Defending the defenseless, setting the record straight on the Anabaptists

The anabaptists often get a bum rap in Church history classes. Especially among the reformed crowd who would preferr to paint them as anarchists who despised order and expoused heresies. A lawless mob. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since the anabaptists were routienely persecuted by both the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Magesterial Reformers such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli.

Emir Caner has recently released a paper in defense of the anabaptists in an attempt to set the record straight. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in Church history to take a minute and read it.

Highlights include:

  • Anabaptists were hated by everyone so it’s no surprise they have been maligned in history courses for centuries.
  • Anabaptists promoted “believers baptism” as opposed to “paedobaptism” which was the main cause of their mistreatment (some were even killed in the US for their refusal to baptize infants).
  • Anabaptists did not hold to a strict hierarchy of clergy (and for this reason were often mislabeled as anarchists)
  • Anabaptists promoted simple or house church.1
  • Anabaptists objected to theology that ultimately would not lead to primitive Christianity.2
  • Anabaptists did not waver in their belief that God wrote the Bible to be understood
    clearly and explicitly. (as opposed to having to be understood through “trained clergy” per the magisterial reformers or “the priests” per Rome).
    Anabaptists highly valued a clear separation of church and state. This should come as no surprise considering they were killed by everyone in Europe.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from the article:

On 29 May 1525, an unknown peasant farmer, known as a ―pious goodhearted man‖ was
given the privilege of being the first Swiss Anabaptist martyr. Not much is known of this young
man—his birth, his life, even his name—whether he was Eberli Bolt or Bolt Eberli. In 1525, he
found himself in the midst of a spiritual revolution in his country and he himself was placed in
the center of this religious equation. Along with another priest, Eberli was talked into going to
St. Gallen where he chose to be baptized and was ―pressed into preaching service on behalf of
the movement because he could speak well. Johann Kessler, a contemporary of Eberli, spoke
of Eberli‘s sermon as so ―abundantly eloquent that ―hereupon many of the citizens and rural
people consented [to baptism]. His words were so convincing that many ―came to the city
daily and asked where the baptism house was and then left as if they had been to the barber‘s.

When he arrived at home in his canton, Eberli was quickly arrested and sentenced to
death as a heretic. As the chronicler described it, ―Soon [he] approached the fire stakes with
joyful bearing and died willingly and joyfully. Eberli understood what most Christians today
completely miss—it is an honor to suffer for Christ‘s sake. He was the first martyr in a line of
martyrs that, according to Estep, would last for three centuries. He was the first in a line of a
number that only the Lord knows and that could only be revealed in heaven. He gladly bore his
cross.

  1. This was actually more of an outworking from the commitment to a primitive church experience devoid of the trappings of buildings, luxury, and political affiliation. []
  2. This is one of the tenets which helped produce descendants of the anabaptists such as the Amish, Quakers, Mennonites, etc. []
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