Anabaptist: Christianity and God

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Last updated: June 4, 2019

The term “radical,” defined as “back to one’s roots,” that pertains to the religious movements of the Mennonites, Anabaptists, and Hutterites is really a matter of personal opinion. If a religious cult’s identity is to maintain a proclaimed moral higher ground or its theological opinion of biblical text is different than the mainstream, what makes that radical? I will elaborate on their historical views and their surviving present day cultures. In addition, I will discuss why the term “radical” plagues them. “Back-to-their-roots” was a movement against the life penetrating control of the religious canon of mainly the Catholic Church.

Not only the Anabaptist and associated sects but also the Quakers, Puritans, Pietists, Baptists, and The Church of England wanted segregation from control of the dominating religious canon supported by the government of Rome. Heavy taxation by the Catholic Church and Roman rulers for protection and Church growth was oppressing the lay. The richest and largest landowner in the 16th century was the Catholic Church. The wealthiest people were the politicians, professionals, and priests that supported the Church. Both the Catholic Church and soon to be extinct Roman Empire were fraught with corruption and profiting off the people n the name of GOD. The Church rationalized their activities using New Testament texts such as: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His blood” (Acts 20:28 NKJV) Indeed, within this verse there would seem to be a validation for the impositions the Church and governments imposed upon the population. Without leaders in any formalized organization, how would the people learn and grow in spirit? It should be kept in mind that the populace at large were uneducated, most being quite illiterate.They depended on “the organization” to “direct them in the paths of righteousness”.

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Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, explains that the Church is the body of Christ, made up of all those who believe. “ But there are many members but one body, and the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet “I have no need of you. ” (I Cor 12:20-21 NKJV) “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it: or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ and members individually.

” (I Cor 12:26-27 NKJV) Paul clearly states that all are qual in Christ regardless of social status, political status or appointment. In getting back to their roots, i. e. , the teachings of the original Jesus movement, the Anabaptists renounced the Catholic Church as their religious governor. They rejected the influential pressure to accept changes in the original teachings of the apostles and chose to separate from the Catholic Church.The Catholic Church of the 16th century certainly did not have the prospering goodwill of the lay foremost in mind. Their greed and political pressure not only created radical breakaway movements but also encouraged ntire new protestant denominations that are still going strong today. The term Anabaptism carries broad and deep implications.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the Anabaptist movement as “those who insisted on the re-baptism of persons previously baptized by heretics or by clergy who had fallen away from the faith under persecution”. (Forell 368) The Anabaptists not only stressed re-baptism of those baptized by the reputed, but the purpose of baptism and its tie to the spiritual knowledge of sin and faith in God. Infant baptism was one of the major controversies that lead to these breakaway movement’s.Spiritual bankruptcy, moral corruption, nationalism, economics and humanism were other powerful factors that made the reformation of the medieval church possible.

(Loewen 59-60) At the time immediately preceding the reformation, the Roman Empire and Catholic Church ruled over the lands, emperor, and the pope. The Empire included many different countries that would eventually become independent of Roman rule, but not yet the Catholic Church. With this departure from Roman influence, recognition of independent countries begins as well as the origins or resurgence of cultural heritage. Eventually, humanism, human value and the ower of reason, education, and historical Christian sources would work toward the reformation of the church at large. (Loewen 59-60) People would begin to criticize the clergy, undermine superstitions, and question the authority claimed by the pope. (Loewen 59-60)From this the Anabaptist movement would appear. Within the Anabaptist movement during the sixteenth century came four spin-off groups New Testament-orientated Pacificists, Old Testament-oriented Revolutionaries, Spiritualist Anabaptists, and rationalist Anabaptists.

The New Testament Pacifists originated from bible study groups in Zurich, Switzerland (c. 523-25). (Forell 368) Eventually this movement was led by Menno Simmons, who became the leader of what is known as the Mennonites.

They staunchly live by the commandment “thou shall not kill. ” (Matthew 5:21 NVJV) They refused to carry arms or join in any military service and separated themselves from any political debates. War and fighting only moved them when in self defense. The New Testament Pacifists withdrew themselves from society and lived in a very closed communist styled societies where material goods were to be shared equally. (Forell 368) Moreover, they stayed steadfast to the idea that nfant baptism was not commanded by God but that baptism was for adults and not for infants.As an adult, you could choose to be faithful to God and acknowledge your sin. That is original sin at birth and self-willed or egotistic sin against Gods commandments upon reaching the age of understanding.

Biblical text supporting their belief are described in the synoptic gospels where “John the Baptizer” is found baptizing followers in the River Jordon, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. (Mark 4:4 NVJV) John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees tells them “I baptize you with ater for repentance of sin. ” (Matthew 3:11 NVJV) There is no evidence that John baptized infants or small children. The second group was the Old Testament-orientated Revolutionaries. This group originated in Zwickau in Saxony (c. 1520) among the impoverished weavers of that town. (Forell 368) This movement certifies that adult baptism is the only legitimate baptism and opposes infantile baptism. Leader of this Anabaptist group was one Nicholas Storch also a weaver.

During his term of leadership, Storch was befriended by Father Thomas Muntzer, a father confessor within a local Catholic institution.Muntzer was soon captivated with Storch’s view that the revelation of God’s word is of foremost importance to his servants. The bible is secondary. Muntzer proclaims his newfound doctrine to the people and civil unrest is eminent. Muntzer has been historically credited for the beginning of the Anabaptist movement and a leader in the Peasants’ War. Unlike the Pacifists Revolutionaries Muntzer advocates military force. Muntzer’s view of warfare was supported by God’s revelation specifically, God’s call to war against the Canaanites, and other such biblical reference.

For instance: “The Lord is a man of war. (Ex 15:3 NKJV) “When you go near a city to fight against it proclaim and offer of peace to it. ” (Deut 20:10 NKJV) “Now if the city will not make peace, but makes war against you then you shall besiege it. And when the lord your God delivers it into your hands you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword”.

(Deut 20:12, 13 NKJV) Apocalyptic teachings are very strong within the Old Testament-orientated Revolutionary movement. They reference for instance the book of Daniel which proclaims destruction and death in the end times. The Revolutionaries also taught separation from religious centralism.

Thomas Muntzer states, “The church calls people to be delivered form slavery to the world-system and to enter the freedom and security of a new community, God’s people, the church. The church, as a separated community, is meant to be God’s example in and to the world a people who have heard of the destruction which is to come, and have believed in the Savior who has been offered” (Lindberg 248) The strong emphasis on communistic style living was a major component of these first two sect’s of the Anabaptist movement. Is this idea of “separation” really a form of radical thinking? Maybe not, Jesus taught that in order to follow im, one was to separate themselves from the world. However, what it means to be separate from the world is completely a matter of Interpretation as can be evidenced by the array of “Christian” denominations throughout the world today.

Jesus never meant that separation from the world was to embrace a life style that was completely removed from the predominate religious canon or even from secular indulgences. In fact, Jesus message was quite the opposite. “You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.You are the light of the world.

A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand and it gives light to all who are in the house. ” (Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV) Salt of the earth and light among men is about influence is about influence within the system.

Exile into separatist societies is in direct conflict with Jesus message to be in the world but not of it. A believer’s influence or example on others who do not believe salvation is in Christ is the message. “Therefore submit yourself to everyday ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, r to governors, as those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men as free, yet not using liberty as a vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people.

Love the society. Fear God. Honor the king. ” (1 Peter 3:13-17 NKJV) “Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

” (Mark 16:16 NKJV) In these first two Anabaptist movements, New Testament Pacificists, and Old Testament Revolutionaries, the most common thread is really the rule of baptism and communist style living.The next two movements of the Anabaptist, Spiritual and rational Anabaptists, will also concur with the opposition to infant baptism but will not be so clear on the subject of adult baptism. Jesus never directly spoke of baptizing an infant as a sign of faith or the remission of sin.

For the Anabaptist, baptism was a testimony to the acceptance of faith in Christ. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not will be condemned. ” (Mark 16:16 NKJV) Most radical of any formalized Christian movement was the Spiritualist. For the Spiritualist, any formation of an organized church structure was quickly iscounted. Sebastian Franck, a German free thinker, humanist, and radical reformer, combined the humanist’s passion for freedom with the mystic’s devotion to the religion of the spirit.

(Forell 368) The spirit being an invisible church which would be governed by the eternal and internal revelation of God. The Spiritualists would exist without any formally recognized ceremonies, sacraments, or sermons.This was the beginning of mystic spiritualism. Because of Franck’s very radically strong religious views Martin Luther dubbed him the “Devil’s Mouth.

” Spiritualist Anabaptist also rejected infant baptism, but did not clearly ndorse the baptism of adults. (Forell 368) Sebastian Franck suggested that in its infancy the church could not dispense with such crutches, but when it discarded them in its maturity, the Father would be pleased rather than angered. (Forell 368) Other leaders in this movement like Casper Schwenckfeld suspended infant baptism because he believed it was based in superstition. The “Lord’s Supper” is another debated Christian/Catholic sacrament that the Spiritualists rejected. The Catholics believe in what is called Transubstantiation.At the very moment that the priest raises the bread bove the alter and pronounces the consecration, the bread becomes the actual body of Christ. (Erb web link) For non-Catholic Christians, consubstantiation of the bread is a bit more mystical. They believe that during the sacrament the substance of the body of Christ is present alongside the substance of the bread and wine.

Schwenckfeld, Craultwald and other Spiritualist Anabaptists debated at great lengths what the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper really meant. Obviously they did not side with the popular religious canon. Sometime later, Craultwald, after returning from an early morning communion, fell asleep and had a vision of hat the scriptures really meant. This vision was shared with Schwenckfeld and then with Martin Luther. The interpretation of the scriptures was that bread was not bread until it is made, cooked, and eaten. (Erb web link) When bread is eaten, it nourishes the physical body. When Christ said “This is my body” (1 Cor 11:24)“is” meant “is” not is to represent Christ.

(Erb web link) So when eaten it was to nourish the physical body not the spiritual body. Faith is the invisible bread that feeds the invisible soul and faith is nourished by the spiritual body of Christ. Certainly, Martin Luther and the Catholics thought this was very radical.Radical is thinking that a magical hocus-pocus over common bread can turn it into human flesh is absurd. Schwencfeld continued to preach his version of the communion, however, and stated that any other practice of the communion was contrary to the gospels and the command of Christ. Christ himself exclaimed, “Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27) The last of the Anabaptist movement are the Rationalist. They not only opposed infant baptism but the theological concept of the trinity.

MichaelServetus, a physician, Laelius and Fraustus Socinius, Philosophers, are credited for this movement. Socinianism, the Latin name for the Rationalist or as we know it today the Unitarian movement, held their positions in Poland, England, Spain, Transylvania, and eventually America. In the beginning of this movement, many small sects of the rationalists sprung up around Europe, mostly comprised of scientific professions and philosophers. Attempts were made by many to create a uniform denomination of Unitarians.

However, pressure from other dominating groups disenfranchised with anti-Trinitarian views kept them from evolving.Moreover, the rationalist themselves blocked any early formation of an organized denomination. This is because they believed that each sect should manage itself without outside influence or control. However, in time John Biddle a Head Master at the Crypt Grammar School, Gloucester England eventually became the Unitarians first minister in Great Brittan in the early 17th century.

Finally, in the early 18th century Theophlius Lindsey a fellow at Cambridge University would build the first Unitarian church, Essex Street Chapel, London, England. For Unitarians, getting back to their roots was a matter of embracing individualism.This is because there was no doctrinal belief system.

It was an individual’s responsibility to create their own religious beliefs and the lifeblood that joined them was anti-canonization. Jesus, undoubtedly was most influential in his teachings and parables where mainstream religions were concerned. Commandments by Jesus were supposedly from the very lips of God, which we see here when Jesus responds to the apostle Thomas saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. ” (John 14:6 NKJV) He continues with this revelation, declaring that he himself is God in the flesh nd that they now are the same. “If you would have known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. ” (John 14:7) This example of the dual embodiment of God in heaven and God in Christ on earth simultaneously is not a rational concept to the Unitarians. It is not rational thought that the two spirits or entities could share the same space simultaneously at the same time and still be God in heaven and Christ on earth.

Therefore, Jesus was not originally worshipped as God, but followed only as a prophetic religious leader.Jesus was revered as the standard or the closest thing to God on earth but not God and that each person should by example live as best they can based on his teachings. Among many other reasons, the Unitarians became one of the most popular spin off denominations. They affected not just the religious world but also reshaped Great Brittan’s governmental politics.

To summarize them would be to say openness to all things; the desire to overcome evil with good (Evil was not inflicted by God but created out of the heart of man); the seeking of justice for all; toleration of all religions because there is wisdom to learn from each; ncouragement to love our neighbors as ourselves; trust in reason and science; and inherent dignity and worth of every human being. (Gomes web link) Surviving currently in this century are only a few reformed factions of the original Anabaptists movement. Mennonites and Hutterites are two who still hold on to the reformed Anabaptists Christian principles today. The Hutterites are found in communities across the mid west, northeast, Canada, and Mexico.

Only the Hutterites today cling to a communist life style. Agriculture being there main source of income and all property is shared community property.They too are also form the New Testament Pacifists. During the late 18th an early 19th century, the Hutterite leaders left Europe to North America in fear of being pushed to extinction from political and religious pressure to be more conservative. The three Hutterite sects are named after their leaders, Schmiede, Darius, and Lehrer. Each in there own religious views are slightly different than the other.

However, the common threads for each are; infant baptism is not biblical; the bible requires the separation of church and state; Christians should not carry weapons to use against another person; the Lords supper is a symbolic emembrance of the suffering of Jesus. The Mennonites today started by Menno Simmons from the New Testament Pacifists movement do no live in a closed communist setting. They are intermingled in the social secular structure. They came to the North American Continent also during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The congregation of the Mennonites church is not central to the North American continent and Europe today.They are a worldwide congregation formed of twenty congregational churches maintaining core Anabaptist beliefs. Of these twenty different threads of Mennonites, their core beliefs today are; Jesus Christ s central to worship and to everyday living; behavior is to follow Christ’s example; the Bible is considered the inspired word of God; membership continues to be voluntary, with adult baptism upon declaration of faith. (Mennonite Church web link) My opinion on the Anabaptists being radical is this.

Every human born into this word is of his own free will. Unfettered religious canons do not have the right decide the path of religious thought or civil obedience. It is just their interpretation of religious text not necessarily others.

Each person is to decide if God, Satan, Allah, or any other mystical deity is his or her spiritual redeemer. Or he right to believe that your just worm food an nothing else.Radical is the Catholic Church and Prodestants that butchered tens of thousands of people because they chose not to side with their God of war. Radical is making your self-look pure in morality when the bible is filled with immorality and descriptive text on sex and the eating of feces as punishment by God, or God ordering the killing of every living thing in site. And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, hither I will drive them. ” (Ezekiel 4:12-13 NKJV)”Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.

” (Deuteronomy 13:15 NVJV) “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (I Samuel 15:2-3 NKJV) “Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses. ” (Ezekiel 23: 19-21 NVJV) Is this the same God I learned about in Sunday school? I hope not.

If being a member of the Mainstream canon is to believe that my God is a butcher, loves porn and has coprophilia tendencies then I side with the Anabaptists.


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