices that the Anabaptists found seriously lacking and not fit for Christian recognition. I know this is not a popular way of thinking especially within the context of this subject but that is the reality of how these people that everyone wants to call themselves believed. I think putting all of these groups into the “Radical Christian” category in place of Anabaptist or Anabaptism are more accurate than what we have at present and it needs to be encouraged. If not we will have history repeating itself in that anything that was different was called Anabaptism by the Magisterial Reformers and the Papacy thus confusing and in some cases demonizing a group that solely desired to serve God in spirit and truth.