Lesson 30B Preview: John Gerstner Video Lecture “Anabaptism”; Ken Curtis Video “Reformation Overview of the Anabaptists”; The “Schleitheim Confession” document

Prof. John Gerstner returns to provide a video lecture on Anabaptism. Click here to go to the page where you simply initiate the player. This lecture is about 1/2 hour. John H. Gerstner (1914-1996) was a Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary and an authority on the life and theology of Jonathan Edwards. Gerstner counted among his students R.C. Sproul and wrote several books reflecting his orthodox Calvinism.

Few contemporary Anabaptists seek a high degree of media visibility. The video below, only 5 minutes long, was made by Anabaptists and tries to reflect the spiritual vision of the Anabaptists. You may want to turn off your speakers as the sound track may not appeal to your musical taste; the screen captions will tell the story.

Ken Curtis, of the Christian History Institute, presents a sympathetic portrayal of the Anabaptists and the rebaptism controversy: Reformation Overview The Anabaptists

Part 2 of Reformation Overview The Anabaptists:

The third and final segment in Ken Curtis’ production:

Bible Verses for Reflection: Col 2: 11-12Luke 18:15-17

A Quotation for Your Consideration: “Hubmaier did not have a simple “following Jesus” model of discipleship. He insisted that Jesus could not be our model because Jesus’ calling was to the salvation of humanity and our calling is to a variety of social and state roles. In his exegesis of Luke 9, Hubmaier made the point that Christ was not called to be a judge or to get involved in worldly affairs, but to save people by his word. This was a powerful attempt to pull the carpet from under the “brothers” who emphasized following the example of Christ. According to Hubmaier, Christ gave no example here, so the brothers had no point. While Jesus forbade killing out of anger and mockery, this did not apply to the government who killed out of obedience to God and keeping the peace. When the government needed the believer’s help, it was the call of God to which one should respond: “For whoever does not protect the righteous kills him and is guilty of his death as much as the one who does not feed the hungry.”6 Because of his conviction that Christians could kill, Hubmaier’s approach to Matthew 5, like Zwingli’s, really called for a change of spirit rather than behaviour, obedience to Christ in private but not in public service. While he shared with the Swiss Brethren a literal approach to Scripture, his theology led him in a different direction.” [from theanabaptistnetwork.com, author: Tim Foley of the Wood Green Mennonite Church, London, England]

Another Quotation: The Text of the Schleitheim Confession (from Wikipedia)

The Confession consisted of seven articles, written during a time of severe persecution:

1. Baptism
Baptism is administered to those who have consciously repented and amended their lives and believe that Christ has died for their sins and who request it for themselves. Infants, therefore, were not to be baptized.
2. The Ban (Excommunication)
A Christian should live with discipline and walk in the way of righteousness. Those who slip and fall into sin should be admonished twice in secret, but the third offense should be openly disciplined and banned as a final recourse. This should always occur prior to the breaking of the bread.
3. Breaking of Bread (Communion)
Only those who have been baptized can take part in communion. Participation in Communion is a remembrance of Christ’s body and blood; the real body and blood of Christ is not present in the sacrament.
4. Separation from Evil
The community of Christians shall have no association with those who remain in disobedience and a spirit of rebellion against God. There can be no fellowship with the wicked in the world; there can be no participation in works, church services, meetings and civil affairs of those who live in contradiction to the commands of God (Catholics and Protestants). All evil must be resisted including their weapons of force such as the sword and armor.
5. Pastors in the Church
Pastors should be men of good repute. Some of the responsibilities they must faithfully carry out are teaching, disciplining, the ban, leading in prayer, and the sacraments. They are to be supported by the church, but must also be disciplined if they sin.
6. The Sword (Christian pacifism)
Violence must not be used in any circumstance. The way of nonviolence is patterned after the example of Christ who never exhibited violence in the face of persecution or as a punishment for sin. A Christian should not pass judgment in worldly disputes. It is not appropriate for a Christian to serve as a magistrate; a magistrate acts according to the rules of the world, not according to the rules of heaven; their weapons are worldly, but the weapons of a Christian are spiritual.
7. The Oath
No (oaths) should be taken because Jesus prohibited the taking of oaths and swearing. Testifying is not the same thing as swearing. When a person bears testimony, they are testifying about the present, whether it be good or evil.

Questions for Discussion:

1. What does Prof. Gerstner identify as the “most threatening” aspect of the Radicals’ reformation program?

2. Infant baptism and baptismal regeneration for infants were the basis of a doctrine of baptism that was intensely debated in the 16th century. How did the Radicals reason their way into their position, one that contrasted with both Rome’s and Luther’s?

3. In light of all this discussion, what does contemporary Lutheranism say about infant baptism, regeneration, and conversion?

4. Gerstner refers to the “Most Basic Principle in Anabaptist Theology”. What was it for the 16th century Radicals? What did they identify as eroding this Principle?

5. As you begin your quick overview of Anabaptist theology in Sunday school, one of your students says “I have a good friend who is a Mennonite and he has referred to a trip next summer where he will visit the home area of Michael Sattler. I guess he’s an important person to the Mennonites along with Menno Simons – and I believe all Anabaptists. Just what did he do? In a nutshell, what was Sattler’s contribution [as described in Ken Curtis’s video]?

6. A student in your Sunday school class asks, “I understand that all Anabaptists are opposed to war? Is that true? How did that come about – if it’s true? How will you respond to these questions?

7. “Turks of the Spirit” is a phrase famously associated with Michael Sattler. When and where did he use it – and why? What did he intend by “Turks”?

8. How would you differentiate for students Luther’s perspective on the Lord’s Supper and the Anabaptists’? Are there any key terms that help in a Sunday school study of communion theologies?

Glossary of Terms and Names

1. Caesaropapism, aka Constantinianism

2. Constantinianism, aka the Constantinian Shift

3. Constantinianism, sometimes called Erastianism

4. Caspar Schwenckfeld

5. Munster Rebellion

6. Bernard Rothmann

7. Melchior Hoffman

8. Thomas Muntzer

9. German Peasants’ War

10. The Bundschuh Movement

11. Michael Sattler

12. Schleitheim Confession

13. George Blaurock

14. Felix Manz

15. Conrad Grebel

16. Swiss Brethren

17. Moravian Church


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