The Anabaptist Movement

Gonzalez, Vol. II, Chapter 6
Sought to cleanse the
church from what
contradicted Scripture
Whatever was not
prohibited by Scripture was
allowed if it served to edify
the people and reinforce
the faith
Sought to reconstruct the
Church on a scriptural
Whatever was not explicitly
warranted in Scripture was
rejected outright
 Contended
that Zwingli & Luther did not
go far enough in their programs of
 A marked contrast between the church
and society in the NT
 Early Christians were persecuted by the
 Constantine’s “conversion” was a
betrayal of primitive Christianity
 The
Church should not be confused with
 One belongs to society by the mere fact
of birth; one cannot belong to the church
without a personal decision
 Infant baptism must be rejected, because
it assumes that one becomes a Christian
simply by being born into a supposedly
Christian society
 The
rejection of infant baptism
essentially meant the rejection of
Christian society
 True Christians were not to support the
state, even against invading infidels
(Turks); later this would become fullblown pacifism
 Supreme New Testament ethic: Sermon
on the Mount
 The “radical
reformation” first came to
public attention in Zurich, early in
Zwingli’s program of reform
 Certain “brethren” had been urging
Zwingli to undertake a more radical
program of reform; nearly convinced him
to reject infant baptism
 Breaking ranks with Zwingli, they finally
took matters into their own hands
 Embraced
Reformation ideal in 1522; early
supporter of Zwingli
 Disputed with Zwingli over the abolishing
the Mass in 1523
 After his dispute with Zwingli, Grebel and a
group of 15 men began to meet for prayer
and private Bible study
 Final break with Zwingli came in 1525 when
Grebel and his companions failed to
convince Zwingli on the issue of infant
 Zwingli
argued against Grebel, George
Blaurock and Felix Manz on the issue of
 The city council decided in favor of Zwingli,
ordered Grebel’s group to cease their
activities, and ordered all unbaptized
children to be baptized within eight days,
else face exile from the canton
 Grebel ignored the order to have his own
infant daughter baptized
 Grebel
and his companions met together
(illegally) in the home of Felix Manz on
January 21, 1525
 At this meeting, George Blaurock asked
Grebel to baptize him on confession of
faith; Blaurock then proceeded to baptize
the others
 They committed themselves to living
apart from the world according to NT
Persecution sweeps Europe
 In
the eyes of the state, the Anabaptists
were a threat to social order
 They refused to support the state
 They implied that the structures of power
should not be transferred to the church,
nor should authority in spiritual matters
be transferred to the state
 Lutheranism
depended on the support of
the princes who embraced it, who in turn
enjoyed great authority in matters both
civil and ecclesiastical
 In Zwingli’s Zurich, the Council of
Government had the final word in
religious matters
 In Catholic lands, the state enforced
church teaching and practice
 The
Church was a voluntary community,
totally distinct from the civil community
 Radically egalitarian – in most groups,
women had the same rights as men; the
poor and ignorant were as important as
the rich and learned
 In
1525, the Catholic areas of Switzerland
began condemning Anabaptist to death
 The Zurich Council of Government followed
suit in 1526
 No uniform policy in Germany; ancient laws
against heretics applied to Anabaptists
 In 1528, Charles V ordered that they be put
to death on the basis of ancient Roman laws
against Donatists (who also re-baptized)
 The
Diet of Speyer (1529) approved
Charles’ imperial decree against the
 The only German prince to follow his
conscience was Philip of Hesse
 In many areas, Anabaptists were accused
of both heresy and sedition
(ecclesiastical and criminal charges)
 Most
of the early Anabaptist leaders were
scholars (in humanism); most were
 Most of the early Anabaptists succumbed
to martyrdom
 The next generation became more
radicalized; original pacifism was largely
 Muntzer’s
ideas of social justice for the
peasants had unsettled central Europe
(culminating in the Peasant’s Rebellion)
 Hoffman’s preaching that Day of the Lord
was at hand incited the multitudes to
believe that Muntzer’s ideas were still
within reach
 Originally
a follower of Luther, then of
 Moved to Strasbourg in 1530; rebaptized
in April
 Founded a community in Emden in 1532
 Returned to Strasbourg in 1533 after it
was prophesied that he would be
imprisoned for six months
 Studied
John’s Apocalypse; believed that
the New Jerusalem would be established
in Strasbourg
 Rejected pacifism because he believed
that the children of God would have to
take up arms against the children of
 His imprisonment “fulfilled” the first half
of his prophecy; many flocked to his
 Hoffman
predicted that Christ would
return in 1533; but Hoffman was still in
prison on the day predicted for Christ’s
 The movement relocated to the city of
Muenster, where the balance of powers
between Catholics and Protestants meant
that the Anabaptists enjoyed a measure
of tolerance
 Soon
Muenster was seen as the “New
 Anabaptists took control of the city in
1534, and established a theocracy under
John Matthys, a Dutch baker, and his main
disciple, John of Leiden
 Catholics were expelled from the city; the
local bishop then gathered an army and
besieged the city
 Died
in a foolish sortie against Catholic
forces besieging Muenster in April 1534
 “King
of Jerusalem”
 Moderate
Protestants eventually expelled
 Sculptures, paintings destroyed;
governed by literal interpretation of
 Food increasingly scarce
 Daily claims of visions and revelations
 Less and less males meant more and
more females
 John of Leiden decreed the practice of
 Some
of the inhabitants of the city, tired of
the excesses of the visionaries, finally
opened the gates of the city to the bishop
and his besieging army
 John of Leiden and Knipperdolling were
captured, humiliated, tortured and killed
 Fall
of Muenster put an end to
revolutionary Anabaptism; impetus for
renewed persecution
 New leaders emphasized pacifism
 Menno Simons (1496-1561); catholic
priest who embraced Anabaptism in
 Pacifism
was essential part of Christianity
 No swearing of oaths; nor occupying
positions of authority in the state
 Obedience to the state unless in conflict
with the teachings of Scripture
 Baptism by pouring, only to adults who
confess their faith publicly
 Sacraments are outward signs
 Practice of footwashing
 Would
not swear oaths or offer military
 As a result, they were scattered all over
 Eventually spread to Russia, North
America, and South America

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