Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Story of the Anabaptists


We're continuing to tell the story of the outworking of the Reformation. Today, I'd like to tell how God guided His Church to the truth of baptism.

Luther, Where We Left Off...

Luther Translating the Bible into GermanAgain, Luther opened Pandora's Box, so to speak. He asked uncomfortable question: do we put our trust in the Church or the Scripture when the two diverge? He started at square-one with the core of Christian faith: justification by grace through faith. But he didn't ask the question in all matters and was instead comfortable in his cultural view of baptism. Examining Scripture makes it pretty clear that baptism is a visible sign of the inward work of God's removing our sin and cleansing us from it's guilt. (Pedobaptists, I get your view, I hear you, you're wrong, but whatever...)

Who are the Anabaptists?

The regions of reformation movementThe story I want to tell is of a group right after the Reformation got going who took an unpopular position, but God used them greatly and His Church today is forever changed for the better because of their commitment to the Scriptures. I want you to hear the story of the Anabaptists. The prefix "ana" means again in Greek (and it can mean from on high). So in John 3:3, Jesus says you must be born again (or from above). These first generation anabaptists were born as Catholics as were all first generation Reformers. They were baptized as infants by their parents in the Catholic Church. When they read the Scriptures and saw that believers should be baptized and not all people, they began to baptize each other. So they were baptized again (first at birth as Catholics, then at conversion as Anabaptists). They didn't believe in being baptized twice, but they couldn't undo what their parents had done. They were convicted in their study of the Scriptures that only believers ought to be baptized into Jesus' Church.

A Portrait of Conrad GrebelThe Church in Europe had been Reforming from 1517 until 1525 and it really took hold in central Europe. Switzerland was a hotbed for Biblical study and practice. In Zurich especially, Ulrich Zwingli transformed the town into a theological center. Some of his followers began taking unpopular positions on theological matters. Grebel, one of Zwingli's followers was much more extreme than the moderating Zwingli. History tells us that both men disdained Mass, but when the town council insisted in 1523 that it be practiced, Zwingli obliged, while Grebel left. Wikipedia says "These young 'radicals' felt betrayed by Zwingli, while Zwingli looked on them as irresponsible." Men like Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, et al began the Anabaptist movement on January 21, 1525 when Grebel baptized Blaurock in Zurich, Switzerland. Only later, in 1536, did Catholic monks, like Menno Simons join the movement.

The Reaction Against the Anabaptists

An Anabaptist woman being baptized to death as punishment for her crimeNearly immediately, they were hunted down, ridiculed, tortured, and killed. Felix Manz became the first martyr on May 20, 1527 when Catholics arrested and drowned him. But it was their conviction that what they were doing was Biblical that kept them from disowning the faith. Ironically, it was other churches that hunted them down. Granted, these other churches thought that the Anabaptists (who would not baptized the babies born within the Anabaptist Church) were damning their children to hell.

Anabaptists Today

Believer being baptized todayThis movement has continued to this day. Most likely, if you are reading this blog, you are part of this movement. Who are the Anabaptists today (at least on the question of baptism)? Mennonites, Brethren, Quakers, Baptists, Bible Churches, Amish, and mostly all of the Evangelical Church are all members of the Anabaptist movement.


Why was the Anabaptist movement born? Because Luther had asked the question one decade earlier: do I trust in the Bible or the Church when the two diverge?

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Blogger s said...

Pretty good overview. I knew ana meant again but had not heard it mean from on high. That does make the connection stronger to John 3. Interesting...

One thing that always interested me about the anabaptist is how they were persecuted by protestants and catholics. They used to come up with all kinds of drowning techniques since they liked to be dunked.

From my understanding the Baptist did not come directly from the anabaptist or at least not the baptist churches of the present with English roots. Below is a link to an article that I remember reading in the past (I need to re-read it) I seem to remember the church history text I went through said the same thing however, one probably could argue that they had the same origins but changed soon after. Let me know your thoughts of this article:

10/13/2007 7:10 PM  
Blogger Hans Ruedi said...

I just saw a little mistake in the text.
Felix hasn't been killed by the catholics, but the protestants, which separated under Huldrich Zwingli from the catholic church.

12/06/2013 6:17 AM  

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