Christians Killing Christians: The Story Of The RebaptizersDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | March 18, 2007
Selected highlights from this sermon
In addition to Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Zwinglianism, there was fourth party in the Reformation movement: the Anabaptists. Seeing the terrible corruption of Christianity throughout history by the close relationship of church and state, they sought to separate the two.
Forsaking practices like infant baptism, the Anabaptists were branded as rebels by all parties, and were martyred by the hundreds. But the Anabaptist movement continues to inform our age, encouraging the separation of church and state.
Thank you so much for being here tonight as I speak on the topic of Christians Killing Christians, the Anabaptist Movement. I do need to say also that if you do wish to ask a question, you can write it on the bottom of your hymn sheet, and we will ask the pastoral staff to pick them up afterwards, and we may have a few moments to answer a few questions.
I’m so glad that you are here tonight, and I’d like to begin with two very unrelated events to let you know that actually this lecture is going in that direction. One time I was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (not Langcaster, but Lancaster) and the motel in which I was staying was near a road, near a paved street. It was 6 o’clock in the morning. I say to myself, “Could this be true? Am I hearing what I think I hear?” And I looked out the window and I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. There was a covered wagon with horses, and the horses were clomping along the street. Hmmm. Why are those horses there? Well, tonight at the end of the lecture you’ll know why they were there. Aren’t you glad you came?
Another story totally unrelated. I listened to a CD of a discussion that took place at the Religious Broadcasters’ meeting where Barry Lynn of Americans for the Separation of Church and State, and an atheist were in a debate with two Christian attorneys. And Barry Lynn kept asking this question: “Why do you Christians...” (And he’s one too. After all, he’s an ordained United Church of Christ minister.) “Why do you need the state to prop up Christianity? Why do we need “In God We Trust” on our coins, or “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? Let’s separate the church from the state. That question also is going to be raised tonight, so you could call this lecture tonight, “The Horse and the Attorney.” All right? But it’s going to take a while for us to get there, something like 20 to 25 minutes. But we’ll make it as God wills. All right?
When Luther and Calvin and Zwingli said, “Sola Scriptura,” it seemed as if, to people, there was a deliverance that was spreading throughout Europe. The monopoly that official Christendom had on the souls of people was being broken. No longer did people have to be subject to certain artificial laws and traditions, and we might say even ideas that arose as a result of paganism. No longer did they have to be subject to that. Superstitions. But rather they could be free and wherever the Bible was found, it could now be studied.
Well, thanks to Zwingli’s genius, and remember Zwingli was in Zurich, Switzerland...Thanks to his genius, he attracted a group of young men who were interested in learning Greek and the classics. Among them was a youthful scholar named Conrad Grebel and later Felix Manz, and a number of others. They would gather together and Zwingli would teach them not only the New Testament in Greek but also the Greek philosophers. But by 1523, these young men had lost confidence in Zwingli because he refused to set the church free from the entanglement of the state.
Zwingli, for example, looked to the church councils as to whether or not he should abolish the Mass, and do away with the images in the church. And they said, “Sola Scriptura. If you mean it, you should stick with it and you don’t need to be propped up by the city council.” Zwingli, they believed, betrayed his vow that he would not compromise where the Word of God has spoken. In the words of one historian, “The decision of Conrad Grebel to refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the Zurich Council over the Zurich church is one of the high moments of history, for however obscure it was, it marked the beginning of the modern church free movement. Zealous for reform, and with convictions informed by a careful study of the New Testament, these men and some like-minded ones decided that they would have to break with the established reformer, Zwingli.”
Now we get to the matter of infant baptism, and I need to clarify some matters because that was the big point of contention. First of all, let me explain why infant baptism was so important. You’ve probably heard me say this before but some of us do not believe that infant baptism is taught in the New Testament except perhaps in inference, but not directly. And generally speaking, the early church baptized people because they are adults upon profession of faith rather than infants. But there were those who said that there was value to the sacraments, and if there’s value to the sacraments, then infants should not be withheld from baptism.
So beginning with Cyprian in North Africa in the 200s, infants were baptized. And afterwards, not only were they baptized, but they were also given the bread and the cup because, after all, if there is value in the sacraments, why should that be withheld from them? So both of the sacraments were given to them.
Now Tertullian argued, and he was from North Africa, that we should wait until these children grow up and they know what they are doing. But his voice was not widely heard on that topic. Now isn’t it interesting that after the time of Constantine in 314-315, that infant baptism eventually became “the” doctrine of the church. In fact, if you did not have your child baptized as an infant, you could be put to death. Even Charlemagne, Charles the Great, decreed that if parents were found who had not had their children baptized, they would have to be put to death—the parents would be—because of disobedience.
Why is it that suddenly infant baptism became the way to baptize? Well, the answer is that it became a symbol of the unity of the church and state. You see, after the time of Constantine, you have emperors such as Justinian. They were the ones that were appointing the bishops, and so you can see corruption coming in on all sides once you have that kind of entanglement of the state and the church. And, you see, that continues till today in Europe.
When we were in Norway with the choir...when was it, Tim? Two years ago? I was sitting with a man who was the pastor of the church, and I said, “Who appointed you to be the pastor of this church?” and he said, “The king of Norway.” That goes back to the days of Constantine.
So you have this entanglement of church and state. And infant baptism was symbolic of a regional church. You were baptized as an infant, and you were also baptized as a Christian. You were christened to prove that you were a Christian. That’s why infant baptism was held by people. A guy like Charlemagne didn’t care about the theology of it, but he saw that it was infant baptism that held Christendom together.
Now, some of you who have been baptized as infants... Those of you who have been baptized as infants could I see your hands please, tonight? It’s just...oh, probably a third of you? I thought maybe one-half or three-quarters of you would have been baptized as infants. You probably think that I’m on a rampage against infant baptism. I am not. I’m just teaching history. I just work here at the church.
Now, what you need to understand as we proceed is that there are two different views of infant baptism. If you were baptized Catholic or Lutheran, the liturgy said, “With this water, we make you a child of God.” In other words, original sin is washed away, and that’s when you were born again in Lutheran and in Catholic theology. But if you are a Presbyterian, and we have some wonderful Presbyterians here tonight I am sure, because we always do, it is a sign of the covenant. It doesn’t save exactly. It means that you will be saved, or at least you have a better chance at being saved, etc., etc. It is more like a dedication service. So I’m just simply telling you though that infant baptism during this period of time became a symbol of the union of church and state.
Now what happened is as these young men studied with Zwingli they said to themselves, “If we are going to be a true church, we have to leave infant baptism behind and we have to separate this union of church and state. And that’s why infant baptism became the big bone of contention.
Now we continue. On January 21, 1525, a small group of men trudged through the snow to enter the home of Felix Manz near the Grossmünster Church. Grossmünster means big church as opposed to small one, the city church we could say. The Grossmünster Church where Zwingli preached. In fear, they bowed their knees that God might show them His will and grant them courage. And after prayer, they baptized one another since there was no ordained minister to do this work, they pledged themselves to be disciples of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.
Anabaptism, “Ana” meaning “re.” Rebaptism was born. You see, they were Rebaptizers because they had been baptized as infants, but now they were being baptized as adults, having put their faith in Christ, and so this becomes known now in history as the Anabaptist movement, the Rebaptizing Movement we could say. It was born. No other event so completely symbolized a break with Rome. Here for the first time in the course of the Reformation, a group of Christians dared to form a church after what was conceived to be the New Testament pattern. As these believers studied the Scriptures, they were struck with the fact that the early believers were always an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism, and the union of church and state had diluted doctrine and had corrupted the church. And what the church needed to do was to withdraw and become a group within society once again.
In light of this, the reformers would have said yes, the church can be expected to have persecution when the state is hostile. What the Anabaptists said is that if a church is the way it should be, it will always be persecuted by the state. Rather than joining the state, the state becomes the enemy of the church of necessity. You see the difference.
The Anabaptists replied that a state cannot be Christianized even if the emperor changes his religion to Christianity like Constantine did. Indeed, they insisted that with the conversion of the emperor in (what was it?) 315 (Constantine’s conversion), they insisted that nothing changed. They said in the early centuries, the state persecuted the church, and then after the time of Constantine you have now Christians persecuting Christians. You have Christendom persecuting the true church. In fact, that’s true. A whole different story. The Donatists, in the fourth century, [were] exterminated because they believed in the independence of the church, and really were quite true to the Gospel. And now it’s going to happen again in the sixteenth century with these Anabaptists.
All right. The world, they argued, remains the world and if the church is not persecuted it is because the salt has lost its savor. They had great pessimism regarding the world, but great optimism regarding the church. Well, with that baptism in 1527, martyrdom now began. The first Anabaptist martyr was Eberli Bolt, a preacher who was burned at the stake at the hands of the Roman Catholic authorities on May 29, 1525. But that triggered a legacy of martyrdom that continued for three centuries. And I want to give you the story of one martyr particularly, but I could fill tonight, and many, many evenings doing nothing but telling you the story of the martyrs of the Anabaptists dying because they dared to baptize one another and separate from the state.
Conrad Grebel was one of the ones who was taught by Zwingli. He was an Anabaptist preacher for only one year and eight months. He went from house to house witnessing, baptizing. On one occasion, he baptized 500 converts in the Sitar River. Back in Zurich, he was extremely cautious about his movements, fearing that his former friend, Zwingli, would have him imprisoned. Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock were finally arrested and thrown into prison in the castle at Grüningen.
Three weeks later, another friend, Felix Manz, was also incarcerated there. Zwingli accused his former friends of sedition. While in prison, Grebel wrote a manuscript on baptism. This was not permitted, but he was able to do it, and later he escaped the prison and his manuscript was published.
But let me tell you the story of Felix Manz. Conrad Grebel, by the way, died of natural causes. Felix Manz was the illegitimate son of a Roman Catholic priest. He was well-trained in Latin and Greek. It was at his home on Neustadtgasse Street, close to the Grossmünster, where the baptism took place. And by the way, I’ve been there on a number of occasions when I lead tourists to the sites of the Reformation. You can go there and today I think it is an antique shop, but you can see that on it there’s a little sign that says, “This is the beginning of the Free Church Movement because this used to be the place of the home of Felix Manz,” right close to the Grossmünster, the big church in Zurich.
And he was taken and imprisoned, and then he was brought to the Witch’s Tower in Zurich from which he escaped. But later on, he was again captured and he was put to death. And I’d like for you to listen to his story, and we’ll make a few comments before we move on.
On January 5, 1527, Manz was sentenced to death (quote) “because contrary to the Christian order and custom, he had become involved in Anabaptism because he confessed, having said that he wanted to gather those who wanted to accept Christ and follow Him, and unite himself with them through baptism, so that he and his followers separated themselves from the Christian church and were about to raise up and prepare a sect of their own because he had condemned capital punishment since such doctrine is harmful to the unified usage of all Christendom and leads to offense, insurrection,” etc.
“Manz (and here’s the decree) shall be delivered to the executioner who shall tie his hands, put him into a boat, take him to the lower hut, there stripped, his bound hands over his knees, place a stick between his knees and arms, and thus push him into the water and let him perish in the water. Thereby he shall have atoned to the law and justice. His property shall also be confiscated by my lords,” because the city hall in Zurich said that anyone who is baptized as an adult must be put to death by drowning, fire, or sword. So for Manz they chose drowning.
So, according to the sentence, he was taken bound from the prison, past the fish market, to the boat. All along he witnessed to the members of the dismal procession and to those standing on the banks of the Limmat River, praising God that even though he was a sinner he had the privilege of dying for the truth. Further, he declared that believer’s baptism was the true baptism according to the Word of God and the teaching of Christ. And this brings tears to my eyes. The voice of his mother could be heard above the throng and the ripple of the waves entreating him to remain true to Christ in this hour of his temptation.
Well, a few moments later, of course, the cold dark water of the Limmat River covered him and he was drowned. And I told you before, Zwingli was there on the shore, saying of his friend, “If he wishes to go under the water, why indeed let him go under.”
The drowning was considered to be the third baptism. The first baptism, you were baptized as an infant. The second baptism, you are baptized as an adult upon profession of faith. The third baptism, “We will drown you and you will die.”
You can go today to the Rathaus there close to the Limmat River and you can stand there, as I have done and given a lecture on Felix Manz being representative of the thousands and thousands of people killed because they believed that one should be baptized upon profession of faith.
Manz didn’t write much but he did write a hymn:
With gladness I will sing now.
My heart delights in God,
Who showed me such forbearance,
That I from death was saved.
I praise Thee, Christ in heaven,
Who all my sorrow changed.
George Blaurock was severely beaten that day, but lived to spread the faith two and a half years more until he was burned at the stake in Tyrol (Innsbruck). Thus, while Luther and Zwingli were teaching the church and opening the Scriptures to people, the Anabaptists were convinced that the lifestyle of the church needed radical improvement. They called for strict morality.
And this is what people said of the Anabaptists. This is what Zwingli said of the Anabaptists, though he approved of their being killed: “At first contact their conduct appears irreproachable, pious, unassuming, attractive. Even those who are inclined to be critical will say that their lives are excellent.” I’d say that’s high praise.
And this is what a Catholic said of them. He observed in them no lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, but rather humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness in such a measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God. But then he went on to say, “But, you know, that’s just like the devil to create such godliness in people who are heretics, and therefore deceive others, and therefore, let us make sure that they are exterminated.”
Why was the ancient law Justinian revived to put these heretics to death? Well, I’ve already told you. They were a threat to the medieval order. We can’t put ourselves in those shoes, can we? Because the whole notion of the separation of church and state here in America is an article with which we just grew up. We don’t understand. Christendom had certain boundaries and everyone within those boundaries had to march according to the Christian drum beat. And now you have these off-beats who say that the others aren’t really Christians and that we are the true Christians and we’re proving it to be baptized. And then we’re pacifists. And people say, “Pacifists? How are we going to fight the Turks? How are we going to fight if we’ve got all these pacifists?”
Here you have Anabaptism spreading. There was only one way to take care of it, to kill them. Whole villages of men, women, and children were killed. But the Anabaptists insisted that a child could not be made a Christian even if an ocean of water were poured on its head. Infant baptism is therefore no baptism at all, but they called it the “Dipping in a Romish bath.” Consequently, these radicals objected being called Anabaptists. They were not Rebaptizers because what they were saying is, “We had water sprinkled on us when we were infants, but that’s not baptism.” Zurich, they contended was an unweeded field that could not possibly be considered as the New Israel as Zwingli invoked since the weeds and the tares grow together. There must be a purging if the true believers are to form churches. God will make the final separation, but we are to be a pure church, they argued. Thus they withdrew from political life also.
Now, if you look at an Anabaptist hymnal, what you find is all of the people who were martyred for their faith, because over against the names of the authors you always have notations in these hymnals: Drowned 1525, burned 1526, beheaded 1527, hanged 1528, and on and on it goes. Sometimes whole congregations were killed alive.
After recording the deaths of 2,173 of the brethren, a chronicler says, “No human being was able to take away out of their hearts what they had experienced. The fire of God burned within them. They would die ten deaths rather than forsake the divine truth.” And I told you before, I may have even said it today, that more of them were killed in the 1500s (That’s called the sixteenth century) than died in the early centuries in the persecution at Rome. One writer said, “They had drunk of the water which is flowing from God’s sanctuary, yea the water of life. Their tent they had pitched not here upon earth but in eternity. Their faith blossomed like a lily, their loyalty as a rose, and their piety and candor is the flower of the garden of God. The angel of the Lord battled for them and they could not be deprived of the helmet of salvation. Therefore, they have borne all the torture and agony without fear. The things of this world they counted only as shadows. They were thus drawn to God in that they knew nothing, sought nothing, desired nothing, loved nothing but God alone. Therefore, they had more patience in their suffering than their enemies in tormenting them.” Wow.
The reason that the Rebaptizers have had a bad name, and I’m going to skip over this, is because there was a radical movement in northern Germany. In a place called Münster, there were some radical Anabaptists who did very stupid things. They ran around half naked saying that “the kingdom of God was come and they were establishing the millennial kingdom on earth,” and on and on they went. And they were radicals of the worst order. Luther called them “schwärmer,” which in German means like bees buzzing around, and the only thing that you can do is to get rid of people like that, so the Protestants even worked with the Catholics to go there and to simply wipe them all out—kill them.
Now, that’s why when you mention Anabaptists they are generally badly spoken about. “Oh, those radicals over there.” Well, it’s true there were radicals, but that was a minority considering the impetus of the movement.
Now, let me to tell you that Menno Simons was a founder of the Mennonites. And the Anabaptists could not find a home in Germany. They were stamped out in Holland and Switzerland, if you survived, and so forth.
What I want to do is to give you now three branches that have come from the Anabaptists. The first is the Mennonites. Menno Simons was an Anabaptist in the Netherlands, and he began preaching pacifism. They were much more Arminian in their theology than Calvinistic. They also believed that one should withdraw from the world. In Canada, there are certain communities like in southern Manitoba where you have whole towns today that are basically Mennonite. And when I taught in a Bible college in Canada in the late 60s and early 70s (actually late 60s) about a third of the student body were Mennonites. They were all wonderful students, wonderful Christians, but they were all very pacifistic.
One day, I was sitting on a plane riding with a Mennonite pastor and I told him that I believed that it was necessary at times to go to war. And he told me lovingly (I mean he did it with a smile, but he meant it very sincerely) that I was on my way to hell. It was not merely that we had a disagreement over a minor point. This was “the” point at which I could either prove my salvation or disprove it, and clearly I was disproving it. So that’s the strong Mennonite.
Now, the Mennonites are changing and they are evolving, if we can use that word, and they are not nearly as pacifistic as they once were. But the Mennonites are actually the fruit of the Anabaptist movement where you withdraw from society to a certain extent.
The other is Jakob Hutter, the Hutterites. He lived in Austria, and in parts of Italy and Czechoslovakia, and he died for his faith, by the way. And you know Hutter in German...a hutt is a hat, and so he was a hat maker, but he began this movement, and as a result of that, he had some disagreements, and he began what we call today the Hutterites. But we don’t know too much about the Hutterites. The Hutterites primarily, I think, live in Canada. We used to visit the Hutterite colonies up there. They are the fruits of the Anabaptist movement.
But now we get to the horse in Lancaster. You knew that we were going to get there. The Amish. The Amish are a branch off the Swiss Mennonites, the Anabaptist Movement. They had a founder by the name of Jakob Ammann, born in Switzerland, and he became a spokesman for the Anabaptists in the area. He began teaching social avoidance, and the washing of feet. They avoid those who have been excommunicated from their fellowship as well as society in general. They live contrary to most Americans who emphasize the individual. They emphasize the community. The fear of being excommunicated and shunned keeps them from being tempted by the outside world. They do not believe in evangelism because that would be seen as consorting with those who are shunned. And what you have among them is extreme separation from the world. They believe that you should have only about a fourth grade education, and therefore they are in conflict with the state all the time over educational matters, but in addition to that, if you’ve ever been to Lancaster, you know that they only have horses. They do not have automobiles because that is modern and that is worldly.
For years they did not have electricity because, after all, that’s very modern too. Of course, we smile because I thought to myself, “Well, you know the wheel on your wagon is kind of a modern invention. There was a time when the wheel hadn’t been invented, so you are picking up some ideas here from the world.” And so we look at them and we think that they are a strange breed.
Now basically the Amish today try to base their beliefs on a very literal reading of the Bible. Unfortunately, in many instances the Gospel has been lost because it has become a religion of works, but they are the fruit of the Anabaptist movement. So remember the Hutterites, the Amish, and the Mennonites all were Anabaptists.
Now, let’s discuss some issues here. And if you are going to ask me a question, this would be a good time to write it down because in a few moments I’m going to be asking the staff to pick them up. But here are some issues. What does it mean for the church to be separate from the state? You see, the Hutterites and the Mennonites and those that withdrew...the Anabaptists, they would say, “We do not need the state to promote the church. We do not need ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins as the official imprimatur of the state. We do not have to swear to the Constitution or to say that the Pledge of Allegiance ‘is under God.’ Let the state be the state.” And they would say, “The church can survive very well without the state.” Well, we look at how they are surviving.
Now, I may have mentioned to you that the Amish do not evangelize because that would mean that they are having contact with people who should be shunned, so they’re not doing a very good job of evangelization, but isn’t it interesting, this whole relationship of church and state? For two thousand years, the church has battled this.
What about Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, saying that the church does not need the state to survive? Doesn’t the church have enough authority and power to be able to do it on its own? Does it need to be propped up by the civil government of the United States? I’m only raising these questions so that you see their relevance and how the church has always battled this, where you get to the magisterial reformers, as they are called, because they were reformed within Christendom—I’m talking now about Luther and Calvin and Zwingli—you find there that there is much appreciation for the state, and sometimes too much input from the state. And there was no clear break between church and state.
But then when you get to the Anabaptists you see this clearer line, this pulling back. By the way, most Anabaptists would not even become police officers because of their pacifism. Their view was that the state was instituted by God because man is sinful, therefore, “Let sinful man run the state, and we will run the church.” You say, “Well, that’s extreme.” I agree with that. I’m only raising the issues of the relationship between the two.
The second issue that comes to mind is, Can the church be strong even as the state becomes pagan? Can you have a strong church and a pagan state? Or are our fortunes as a church so closely tied to our fortunes of the state that whether we are a strong church or a weak church is going to be determined by whether or not we get the right man (without excluding the right woman) for president in order to make sure that we have a strong church? Well, you say, “Yes, we do want to have a Christian president. We want to have a good president. We want to have a president that is favorable to us.” Yes, I understand that, but what if we don’t get that? Can we still be a strong church?
What is the relationship between church and state? What about that statement that I, maybe, read far too quickly about the Anabaptists? They had no confidence whatever in the state, but an overwhelming sense of confidence in the church, because the church was ordained by God. Wow. Issues to be debated.
Another issue is: What is the relationship between the Old Testament and the New? In the Old Testament, you could go to war. In fact, God prescribed it. In the New...you have the Amish and you have all Anabaptists virtually saying that the Sermon on the Mount discounts the Old Testament because Jesus said that if somebody slaps you on the right cheek, you turn the left, etc., and that there should be no attempt made to defend yourself. Let God be your defender.
Of course, the question to always ask is: If a rapist came into your home, would you simply say, “Well, God is our defender,” or would you do something about it? I think most human beings would say, “Yeah, we would do something about it. We would look for a chair; we would look for a crowbar if we had one.” And some people have guns, who are apparently normal in other ways, you know. And they may take care of it one way or another. I think that all of us sense that it is naïve to simply say, “Well, God is our defender.” But the question is, “What is the relationship between the Old and the New Testament?” I’d like to preach on that someday, but I need somebody to help me figure it all out. (chuckles)
Finally, and last, are we willing to die for our faith? You know, whether it’s Felix Manz or whether it is a couple that had been newly married by the name of Slatter, I believe was their name. It’s a terrible story how he was drowned in a river one day and then his new wife was kept, and then she was drowned in the river the next day. Why? Because they were Anabaptists. But when you think of the sense of tranquility that they had and the faith that God gave them to die like that, it is wonderful, and we don’t know anything about that. I didn’t read it to you, but in my notes it says that when Felix Manz was drowned he was singing in Latin, “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.”
These people actually believed that there was something that was worth dying for. Did I ever tell you that in France, when the authorities...and I am closing now, so staff, why don’t you get the questions? Did I ever tell you that in France, when martyrs were being taken to the stake, that the authorities had to get special bands even to drown out the songs that the Christians were singing as they were about to die? There is something about martyrdom that we have lost today, and we are unwilling to die for our faith.
Next time I’m going to talk to you about the man with six wives and how he began a Reformation in England. I’m referring, of course, to Henry VIII. You will want to be here to hear one of the most fascinating stories in all of church history. One of the goals that I attempted to achieve in this brief series is to remind you that church history did not begin with the first Billy Graham Crusade, as generally believed.
Do you have a question for me there, Andy or Hutz? Please come and give them to me. I always think I answer all the questions. I’m always amazed that you folks have questions.
Question: When did the established church realize that persecution of Anabaptists was wrong?
Answer: (chuckles) Oh wow. Probably in 1648, the Peace of Westphalia, when finally, you have freedom of religion through Europe. Luther saw the seeds of it at Worms when he said, “My conscience is taken captive by the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” But he didn’t know how to live that out in the medieval society. But I think after 1648 you have a recognition that freedom of religion should have taken place and that...
Oh, this is a complicated question. You know, the thing about you folks is you always have such good questions. It involves all kinds of things about Christendom and its value, and its negatives and positives, but eventually people realized, “Hey, you know, this was wrong.”
Question: How could Amish reject evangelism where it is all over the Gospels and the epistles?
Answer: Well, maybe they think that the epistles were the wives of the apostles. You know, once you take that point of view, that the church is to be very separate from the world, and basically let the world go to hell, I guess you just kind of glide over those verses that tell us to evangelize.
Question: These two are close together. Independent Fundamentalist Baptists claim their roots in the Anabaptists and later just Baptists.
Answer: I don’t believe that. The Baptist movement, as we know it, today does not come through Anabaptism. It actually comes through England, and that’s where our Baptists come from generally, like the General Baptists, and I’m sure this was true also of the Independent Fundamental Baptists. I don’t think that Anabaptism is their roots.
Question: Another excellent question. How do present day Baptists relate to Anabaptism?
Answer: The answer is, yeah, I don’t think that those are their roots. I’ll do more research on that, but the roots of what we know today as Baptists come through England. They do not come from the Anabaptist movement.
Question: Are Quakers associated with the Anabaptists?
Answer: Yes, more distantly, but those are the same kind of roots.
Question: I was of the impression that the Anabaptists were not Protestants. From your lecture it sounds like they were also Protestants.
Answer: You’d better believe they were Protestants. Now, technically the Protestants at Speyer, at that council...that’s where the Lutherans were called Protestants. See, if you think that a Protestant is a Lutheran, as was believed in Germany...If you were a Lutheran, you were a Protestant, and those two are equated, then of course, they weren’t Protestants. But they were Protestants if you look at the word in a larger sphere. Like we are Protestants even though we aren’t Lutheran, so I would definitely call them Protestants.
Question: Are there any Gospel-preaching denominations that are not Protestant history?
Answer: I don’t think so.
Question: Is separation of church and state good for the church?
Answer: Well (chuckles), that’s the big debate.
Anything else today? And the answer of course...the obvious answer is yes. I mean, isn’t it wonderful that we live in the United States where you can believe anything you want? You can be baptized in 40 gallons of water, like the 40-gallon Baptists, but you could also be baptized in 38 gallons of water if you weren’t that big. Or you could be baptized in our baptistery, which I’m sure holds probably 150 or 200 gallons of water.
I’m being facetious here because baptism, which was intended to be a mark of the unity of the church, unfortunately oftentimes, has been a bone of contention. But isn’t it nice to live in a country where you can pretty well believe anything you want. And you are held together by the Constitution, not a common religion. Christendom says, “It is absolutely necessary that we have a common religion because if we do not have a common religion, we cannot have a commonwealth. We cannot be together as a nation unless we have the same religion.” And that was the dominant teaching in Europe until finally, full freedom came in 1648. Wow. And here we are in the great United States of America where there is a separation of church and state. The problem is the way in which it is being interpreted today where everything is a contribution to religion. The state...Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. So the ACLU say, “You having a Bible study on the lawn at a university? That’s establishment of religion, and the state should have nothing to do with religion. Kick them out.” That is ridiculous, or to use the word that I used this morning that would also fit here.
Question: Does “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” only focus on the Donatists?
Answer: No, I think that “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” has quite a history there. Anabaptists too. You ought to own a copy of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”
Question: What are some good books you’d recommend on church history, specifically the early church?
Answer: I don’t know any. (chuckles) I’ll tell you why I’m telling you that. It’s because I have a number of different books. You know, somebody asked me what is the best book on the Reformation, and the problem is I have books on Calvin, I have books on Luther. I have books on all of these. I have a book on Anabaptism. When it comes to recommending church textbooks, church history books, those probably are the best way to study the overview of history, and the early centuries of the church. And you have Cairns’ “Christianity Through the Centuries,” which I think, is still being published today, Cairns’ church history. But you have so many others that it’s difficult to keep up with them. Go to the bookstore, the Christian bookstore down the street, and just take a look, and you will find exactly what you need. There are church history books on every facet of church history.
Thank you so much for being here tonight. You had other options. You would not have needed to be here but because you live in a free country, you made the decision. We didn’t. You are free to worship according to your conscience, and please don’t take it for granted. And the fact that you can be baptized as Jesus commanded, and not fear repercussions or death...you ought to get on your knees and thank God that you live in the United States of America.
But now don’t get on your knees. Rather stand to your feet as we pray.
And Father, tonight we want to thank you for church history. We thank you today for the many people who died. I’ve thought so often of Felix Manz, but he’s one in thousands who died because he believed that he should be baptized. And we thank you for their history, and some of them we don’t know anything about, but we have to believe that you keep the books and you know their names. And they shall be appropriately honored, if not in this life, then most assuredly in the life to come. Would you make us as faithful and as deeply convinced of our beliefs as they were of theirs so that we might be able to stand for the truth, no matter what? Bless all the people that are here today, and even tonight if there is someone here who has never trusted Christ as Savior, may they do that we pray. And may they know that we have a Savior who saves people from their sins. In His name we pray, Amen.
God bless you!