May 20, 1527

The Reformation had just begun in Switzerland (1525). The Roman Catholic Church was losing power and sway over the people. Ulrich Zwingli was deciding how far reform should take the Swiss. His zealous proselytes began to push reform in accord with the Bible alone.

Despised by Luther, Zwingli, and the Roman Catholic Church the Anabaptists provided the framework for present-day Baptists in America. They affirmed baptism for believer’s only, church autonomy (not dictated by the state), priesthood of all believers, and were pacifists. The influence of the Anabaptists is most clearly connected with the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. The Anabaptists were tortured and killed because of their unswerving commitment to the Scriptures. Michael Sattler is a prime example of their commitment and Christ-like attitude.

Sattler’s Martyrdom:
The torture, a prelude to the execution, began at the marketplace, where a piece was cut from Sattler’s tongue. Pieces of flesh were torn from his body twice with red-hot tongs. He was then forged to a cart. On the way to the scene of the execeution the tongs were applied five times again. In the marketplace and at the site of the execution, still able to speak, the unshakable Sattler prayed for his persecutors. After being bound to a ladder with ropes and pushed into the fire, he admonished the people, the judges, and the mayor to repent and be converted. Then he prayed, “Almighty, eternal God, Thou art the way and the truth: because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with thy help to this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.
[The Anabaptist Story by William Estep]

Further Study:
The Schleitheim Confession
The Dordrecht Confession of Faith
The Martyr’s Mirror
Dream Seeker Magazine
Position on War & Peace
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Enyclopedia Online [GAMEO]
“The Anabaptist Story” (essay)
Balthasar Hubmaier

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This post has 2 Comments

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  1. And they baptized!

    The story gets even better. Sattler, as he was being burned held up two fingers to show his followers that they could survive the fiery torment as well (at least that’s what Estep believes was the reason). And then with seared lips he cried out, “Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”

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Moving Forward

When you became a Lutheran, what were some misconceptions and reactions from folks on both sides (Evangelical friends and Lutheran friends)?

Lutherans and evangelicals don’t cross paths much and that results in quite a bit of misunderstanding on both sides. When I first started having conversations about Lutheranism with my evangelical friends — all of whom were seminary educated — most of them didn’t really know what Lutherans believed. The attitude seemed to be mostly that they were slightly better than Roman Catholics but not by much. There was also an assumption that later Lutheran doctrine must have departed quite a bit from what Luther taught. I think some think this because Reformed Evangelicals resonate with a lot of Luther’s writings and think that he sounds more like them than he sounds like the little bit that they know of Lutheranism. What I found as I was moving toward Lutheranism is that the picture of Luther I had been given from the Reformed was quite a selective picture and one that was rather inaccurate to the Luther of history. Luther looked much more like a Roman Catholic than I had thought. Roman Catholicism was the vocabulary he spoke and the world in which he lived. Luther didn’t start from a position of scrapping it all and starting over. He wanted to retain what was not contrary to the Word of God and restore what was commanded by the Word of God. This approach meant that he actually leaves quite a bit in place.

You can see the hold over of Calvin’s and Zwingli’s approach to tradition in the mindset of most of today’s Evangelicals: if it’s Roman Catholic, it’s bad. Sometimes if it even looks Roman Catholic, it becomes a reason to exclude a practice.

So the misconception on the Evangelical side was that I was moving to Lutheranism because I was attracted to all of the bells and smells of Roman Catholicism but was too afraid to swim the Tiber. Once I had communicated my decision to move into the Lutheran church, a professor at the Baptist seminary I attended — a man who was also an elder in the Baptist church where I was a member — emailed me to express his grave concern that I was on a slippery slope to the Roman Catholic church, as though every Lutheran is just someone who has thus far managed to fight against the greased slide to Rome. What’s I find ironic is how often I’m objecting the Lutherans who say things like “That’s too Catholic!” I have to remind them that we are Catholic (and I refuse to give the capital letter to the Romans!). We’re just not Roman. But just because it’s Roman doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

In any case, living on the inside of the Lutheran church now, I can assure anyone that it’s no slippery slope to Roman Catholicism.

On the Lutheran side, I have found that Lutherans tend to think of Evangelicals as anti-intellectual. There may have been a time when that accusation stuck, but it doesn’t really today. These days, I think have something of a complex about having an anti-intellectual reputation, and they’ve worked hard to overcome it. There’s also an opinion among Lutherans that Evangelicals don’t take Scripture seriously, which is used to explain how Evangelicals reach their interpretations that are so contrary to the way Scripture has been interpreted historically. It’s a misconception. Whatever Evangelical scholarship is guilty of, it does take Scripture seriously. From my experience in Evangelical scholarship, they are deeply concerned with having a right interpretation of Scripture. One could, however, wish that they didn’t look so kindly on novel exegesis as they do. Occasionally, I run into Lutherans who are suspect of my credentials having come from an Evangelical background. On the whole, however, most don’t regard it to be a detracting factor.

Two Conferences of Interest

One on John Bunyan in Whitlinsville, MA:

“A John Bunyan Feast”

October 22-23. Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas are the speakers.

Friday, October 22, 2010
12:30 PM Book Table Opens
1:30 PM Registration Opens
3:00 PM First Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the City of Destruction to the Cross Mr. Thomas
4:15 PM Dinner Break (at local restaurants)
6:00 PM Second Session: Bunyan’s Preaching to the Heart Mr. Beeke
7:20 PM Third Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from the Cross to Vanity Fair Mr. Thomas
Saturday, October 23, 2010
8:00 AM Registration and Book Table Opens
9:15 AM Fourth Session: Bunyan on Justification Mr. Beeke
10:15 AM Coffee break and fellowship
10:45 AM Fifth Session: Pilgrim’s Progress: from Vanity Fair to the Celestial City Mr. Thomas
11:45 AM Questions and Answers
12:15 PM Lunch Break (at local restaurants)
1:30 PM Closing Session: A Bunyanesque Sermon on the Holy War Within Mr. Beeke

The other at Princeton Theological Seminary:

“These Speak of Me: The Glory of Christ in All of Scripture”

November 5-6. David Helm and Kent Hughes will be the speakers at this second conference.

PrCRT 2010