Today is the 490’s birthday of Anabaptism, the radical, biblical, pacifist and restorationist Christian movement that consists of millions of Jesus believers around the globe, including me. You may have heard my little song about what Anabaptism is already but it won’t hurt to listen to it again, eh?
So here’s the story about how Anabaptists came to be. The 16th century Protestants were far from the first who rebelled against the Catholic church and its unbiblical teaching, but they weren’t as radical as the Hussites or Waldensians had been. In fact, neither Luther nor Calvin wanted to restore the Biblical church completely but rather, they argued that Biblical practices they didn’t like had “ceased” (I talked about this two posts ago).
They had no problem with unbiblical practices like the state church system, though. Luther and Calvin are called magisterial reformers because they didn’t want to separate the church from the state but, on the contrary, relied on the secular state powers to liberate themselves from Rome.
In this state church system, everyone had to be baptized as babies. If you were born in a German state you had to be baptized. This naturally led to a situation were thousands of nonbelievers and sinners were baptized and had to go to church. Luther and Calvin accepted infant baptism just as they accepted the state church system.
However, in Zurich, Switzerland, a group of Christians started to question this. Many of them were students of Ulrich Zwingli, the “third man of the reformation” who had started to question certain Catholic practices and dogmas like tithing and icons. Zwingli supported infant baptism though, and a group of radical students led by Conrad Grebel distanced themselves from him.
Grebel had a daughter on January 5th, and he forbade anyone to baptize her. Two weeks later, the Zurich city Council decided that anyone who did not baptize their children within one week was to be deported from the city. On January 21st (today, that is), Grebel and other radical reformers met in a private home and started to baptize each other.
They preached the Biblical gospel and baptized more people in the village, and this created a lot of controversy. Grebel was arrested, and others were persecuted. They were called “anabaptists” since, according to both Catholics and the magisterial reformers, they were re-baptizing themselves.
The persecution didn’t stop them though. Christianity Today writes: “In spite of persecution, the movement spread, mostly among the lower classes. Since the Anabaptists had no official sanction, they had to increase their numbers by outright evangelism, something new in supposedly Christian Europe.” Praise God for Anabaptism!