Anabaptists And Spiritualists Sources Notes
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! 'From monogensis to polygensis'
‣ 3 main locations
History is often written by Mennonites -‐ confessional
Bender in the 1950s -‐ The Anabaptist Vision
‣ Paciﬁst and spiritual truth -‐ monogenesis from this paciﬁst group
1970s -‐ polygenesis
‣ Issue of origins and theology
Looking for their heritage
! Focus on theology -‐ yet less emphasis on oral transmission
! Baptism in ﬁelds and rivers
‣ Issue of sacred spaces -‐ devalues the church
‣ Could have diﬀerent people baptising
‣ Might be a test of faith for baptism
! Hubmmaier threw his font down the river
‣ Rejects altars, images etc.
! Hans Hut -‐ On the Mystery of Baptism
‣ Manuscript form
‣ Undated c. 1526
‣ Theology was of interest => in diﬀerent geographical locations -‐ Bern and
‣ Book pedlar => spread ideas
‣ Looking back to a rhetoric from the Peasants' War?
- Did he use brotherhood in the same way?
Hans Denck -‐ Whether
God is the Cause of Evil
‣ Published in Augsburg in 1526
‣ Where was it written?
‣ Why was it printed?
- Economic or theological motivation of the publisher?
‣ Popular works -‐ publication required demand
- Engaged with by the magisterial reformers
! Printers, in theory, are responsible for what they print
‣ Augsburg is a city -‐ more diﬃcult to control
- Works have to go to the council
- Anabaptists are part of printed works -‐ not isolated
! Hubmaier -‐ On Free Will
‣ Printed in Nicolsburg in 1527
‣ Immediate local market => had lived there for some time
‣ More wiling to work with secular authorities
‣ Has come from the Swiss territories
‣ Has a printer who comes with him
- Like Carlstadt and his friend at Jena
! Luther tries to distance himself from the Anabaptists
! Denck -‐ cannot have any normative basis for cooperation with the authorities => rejects
‣ Unsure whether he is an Anabaptist or a Spiritualist
! Hut -‐ rebirth, suﬀering, Christ, symbol v. essence
! Denck -‐ talks in opposites
‣ Light v. dark
‣ Gelassenheit -‐ diﬀerent meaning
! All of them are interested in the soul, sin and suﬀering
! How are these ideas put into practice?
‣ Implications of rebaptism
- Could cause death
- Choice for children
- How much responsibility do children have?
! What do Anabaptists think of the devil?
‣ If they don't believe in infant baptism, do they have less fear of the devil?
! Hubmaier -‐ Reformation preaches forgiveness but no reform of behaviour
! Redemptive, fraternal community -‐ use idea of brotherhood
! Saw no value in current society
Ritual of baptism is very important to Luther
Scripture is ambiguous -‐ makes sense to continue with infant baptism
Congregation reaﬃrm their promises at the baptism
Should not trust in your own faith -‐ should trust in baptism
‣ Luther has spiritual despair / anfechtung
! Refusal to acknowledge authorities
‣ Very high number of martyrs
! Gave them identity -‐ persecution conﬁrmed that they were an elect
! Charismatic leaders
‣ Hut -‐ suﬀering is part of faith
Call for Mennonites to model themselves on previous martyrs
! Hymns were particularly popular -‐ more than Protestants
‣ Generally less educated following
! Mennonites -‐ rhyming verses
! Reinforced their separation from society
! Baptism of blood -‐ suﬀering of Christ
‣ Scriptural rhetoric of persecution
! Diﬀerent ideas -‐ some questioned martyrdom
‣ No external ceremony should lead to death -‐ should not martyr yourself for
German Mennonites still sing these hymns
! Narrative -‐ strong martyr character with comparisons and other characters that
emphasise the martyr's virtue
! Anabaptist memory can distort the narrative
Why was Luther so worried about Anabaptist views on infant baptism?
! The Anabaptists criticised infant baptism for a number of reasons
‣ Lack of sense of sin
‣ Inability to respond to the divine Word
‣ Incapacity to suﬀer obediently
! Used the principle of sola scriptura -‐ found no scriptural evidence for infant baptism
! The Anabaptists were so called in order to emphasise their re-‐baptism with 'ana'
meaning 'again' in Greek
‣ At this point they were 're-‐baptising' in order to show the beginning of their
new life but their theology merely implied one baptism of the believer
‣ Rebaptism carried the death penalty throughout the empire -‐ yet the
Anabaptists did not consider it to be a rebaptism as they thought that the
initial baptism had been invalid
! They saw baptism as the beginning of a new life in imitation of Jesus Christ
‣ Hans Denck argued that 'whoever wishes to be a new man without wanting to
abandon his old life is just like a pig which is washed clean and then goes and
wallows again in the mud'
‣ Hubmaier saw this baptism as a symbol of commitment to improving one's life
and in many cases this led to a physical separation from society
! Hubmaier -‐ faith has to come before the water baptism
‣ Spiritualist approach in arguing that one must accept Jesus as the son of God -‐
this 'puriﬁes the heart of its evil conscience'
‣ Then comes 'outward baptism, which without the inner, is nothing but a sham'
Luther's view of infant baptism
! Concerning Rebaptism (1528)
‣ Anabaptists seek to work against the pope but just work against the Church of
God and Christendom
‣ Baptism is commanded by God -‐ yet the issue is that the Bible does not specify
! Luther's view of baptism -‐ incoherent reconciliation of the debates over belief and
‣ Faith of priests on behalf of the child
‣ Child will have the ritual testiﬁed to by witnesses
‣ Can the child have faith?
‣ Others will be reminded of their faith by the ritual
! How can they be sure that children do not believe?
~ Imagine this because children do not speak or have understanding
! 'For faith doesn't exist for the sake of baptism, but baptism for the sake of faith. When
faith comes, baptism is complete. A second baptism is not necessary'
! Baptism can be witnessed to by the congregation and admits you into the Church => can
take sacraments and have Christian privileges
! 'He who believes and is baptised will be saved' (Mark 16:16) -‐ 'I must say that they are
guilty of a great presumption. For if they follow this principle they cannot venture to
baptise before they are certain that the one to be baptised believes'
~ Cannot be sure of belief
~ All men are liars
Could have multiple baptisms to try to create faith
Anabaptists must prove children are without faith to justify rebaptism -‐ even then, you
still need a reason for rebaptism
‣ Luther is ignoring the issue of believers' baptism -‐ only one baptism
‣ Anabelievers -‐ 'what is needed is another faith and not another Word'
Should follow Christian custom unless they are disproved by the Word of God
Anabaptists -‐ 'Not only are they not sure of themselves but also they act contrary to
accepted tradition and out of their own imaginings create diﬀerences between persons
which God has not made'
Rebaptism is a blasphemy against God
Some desert their wife and child in favour of starting a new life -‐ Luther argues that they
will recognise no authority be it religious or secular
Why was Luther so worried?
! The consequences of Anabaptist teaching on baptism could be extremely subversive
! Baptism was the means by which one became part of the community and a member of
the Church -‐ waiting until adulthood to do this meant that people could choose diﬀerent
religious sects, thereby dividing the community
‣ This would lead to a lack of uniformity in society -‐ not everyone would feel
bound by magisterial teachings
- This has consequences for wider society
! The idea of credobaptism as the beginning of a new life implies the rejection of the
current state of society and the interconnection between politics and religion, the
! 1520s -‐ increasing numbers of people, peasants in particular, were being rebaptised in
Switzerland and Germany
‣ Undermined government who had forbidden rebaptism => Imperial Edict
against the Anabaptists in 1528
Clasen has calculated that between 1525 and 1618 there were 715 deﬁnite
executions of Anabaptists in Europe and 130 probable ones
! Hans Jurgen-‐Goertz has therefore argued that the Anabaptist conception of baptism
was only 'one aspect of an anti clerically motivated endeavour to restore a fallen
! Their rejection of infant baptism was part of a wider reappraisal of scripture -‐ diverse
‣ Paciﬁsm -‐ not paying taxes and refusing to ﬁght wars
- Hans Denck argued that 'force is not an attribute of God'
‣ Munster 1534 -‐ eschatological approach with a community of the elect
ensconced in the city => practised polygamy and communism
‣ Some radical groups such as the Mennonites totally refused to submit to
'satanic' government -‐ maintained a separation from the outside world or
'Kingdom of Darkness'
‣ Hans Hut wrote that rulers had forfeited their right to wield the sword due to
their opposition to the word of God and that, at the point of the Last
Judgement, Anabaptists should take up the sword against them
- Yet Hubmaier disagreed with this view
! In addition to Luther's condemnation of their blasphemy, other reformers also criticised
‣ Zwingli -‐ 'the issue is not baptism, but revolt, faction and heresy'
‣ Zwingli's successor, Bullinger -‐ saw their rejection of infant baptism as a
'symbol of division'
! The Anabaptist conception of credobaptism, therefore, implied an elect group of people
who separated themselves from society and its mores through their rejection of
traditional interpretations of scripture
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