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Theology of Anabaptism is the beliefs of the Anabaptist movement. Anabaptism has a reputation of de-emphasizing theology in deference to living righteously. The various branches of the Anabaptist movement take slightly different approaches to theology.
John S. Oyer argues in his article "Is there an Amish Theology" that no systematic theology exists among the Amish.Oyer states that the Amish have an implicit theology that can be found in their biblical hermeneutics, but take little interest in explicit, formal, and systematic theology. It is easier to find out about their implicit theology in talking with them than reading written documents. According to Oyer, their implicit theology is practical, not theoretical. The most important written source of Amish theology, according to Oyer, is "1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life". Other important written sources for Anabaptist theology are the Schleitheim and Dordrecht Confessions of Faith
John Stanley Oyer (1925-1998) was an Anabaptist scholar and editor.
The Schleitheim Confession was the most representative statement of Anabaptist principles, by a group of Swiss Anabaptists in 1527 in Schleitheim (Switzerland).
The Dordrecht Confession of Faith is a statement of religious beliefs adopted by Dutch Mennonite leaders at a meeting in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on 21 April 1632. Its 18 articles emphasize belief in salvation through Jesus Christ, baptism, nonviolence (non-resistance), withdrawing from, or shunning those who are excommunicated from the Church, feet washing, and avoidance of taking oaths.
Old Order Mennonites have even less documents about their theology than the Amish.
Old Order Mennonites form a branch of the Mennonite tradition. Old Order are those Mennonite groups of Swiss German and south German heritage who practice a lifestyle without some elements of modern technology, who dress plain and who have retained the old forms of worship, baptism and communion.
The Hutterites possess an account of their belief written by Peter Riedemann (Rechenschafft unserer Religion, Leer und Glaubens) and theological tracts and letters by Hans Schlaffer, Leonhard Schiemer and Ambrosius Spittelmaier are extant.
Hutterites, also called Hutterian Brethren, are an ethnoreligious group that is a communal branch of Anabaptists who, like the Amish and Mennonites, trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the early 16th century.
Peter Riedemann is considered the second founder of the Hutterite brotherhood, a branch of Anabaptist Christianity. Riedemann was born in Hirschberg (Silesia) and died in Brodsko (Slovakia).
Hans Schlaffer was a former Catholic priest, who became an Anabaptist in 1526. In May 1527, Schlaffer was part of the group surrounding Hans Hut, and therefore involved in a notable theological controversy taking place in Nikolsburg, Moravia. Unfortunately, the exact subject of the debate has been lost to history, but it may have involved the question of whether or not a committed Christian could hold a job, e.g. as a soldier, in which he would be required to use violence. He was arrested in 1528, along with fellow Anabaptist Leonard Fryk, brought to Schwaz, and questioned regarding his heretical views regarding the inappropriacy of infant baptism as practiced by Catholics. He refused to recant and was subsequently burnt.
The leading elements of implicit Anabaptist theology are:
(Note: Schwertler Anabaptists, such as Balthasar Hubmaier, were not nonresistant and supported the government; they even encouraged involvement in government.)
Balthasar Hubmaier was an influential German Anabaptist leader. He was one of the most well-known and respected Anabaptist theologians of the Reformation.
Anabaptists also regard true religious reform as involving social improvement. The socialism of the 16th century was Christian and Anabaptist, though most Anabaptists never adopted a strict communal lifestyle.
Christian socialism is a form of religious socialism based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Many Christian socialists believe capitalism to be idolatrous and rooted in greed, which some Christian denominations consider a mortal sin. Christian socialists identify the cause of inequality to be the greed that they associate with capitalism.
The Anabaptists practiced church discipline before any of the Reformers adopted it. Reformer Martin Bucer was influenced by them to introduce discipline into the church in Strassburg, though the attempt was not successful. Bucer convinced John Calvin of the idea, and he established church discipline in Geneva. Calvin read the Schleitheim Confession in 1544 and concluded, "these unfortunate and ungrateful people have learned this teaching and some other correct views from us." Calvin was only 18 years old and still a Catholic when the Schleitheim Confession was formed in 1527. [ not in citation given ] According to Harold S. Bender and several of his colleagues, the Anabaptists were "voluntaristic in religious choice, advocates of a church completely free from state influence, biblical literalists, non-participants in any government activity to avoid moral compromise, suffering servant disciples of Jesus who emphasized moral living and who were persecuted and martyred as Jesus had been, and restitutionists who tried to restore pre-Constantinian Christian primitivism". (Note: Schwertler Anabaptists, such as Balthasar Hubmaier, were not against participation in any government activity, but even encouraged involvement in government.) While within historical Anabaptism numerous variations occurred, the comparison of Anabaptism with Protestantism highlights a consistent core of faith and practice among the Anabaptists.
After Martin Luther's rejected reformation of Roman Catholicism, these groups denied the validity of infant baptism. In addition, Anabaptists rejected all Roman Catholic baptism as invalid. They therefore re-baptized those whom they regarded as not having received any Christian initiation at all, and claimed that their baptism after profession of faith was the recipient's first legitimate baptism. Reportedly, one of the first adult baptisms was publicly performed in Zürich, Switzerland, in January 1525.
The Anabaptist view of baptism is one of its outstanding features. In their view, baptism was reserved for repentant believers who were aware that their sins had been forgiven, not unknowing infants. In this view they defied both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers. According to the Schleitheim Confession (1527):
"Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with Him and to all those who with this significance request it (baptism) of us and demand it for themselves. This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abomination of the Pope. In this you have the foundation and testimony of the apostles. Matt. 28, Mark 16, Acts 2, 8, 16, 19."
The Dordrecht Confession (1632) states,
"Concerning baptism we confess that all penitent believers, who, through faith, regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, are made one with God, and are written in heaven, must, upon such Scriptural confession of faith, and renewing of life, be baptized with water, in the most worthy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to the command of Christ, and the teaching, example, and practice of the apostles, to the burying of their sins, and thus be incorporated into the communion of the saints; henceforth to learn to observe all things which the Son of God has taught, left, and commanded His disciples."
The concept of believers' baptism drew the main attention of 16th-century Continental Anabaptists, but the mode was also an issue. The majority appear to have taught and practiced baptism by pouring, while a minority practiced baptism by immersion. The writings of Menno Simons seem at times to promote immersion as the proper mode, but his practice was by pouring. Bernhard Rothmann argued for immersion in his Bekentnisse, and Pilgram Marpeck copied this idea into his Vermanung, but weakened the position by accepting pouring or sprinkling as an alternate mode. The mode of baptism was debated by the Hutterites and the Polish Brethren around the turn of the 17th century, and the arguments for immersion by Polish leader Christoph Ostorodt were incorporated into the Racovian Confession of Faith in 1604. Servetus made a strong case for immersion. The Mennonites, Swiss Brethren, South German Anabaptists, and Hutterites were not as concerned about mode, and, while not rejecting immersion, found pouring much more practical and believed it to be the Scriptural mode.
Christology addresses the person and work of Jesus Christ, relative to his divinity, humanity, and work of salvation. The 16th-century Anabaptists were orthodox Trinitarians accepting both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ and salvation through his death on the cross. In the area of his humanity certain Anabaptists adopted somewhat different views, which left them open to charges of heresy. Melchior Hoffman, Menno Simons, Dirk Philips and others held and taught an idea which has been dubbed "celestial flesh". Hans Denck (1500–1527) held a view often called "Logos Christology", but his view was much less influential on the movement as a whole.
In attempting to explain how Jesus Christ's two natures came to be, Menno Simons and Dirk Philips concluded and taught that Jesus did not derive his humanity from Mary. This view has also been called the doctrine of "heavenly flesh" and "Incarnational Christology". In this view they were dependent on Melchior Hoffman, who probably was influenced in this view by Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig. Hoffman wrote, "We have now heard enough that the whole seed of Adam, be it of man, woman, or virgin, is cursed and delivered to eternal death. Now if the body of Jesus Christ was also such flesh and of this seed ... it follows that the redemption has not yet happened. For the seed of Adam belongs to Satan and is the property of the devil." Similarly Menno concluded: "In the same manner the heavenly Seed, namely, the Word of God, was sown in Mary, and by her faith, being conceived in her by the Holy Ghost, became flesh, and was nurtured in her body; and thus it is called the fruit of her womb, that same as a natural fruit or offspring is called the fruit of its natural mother." In 1632, 71 years after the death of Menno Simons, and near the end of the first century of Dutch Anabaptism, mention of Menno's Christology was left out of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith. Not only was the "celestial flesh" doctrine a point of controversy between Mennonites and Protestants in the 16th and early 17th centuries, it was also a source of controversy between Anabaptist groups.
In Poland and the Netherlands, certain Anabaptists denied the Trinity, hence the saying that a Socinian was a learned Baptist (see Socinus.) With these Menno and his followers refused to hold communion. Italian Anabaptism had an anti-trinitarian core but was a part of Anabaptism in general. In his work, Stella showed that movement's connections to Neapolitan spiritualism, (especially Juan de Valdés), but also made the connection to the Marranos as well.
In the early Anabaptist Schleitheim Confession, breaking of bread is the term used for the Lord's supper or communion. The Anabaptist view of the Lord's supper is similar to the Zwinglian or symbolism view. The corporate nature (fellowship, unity) of participation is emphasized to a greater degree than in many communions. Pilgram Marpeck wrote, "As members of one body, we proclaim the death of Christ and bodily union attained by untainted brotherly love." The terminology sacrament is generally rejected. Marpeck further wrote, "The true meaning of communion is mystified and obscured by the word sacrament." In connection with the Lord's supper, many Anabaptists stress the rite of feet washing.
Most Anabaptists held that both the Old and New Testaments were the word of God, while insisting that the New Testament was the rule of faith and practice for the church. Some emphasized this latter position so strongly that the Anabaptists were at times accused of rejecting the Old Testament (Marcionism). This charge of their enemies remains unsubstantiated. Anabaptists Hans Denck and Ludwig Hätzer were responsible for the first translation of the Old Testament Prophets from Hebrew into the German language. On the other hand, the Münsterites accepted Old Testament practices such as theocracy and polygamy as normative for the church.
Most Anabaptist hold that violence is wrong, as is supporting violence though personal actions such as joining the military. This would also include opposition to abortion and capital punishment. In 1918, three Hutterite brothers, David, Joseph, and Michael Hofer, and Joseph’s brother-in-law Jacob Wipf were imprisoned on Alcatraz for refusal to join the US military. Two of them, Joseph and Michael Hofer, died in late 1918 shortly after their transfer to a prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Bruderhof is another Anabaptist church that is strongly pacifist, believing that personal property is a form of injustice .
Anabaptism is a Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation. The movement is generally seen as an offshoot of Protestantism, although this view has been challenged by some Anabaptists.
Jakob Ammann was an Anabaptist leader and namesake of the Amish religious movement.
Menno Simons was a former Catholic priest from the Friesland region of the Low Countries who became an influential Anabaptist religious leader. Simons was a contemporary of the Protestant Reformers and it is from his name that his followers became known as Mennonites.
Plain people are Christian groups characterized by separation from the world and by simple living, including plain dressing. Many Plain people have an Anabaptist background. These denominations are of German, Swiss German or Dutch ancestry. Conservative Friends are traditional Quakers who are also considered plain people; they come from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds.
The Missionary Church is an evangelical Christian denomination of Anabaptist origins. They are committed to Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the Great Commission.
The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC) is a community of about 250 diverse Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregations spread across Canada, united through their evangelical Anabaptist beliefs and values and by their mission to grow healthy churches, helping them reach their worlds.
The Swiss Mennonite Conference is an Anabaptist Christian body in Switzerland.
Pilgram Marpeck, also Pilgram Marbeck or Pilgrim Marpeck, was an important Anabaptist leader in southern Germany in the 16th century.
BernhardRothmann was a 16th-century reformer and an Anabaptist leader in the city of Münster. He was born in Stadtlohn, Westphalia, around 1495.
Obbe Philips was one of the early founders of Dutch Anabaptism. He was the illegitimate son of a Roman Catholic priest from Leeuwarden. Philips studied medicine, and became a barber and a surgeon. He married in 1530 and set up his business in Leeuwarden.
The Radical Reformation was the response to what was believed to be the corruption in both the Roman Catholic Church and the expanding Magisterial Protestant movement led by Martin Luther and many others. Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation gave birth to many radical Protestant groups throughout Europe. The term covers radical reformers like Thomas Müntzer, Andreas Karlstadt, groups like the Zwickau prophets and Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites and Mennonites.
Leonhard Schiemer was an early pacifist Anabaptist writer and martyr whose work survives in the Ausbund.
The Swiss Brethren are a branch of Anabaptism that started in Zürich, spread to nearby cities and towns, and then was exported to neighboring countries. Today's Swiss Mennonite Conference can be traced to the Swiss Brethren.
Ordinance is a term for religious rituals whose intent is to demonstrate an adherent's faith. Typical examples include baptism and communion, as practiced in the Christian traditions such as Anabaptists, all Baptist churches, Churches of Christ groups, and Pentecostal churches. Ordinance is not to be confused with sacrament.
Conservative Mennonites include numerous groups that identify with the more conservative or traditional element among Mennonite or Anabaptist groups but who are not Old Order groups. The majority of Conservative Mennonite churches historically have an Amish and not a Mennonite background.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Protestantism:
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