Luther and the Anabaptists

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Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby stellar renegade » Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:38 am

In the vein of Violent Reformers...

I had heard from someone who seems to be a good historian that Luther took up arms against the Anabaptists. Is this so? I brought this up on another message board but no one seems to be able to find anything. I know we have pretty good historians here so I thought I'd drop the question.
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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:43 am

Probably they're thinking of the Peasants' War and the Münster Rebellion (the latter of which, by the way, was attempting to set up a theocracy.) The leaders of each movement, which happened within Protestant territory in Luthor's own lifetime, had some points of contact with Anabaptists, but aren't necessarily regarded as being the same. Depends on which theory of Protestant development one adheres to.

It isn't simply a case of Luthor oppressing them, though; arguably they took up arms first against ruling princes in the area, although just as arguably they felt like they had been provoked into doing it. Luthor had to agree with putting them down. I don't gather he was happy about it. (His successor Zwingli, on the other hand, definitely persecuted Anabaptists explicitly.)

It's also important to keep in mind that, by the understanding of practically everyone at the time (including the Anabaptists), only baptized people could go to heaven; yet the Anabaptists were, despite their name, not just insisting on a second believer's baptism at an age of responsible consent, but were outright forbidding babies to be baptized at all. So to everyone else, the Anabaptists were practicing something actually worse than murdering children.

Consequently, everyone (even the chief Protestant Reformers) decided that the Emperors Theodosius I and Justinian I were both correct to order that "Donatists" (which the Anabaptists were somewhat identified with) should and would be executed.

It was a nasty piece of business--and while it can plausibly be laid at the feet of the belief that there must be some kind of hopelessness which must be avoided at all costs (so also at the cost of any act which would otherwise be decried as barbaric injustice), there's a cautionary moral for universalists in there, too, or for some of us anyway. (Not the ultra-u's I guess.) Because after all, when they were torturing Anabaptists (and each other), they were trying to 'lead sinners to repentance' in an explicitly purgatorial fashion.

Hopefully, God does a more nuanced and finely-tuned job of that (unless ultra-u is true.)
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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:44 am

I meant to add that Wikipedia has a good, detailed, historically balanced article with links on the Anabaptist movement(s).
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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby stellar renegade » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:37 am

Wow. Ok, great info, thanks. I imagine my source just got some of his history mixed up then.
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Ah! be adored from pole to pole;
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For Jason

Postby Sobornost » Sun Nov 27, 2011 2:26 pm

Hi Jason -

I've been reading your information here on the persecution of the Anabaptists. (And I've read many of your other posts with enjoyment of your Biblical Scholarship). I understand that Zwingli had Anabaptists drowned in parody of the rite of rebaptism – absolutely horrible - and Luther found this hard to stomach and admired them for the resolve with which they died.

What you have to say bears upon something I am thinking through at the moment regarding the context of the abrogation of the 42nd article in the Elizabethan Prayer Book for Rev Drew's thread. I'm sure the 42nd article in Cramner's prayer book was aimed primarily at the Anabaptists. It was rumoured that they taught universal salvation and it was thought that this belief threatened the peace of the state - if people stopped believing in hell they would becoming violent and seditious (current scholarship seems to agree that the evidence for explicit universalism being taught by the early Anabaptists is scant). However, it seems remarkable that the 42nd article was abrogated by the Elizabethan Church because there was still plenty of fear around about Anabaptism (which seems to have been grossly exaggerated since their numbers were insignificant in England at the time) and at least two Anabaptists were, controversially, burnt at the stake in the 1580s as heretics. I am still thinking about this - it's a real historical puzzle.

You say in this thread that -

It's also important to keep in mind that, by the understanding of practically everyone at the time (including the Anabaptists), only baptized people could go to heaven; yet the Anabaptists were, despite their name, not just insisting on a second believer's baptism at an age of responsible consent, but were outright forbidding babies to be baptized at all. So to everyone else, the Anabaptists were practicing something actually worse than murdering children.

That's interesting and I wondered if you have evidence of the Anabaptist views of the fate of babies and children who had died to before reaching the age at which they could be baptised – what you say makes complete logical sense, and it may well have been one of the reasons that mainstream Protestants saw as evidence of their perfidy. I know Augustine was quite prepared to think that unabaptised children were automatically numbered with the damned and I would think that the mainstream Augustinian inspired Reformers would have followed suit. Catholics during the Reformation period would have believed in Limbo on the authority of Aquinas as the destiny of the unbaptised - a place where souls were deprived of the ultimate joy of the Beatific vision, but in which there was no suffering or torment. This was a comparatively reassuring idea – but I’m overjoyed that the current Pope has finally abolished Limbo (it has still been the cause of much suffering).

All the best


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Re: For Jason

Postby WE ARE ALL BROTHERS » Sun Nov 27, 2011 3:21 pm

It should be noted that the rejection of secular politics is the most definitive departure of anabaptist-Christianity from all others. The anabaptists largely rejected paedo-baptism because it was politically imposed. It is highly unfair to call the Münsterites "anabaptists" when they embraced secular politics (the use and security of violent force) just as the Catholics and Reformers did.

Sobornost wrote:That's interesting and I wondered if you have evidence of the Anabaptist views of the fate of babies and children who had died to before reaching the age at which they could be baptised – what you say makes complete logical sense, and it may well have been one of the reasons that mainstream Protestants saw as evidence of their perfidy ...

Anabaptists have traditionally believed that children can have no faith, because they cannot bear fruits. For they/we believed we are saved by faith that works, and rejected the reformed view of 'sola fide' of which, they felt, was detrimental to genuine Christian living. However despite this, the Anabaptists believe children are preserved within the "age of accountability" under the promise in Christ. The biblical evidence, in my view, is rather scant. But this has been a long-held view amongst the Anabaptists (and has become popular amongst the Reformed today) and can be recognized within the formal teachings of Saint Menno Simons, as roughly quoted from 'Christian Baptism' (1539) in 'The complete writings of Menno Simons c. 1496-1561' (1984) below.

Menno Simons wrote:... If then faith were in the little children from conception, as our opponents say, it would be a fruitless faith, for they do not bring forth fruits; and then preaching is in vain. For if that were the case, faith would come by the first creation of the pious beginnings, and not by preaching of the divine Word (1984, p.240) ... what fruits and righteousness which are evidence of faith do our little children bring forth? All they do is nurse, drink, laugh, cry, warm themselves, play, etc. as has been the nature of children from the beginning. Besides, they often show, as they grow, the evil seed of Adam; and as they get a little older they manifest it still more; but the fruits of faith, or of the new birth, they do not show, as may be plainly observed. And if you do not believe this from your daily experience, then believe the Word of God which will never deceive you. Moses says, Your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil. Deut. 1:39. They had not knowledge between good and evil, as it appears -- where then is their faith which has knowledge? ... Since children have no faith by which they can realize that God is, and that He is a rewarder of both good and evil, as they plainly show by their fruits, therefore they have not the fear of God, and consequently they have nothing upon which they should be baptized. Yet they have the promise of everlasting life, out of pure grace. (1984, p.239) ... Little ones must wait according to God's Word until they can understand the holy Gospel of grace and sincerely confess it; and then, and then only is it time, no matter how young or how old, for them to receive Christian baptism as the infallible Word of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ has taught and commanded all true believers in His holy Gospel. Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16. If they die before coming to years of discretion, that is, in childhood, before they have come to years of understanding and before they have faith, then they die under the promise of God, and that by no other means than the generous promise of grace given through Jesus Christ. Luke 18:16. And if they come to years of discretion and have faith, then they should be baptized ... (1984, p.241)
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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby Paidion » Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:06 pm

In the beginning, Luther said that the Anabaptists were to be pitied (he considered them inferior). But later he persecuted them.

The same with Jewish people of his day. He was first kindly toward them, and later persecuted them. He wrote a dissertation called "Lies of the Jews".
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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby Sobornost » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:11 am

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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby Sobornost » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:44 am

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Re: Luther and the Anabaptists

Postby revdrew61 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:47 am

Peace!
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