Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration and the Anabaptists

Many evangelicals decry the signers of the Manhattan Declaration for joining forces with Rome to fight social ills. Rightly so. However many of those same evangelicals ignore the persecution of the Anabaptists by Protestant and Roman Catholic alike during the Reformation. I find that to be a sorrowful and bitter irony, a historical irony that views the Reformers with rose colored glasses and overlooks their flaws and sins.

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Steve Martin said...

Well, there is another version of the whole matter:

Arthur Sido said...


Interesting article if inaccurate. Muntzer is to the Anabaptists what Servetus is to Calvin, the broad brush used to avoid discussion of the merits. The more I read of source materials from the Anabaptists the more I find that the threat of Muenster and the Zwickau prophets is highly overemphasized and that in the actual records we find that many Anabaptists were simply seeking to worship independent of the state and were persecuted for it. Men like Menno Simons and Jacob Hutter can hardly be accused of being violent radicals (unless you think the Amish are revolutionaries). Many of the polemical writings against the Anabaptists are second hand at best. “Anabaptist” is virtually applied to everyone who was not a Roman Catholic or a magisterial Reformer when in fact there were several distinct groups that fall under the umbrella of Anabaptism. The first Anabaptist to be martyred was Felix Manz and his crime was not violent rebellion but believer’s baptism. I would encourage you to read some of the supportive material regarding Anabaptists, you might be surprised by what you find.

Steve Martin said...


That the Amish do not rape nuns and murder nuns and priests and destroy churches does not mean that the Anabaptists were innocent of those charges.

It is widely documented and I believe it.

Their radical doctrine fomented a hatred for all things Catholic and they went way overboard. Were they right to desopise many things that the Roman Church was doing? Absolutely! But they took all their pent up frustrations out in a way that was totally un-Christian, and the result was devastating.

I'm sure there may have been those caught up in circumstances and may have been unjustly accused, but many were guilty of their crimes. This goes for those on both sides.

As a Lutheran, I am fully able to criticize my own.

Luther said some horrible things about the Jews later in his life, and we own up to that.

What my own denomination is doing today is despicable with respect to gay clergy and the throwing out of God's Law.

I own up to that.

If we can't criticize our own, we turn a blind eye to justice and we will never be able to work towards reformation.

I'm off to work in a few minutes, but, in fairness, I will read some articles supporting the Anabaptists.

Thanks, Arthur.

Jeremy Lee said...

Those who refuse to sign the MD because of the involvement Roman Catholics are not signing because they disagree with Roman Catholics on the gospel. Their not signing has nothing to do with the RC's treatment of Protestants.

I do not understand the correlation you are drawing. Unless, I missed that someone is suggesting that we should not unite with RC because of how they mistreated Protestants.

Steve Martin said...

This is an economic perspective on the Anabaptists, which I never heard before.

Whether it is true or not, I don't know. But there were some interesting points made.

Steve Martin said...

I put up a post about the Anabaptists, and I invite anyone who would want to defend the Anabaptists to contribute in the comment section.

Unknown said...

Yes! Do read the real writings and find out what the martyrdom was really about.
No way were the Anabaptists violent.
Nor were they radical. Unless you call following the Scripture as written, radical :o) Which in a way, at the time, it was.
Time that happened again, me thinks!!

I've got Steve reading "Not Regina", by Christmas Carol Kauffman.
Its a good starter to getting into the Anabaptist history.
Its peaks the interest.

Arthur Sido said...


I can point you to a number of articles and books on anabaptism that reflect their core beliefs. They were not without flaws, as are we all, but just as I recognize and cherish my brothers of Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and other traditions, I recognize and cherish the majority of Anabaptists as brothers.

Steve Martin said...

I feel the same way.

Just because I happen to differ on some Christian doctrine, I still value those with whom I differ with as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thanks, Arthur.

Unknown said...


The "Anabaptist" movement, known generally as the Radical Reformation, was far from a monolithic movement. Some segments were hyper-charistmatic (for lack of a better term) who threw out the authority of scripture and instead relied on new "revelations". Others were millenialist radicals (e.g. the Muenster madness situation). Still others tended to be violent in their opposition to non-anabaptist groups, whereas others tended to be non-violent. This latter group eventually came to characterize the movement. Futhermore, these groups had nothing to do with each other. It wasn't an organize movement, but rather a cultural/theological phenomenon. It was almost entirely lacking a systematized approach and the movement produced few theological giants (unlike the other Reformational movements).

As such, making statement like "the anabaptists raped nuns" or "the anabaptists were non-violent" is almost like saying "Americans drive Fords" or "the British were eat fish". Well, that may be true for some---maybe even many, but its not true for all.