Church History: The Anabaptists, Part 1
Blourock then baptized the rest of the group.
This would not be worthy of note…except that all had already been baptized as infants and this meeting was illegal.
These men had been followers of Ulrich Zwingli.
Zwingli’s emphasis had been on bringing the church back to the Scriptures alone, and away from the traditions and trappings of Roman Catholicism.
When these men followed Zwingli’s lead and went back to the Scriptures, they found no basis for infant baptism.
Thus, they decided that their infant baptisms were invalid and that people should only be baptized when able to make a profession of faith.
They had “re” baptized each other (the “ana” in Anabaptist)…which was an act not only of doctrinal error, but of treason against the government.
Baptism in Zurich was not only a religious rite for entrance into the church, but it was also how one entered citizenship in Zurich.
To reject infant baptism was to reject citizenship and make a distinction between church and state…which was considered sedition or treason.
The penalty for treason was death…and that sentence would be carried out early and often by the rest of Western Christianity against the Anabaptists.
An estimated 5000 Anabaptists would be executed over the next century, often by drowning in mockery of their desire for adult baptism.
Felix Manz would be the first, in 1526.
As we study the Reformation it’s absolutely critical to understand that the church and government are intertwined in this period…indeed the civil will be the ruler of the sacred through the period.
To oppose the theology of the rulers in any region, whether Lutheran, Reformed, or Roman Catholic… was also to oppose the state.
To the Reformers, to oppose the state was to threaten the very fabric of society and the faith.
This is the lens through which we must peer to understand the history of the Reformation.
The Anabaptists weren’t just despised for their theology, they were despised because of their politics as well.
They were considered a threat to social stability…anarchists in the making.
As we shall see next week, those fears had some merit…