When I was first asked to do this series, it’s focus was to be only on Ancient Near Eastern [ANE] Literature and the Bible. But then I started thinking. Because there is an aversion that many have not only to ANE stuff, but even to ancient books closer to the Christian home, perhaps something more basic and broad would be more helpful.
Don’t know what a lot of this even is? Have no idea why you should care? Never fear. These posts will help give you some answers.
The final post (an annotated bibliography) to lead you to some good sources to help you begin your adventure. As this is a blog, we can only do the most basic of overviews. This is my attempt to whet your appetite to a whole world you never knew existed. And what an amazing world it is: The good, the bad, and the ugly!
Many Anabaptist ideas made invaluable contributions to the Reformation. For example, these five tenets might be identified as Anabaptist distinctives:
Sola Scriptura—Anabaptists were sometimes more consistent than the Magisterial Reformers in their insistence on biblical authority for certain practices in matters of church polity and worship.
Separation of Church and State—Anabaptists correctly saw the church as the assembly of the redeemed, antithetical to the world and sometimes antagonistic to society as a whole. For this reason they advocated separation of church and state.
Freedom of Conscience—because of the Anabaptists’ convictions about the role of the secular state, they believed that the ultimate remedy for heresy was excommunication. They steadfastly opposed the persecution that was so characteristic of their age. They denied that the state had a right to punish or execute anyone for religious beliefs or teachings. This was a revolutionary notion in the Reformation era.
Believers’ Baptism—The anabaptists were the among the first to point out the lack of explicit biblical support for infant baptism. Most of them made no issue of the mode of baptism, and practiced affusion (sprinkling), however, so they were not true baptists in the modern sense of the word.
Holiness of Life—Anabaptists gave much emphasis to spiritual experience, practical righteousness, and obedience to divine standards. They had no tolerance for those who claimed to be justified by faith while living unfaithful lives. Anabaptists pointed out that Scripture says, “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20).
On most of those points we would strongly agree with the Anabaptists’ thrust (though not necessarily with the extreme conclusions they sometimes came to).
Nevertheless, there is very good reason to approach the Anabaptist movement with a healthy dose of caution. While acknowledging our very real debt to the Anabaptists on the matters enumerated above, we must also recognize an unhealthy tendency in Anabaptist doctrine: Anabaptists rejected the Reformed understanding of justification by faith alone. They denied the forensic nature of justification and insisted that the only ground on which sinners can be acceptable to God is a “real” righteousness wrought within the justified person.
For further reading on Anabaptist theology see the recommended resources (links) on Phil Johnson’s site.
Most Baptists are fooled into thinking that we come from the Anabaptists just because the word “baptist” is found in their name. But we must use great caution here. We must explore who the Anabaptists really were and ask the all-important question: Are they truly representative of Baptist beliefs?Who are these people called “Anabaptist”? This group refers to a community of rebels during the Reformation period; they were considered to be the radical wing of the Reformation. Even within this group there were various views and camps. Two main separate camps can be identified: the “revolutionary Anabaptist” and the “evangelical Anabaptist.” We really do not want to spend too much time on the revolutionary group for they hardly reflect a biblical approach to Christianity. They actually took on the form of a cult, holding to an extreme mystical experiential view and believing their leaders to be prophets (future-tellers). They were also quick to use violence to get their way.However, the “evangelical” Anabaptists were a movement of a different type. And it is from this group that many say the Baptist movement was born. Thus, we need to take some time to examine them. This group, first of all, rejected the orthodox Christian view of sin. Instead of holding to sin as a bondage both of the nature and actions of mankind, they held that sin was “a loss of capacity or a serious sickness.” The Anabaptists, in following Rome’s view of justification, held that God makes us righteous and then accepts us on the basis of our righteousness. They also believed that Christ did not take His flesh from Mary but held to a heavenly origin for His flesh. When it came to the world, the Anabaptists believe we were to totally separate ourselves from it (although they did dip into it with a zealous evangelism on occasion). The Anabaptists rejected infant baptism and held to believer’s baptism, but their mode for the most part was sprinkling, not pouring or immersion. Their view of interpreting Scripture was that of just strict imitation which led to large movements of legalism.When we look at the Anabaptists we must agree that there are some similarities with the early General Baptists, but overall these similarities are slight and not always relational. In the end, we must come to say that this group of Christians does not reflect the historical teaching of the Baptists. The large portion of Baptist history shows us that Baptists held to a strong position on sin, both in our nature and in our actions, not as just some mere sickness. Baptists have also held to a belief in the virgin birth and see that this is what points to the doctrine of the God-Man, not just some heavenly illusion. As well, Baptists have held strongly to the Reformation’s recovery of justification – that it is based upon Christ’s righteousness alone and not our righteousness because we have none. And finally, Baptists have always seen that the Scriptures are to be studied and applied to everyday life through the power of the Holy Spirit and are not to be followed just in blind imitation or by a leap of faith. So we must clearly reject, as history does, that the Baptist origins flow from the Anabaptists.
The fact of history is that three “Believer’s-Only” groups arose independently of each other and with a few similarities, but even more dissimilarities. The Continental Anabaptists (who did not immerse), the English General Baptists, and the English Particular Baptists.
1644, The First (Particular Baptist) London Confession of Faith
The Confession of Faith, Of those Churches which are commonly (though falsly ) called Anabaptists;
So if Baptists are not the heirs to the Anabaptists, who are? The Amish, The Brethren, and the Mennonites.
In 2006 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and in 2008 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) apologized for the Lutheran persecution of Anabaptists. To whom did they apologize? SBC, or any Baptist group? No. They apologized to Mennonites. (see ELCA and LWF)
The Baptist Story is a narrative history of a diverse group of people spanning over four centuries, living among distinct cultures on separate continents, while finding their common identity in Christ and expressing their faith as Baptists. Baptist historians Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin highlight the Baptist transition from a despised sect to a movement of global influence. Each chapter includes stories of people who made this history so fascinating. Although the emphasis is on the English-speaking world, The Baptist Story integrates stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions, all within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.
This volume provides more than just the essential events and necessary names to convey the grand history. It also addresses questions that students of Baptist history frequently ask, includes prayers and hymns of those who experienced hope and heartbreak, and directs the reader’s attention to the mission of the church as a whole. Written with an irenic tone and illustrated with photographs in every chapter, The Baptist Story is ideally suited for graduate or undergraduate courses, as well as group study in the local church.
On episode 62 of our interviewpodcast we are replaying an interview from ReformedCast. Why? Because ReformedCast has now, “discontinu[ed] operations effective June 15, 2014. All MP3s will be removed at that time.”
We didn’t want these resources to disappear off the Internet so we asked the ReformedCast host, Scott Oakland, if we could republish the interviews he conducted over the past several years that fit our site/podcast scope. He graciously agreed! So, here is another, fitting, replay (we’ll add onto these every now and then throughout the year.)
Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1978) is a similar study and also well worth reading. […] There are older works, by authors like Alexander Carson, that are worthwhile, but these two are the best from the past century.
And F.M. Buhler, Baptism: Three Aspects (Dundas, Ontario: Joshua Press, 2004) a much-overlooked piece that helpfully deals with the archaeological evidence pertaining to early Christian baptismal practice.
“The thesis of this study is that Geerhardus Vos’ biblical-theological
method should be viewed as a post-Enlightenment continuation of the
pre-critical federal theology of seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy.”
– Richard Barcellos
On episode 55 of our interviewpodcast we are replaying an interview from ReformedCast. Why? Because ReformedCast is, “discontinuing operations effective June 15, 2014. All MP3s will be removed at that time.”
We didn’t want these resources to disappear off the Internet so we asked the ReformedCast host, Scott Oakland, if we could republish the interviews he conducted over the past several years that fit our site/podcast scope. He graciously agreed! So, here is the first, fitting, replay (we’ll add onto these every now and then throughout the year.)
Given the ongoing discussion among Christians today on the relationship of church and state or between Christianity and politics, we are making available six lectures by Dr. Sam Waldron on the development of these institutions in Protestant history. Since understanding the historical development of this debate provides great insight into a biblical assessment of the relationship of church and state, these video lectures are made freely available for personal growth and edification…
If Martin Luther was the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin was its consolidator. Calvin was both a commentator and also a systematic theologian. J. I. Packer has rightly appraised Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536-1559) as “one of the wonders of the spiritual world–the world of doxology and devotion, of discipleship and discipline, of Word-through-Spirit illumination and transformation of individuals, of the Christ-centered mind and the Christ-honoring heart.”
In the thirteen lectures below, historical theologian and pastor Mark Sarver, provides a sketch of Calvin’s life and labors as well as a survey of some of Calvin’s greatest theological contributions.
These lectures constitute a portion of the lecture material for Reformed Baptist Seminary‘s course “Reformation Church.” For more information about taking the course for credit or just auditing the lectures, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And enjoy!
A new series of books featuring biographies of the early church fathers is being published by Christian Focus Publications of the United Kingdom. Noted Patristic scholar Michael A.G. Haykin is serving as the series editor. According to the publisher’s website: ”this series relates the magnificent impact that these fathers of the early church made for our world today. They encountered challenges similar to ones that we face in our postmodern world, and they met them with extraordinary values that will encourage and inspire us today.”
Both these books are available in the UK. They will not be available in the US until May, but are available for pre-order now on Amazon:
We are excited to announce the online release of our latest course at the Midwest Center for Theological Studies! Dr. Richard Barcellos’ class on Biblical Theology I is now available on MCTS Pathway.
In this course, Dr. Barcellos introduces Biblical Theology as a discipline. He covers its place and function in the encyclopedia of theology, a brief history, a working definition, various models and practitioners, and hermeneutics.
Dr. Tom Nettles’ course Historical Theology Overview is also now available to watch online as an auditor or to complete online as a distance student. Grow in your understanding of God’s revealed truth through this study of the development and progress of Christian doctrine.
Our Modern and American Church History class begins on March 3rd. So mark your calendars now to join Dr. Sam Waldron weekly on Tuesday evenings to learn more about God’s working through His church in history. Live-streaming is FREE, so please don’t miss this wonderful opportunity!
The theme of the 2009 conference is, “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives” Featured speakers will include: Crawford Gribben, Michael Haykin , Robert Strivens, Greg Thornbury, Kevin Smith, Tom Nettles, Greg Wills, Gerald Priest, Jason Lee, and Malcolm Yarnell. Other established Baptist History scholars, as well as several Ph.D. students will be presenting papers on the conference theme during the parallel sessions.