Thanks to Dave Black, I read an article summarizing the history, practices, and beliefs of the Anabaptists in sixteenth century Europe. Interestingly, I was talking with my son recently about the Anabaptists. He’s taking a World Civilizations class at a local community college, and they recently started talking about sixteenth century Europe, the Reformation, and even Anabaptists. It’s amazing how much people are now learning about the Anabaptists by reading what THEY wrote instead of reading what others wrote about them.
The article that I’m referring to is called “Anabaptism: Re-monking the Church After Christendom.” The article is two years old, and primarily studies the connection between Anabaptism and monasticism. However, it begins with a great list of general practices and beliefs that were distinctive to Anabaptists:
- The need for conversion – challenging the notion of a Christian culture
- Baptism is for believers and implies accountability to the community
- Multi-voiced church life – challenging the dependence on the clergy
- Economic sharing – simple living and responsibility for others
- Non-violence and an active commitment to peaceful living
- Truth-telling and a rejection of oath-swearing
- The centrality of Jesus and his call to serious discipleship
- Acceptance that suffering and persecution were normal for Christians
- The freedom of churches from state control or interference
- A wholehearted rejection of the Christendom system
By the way, it seems it was primarily that last distinctive (“a wholehearted rejection of the Christendom system”) that earned Anabaptists the ire and condemnation of others who sought to continue Christendom and the church-state connection. (In the eyes of those who held to the church-state connection, many of the other “distinctives” indicated a rejection of Christendom.)
Interestingly, while “Anabaptism” seems to have “failed,” many of these distinctives (especially the rejection of the church-state connection) are now accepted broadly among Jesus’ followers.
Just wondering, among my readers, which of the distinctive practices and beliefs of Anabaptists mentioned above do you think are important for the church today? Which ones are not important? Feel free to give your reasoning if you’d like. (You can use the numbers if you don’t want to type it all out.)
(HT: Dave Black)