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.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Capito, Sattler, and Emerging Church Philosophy


The year: 1527 AD. The place: Strasbourg, Germany. Not exactly a hot bed of openness to new ideas. The Reformers had just revolted from Roman oppression within the last decade. They weren't much better than the Catholics when it came to divergent viewpoints on the Scriptures. Enter the Anabaptists. At the elemental level, the only disagreement between the Reformers and the Anabaptists was their view of baptism. Not a core doctrine from the 21st century perspective. To the Reformers, this divergence was so extreme that it demanded capital punishment. In all fairness, the Lutherans and Catholics also executed Anabaptists within their communities. Wolfgang Capito describes Michael Sattler's execution this way:

"Michael ... their leader and instigator is said to have been condemned by triple judgment, namely that in the city his tongue was cut out, second, that his body was torn with red hot tongs twice in the city and three times again at the gallows, thus tearing out his flesh, and third, that he was burned alive."
Such madness even if for a vile madman, let alone an innocent man like Michael Sattler.

Emerging Thought in 1527

Anyway, to my main point... the man Wolfgang Capito was way before his time. I am not sure of all of his theology, but he is remembered as "ecumenically open" and "willing to converse with others." He was consistently and thoroughly a Reformer. Now this is what he writes about his dealings with the Anabaptists like Michael Sattler.

"Now we were not in agreement with him as he wished to make Christians righteous by their acceptance of articles and an outward commitment. This we thought to be the beginning of a new monasticism. We desired rather to help the believing life to progress by contemplation of the mercies of God, as Moses bases his exhortations to good works, on the reminder of divine favors and of the fatherly disciplining of the people by God (Deut 8); which is the order of salvation [how thoroughly Calvinist!!]. Namely that we confess our sin and know that God has forgiven us the same through Christ, and that out of pure grace He desires to give us eternal life, which we are assured by the Spirit of the children of God, which then gives birth to fear, yea, which penetrates us with fear, so that we become conscientious in all our action that we might not act against God. This is followed by wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, and pure childlike reverence which remains eternally."
Basically here he said that he is right, the Anabaptists are wrong, on the issue of the order of salvation. He recognizes that the Anabaptists are generally advocating holiness then salvation and the Reformers are on the other hand advocating salvation then holiness. But now listen to what he says about these "unorthodox heretics..."

"But it can happen that the elect of God have this fear and desire from their hearts to serve God, but have not yet received the spirit of wisdom and do not really know that God looks only on the yielded heart, rather think they will please Him with their works. [Now listen!] Such persons are certainly saved and have a good zeal, but not with right knowledge. These are to be loved as brothers and fellow members, to be dealt with tenderly in their weakness, in their ignorance to be shown the truth with a mild spirit. This is what Paul calls accepting the brother who is weak in the faith, which is what faith and love for the honor of God and brotherly love toward the neighbor demand of all of us."
So he calls them wrong AND he calls them his brothers. There is Truth or at least truth. Capito even contends for the faith. But he does so without discarding the real faith of those who disagree with him. I've said this many times within the past few years, but five or ten years ago I believed the opposite: Arminians are saved, they just don't know why. I used to think that they were not saved because of their lack of understanding. I am now seeing that we are not saved by our thinking, we are saved by a gracious God who saved the Ephesians long before they knew that there was a Holy Spirit. He called the Corinthians "Saints" despite the truth of the matter. And today He works on all of us despite ourselves not because of ourselves.

Capito was a rare breed in 1527. He recognized that to be saved by the mercies of God is not in response to our assent of the truth. Zwingli and Luther were passionate for the Truth, and so when they met to merge at the Marburg Colloquoy they agreed on twenty-some points of doctrine yet the disagreed on one "what happens at the Lord's Table?" They parted ways thinking the other was not truly born again. So when I say Capito stands out, it really is true.

For Us Today

So the thought for us in our generation is: are we willing to see ourselves as part of a much larger fellowship of churches?

My heart weeps for those who attend church Sunday after Sunday and never hear the Word of God. When the prophet said there would be a famine for hearing the Word of the Lord, it isn't fulfilled today except through our own fault. These churches that do not open the Bible in their meetings... it is very hard for me to call these leaders "brothers." They are in sin for not teaching God's Word to their people. It is cocky, arrogant, self-indulged to think that my clever conversation is better for my folks than God's Counsel. Yet can I call these "brothers"?

Can I call the Arminians brothers? Tony Jones calls 90% of Americans "semi-pelagian" (Arminians are semi-pelagian as are Catholics). So to dismiss them as unbelievers we need to lay all the cards out on the table and recognize that we are talking about a large group of people. These people think that they can accept or reject God and even if they accept, they can later reject. They believe that their sinfulness is not so bad that they cannot reason in themselves and choose God. They have a low view of God and a high view of themselves. They do not have a holistic understanding of God's Word. Is it our thinking that saves us or is it God's mercy that saves us? The answer is obvious, but the next question is tougher: if it is God's mercy that saves us, He guides us into all truth, what of the person who is not being guided into all truth? Difficult question to answer... I am going to lean on the side of caution. These are my brothers.

Let me close with this already quoted line "It can happen that the elect of God have this [conscientious] fear and desire from their hearts to serve God, but have not yet received the spirit of wisdom and do not really know that God looks only on the yielded heart, rather think they will please Him with their works."

All blockquotes were cited from "The Legacy of Michael Sattler" edited by John H. Yoder. Herald Press: Scottdale, PA. 1973. pp. 87-88.



Post a Comment

<< Home