Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 50 - Were All Anabaptists Revolutionaries? (Video)

File 50. >> I am so surprised by your answer. When I hear of Anabaptists, I don't think of revolutionaries. It's not surprising that Anabaptists like these were feared by the authorities. Were they all like that? Am I simply wrong in my impression? >> No. You're actually quite correct in your impression. The vast majority of Anabaptists were not apocalyptic revolutionaries. Many of them were opposed to religious violence. Nonetheless, in kind of the because of the revolutionaries, the Anabaptist movement as a whole got tarred with that brush. But a lot of them weren't like that at all. Among those who were not like that, I want to single out one in particular, and this is Menno Simons. He's a reformer actually from the Netherlands who, when he embraced Protestantism, ended up embracing the Anabaptist form of Protestantism, rather than one of the magisterial forms, Lutheranism or reformed Protestantism. Simons had been a Roman Catholic priest. He was, as I said, from the Netherlands, and during the reformation period he was led to reexamine Christian truth on the basis of the scriptures. Ultimately, he rejected Catholicism and embraced the Anabaptist position, the Anabaptist position regarding baptism, but also a number of other issues he took a different position from that of the more mainstream reformers. For a long time after he had come to this new position, he hesitated to break with the Catholic church, but one of the things that actually moved him to make the break was the persecution that other Anabaptists were experiencing. Menno Simons felt a great deal of kind of conscience qualms about the fact that others were being persecuted, even dying for their faith, and that he was remaining more or less comfortable within the establishment. So at length, he, too, broke with the Catholic church and joined the Anabaptist movement. But Menno Simons didn't want to have anything to do with revolutionary violence. His own brother was a revolutionary Anabaptist who had lost his life in an attempt to fight against the establishment, so Menno Simons didn't want to have anything to do with that. And so what he did was to articulate another kind of Anabaptist practice, and this was one that was committed to a peaceful, even passivist, kind of a Christian life and existence. So let me tell you a little bit about Menno's theology. Well, as you might expect, he's an Anabaptist. That means he rejects rejects infant baptism. Part of the reason why he could reject infant baptism was on account of his belief that our Lord's death had cancelled out the guilt of original sin for all people, and that meant even for children. Now, he hadn't cancelled out the corruption of original sin, so that people still became sinners, but he thought that nobody would be condemned for simply that corruption, and that it wasn't until a child reached what he called the age of shame that he could be held personally accountable for sins, and accordingly, be be damned or else be saved. So it was only after you became an adult that you were really a fit subject for hearing about the Christian religion, becoming converted, and, once converted, then you should be baptized as kind of the sign and the seal of your conversion. So in common with all the Anabaptists, Menno Simons believed in kind of the gathered church, of which baptism was a sign. Rather than a means of grace for creating faith, it was a sign of faith that was already present. Beyond his views on baptism, Menno Simons also had a strong commitment to Christian community. In part, this may have been on account of the fact that his movement was persecuted. If they were going to have a Christian community at all, it needed to be close knit, it needed to be tightly bound. Members had to have a kind of strong level of commitment. But this was Menno's belief anyway, that Christians were meant to be in close knit communities. This meant that they would encourage and exhort one another to faithfulness during tough times, but it also meant discipline. If individuals fell or they slid back into their old ways and customs, then they had to be disciplined. And Menno and his movement became rather famous for their readiness to impose what they called "the ban" upon back sliding members. And "the ban" included not only exclusion from communion and from church services, but if you were under "the ban," no Mennonite, no follower of Menno Simons, was supposed to have anything to do with you. Any kind of social relations or business relations were terminated, if you were under "the ban." So they as I say, they become well known for their emphasis upon discipleship and Christian discipline. It's also the case that in their Christian practice, Menno was pretty strong on their staying away from violence; that they were really to follow the Sermon On The Mount in its particulars, and Menno's reading of the Sermon On The Mount meant that you weren't supposed to engage in any kind of violence, so you weren't supposed to be a soldier or any kind of officer of the law. You weren't supposed to take oaths. It was okay to obey the authorities, but only in so far as the authorities did not trespass the word of God, and from the standpoint of Menno and his followers, most authorities were always trespassing the word of God, particularly in their attitudes toward the Anabaptists. So Menno's group had to kind of function as an underground church, an underground movement, and Menno himself was often hunted as a heretic. One other aspect I think I should mention regarding Menno's theology is his doctrine of Christ. Menno and others of this radical reformation often departed from classical Christianity in their understanding of the person of Christ. It's hard to figure out the origins of this, but it does seem that there was a strong strain of what we might call a spiritualism, even a Platonism at work in the radical reformation, people who tended to identify material things with evil and spiritual things with good. At any rate, what Menno and others taught about the person of Christ was that our Lord brought with him his human nature into the womb of the Virgin Mary, so that although they would affirm that he was a true human being, nonetheless, he did not derive his human nature, his human flesh, from the Virgin Mary or from ordinary ordinary human being. And so there is really kind of a question as to what Menno and these others really thought about the human nature of Jesus. Was he really a human being like all other human beings, or did he have some kind of special or supernatural body and flesh? Now, there are some historians who think that Menno received his Christology from Melchior Hoffman and that Melchior Hoffman may have received it from yet another radical reformer, a man by the name of Casper Schwenkfeld. I don't think we need to talk a whole lot about Schwenkfeld. He is mentioned in the Lutheran confessions. His theology of Christ, which was similar to that of Menno's, is condemned by the Lutheran confessions. He actually had, at one point, been a follower of Luther, but had broken with Luther over Christology and then also over the doctrine of the Eucharist. Like so many others at this time, Casper Schwenkfeld denied the real presence of our Lord's body and blood in the sacrament. He liked to talk about spiritual eating, which he separated from the physical eating and the sacraments. So Casper Schwenkfeld is yet another member of this rather large group, this complicated group, this group in which there are some tendencies but not a lot of central organization, and certainly no confessions and creeds, this group that we're calling here the radical reformation.