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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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The Anabaptist Captivity of the Church

In the summer of 2001, the periodical Modern Reformation published a fine (if provocative) little article by R. C. Sproul, entitled “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church” – a clear throwback to the early Reformation, when Martin Luther published a forceful diatribe against the Roman Church entitled, “On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church”. Sproul's speculation that, if Luther were here today to write about modern Evangelicalism, he would write on the Pelagian captivity of the Church, while it nicely underscores the burden of his article, seems a little off in some respects. There was as much Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism in the Roman Church of the sixteenth-century as there is in modern Evangelicalism, for one thing; but Martin Luther did not title his invective after any one heresy, but rather after the corrupt institution that spawned this heresy and many others like it. And so I cannot help but think that a more fitting answer in today's world to Luther's treatise would be an article that addresses, not the errant doctrine in which the Church is enmeshed, but rather the ecclesial institutions that have been instrumental in introducing those doctrines. If that is the case, then how might a modern diatribe in the same vein be styled? In my mind, there is only one possibility: “The Anabaptist Captivity of the Church.”

It seems to me that the doctrinally devastating effect of the Anabaptist tradition is one of the most neglected culprits in the current malaise in the world of Evangelicalism. Every good Protestant can point a finger at Rome, and call out those deviant doctrines by which she spiritually oppresses those under her watch. But how many of those same Protestants realize the extent of the indictment that the Anabaptist revolution deserves, for its equally devastating oppression of those who wander in its errant tradition? The bugaboo in the Protestant world is liberalism, perhaps, or maybe the health-and-wealth gospel of radical Pentecostalism – both very deadly enemies, to be sure. But is there a more primal monster yet, whose defective DNA can be found in both liberal Protestantism and conservative Evangelicalism? Perhaps the “liberal versus conservative” mindset is a skewed perception of the battle for orthodoxy in the modern Church. Maybe the real struggle is more along the lines of “Confessional Reformed versus Anabaptist”. If we admit that this could be the case, then what does the battle field really look like? How would such an admission re-draw the lines?

Now, before I get into any of that, I want to throw out a couple disclaimers. I can already see the hackles rising, and hear the words on the lips of a great many incensed conservatives: “Is he relegating all the good, solid, Evangelical conservatives to the ranks of heretics or Roman Catholics? Are the John Pipers and CJ Mahaneys and John Macarthurs really on the same side as the Joel Osteens and and TD Jakes? Are the Baptists really of the same order as the Papists? What a narrow-minded provincialist!”. Let me assure you that I have tremendous respect for a great many Baptist brothers and warriors for truth in conservative Evangelicalism (and in some ways, the line between confessionally Reformed and conservatively Evangelical is pretty blurry anyway). Not only are they not the enemy, but they are often on the front lines in the battle for the true Church of Jesus Christ. But what I am saying is this: perhaps, in the midst of their honorable struggle against a great many doctrinal problems, they have not always displayed as much awareness of a different kind of problem that is staggeringly immense in proportion. Perhaps they are not always as watchful against Anabaptist errors as they are against Roman or Pentecostal errors. And perhaps this common blind spot is instrumental both in driving the disillusioned back to Rome (or the Emerging Church, etc.) and in keeping the deceived in liberal or ultra-Charismatic circles. Perhaps there is an elephant in the room that very few have focused their attention on.

If anyone does much reading at all in the literature of the Reformation, one thing must become very obvious, very quickly; and that is, that there were actually two great opponents against which the Reformers struggled – the papists and the “fanatics,” that is, the Anabaptists. Both of these groups were at odds with the five solas of the Reformation, and both were equally dangerous in the eyes of the Reformers. So who, exactly, were these Anabaptists? They were, in essence, a radical group that did not only protest the corrupt doctrine of the Roman Church, but they cast off all ecclesial authority, denigrated the sufficiency of scriptures, and ended up chasing a thousand strange new doctrines at the behest of charismatic prophets such as the wild-eyed Zwickau Prophets (Nickolas Storch, Thomas Drescher, and Markus Stubner). The turbulent and diverse history of the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement is not the burden of this brief article; but the observation I would like to underscore is only this: what initially existed as a radical fringe movement eventually capitalized upon new social forces, related to the Revolutionary War and American individualism, to become a mainstream, and even a dominant force within the Protestant Church. In the American Church today, Anabaptist radicalism has in many ways morphed into vanilla-flavor Evangelicalism. And the effects of that move to the mainstream are deeper and more troubling than many can appreciate, since they have grown up in a milieu where these things are taken for granted, as part of their spiritual and cultural heritage.

Let me get a little more concrete here, and suggest four broad domains in which Anabaptist tradition has largely overtaken American Evangelicalism.

An Errant Doctrine of the Church

A robust doctrine of the centrality and importance of the Church has been a definite part of mainstream, orthodox dogma since the days of the apostolic fathers. The universal Church was even considered worthy of a line in the Nicene Creed, and thus elevated to such a status that, in the opinion of the fathers, unless a person believed it fully and firmly (to use the words of Athanasius), he could not be saved. “God cannot be a person's Father,” these champions of trinitarian orthodoxy were fond of saying, “Unless the Church is his mother”. The authority of the keys, which God gave to the apostles and the bishops who came after them, was very real and potent. If a person wanted to be a Christian, he did not just “ask Jesus into his heart” and go on his way – on the contrary, he was catechized and baptized into a universal Body, and thus received a sign and seal, as from God himself, that by the authority of the properly ordained Church officers, he was henceforth to be accounted a Christian, a member of the Church Militant, with all the privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereunto.

Without a doubt, Church authority was slowly corrupted and eventually resulted in the monstrosities of the papacy that the Reformers fought mightily against; but they did not throw out the baby with the bathwater (to use the well-worn cliche) – they still adhered steadfastly to the doctrine of a universal church which one must be an acknowledged member of for salvation. The Magisterial Reformers certainly stressed the need for a robust, personal faith, and they granted exceptions (as Augustine before them) to the basic rule, in the case of deathbed conversions after the pattern of the thief on the cross. But this personal faith that they stressed was never in competition with their high view of the Church. A person could not be a “lone ranger” Christian, refuse the sacrament of baptism and the responsibility of involvement in the local Church, and still be considered a true believer. The authority formally to acknowledge a person as a Christian resided with the ordained elders of the Church; and anyone who wanted to be a Christian, if the Spirit had implanted in his heart the faith alone through which men are justified, had to come to those officers of the Church and be brought into its membership. If they refused to do so, it was a certain sign that they did not have the true faith of which they boasted.

A Christian, then, in the Reformed tradition, was, in all ordinary circumstances, a baptized member of a local church, who participated in its worship. If he had no place in a local church, then he had no place in the Universal Church. The Anabaptist tradition, on the other hand, denigrated the authority of Church officials, oftentimes even denied the very existence of the universal Church, understood salvation as an exclusively personal matter, and saw baptism as a mere symbol of personal faith, which a Christian ought to undergo, in obedience to the Lord's command, but may never do at all, and still be a Christian.

This deprecation of authority and formal institutions, which were replaced by radical individualism, found very fruitful ground to spring up in when a new continent was discovered and peopled by a rugged, self-sufficient breed of settlers. The first pilgrims that settled in America may not have been Anabaptists – but the Anabaptist ideology came across the Pond sooner rather than later – and today it has won such a stranglehold on American Evangelical culture as to be the overwhelming consensus. A person “gets saved” by praying the sinner's prayer. Henceforth, he has “a personal relationship” with Jesus, and may or may not do those things which “more mature” Christians do, such as getting baptized and going to church. Of course, when he does go to church, it is to hear a therapeutic pastor give counsel and advice – or even to relay commandments from the bible – but one who certainly has no actual authority to declare that he is or is not a Christian, or to lay binding requirements on him, with real consequences contingent upon failure to observe them. I want to be cautious here, for the authority of the church is not a harsh, arrogant authority – a pastor must be gentle and take great care not to discourage a bruised reed among the flock – but it is real authority, nevertheless. A hardhearted, unrepentant sinner, who refuses to obey the clear commands of scripture that the elders relay with divine authority, is liable to the frightening judgment of excommunication, from which sentence, when it is passed appropriately, there is no salvation apart from subsequent repentance and restoration. A person who is in this situation, because of the Anabaptist inheritance of individualism, may tragically minimize its importance, and never feel the weight of such a judgment, come to his senses, and repent. He may decide he doesn't need church – from then on, it'll just be “him and Jesus”. Or he may decide to get involved in an Emergent Church, where authority structures are the greatest evil, and everyone is free to think what he wants and do what he wants, as long as it doesn't involve judging anyone else for any heresy or sin, however blatant it may be.

Examples could be proliferated, from Landmarkists who deny the universal Church to charismatic, mega-church pastors who function practically as “life coaches”. But one thing is clear: in the evangelistic practices and attitudes of liberalism and conservative Evangelicalism alike, the robust Reformed doctrine of the Church and the spiritual authority of her properly ordained officers has all but been swept away by American individualism. The authoritarian claims of Rome are still alive and well on the one extreme and the individualism of the Anabaptists has spread like wildfire on the other; and in the middle, the ecclesiology of the confessionally Reformed has become an all-but-forgotten doctrine in the Western Church.

A False Piety and Worship

If the way a person becomes a Christian – or what it means to “be saved” – has gone from objective, concrete, normal means to individual, subjective, experiential manifestations, then what it means to function practically as a Christian has gone further yet. The Reformed tradition relies heavily upon the normal means of grace in the pursuit of sanctification. The Christian life is not always glamorous, but the Holy Spirit continually works in a believer's heart, causing him slowly to grow in grace, over a lifetime, through the preaching of the word, the fellowship of the Lord's Table, and prayer. The regulative principle of worship governs what a church service looks like. There is little flair and drama, but a steady increase in faith and holiness, which works itself out, not primarily in subjective feelings or mystic experiences, but in the nitty-gritty of everyday life lived to God's glory and for the good of others, the strength for which is sustained and nourished by the weekly activities of the Lord's Day, which God normally uses to convey further grace, for the building up of true faith which works through love.

But in the world of Evangelicalism at large, these normal means of grace are denigrated as inadequate means for sanctification. Christians need emotional revivalists, who work outside the worship services of the local church, to stir them up and bring them to a place of total yieldedness, or being “on fire” for God. Sanctification is not so much about growing in concrete, practical ways, but in mystical encounters with God, having a primarily “personal,” subjective relationship with him, working up the Evangelical equivalent of the Mormon “burning in the bosom”. Instead of singing psalms or doctrinally-rich hymns, the fare is almost entirely subjective, individualistic praise choruses (not that all praise choruses are bad or all hymns are good, but as a general rule, the former tend to be less substantial and more individualistic than the latter). Instead of straightforward expositions of the sacred text, sermons are relevant, chatty discourses, that may (or may not) come from the word of God, but lack the sobriety and weightiness of a commissioned minister of the gospel speaking the very words of Christ to his flock. I am not saying that the Christian experience is not emotional or personal – but when those emotions are sought outside God's normal means of the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, then God's design is despised, and the way is paved for all sorts of problems. In this domain, as well, then, the Anabaptist counter-extreme to Rome's sacramentarianism has all but swallowed up the American Protestant Church.

A Practical Denial of Sola Scriptura

The formal principle of the Reformation, sola scriptura, is absolutely non-negotiable for any truly Reformed (or Protestant) church. And yet, in practice, that doctrine has likewise been put in serious jeopardy by Anabaptist radicalism, both in liberal and conservative Evangelical circles. This lack of trust in the Word of God to provide sufficient guidance for all matters of faith and practice is the most obvious, perhaps, in the charismatic and pentecostal camps, where new words from the Holy Spirit are as plentiful as rain in Seattle. But in Evangelicalism at large, including cessationist portions of it, feelings and impressions are often met with all the weight of a message from God. How much energy is spent wondering whether God has “called” someone to thus and such a ministry or job or place to live, for example! But in contrast to this mindset, there is much security and peace in the Reformed ideas that a person's vocation really is a “calling” from God which it is his sacred responsibility to engage in to God's glory, that the will of God for his life is fully revealed in the bible, which teaches him how to live no matter where he is or what he does, and that the normal means of practical wisdom and seeking counsel, in dependence on and acknowledgement of God's guidance, ought to be employed in making the basic decisions of life.

Again, I am not saying that God does not or cannot give feelings and impressions to individuals, or that feeling a desire to do something else or go somewhere else cannot be one of the means that the sovereign God providentially employs as he governs the world and his Church in particular – but when sola scriptura is truly embraced, it frees a believer from neurotic doubts and fears that he may have missed a prompting, and enables him, as he seeks to live life according to biblical principles, to trust that God's sovereign will is being accomplished in his life. As in the former domains, we can see in the Anabaptist error a counterpart to a Roman error. Rome adds the official teaching of the authoritative magisterium to the scriptures as necessary for guiding a Christian. Anabaptists either cast off all outside authority and add subjective experience and inward promptings, or else submit to charismatic prophets with assumed apostolic authority to relay to them new revelation from the Spirit – but in either case, what is lost is the doctrine of sola scriptura.

A Reversion to Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian Errors

At the beginning of this article, I referred to RC Sproul's suggestion that the Evangelical Church is in a sort of Pelagian Captivity. The Reformed doctrine of monergism teaches that regeneration is the work of God the Holy Spirit alone, who blows where he wishes, and sovereignly gives new, spiritual life to all whom God the Father has chosen; and that all who are thus given life are only then enabled to respond in faith and repentance. Much of the Evangelical church, on the other hand, is laboring under a doctrine of synergism, the teaching that man must first believe in order to be regenerated. God may throw the lifeline to the drowning sinner, but before he can be saved, he must lay hold of the rope with his own hand. Jesus may be knocking at the doors of a person's heart, but before he can come in, that person has to open up that door and invite him in. I readily concur with RC's point, but in my opinion, this captivity to synergistic doctrine has come from the widespread success of the second great antagonist of the Reformers – Anabaptist fanaticism. Synergism is one part of a whole host of inter-related problems. It is just one individualistic element of a whole worldview of radical individualism that has infiltrated the mainstream Protestant church with remarkable success. The problem is in the liberal, charismatic, and even conservative evangelical and fundamentalist branches of Protestantism; and therefore, the solution is not likely to come from conservative Evangelicalism at large, no matter how successful its pastors and scholars may be in combating certain elements of it. What is needed more than ever is a return to a robust Reformed confession, piety, and worship. Praise God, there have always been a few such churches and denominations, and there has recently been a resurgence of such confessionalism[1]. I pray that it will continue to increase.

[1] Although I do have a few points of disagreement, I greatly appreciate the work of many of the faculty of Westminster Seminary in California toward this end, particularly R. Scott Clark's Recovering the Reformed Confession, and the recent multi-author publication of Always Reformed.

Posted by Nathan on October 20, 2010 05:39 PM

Comments

I was raised, and recently came out of, a church with a true Anabaptist history. Upon study of reformation theology and history I became reformed (though I am still a Baptist). One of the most things I noticed almost immediately was that many of the errors of the 17th century fanatics were still abundantly obvious today, the most severe being the deviation from sola scriptura. A few examples from the church I left…single elder in the local church, hyper-tradtionalism, faith + works for salvation, excommunication of repentant believers/members, Christ’s blood does not atone for sins after baptism, perfectionism, Arminianism, and a whole host of unbiblical doctrines, practices and traditions. Their ministers did not receive any form of Christian education and would not even prepare their sermons or even which passage they were going to read. They would instead “rely on the Spirit” and simply flip open the Bible and read whatever their “eyes first fell upon”. It’s the perfect example of the flawed Anabaptist view of inspiration.
So your article nailed several of the items I saw first hand most of my life. Although, once sola scriptura is ignored it is very difficult to assess any “typical” in those kinds of churches.

i think its important to note that not all baptists are non-confessional and descendants of the anabaptists

I think it is important to note that unbiblical extremes occur in every tradition. I live in a city full of "Reformed" churches and denominations. Every tradition it seems has its own danger zones, where, if left unchecked by Scripture, they tend to drift into. The Reformed traditions have a tendency to become cold, doctrinaire and lifeless. While "me and Jesus" is clearly wrong, surely "union with Christ" is something extremely personal at one level and leads to a joyful life of worship. I think the ministries of men like Piper and Mahaney have brought a needed corrective to this drift in the Reformed tradition.

Let me give an example of why I think he may be onto something. I remember driving through a town in my state of Alabama. I was astonished at the proximity of so many differnet Baptist churches. Having come up in such a background, I wonder if all these churches are there not because of a passion through the decades fo church planting, but because an individual didn't like the amount of singing, the new piano, the new youth pastor, etc and decided "I'm agin' it!".As a result,he and many others ran off to start a "new church", which of course the Lord led them to do. In my mind this is all too pervasive in the "Bible Belt." I thought I may throw that out there...

I would agree with both your qualifications, Eric and Chris. Some Reformed Baptists are indeed confessional, and some confessionally Reformed can be cold and lifeless. I don't think the problem is the confessionalism, though. Sometimes preaching can be cold and lifeless, but the answer is not to quit preaching and start play-acting every Sunday morning (as some pastors have decided to do) -- it's to preach better. So too, the answer to cold confessionalism is not to be less confessional -- it's to be serious and heartfelt in your confessionalism.

Just to throw in my two cents ... I was a Pentecostal minister for almost 20 years. I left the organization because of the lack of grace I found there. I am still trying to figure things out theologically, and I appreciate sites like this one. However, I am not sure that the caricature presented of Pentecostals (for which I have no affinity now) or other Protestant denominations helps the discussion. The idea that because they use stories to help people understand biblical principles better does not, in my mind, mean they do not hold to the principle of sola scriptura. You are right that Pentecostals and Charismatics have gone overboard in getting personal "words" from the Lord. But those groups would defend to the death the principle that the Word of God is the final word on all things theological (however errant they may be). And I must say that I bristle now at what I detect as pharisaical notions in any teaching that I hear or read. And I felt that I detected a little of that in this article--as good as it was.

I would have to respectfully disagree with Chris. I think that Reformed piety is being measured by a foreign standard in his comments. The assumption that the Reformed are mostly "cold and lifeless" and that Piper and Mahaney have "corrected" this "tendency," is merely to beg the question. What is piety? Is it an ecstatic experience? Or is it a quiet life lived under the authority of God, devoted to Christ, his church, and his people? I'm not saying that Reformed piety isn't warm and experiential. What could be more warm and intimate than, "Take, eat. This is my body, broken for you..."? I recommend reading an article in Modern Reformation titled "Reformation Piety," as well as the books mentioned at the end of the above post. If the Reformed world truly is "cold and lifeless" then the problem isn't with our confessional piety, it is unbelief. We're (allegedly) unregenerate. Now, are you willing to go to all our sessions and consistories, point out our sins of unbelief, and have us disciplined? After all, that is the real problem. We're assumed to be unbelievers. Are you willing to defend that assumption?

Wow!!!! Wow!!! Wow!!! I live far in the boon docks near an Armenian church where the pastor has just been kicked out for child abuse!
Now you say of people like me who do not go to church (though i'd love to), "...they still adhered steadfastly to the doctrine of a universal church which one must be an acknowledged member of for salvation.
That means I have not salvation if I am not a member of the physical church!!!
Is that of the bible or is it of your own personal beliefs? This causes me alarm and worry! I thank God for all the puritan s I read and love who teach me everyday as well as does the Holy Spirit!!

So sorry for my reaction but it is true my heart is grieved by this article! I shall forever be a puritan and love them with all m y heart for all they have given and done for christ to see exalted above all things and man set low in his own ends!

So sorry for this reply!!! But I am so grieved to think that those i have so followed and learned much from are saying to me, it is the physical church which is above ones faith and it is the church which determines the validation of ones faith, else he is not saved!!!! How can that be if faith is a gift of God?
Disabled in the hills far from a solid church! Suffered much throughout this time in my life and never complained but here I must protest with tears!

This, I pray, is not against the body of Christ, God so help me! It is sad that while the scripture is sola taught here in this article, not a single scripture is used except that mentioned of the authority of the apostles!
It has many things correct in its charges of many deeply errant "church's", but seems to be much more of the educated and the greatest things of some to know, which many like me have not a clue. I am not a professor of religion nor have the time nor education afforded me so to look into all things as you have but yet I know the simplest of all to know, christ crucified for a great sinner as i! With that, what more can you add to my faith so to grant me more of him to know and be as? This fails in everyway to show me anything more than the things so many learned in school or in great study of religions and history! The coldness spoke of here seems fitting for how can nay be alive when under the authority of professor who claim to teach their many words void of scripture and even christ crucified?

You seem not to see that man is of heart as well as mind! The tears are many and our griefs and sufferings cannot be in vain when it is said, 'Our sovereign God seen to it that you would not be a member of the church by the authority of those in the church'! I strongly take offense to this article not because of its contents but because of its claim determine who is saved! God alone holds the book of life! No man has it nor has God shown it to any but Christ - my King, my lord, my savior, my life even to my death! I protest strongly and pray you see a way to help me to see where you are scripturally right and i am lost!

Get the world and its doctrines out of the church!!!!

Preach by the doctrines of God! Expose those who preach otherwise - with courage and scriptural authority as a vessel of the living God! Submit ourselves to his teaching confirmed by scripture!

Remove and expose that which enters and confuses many by shining a light upon it so to reveal its true source of ungodliness. Get back to that which we know is true and must be true by the very lives of men to live and desire. Help those who follow Christ and who suffer many things from the world come into the church and cause it great anguish and rob it of hope by the worlds teaching brought in by teachers who love the world and their own goodness far more than christ. Strengthened our faith and increase our love and give scriptural encouragement that we indeed are in the race from this world to another!! What ever it takes, it must be done before the church falls further into the world and looks no different at all! Expound life as it is and contrast it with scripture! Touch the lives of people! Wake them up! Shake them up! But, the doctrine of election will allow this if we but see that God works in us for others we touch! However we touch them it must show the truth exposed by the word!! Warnings are every where and these days they all seem to be the message of "nice good american, give me your support for all the good i do!" see, the church is filled with the world in so many ways! Not just by acts of lack of acts of sin!

My anger of the many church's is that they so love the world and their own goodness! And they never hear the truth!

I find more radical individualism amongst the Reformed than the Anabaptists. Too straw mannish an argument for me.

Bruce,

As I said in the article above, there have always been exceptions admitted in unusual circumstances -- the thief on the cross is one such I mentioned, but others would include missionaries sent out by a church to a place where there is no church yet; believers in hostile nations who are oppressed or imprisoned for their beliefs; invalids and shut-ins, etc. Maybe being disabled in the "boondocks" where there is no church you can conscionably attend is one such exception. The point is not that, if you miss a day of church, you're out of the Kingdom. The point is rather that in ordinary circumstances a Christian is someone whose faith has been acknowledged by the officers of the Church through the proper administration of sacraments, and who does not habitually despise the functioning of the Church, and persist in the mindset, "I don't need anyone else, Jesus and me'll do just fine alone together". That's simply not a Christian attitude, it's not a mindset borne of true, biblical faith.

Matt,

If you're finding radical individualism, you're not dealing with the confessionally Reformed who function true to the confessions. Perhaps you're thinking of certain elements of the "young, restless, and reformed" crowd, I don't know, but by definition a radical individualist is not confessional in his piety. The Anabaptists have individualism deeply woven into their history, on the other hand. It's historically factual.

Thanks for the article,

I would like to comment on "An Errant Doctrine of the Church"

This is one of the reasons I do not label myself "Reformed" although I agree with most of what the reform teach.

It appears that the Reformed have keep some of the idea's that the Roman church had, in that “Church tradition” is part of the Christians life and is defended.

I see this part of the article more of a defense of "Reformed Church Tradition" then a defense of Scripture.

I read this section twice and noticed that there were no Bible verses to back up your claims, could there be a reason for that?

My salvation had nothing to do with a "church" The only reason a church (body of believers) is part of my life is because the bible tells me to gather with other believers for Evangelism, fellowship, Communion and to utilize my gifts of the Holy Spirit and that the head of the body of believes is The Christ, then Elders and deacons to administer the body in the afore mentioned items, not to lord it over them but to be a part of an orderly body.

The church is part of the Christian life not the center of the Christians life.

"Human/Church Traditions" are not part of the biblical record or are they supposed to be part of the Christians life, other than what is commanded in God’s word. That’s one of the reasons Jesus had against the Pharisees.

I thank God for the reformers and God has used them for His purposes.

May God continue to bless you.

Troy

Hey Troy,

The scriptural testimony to the centrality of the Church in God's redemptive plan and the authority of her ordained officers is immense. You could start with Mat. 16:13-20; Mat. 18:15-20; Mat. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 5; Eph. 2:19-22; Eph. 4:4-16; 1 Tim. 3 -- but there are many other passages you could go to as well. If you read the NT, one thing is exceedingly clear: Christ died to build one Church, upon the foundation of the twelve apostles, with Christ alone as the chief cornerstone. He ordained elders and deacons in the Church and gave them clear authority to bind or loose, with express command to baptize and excommunicate. "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven," Jesus told them; "if you withhold forgiveness from anybody, it is withheld" (John 20:23). That's the authority that Christ gave to his one Church, not to break down, but to build up. Anyone seeking to skirt around the Church and relate to God in an individualistic way is putting himself in opposition to the scriptures.

Pitchford:
I agree with you and which that could be true of all church's! I have desired that much in my case! But the problem is so dire that many church;s, such as some pentecostals, etc. do kick out people for sin and do not fogive them unless they are found by man to be repented of them and have them no more! These than claim that those people have been binded and not forgiven and so will not be loosed in heaven!
Worse, some churchs have shunned those and have claimed they are apostates for teaching a false gospel when in fact they were teaching Christ alone! Many others have been kicked out of the church or shunned through scandals or other things. The church this day is in such a mess and people cannot perceive the truth! They now not the difference between one or another by Christ. Yet, they choose whom they like or who has been with them the longest! Night mare stories go on throughout Christendom today! My point is that I believe you are correct in what you say and desire that to be with me as well. But the truth and condition of many local and denominational church's today miss christ completely! They have the authority of man who is the center of life and holds to pride of anointing with all his might! So the solution might be to tally up all the good church's and warn people of the bad ones who abuse mankind for their own benefit and not Christ's!
I cannot tell you that you are wrong as i know nothing of you nor your church! I do agree with you in that it would be so nice if it were the way you say it ought to be! We must admit the sad news and condition of many church's! Maybe if the good ones sent missionaries into many American churches, it would help! Maybe if we could sponsor correct thheology and truth than many could go and make a difference! That is one reason I come to this site! So that I can know and send by e-mails all which i learn to those i love and attend churches of man! So that they can be forgiven! Many churchs need forgiven!

Hi again, Bruce.

I think I can feel your pain, and I know that what you say is true -- many churches and ministers have horribly abused authority, cast out those who were merely clinging to Christ alone, etc. This still happens today, but it was even worse in the days of the Reformation, when the false church leaders not only excommunicated those who believed the doctrines of grace, they burned them at the stake! I'm sorry to hear you've been wounded by a wrongful use of church authority, and would encourage you not to give up hope, but seek out a church that holds to sound doctrine, whose ministers use their authority for the building up of the saints. Those churches do exist -- I pray God will lead you to one. Until then, keep pressing on and praying for God's grace to preserve you and lead you to where you can be joined with a true church, and continue to labor for God's glory.

Yours in Christ,
Nathan

Wow, again! To know Gods forgiveness is the greatest thing ever! It cleanses so much where all else seems to fall to the side.
I am grateful for this site, again! Never does it ever end without joy! No matter even how it began, the end is always so good.
I agree with you totally. Now that I can see it so much clearer. It is an incredible thing all God gives to us even through suffering. For the forgivenss of sin is worth all we go through so to know Christ crucified. You speak the truth here and I am so grateful for your patience! Do pray I can move to an area near a good church! It needs to be as you said here!
Thanks so much Nathan, Bruce also yours in christ! May God richly bless you!

Little time has passed since my last response and I wanted to ell you Nathan, Go has so richly blessed you! This is spiritual genius which I know is of Gods blessing upon you! It hit the nail dead on the head with precision! I pray you know that I know this is of God in his blessings to you! It is spiritually given of god!

The flesh would say, genius and masterful and incredibly wise of you! But it is of Gods blessing, I know to have been given you!
I am so grateful to God for this he gives to you for me to know!

While I am not a history expert I strongly question your assertion that American Individualism found it's root in Anabaptist traditions. A man much more closely related to the time period and with more intellectual authority than you actually attributed this to the Puritans (Max Weber in "The Protestant Ethic"). I find both claims to be entirely ridiculous and think that the process by which rugged individualism evolved involved many different processes and circumstances, of which both Reformed and Anabaptists took part.
Having been raised in an Anabaptist church (Mennonite) that taught Scripture first and foremost, and had Elders and Bishops as part of a denominational hierarchy, and was very focused on foreign missions and the Church world-wide, both Mennonite and outside of their own denomination, having been raised in such an atmosphere I find most of your claims to be utterly unfounded and ridiculous.
I now lean reformed, I don't know how you cannot when you actually study Scripture, but I would never actually call myself reformed because of articles such as this. To claim that "What is needed more than ever is a return to a robust Reformed confession, piety, and worship" is possibly the most proud and arrogant statement I have heard in a while (although I've come to expect this from my reformed brothers) and I would assert that what we need instead is to return to a knowledge of God's will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience. (Col 1)

Father God, open this man's eyes to see that your kingdom is so much larger than one denomination or theological understanding. Help him to see the truth that has come through those not of his own tradition and to be able to welcome their insight into who You are. Give him life and breath that is not his own, or what has been fed to him, but that comes from You and You alone. Open his eyes dear Father, because in trying to open others' his own have been shut. For him I pray through the strength of your Spirit, thank you for his wisdom and what he has been able to teach, but keep him from fading from the truth by relying too heavily on what those other than You have spoken. I entrust him to You. I ask these things in the name of Jesus, who has all power on heaven and earth and under the earth, and to whom all authority has been given.

N Good,

First, I didn't suggest that American individualism found its roots in Anabaptist traditions, I said that Anabaptism found good soil to flourish in the rugged individualism of the American pioneers. Anabaptism influenced American individualism, to be sure, but I never even hinted that it was the sole or even the primary cause of it.

Second and more importantly, your creed that we need to embrace an interdenominational piety over against a Reformed piety, and that we should call it arrogant to argue for a robust Reformed piety seems a little arrogant in itself. What you are arguing for you believe passionately enough that you are willing to call someone arrogant for not agreeing with you. So why then can someone who believes differently (i.e. believes that the Reformed tradition is the most closely aligned tradition with the teaching of the scriptures) not believe as passionately as you do? Why can you call me strongly to your opinion, and yet presume it arrogant of me to call others strongly to mine? One of us is right and one of us is wrong -- but what is clear from your comment as well as my article, is that we both feel strongly about our beliefs, and hence express ourselves strongly. The issue, then, must be which one of us is right in our strongly-held beliefs. And I think (obviously) that I am right, and that other denominations in the Anabaptist tradition are wrong in some important matters, and that it would be well for them to return to a more biblical way of approaching things, as the Reformed confessions lay those things out from the scriptures.

It took me a short while to see this as well. Even after I had protested very strongly over some part of this blog!
But when I finally did see, it was a very great thing for me, a lone ranger doing it alone in the boon docks! All alone!! Believe me when I say that! No one to help! This became a call to pray to my Father that my Mother be known and found and lead to. Her, who is the bride of her husband, Jesus Christ! But the one visible here on earth where she gathers many into her bosom with tenderness, compassion having a mothers love and care for her children. But also a strong hand as Christ!
Oh, how sweet the sound in this time of great need and after much suffering (without much complaint) though weakened and in need to be strengthened and built up!

But I what I heard here was of the church and my great need of her here in this earth! The mother whose husband is Christ and not a widower or some other!
Leaning toward reformed only seems to me to lean toward the church whose husband is christ! I no little here of denominations, but do know of some widows who have no husband! Yet, God works in them as well as did Christ who walked amongst the seven churches in revelations! One even having the doctrines of demons! I would much rather have the church of solid scriptural truth and doctrines who love Christ as their husband.
I think now that the physical church must be a shadow image of the invisible body of Christ!

I have been blessed greatly in this call to me to be gathered even after my strong protest here. I can give many reasons for this!
So I await my Father to guide me into the physical image of his bride!
I am the one this article spoke to! And it was so very good. I protested but than was blessed greatly by this article!
Thank you again as I have already began in earnest prayer to be lead to my physical image of our Mother, the bride of Christ!
I have been answered here as well! I have asked to know such a church of such strength and love and faith!
I do wish this church be strong and stern when need be as Christ was! That protects us who need and have little built up in us as Christ had and is!

I had to say this is making more and more spiritual sense to me!
I am eager to find this kind of church! One which feeds the flock the truth and word of God alone and who knows themselves as the bride of Christ by Christ Himself!
Very refreshing and i pray it can happen in my case!
A call of the seven church's as Christ stands amongst them and calls by the angels of the church's to come!

Bruce,

I'm very glad to see your zeal to become connected to a true, biblical, local church, and I hope God leads you to one very soon, that will greatly assist you in your walk of faith. In the meantime, I would encourage you to continue looking to Christ, who is always a sufficient Savior, no matter what situation you may be in. Many who belonged to Christ have been shut up in prison because of their beliefs. Others have been driven out of the church. Others have been shut in by old age or illness, and have felt abandoned and alone. And of all of them, Christ has not lost one of his true sheep who belonged to him. I would encourage you to continue trusting in him, even as you are searching for a church, and after he has led you to one, as well.

Nathan

Nathan:
Thank you for your encouraging words here and for being so patient with me!

I am blessed so very much in so many ways even in sufferings! This site blesses me greatly in many ways of knowledge and the truth of him alone who is the truth, the way and all our supply in all things!

Thanks so much! Bruce

Oh yea, I see now the church universal! Thank God! To clear us something you helped me with I write this!
I was in a pentecostal church of AOG for three years after being in a Calvary chapel church which seemed (to me) to put out a net and hand out tickets to heaven. That was fine but I needed more and somehow fell into the AOG church near where i lived!
Short of the story is that they oppressed me out saying I was embarrassing the anointing and teaching of the pastor and his wife. They said I was a sinner in need of discipline as King David and so had to apologize before the church so to exonerate them and their anointing and teaching! But they taught nothing that I could see but mans own strength and faith! I promised to meet with all the elders and pastors and confess my sins and asked for their hands over me so to forgiven me of my sin! They would not for my teaching was not to be changed! It was Christ alone and i knew it though had so little knowledge! They hated that I left the world and all which they loved and became poor in all things having not met the american standard of success and prosperity!
Yet, I continued (after five years) to teach Christ alone into that church by its pastor! It has turned the whole church toward my teaching since they hated me and wanted me to leave. It was very hard! Most loved me for what i had the courage to do in leaving the world behind and all which I could have had in so many areas! Instead, I choose only to do that which was what god wanted! Though I was a sinner!
Now I see what the church is so much mroe than before! Waht I have learned here is that I will go to any church God sends me to but thsi time with the truth and the aid given here to support the teaching of christ alone! I have been weakened and chatised much through these years but he gave me a spiritual coin which has his hand on one side and him crucified on the other throughout these years in isolation. This gave me much strength as God also sent to me sites like this one and others so to learn the truth and how to use it wisely.
You have jsut given me strength to see that indeed I desire to be in the church again for i had left it by the hands of man to do all sort of things against me. Slander, the loser and far worse! The oppression caused me to fear those who do noty know Christ in the church! I was weakened and knew no good way to counter error! You have shown me that way here as did the apostles in the bible!

Now, I see the church universal and will return into it should God allow me to! I am utterly dependent on him to do this! But I will come as a reformer but better equipped!
So thank you for causing me to see this by showing it to me in this article and by your kind words and wisdom! God has given you much and now I am further equipped and they cannot find my sin anymore!

Thank you so much Nathan! Coming back as a reformer now! Not just a new babe in christ not knowing anything of doctrine and truth as before. I am much further along than before and am growing stronger in christ! I am so happy to be identified with christ and be accounted in all his sufferings as you under go by your labor for him!
In Christ, Bruce

Nathan,

Thank you for your response and your willingness to conduct a civil debate, which I very much appreciate. I must also note that I agree with you on all points (well, 99% of them) and that the resulting conversation with Bruce and his conviction over the place and purpose of church in a believers life causes me joy even though when I first read your post I, well...to be honest, was a bit perplexed.

Here's the way I see it, I think what the church needs today (and throughout all time) is a biblical unity. We need to come together around the Bible as believers in Christ Jesus, laying our differences aside to dig into what the Bible says. Yes, that may sound overly idealistic and simplistic, but so is thinking everyone will become reformed. And this is where I feel that your call to reformed confession and piety was arrogant. Yes, the reformed confessions align more closely with Scripture than any other confession or piety, I agree with that, BUT they are NOT Scripture. So, to call ALL Christians to a reformed confession and piety is BY ITS NATURE DIVISIVE! I hope you understand what I mean. Basically, I hold to a reformed confession and piety, but I would never call someone who doesn't hold to it to that same confession. Instead, I would call them to Scripture, and when we differ in opinion, I would call them to Scripture, and I would never even mention anything about being reformed, because to do so is to say "Well, I belong to Paul and you belong to Apollos" Its taking sides other than the side of God (because the only side that is 100% God's is Scripture itself). That is why I felt that your call was arrogant, while my call (which was Scripture) was not arrogant because it wasn't my call at all, it was the call of God, and He is ALLOWED to be arrogant. (If you still don't believe that the call for Scripture based unity is...well, Scriptural, I would recommend some time meditating on John 17 and 1 Corinthians 1-2).
Because when it comes down to it (and this is where we may start to disagree, and I hope that the Spirit works between us to open both of our eyes to truth) the Reformed confession, piety, and worship is not right. Let me say it again in a different way, the Reformed confession, piety, and worship that you are calling all Christians to has things that are wrong with it. How can I say this? Because there are people involved, and when people are involved there will always be error. So, there are things that can and need to be improved upon in the Reformed tradition. Whenever we get stuck in a particular tradition (other than the Christian tradition as a whole), believing that it is the only way, we will eventually end up in error, because we take away people's ability to challenge what is considered to be "right".
I hope all of this makes sense, I admit that there may be areas of error in what I am saying and what I believe. I think that all of the principles that you put forth in the above post were right and accurate, but to do it at the defacement of brothers and sisters in the Lord, I think is wrong. To say that you and your camp are ultimately right and all others are less right...it just breeds foolish arguments. At least that's my opinion. Rather than finger-pointing and name calling, wouldn't we be better to follow the example of Paul in Galatians, where he said extreme things, but of central focus was always the gospel and bringing people back to IT. Rather than approaching it as "The Anabaptists should become Reformed" why not approach it from "We need to become more Scriptural, and here are some areas where I see Anabaptists straying from that" (although I guess the name of your blog and your whole thrust IS reformed theology rather than Scripture...so that makes it a little difficult from the beginning........)
Just my humble opinion. The Bible has some strong words about divisive people (Titus 3:10-11) so may you never find yourself among them.
In Christ and for His glory,
Nathan Good

Oh, after reading through what I just wrote, I must say something else. I do think that there is a great need for systematic theology that is Bible based and I think that Reformed theology is just that. So I leave myself in a dilemma... (or so it may appear). But here is how I see it, if we call others to Scripture they will arrive at a Reformed confession, piety, and worship through the Holy Spirit, rather than me thinking that I have to be the Holy Spirit to them. Its easier to try to skip the steps of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit and just brainwash people into a certain belief, its a whole lot harder to speak the truth of Scripture and allow others to come to the belief through the work of the Holy Spirit on their own.

May God instruct and teach you through His Word and grow you in spiritual wisdom and understanding. May you never stray from the truth and the calling to which you have been called. Abba, lay a blessing upon this man and the work that you have given him to do, strengthen him through your Holy Spirit, through times of intimate prayer and communion with you, and times of being built up through corporate worship and fellowship. Grant him ever increasing love, peace, and joy through your Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus.

Nathan Good

Nathan G,

I appreciate your heart for unity. Many times I've inwardly groaned over the disunity and discord in the Church of God, and I've spent much time mulling over how that can be changed -- and the conclusion I've come to is that we cannot truly grow in unity until we grow in doctrinal precision. I can join together with Roman Catholics and Word-of-Faith Pentecostals and Unitarian Universalists, and etc., etc., in some endeavor, but that does not make us united -- it merely demands a polite hypocrisy of sorts. Now, I think there are others who are genuine Christians and whose doctrinal differences are much less extreme; and not only do I encourage deep-seated, gospel-based unity with them, but I actually practice it in my own life. I have close fellowship with many persons that are not Reformed (and I would say, not biblical) in some ways. But if I am willing just to leave them there the rest of my life without challenging them to grow in their knowledge of Christ and his gospel, my desire for "unity" may just be a gloss for a selfish desire to be comfortable and avoid confrontation. If you're interested, I've written more on love, unity, and doctrinal precision here:

http://psalm45publications.com/articles/love-unity-and-doctrinal-precision/

Now, let me just suggest that what you are doing is fundamentally no different than what I am doing. You are wanting unity, and so you interpret the scriptures (John 17 and 1 Cor. 2-3 -- both excellent passages) and on the basis of your interpretation you call me to a different practice in your own words. I, too, am using an interpretation of scriptures (the Reformed standards) and using them to call others to a more biblical piety. Because I arrogantly assume that I'm better than they? Because I want division and not unity? God knows that is not the case. But I long for unity, and I long for others to know the same deep-rooted peace and security in believing the truth of scriptures that I have slowly come to know. There is this one difference, however, between what you are doing and what I am doing: you are calling me to action over an interpretation of the scriptures that you have come to alone; whereas I am calling others to action on the basis of how scores of tried and proven men within the historic, orthodox Reformed-Nicene-Catholic (i.e., the Reformers are the true heirs of the Nicene Catholics) Church have interpreted those scriptures. Those widely accepted creeds and confessions and catechisms lay the ground for much more unity than we can have when everyone is entitled to an opinion of equal weight. Those doctrinal standards are subservient to the scriptures, and must be weighed against the scriptural testimony by every passing generation of the church; and they come from a heritage in which sola scriptura is paramount. But the bottom line is, our functional unity is going to depend on the interpreted scriptures; and there is much more unity to be had if we recognize the role of the Church in helping establish parameters for valid interpretation -- and that is what confessionalism is all about.

Nathan P

Thanks again for this article,

I've read the whole thing and I agree whole hardily, except for the first point, as I've said before.

I agree with you as scripture does that a Christian should be part of a local body of believers and be faithful to that one body as long as they are faithful to the scriptures, that scripture teaches that we as Christians are part of that body and it's sinful to think that as a Christian we can be a "lone ranger" Christian.

Also that a sinning Christian should repent, if not the church elders have the right to kick that Christian out of the church until he repents of the sin, and scripture teaches us not to associate with Christians that are openly sinning.

I agree that the errors in the Contemporary church today could have started in the Anabaptist movement; I also think that the errors came from the lips of Arminius, Pelagius and the works of Finny.

But the main point that I disagree with you is the authority you say that the church and its elders should have. This is way beyond what the authority the bible gives to the elders of the church, it appears to be very similar to the Roman church.

In Matthew 16:19, 18:18 and John 20:23 Jesus is talking to the apostles or the church as a whole and the authority He gave them was just for them, not to every elder in every church.

It appears that the reformed of today have confused Ministry with Authority, I agree with John Calvin in his Commentary on John 20:23 that Jesus was not giving the apostles the authority to forgive sins since only God and the Christ have that authority alone.

Nowhere in scripture does it teach that the apostles used or taught that anybody else other than Jesus Himself can forgive sin or say who is or is not part of the body of Christ, other than one who is openly sinning without repenting or is an antichrist.

It does teach that we are to confess our sins and burdens one to another and that if anyone sins against us we are to forgive them but this is a personal matter, not my Pastor telling me that my sin is not forgiven unless he says so.

I agree with you that if the Contemporary Christians of today would return to the fundamental doctrines of scripture they would be more aligned to the reformed faith than not.

May God continue to Bless you

Troy

Nathan P,

Thank you for your clarifications. Now that I see your heart laid out before me I more fully understand where you are coming from and can appreciate what you are saying. Basically, it is my very idea that we (as individuals) should return to Scripture that you are trying to combat because you feel that we (as the Church) ought to return to Scripture and that these things ought to come through the Church.
To be honest with you, I will have to spend some time thinking and praying over that. I understand what you are saying, that we need the Church and that we need the creeds and doctrines of the Church, and it is important to affirm them...I'm just not sure that I agree full-heartedly...and I'm not sure why.
You are calling the Church to the interpretation of Scripture as held in orthodoxy and I desire to see the Church reading Scripture.

Ok, so here's a question I have, then, just to more fully understand your position and where you are going with this. What is your perspective on Saul/Paul based on the first chapter of Galatians? (Specifically the fact that he was taught by God on his own and purposefully did NOT seek the teaching of the Church at the time)

If you don't have time to continue this conversation, I understand. My interest is simply peaked now, because I'm realizing that it is precisely my position that you are fighting against through this article, which I didn't realize before. You are arguing that Scripture should be interpreted in light of orthodox interpretations while I think that it is perfectly reasonable, okay, and even good to question orthodoxy in light of Scripture. And now I am questioning my thought process and how biblical it really is...

Troy,

I think most Protestants, even, would say that Mat. 18 provides a basis for the Church today to exercise biblical discipline, and Mat. 28 provides warrant for the Church to be bringing people into the Kingdom. I would agree that the apostles had a unique place and unique authority, but the Church today still has the authority of the keys, to bring into the Kingdom and excommunicate. Otherwise, why would Paul give instructions to the church leaders on excommunicating and restoring sinners (1 Cor. 5, 2 Cor. 7, etc.)? He's assuming they have the authority to do this. I appreciate your concern over the Roman corruption of authority (through her doctrines of the magisterium, papal infallibility, sacramentarian theology, etc., she's usurped the role of the Holy Spirit), but saying that the Church no longer has the authority to grant admission and expulsion from the Kingdom, in accordance with Christ's commands, is going too far.

Nathan

Nathan G,

I would say Paul's position was unique, in that he was a divinely-inspired apostle who received revelation directly from Christ. But even so, in the Judaizing conflict, he submitted to a counsel of churches led by James (Acts 15). I do think that the liberty of each individual Christian is important, and that they should receive all the teaching of the Church with a Berean spirit -- but at the same time, they should be willing to submit to those who are in a long line of mature, godly, and properly-ordained ministers in the Church who have proven themselves wise and orthodox in all essential matters. The Reformed tradition is just that sort of heritage, and while Christians may be compelled in their conscience (whether right or wrong) to take an exception here or there to the standards of the church, I think their default mode should be to submit and embrace the universally/creedally acknowledged doctrines, and only dare to reject them with much gravity and deliberation.

I had once read on this site, that Wesley's brother (not the famous one) said of some great saint, 'he teaches Calvin'! The great preacher (I forget who he was but he was on the order of the greats in the early american revival), than said, 'I heard nothing of the man calvin nor his teaching but was taught by the Holy Spirit and scripture these truths! His teaching must have been aligned with Calvin's, else Wesley's brother would not have recognized them.
Some how this seems part of the subject here. Can't make the connection though! The Holy Spirit teaches us the things we read in the bible and so the church...? also?
I do like reading these things now days though they are so difficult for my mind in many ways having lost some of my brain to a stroke!
Is this the coming together in the reformed by learning the truth by the holy spirit and scripture together? Sometimes I cannot always see the difference! The church ought to teach that which is scriptural but also ought to see it as well so to teach it clearly that the Holy Spirit reveals it to us by scripture together!
No need to comment here as i will just read and learn from your discussions having been given abilities (which exceed mine these days of the mind/brain).
But I am so glad to know that church's bring this things alive! I knew nothing a couple years ago! Now i know more of the church!

Nathan P.

Thank you for your time in discussing these things. I've read some of your other writings and listened to an interview with you, and after hearing more of what you have to say and where you have been I can appreciate where you are coming from. I trust you have a good heart. This blog post simply concerned me at first because I've seen too many reformed guys who push all other Christians away because they are so convinced that they are the only way and all others should become like them. So the article simply sent up red flags for me, but after this conversation I feel I have an understanding for where you are at and can appreciate your position.

Nathan G

It would be so nice if all the local church's would have such faith and teachings of God. I have always longed for that church Augustine spoke of!
But I now see how critical the church is and how it is that these struggles go on and that reform occurs by a few and than through many individuals arising in protest of the many local church's who are swallowed up by/in errors and ignorance. Its arising even by struggles in ones self to deeply know the gospel and to be lead into all truth by the Holy Spirit.
At first, it seems the days are not so much different than the time of Luther and the reformation from Catholicism. Its just that their is no unifying pope and his cardinals and its power and influence and its vast structure to move toward reform from errors and the worlds ways and practices of fallen and unregenerate man who reject the truth and make it their own making for the lust of the flesh and the world.
But it (reform) is occurring everywhere today though so different in its means and some other ways! Thank God for these sites which vigorously protest by truth having the gifts God gave to them and raised them in and by!
The battle seems far more difficult today than before as the enemy of the church hides everywhere and under/beneath every wind of doctrine so to live in the bliss of ignorance and the world to have with christ! This site and many others are exposing our ignorance of God and so takes mans bliss from him with the light of truth! They (these sites and repented man) are growing and spreading throughout the land and world through the internet and by the labor of those who love God and desire all come to an accurate knowledge of the truth! We desire all man be saved for it is that same desire God has in that no he desires no man to perish but everyone to come to an accurate knowledge of salvation! Yes, we don't save any but our hearts desire what God desires in that we want none to perish but all to come...! Isn't that our motivation? To see and rejoice when we see God save another person?

Its (reform) occurring!!! It really is! And God is behind it and is doing it by his angels in the church's throughout the lands!
God has not left us and we can know it is true. He is working everywhere today, by and through many man!! He reigns in heaven over the earth and makes it according to his purposes and for our good who love Him!
Go with boldness and comfort into the world; do as God gives you and would have you to do! Thank God for all he is doing for Christ lives and rules!
Send, pray God sends, messengers into the church's and calls them to repentance by his awesome power and Holy Spirit! Tell all the church to turn to God and see if he is not good and will give us a heart of flesh to love Him!
(Maybe pentecostalism has influenced me but I love Christ for all he has done for me) A monument of his grace! I can't shut my mouth up for all he has done for my heart rejoices in Him! I just can't help it and it doesn't matter that I am a fool before man!)

The division isn't Reformed vs. Anabaptist. It is the mainstream Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican) vs. Radical Reformation. It's Luther vs. Muntzer.

D. Philip,

Is your point just to include confessional Lutherans and Anglicans as responsible, orthodox Protestants? If so, I'll concede that point. I may have a few differences with my Lutheran and Anglican brothers, but I'm certainly willing to extend the right hand of fellowship to them. I'd also suggest that the dividing line is a little blurrier than the terms might suggest. Many basically solid denominations in the mainstream Reformation heritage have some essentially Anabaptist elements woven into their contemporary practice, and of course there are also inroads of liberal theology vexing not a few denominations. And on the other hand, as an earlier commenter pointed out, some Baptists are basically confessional, and have more historic continuity with the magisterial Reformers than the Radical Reformation, the glaring difference of anti-paedo-baptism notwithstanding.

Nathan

Yeesh... this article is a little ridiculous... and long winded.

Well, two things I consider to be good (as a reformed Baptist in seminary) to have come from the Anabaptists:

Anabaptists didn't believe that a child who was not regenerate should be forced to be baptized into the body of christ since the body of Christ should be for... well... the people who are a part of the body of Christ.

Anabaptists also didn't believe in the idea of a state church that everyone should be forcibly baptized into (unlike many other reformers).

The problem isn't Anabaptists or the history of Anabaptists, the problem is the idolatry of self which is rampant where humans are present.

As in any religious movement, the Radical Reformation contained elements of religious fanaticism, and people who joined for the wrong idea. However, the majority of Anabaptists, particularly the denominations and doctrines that have survived to this day, are primarily concerned with pacifism, some constructive civil disobedience, and relief work, all of which are deeply rooted in Biblical traditions. The vast majority of Catholics did not take part in the Spanish Inquisition, the vast majority of Pentecostals do not participate in snake handling, and the vast majority of Anabaptists did not participate in the Peasants Revolt or the Munster Rebellion. In fact, the vast majority of Anabaptists today give to or serve with Mennonite Central Committee, a relief organization that has helped hundreds of thousands within the US and across the world.
If you doubt the Biblical roots of the Anabaptist faith, I highly suggest reading the book "The Politics of Jesus" by John Howard Yoder, an Anabaptist theologian who is highly respected both within the Mennonite faith and outside of it.
May the peace of Christ be with you.

Nathan

I just came across this post and frankly it is not only over the top but borderline dishonest. Any reputable student of Anabaptism would reject the linking of the aberrant radical heretics like the Muensterites and Zwickau prophets with the mainstream bulk of Anabaptists. It is especially troubling that many people have or will read your post and will walk away with a faulty view of the Anabaptists and never bother to investigate for themselves what the truth is.

I don’t expect you to respond to a comment on a nine month old post but I hope that anyone who does read this will take the time to look beyond your scurrilous charges. I posted a point by point response to your allegations that I hope others who read this post will take the time to follow.

http://thesidos.blogspot.com/2011/06/mercilessly-and-valiantly-smiting.html

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