The Right to Baptize Essay

Submitted By rmartin12
Words: 2145
Pages: 9


A sixteenth century radical group of believers, who became known as the Anabaptists, greatly influenced modern day Baptists by their faith and sacrifice.
The Anabaptists, along with many other believers who were frustrated with Roman Catholic rule, took part in the Reformation that birthed the Protestantism which so many Christians can appreciate today. The freedom that we experience today as American Protestants was merely a dream to the Anabaptists. They were martyred by the thousands for their unwavering beliefs. In fact, during the reformation years 4000-5000 Anabaptists were executed by fire, water, or sword.[1] Keith L. Sprunger gave a great description of their faith and zeal when he wrote, “To their fellow believers, the Anabaptist martyrs were spiritual heroes. Through the speaking and singing with Christlike demeanor in the hour of death, the martyrs acted out ‘effectual sermons’ which touched the hearts and eyes of all who watched them.”[2] One would be inclined to believe that modern day Baptists, along with all other American Protestant Christians, could never properly process this scene, as we have never been faced with such persecution nor had to display our faith to this degree. To question whether or not modern Christians would be willing to die over issues such as infant baptism would only reveal a far less zealous conviction in the present. The Anabaptists played a major role in the birth of Protestantism, in which Baptists represent a large number. Shelly wrote, “In their belief in the separation of church and state the Anabaptists proved to be forerunners of practically all modern Protestants.”[3]After the Second Diet of Worms in 1529, the Anabaptists were part of the evangelical minority, which included the Sacramentarians, who could only offer a protest against their eradication. The word ‘Protestant’ was a result of this protest.[4] The Anabaptists did not actually like the name they were given, which means rebaptizer. In fact, they much preferred the name Baptist. Although, their fundamental view was not Baptism, “it was the nature of the church and its relation to civil governments.” [5] Perhaps the Anabaptists largest contribution was their zeal for the separation of church and state. The Anabaptists’ reasoning for rebellion may be best described in this paragraph read out of the book titled, “The Free Church.” Further it was declared that it was not fitting for a Christian to be a member of the Government. Reason? The worldly government is according to the flesh, but the Christian according to the spirit. Their house and dwelling is fleshly in this world, the Christian’s in heaven…. Their strife and weapons of war are fleshly and against flesh alone; but the Christian weapons are spiritual, against the fortress of the devil. The worldly are equipped with armor only against the flesh but the Christians are equipped with the armor of God—truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God.[6]

The Mennonites are considered to be modern day Anabaptists. In the book, Christ and Culture, the author states that, “the Mennonites best represent Protestant Sectarianism, since they not only renounce all participation in politics and refuse to be drawn into military service, but follow their own distinctive customs and regulations in economics and education.” [7] The Mennonites are their direct descendants when one considers their defiance to government rule. However, they are the extreme when considering the beginning goal of the Anabaptist movement. The reason in which the Anabaptists defied the government in the beginning was their disagreement in infant baptism, due to their strong belief in believer baptism. This caused a conflict with the government because infant baptism was a way the government was able to keep census. Their strong beliefs regarding believer baptism set them in the direction of the yet to be formed Baptist Church.