Anabaptism: Another Way!

Anabaptists: Not Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant!

There are many writings about Anabaptists, but there is little understanding. Anabaptists were not called that when they were living the Gospels. In fact, no one started calling them Anabaptist until after the Protestant Reformation. Many today consider relevant, a Third Way Anabaptism.

Therefore, Anabaptists are considered to be particles of that Reformation: But this is not true; exactly. Before the title of Anabaptist, the Elect of YHVH had already existed, since the First Century. The Elect of YHVH were and are individuals (and small bands of groups) living by the paradigm of Yeshua the Messiah.

As a random dispersion, peppered all over the map, YHVH's Elect were (and still are) found scattered amongst human populations. When we study Christian history, especially events such as the Radical Reformation and the Bohemian Reformation, we draw more accurate conclusions.

Religious titles or themes or boxes have no meaning to our Heavenly Father who judges the heart and the motive of each accountable adult, individually. Most people who accept some official role within any church-business or religious oligarchy (past or present), could still Love Father Adonai unconditionally, but remain confined to those roles, only for social reasons; perhaps even because of the threat of persecution.

Nevertheless, the Elect of YHVH was around, long before Martin Luther was even born; well before the birth of the Catholic church and/or the Petrine primacy was abused to build a financial wealth empire and then a military to enforce that power. Many centuries later, Luther got the historical credit as the father of the Protestant Reformation.

However, the Elect of YHVH was always (and still is) here, and not, for the most part, found grouped within the granite walls of Catholicism, nor the latter Church of England (nor any other mighty religious oligarch). However, it was the Reformers who assigned the name to the Anabaptists.

Infant Baptism!

The Anabaptists got their name from the COP's (the Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant) because of the opposition to child baptism (and the professional dispensing of religious rituals in general). This is because children cannot fathom a complex world of sin and evil and deprivation, much less see themselves as the servants thereof. However, the Elect of YHVH noticed a disturbing pattern emerge from the masses who were "sprinkled at the Mass": no conversion; no spiritual transformation; no real change.

What happened to them? A false sense of conversion fortified and validated via the act of infant (or child) baptism: That's what happened to them. This is where the idea of "once saved—always saved" was assumed, and why predestination and election are such confusing topics for so many; indeed, they are mysteries preserved only for YHVH's Elect (1Co 2:6-10; 2:11-16).

Clearly, too many people lived Godless carnal worldly lifestyles, and attended church services on 1st day, but were otherwise completely Godless and fully immersed into and enculturated by the Godless culture that shaped their thoughts and actions and lifestyle patterns. Even their religious patterns were shaped by worldly influences (such as abandoning seventh day Sabbath).

They were completely conformed to this world (non-transformed), and had no intention of a radical change (Rom 8:27-33; 12:1-5). Witnessing this as an opportunity (to capitalize upon), the early catholics adopted practices, such as infant baptism, but also, Mariology; perhaps as an early feminist-style reaction to failed leadership among Godless men.

Indeed; many of the indulgences were profit mechanisms. This veneration had a purpose; wives were instrumental in dragging husbands into church services, and because the men were the money-makers and managers, the tithe-dependent religionists needed the husbands to come into church more than the wives.

Indeed, church professionals, back then as well as today, must compromise in direct proportion to their own mammon dependencies, consumer addictions, and various other lusts of the flesh. The Elect of YHVH were living their faith in lifestyle (Jesuism) from the Ascension of Jesus and unto this day.

However, the lazy spoiled capitalists (who have always been here) used this opportunity to exploit the masses with The Mass, which was the metaphorical return of the money-changers to the temple; the hands-out tithe takers of what was to be a New Covenant.

This non-political stand drove the Elect of YHVH to the margins of the greater society; a society which thought they would benefit from the secular militant political forces, because fear-mongering was a successful way to get the masses to turn over a tithe of their increases, thus creating the wealth-class, who have been the main vehicle for the evil one throughout history. Anabaptists believed that if a man did not labor by the sweat of his brow and the callus of his hands, that he should not eat (the word labor is not to be confused with the modern term employment).

Most Anabaptists did not want to have any false sense of salvation hanging over their children's heads. They wanted to wait, knowing that children (prior to the age of accountability) were already covered under the blood of Yeshua the Messiah (Mark 9:33-37; 10:13-16). It is not as if putting water on an infant will hurt them in any way, but rather; that the parents and peers would assure youth that they are already Christian because they were already baptised; it was that aspect of infant baptism that the re-baptisers found as its failing.

Baptism as an act, has nothing to do with salvation, and it is for that reason, that it is so important to do as an adult, fully cognizant of the act; otherwise it is meaningless. Baptism is reduced to a rite-of-passage (like losing one's virginity or getting drunk at age 21, among the secular masses) rather than a radical life-altering act following an epoch-making event (the Indwelling Holy Spirit).

Not only was this a manifestation of their enculturation, it indeed, was evidence of their enslavement to their enculturation. The basics found in the Theology of Anabaptism has changed with the times, but not to the level of compromise we see elsewhere.

Anabaptists Inspired Luther!

Martin Luther was rather a minor player in a major act of Father Adonai, but as it is appropriate, the Elect of YHVH did not get the public credit (just as it should be). The Elect of YHVH has always been persecuted, ridiculed and mocked; this, from the beginning and unto the end. Those who sought the safety of big government or big religion, waved their proverbial flag for all to see.

To live is Christ, and (if necessary) to die is gain: That's not a death wish but an affirmation of Life. The Elect of YHVH had to stay away from the dominion; they had to keep their faith-life a secret from the catholic oligarchy, who demanded exclusivity in the dispensing of religion for a tithe. Anabaptists believed in the dialogue of the fellowship, not the monologue of the preacher; to sing as a communal group, not a musical performance on a stage.

If people were free indeed, then they would not need the church-businesses and would not come. Before secular taxation, this was the only way that the elite got mammon to hoard-and-lord. If Father Adonai is everywhere, then why hike for miles to give hard-earned money to a sedentary priest for a wafer and a blessing? Therefore, the Elect of YHVH was always here, but they avoided the pimps of Father Adonai.

History recorded dissension well before Luther's secularly popularized historic Ninety-Five Theses act. It was not until after it was safe to talk about it, that the Elect of YHVH was identified as those radical re-baptisers – Anabaptists: the inspiration for the Radical Reformation.

The world (indeed, the worldly) visit the Amish because they are an anomaly; a peculiar people; most Anabaptists are so different, that the worldly are fascinated, and treat us like other-worldly: We are the light of the world (Matt 5:12-16; John 3:17-21; 2Co 4:1-5). Therefore, the term Anabaptist is like this; many claim to be Anabaptists, but I say it again; if they look like the world, act like the world, think and live and dress worldly, and participate in the world, then they are the world. Attaching titles to our persona does not make us the sum of the title. We are the sum of our actions and inactions; everything else begins and ends within the brain of the individual.

William McGrath wrote: Anabaptists: Not Catholic or Protestant, which is recommended reading for all Anabaptists. To the Elect of YHVH however, the two sects are spiritually the same; their differences will surely seem large to them, but this is because they are adversarial competitors vying for the tithe monies of their neighbors. [Catholics on Protestants | Protestants on Catholics] (Matt 5:9-15; John 15:16-21).


Anabaptism from GAMEO!
The Anabaptists of the Reformation period did not repudiate infant baptism because they denied the validity of office of the bishop or the authority of the church (although they did in fact deny both) but rather because they denied the readiness of an infant to receive baptism on New Testament terms. They called for baptism only on confession of faith and commitment to discipleship by the candidate. They denied that infant baptism was baptism at all and hence denied that they were "rebaptizers."

However, their real objection to the name "Anabaptist" was not this minor technical one; it was rather their refusal to be classed as heretics and to be reckoned as not being the true church. Their intensity of feeling on this must be understood in the light of their deep conviction that they were the true church and that the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches were the false churches. Naturally also they did not wish to be classed as heretics subject to the death penalty merely on the basis of an epithetical identification with the Anabaptists of earlier centuries whom the imperial law condemned to death. They wished to stand on their own faith and to have their testimony and doctrine received on its own merits.


Heinrich Bullinger, in writing against the Anabaptists, (Der Wiedertaüferen Ursprung, Furgang, Secten, Wesen, etc., pp.17-55), the first edition of which was published in 1531, and the second in 1560, enumerates thirteen distinct sects, as he terms them within the Anabaptist body. The general tenets of the organization he gives in the form of twenty-five propositions, which may be summarized as follows:

They regard themselves as the true Church of Christ well pleasing to God;
They believe that by rebaptism a man is received into the Church;
They refuse to hold intercourse with other Churches or to recognize their ministers;
They say that the preachings of these are different from their works, that no man is the better for their preaching;
That their ministers follow not, the teaching of Paul;
That they take payment from their benefices, but do not work by their hands;
That the Sacraments are improperly served;
That every man who feels the call, has the right to preach;
They maintain that the literal text of the Scriptures shall be accepted without comment or the additions of theologians;
They protest against the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone;
They maintain that true Christian love makes it inconsistent for any Christian to be rich, but that among the Brethren all things should be in common, or at least all available for the assistance of needy Brethren and for the common Cause;
The preachers of the official Reformation, they maintain, mix up the Old Testament with the New, unmindful of the fact that for the Christian the New Testament has superseded and abolished the Old;
They declare it untrue, as the Lutheran and Zwinglian preachers allege, that the soul flies from the body straight to heaven, for it sleeps until the Last Day;
They maintain that the preachers rely too much on the secular arm;
That the attitude of the Christian towards authority should be that of submission and endurance only;
That no Christian ought to take office of any kind;
That secular authority has no concern with religious belief;
That the Christian resists no evil, and therefore needs no law-courts nor should ever make use of the tribunals;
That Christians do not kill or punish with imprisonment or the sword, but only with exclusion from the body of believers;
That no man should be compelled by force to believe, nor should any be slain on account of his faith;
That Christians do not resist, and hence, do not go to war;
That Christians may not swear; that all oaths are sinful;
That infant baptism is of the Pope and the Devil;
That rebaptism, or, better, adult-baptism, is the only true Christian baptism;
That the Lutheran and Zwinglian preachers make no distinction of persons, allowing sinners, as well as others, to receive the Sacrament, which should be reserved for the elect, that is, for such as by being re-baptised are received into the community of the saints.
{Source: Bax, E Belfort, 1903. The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists (Kindle Locations 402-403) (2011-10-05). Everard Press. Kindle Edition.}


About Anabaptists and Pietists!
Source: Elizabethtown College (Etown.edu) The Young Center for Anabaptist Studies
Most early Anabaptists stressed the separation of church and state, voluntary church membership by adult (believers') baptism, biblical pacifism (nonresistance), strict church discipline, and separation from worldly corruption. A major emphasis was their stress on the restoration of a New Testament church. The movement spread rapidly, but because of their radical positions on baptism and the separation of church and state, they were heavily persecuted by Catholic and Protestant princes alike.

Anabaptism survived among the Swiss Brethren (later known as Mennonites) in Switzerland and South Germany, the Mennonites in Holland and northern Germany, and the Hutterite in Eastern Europe. The Amish, perhaps the best known Anabaptist group, developed out of a division among the Swiss Brethren/Mennonites in 1693. The first Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1683, Amish settled in Pennsylvania in the 1730s, and Hutterites began moving to South Dakota and the western states in 1873.

Pietism may best be understood as a reform movement that began with the state Lutheran and Reformed churches of Germany in the late seventeenth century. Inspired by the writings of Phillip Jakob Spener, August Herman Franke, and Gottfried Arnold, among others, Pietism stressed practice over doctrine, spirit over form, a thorough-going spiritual rebirth of the individual and that religious faith is something to be lived out in service to others. Pietists were extremely skeptical of theological scholasticism.

Although some Pietists withdrew from the state churches to become individual Separatists, most held that fellowship with other Christians an essential part of their faith. Radical Pietists such as the Moravians, the German Baptists (Church of the Brethren), and Inspirationists (Amana Colonies/Church Society) are expressions of its institutional forms. Although as a reform movement Pietism reached its peak by the 1750s, it continued to influence revival movements in America including Methodism, the United Brethren, the Evangelical Association and the Brethren in Christ/River Brethren.


Post Scarcity Anarchism! (Murray Bookchin 1995)
"The notion that man must dominate nature emerges directly from the domination of man by man. But it was not until organic community relations dissolved into market relationships that the planet itself was reduced to a resource for exploitation. This centuries-long tendency finds its most exacerbating development in modern capitalism. Owing to its inherently competitive nature, bourgeois society not only pits humans against each other, it also pits the mass of humanity against the natural world. Just as men are converted into commodities, so every aspect of nature is converted into a commodity, a resource to be manufactured and merchandised wantonly. The plundering of the human spirit by the marketplace is paralleled by the plundering of the earth by capital."


Benedictine Community and Anabaptist Ecclesiology! (Source: Inhabitatiodei.com ~ Now a dead link.)
Anabaptism is unique among all ecclesial frames for reference derived from the Reformation in many ways, one of which involves its Catholic roots and specifically Benedictine roots. Unlike Luther the Augustinian, Calvin the lawyer, or Zwingli the Christian humanist, the Anabaptist tradition arose largely in the soil of the Benedictine tradition. This is seen most clearly in the influence of Michael Sattler over the Radical Reformation. The earliest Anabaptist confession, The Schletheim Confession, is widely accepted as deriving directly from the thought of Sattler, and its fundamental affirmations are clearly Benedictine in origination.

Herein lays the fundamental difference between Anabaptism and other major offspring's of the Reformation, especially Lutheranism. Luther's theology was shaped in a thoroughgoing manner by his rejection of human action and ecclesial practices as coterminous with divine action and merit. As such, Luther vehemently rejected monastic profession and the Christian taking of vows. Anabaptism by contrast, never rejected the more "Catholic" emphases in ecclesiology, even including the church's ability to participate in divine action through the power of the keys in pronouncing absolution. Likewise Anabaptism did not reject the monastic (and particularly Benedictine) notion of intentional community, vows, and embodied life together.

The key point of distinction between the Radical Reformation and its Benedictine roots came in regard to the issue of ecclesiology! For Sattler and the Anabaptist tradition as a whole, the monastic practices that originate in the Benedictine tradition are not intended simply for a monastic class within the church, but rather for all members of the church without exception. For Anabaptists there is no salvation outside of the perfection of Christ. The "counsels of perfection" are not for a monastic caste, but rather for all believers. This is the center of the Anabaptist theology of discipleship, not a rejection of monastic practices and a catholic vision of the importance of the church as a locus of divine action, but a universalizing and intentional ecclesiasticism of the monastic vision.


Key Differences Between Evangelicals and Anabaptists! By Nolan Martin (Original source: AnabaptistChurch.org)
Evangelicals have more influence on Anabaptists in the United States than any other Christian group. Because they believe much the same as the Anabaptists on so many issues, such as the authority of Scripture, we feel a certain kinship to them and desire to minimize our differences. When Anabaptists need Bible study resources, they turn to Evangelical books and commentaries. Many Christian radio stations are operated by Evangelicals, and many Anabaptists who have radios tune in and listen to Evangelical teaching and music. This Evangelical influence has a tendency to erode the distinctive beliefs of many Anabaptists even more than physical persecution did in Reformation days.

What are the distinctive beliefs of Anabaptists? The first difference, and perhaps the only difference many Anabaptists would mention, is their belief in nonresistance, which Evangelicals do not hold. Although this visible divergence is a significant difference, it springs from deeper doctrinal differences. The most basic of these differences lies in the interpretation of Scripture. Although both groups believe in the authority of Scripture and would even use similar methods to interpret Scripture, Anabaptists approach the Bible with some different presuppositions that lead to vastly different outcomes.

First, an Anabaptist interpretation of Scripture is centered on the teachings of Christ and his call to discipleship. The rest of Scripture is then viewed through this lens, and interpreted so as not to contradict the teachings of Christ, the Head of the church. This produces different conclusions than when interpretation is centered on the writings of Paul as often seen in Evangelical teaching.

A Christ-centered interpretation maintains that Christ's teachings can be followed with God's enabling grace and must be followed if an entrance into the Kingdom of God is to be gained. A Paul-centered interpretation tends to overemphasize man's sinful nature and makes man utterly helpless in the pursuit of good. Consequently, many of Christ's teachings are considered unattainable in the present. In fact, some who interpret the Bible this way postpone the validity of Jesus' teachings to some future time. God's mercy and forgiveness is emphasized in this system rather than careful obedience.

Second, Anabaptists believe the New Testament takes precedence over the Old Testament. They believe the Old Testament points forward to Christ, whereas the New Testament is the final and ultimate revelation of Christ. On the other hand, many Evangelicals have a "flat Bible," putting the Old and New Testaments on the same level. Except for Jewish ceremonial and dietary laws, Evangelical morality closely resembles Jewish morality. Oaths, accumulation of wealth, participation in war, and divorce and remarriage are acceptable for Evangelicals because they were acceptable in the Old Testament. For the Anabaptists, the New Testament teaching on these issues trumps the Old Testament teaching.

Third, Anabaptists believe the Bible is best interpreted when the believer is committed to obeying it. Early Anabaptists were concerned about how the learned of their day "twisted" the Scriptures to get around the force of a command. Anabaptists today reject the common distinctions made between New Testament commands on the one hand that are binding both in form and spirit upon Christians for all time; and those on the other hand that are to be observed only in spirit.

Many hold that to the former class belong such items as baptism and communion, whereas to the latter class belong such commands as to greet one another with a holy kiss, to wash one another's feet, and to anoint the sick with oil. Anabaptists hold that these New Testament commands as well as communion and baptism are to be observed by all Christians everywhere until the end of the age. Mennonite theologian J. C. Wenger said: "There is no exegetical consideration against the observance of feet-washing, for example, which would not also bear against the observance of baptism."

Moving from Bible interpretation, another root difference between Anabaptists and Evangelical Protestants is their view of salvation. Anabaptists emphasize that salvation is by grace through faith that works (notice it's not faith plus works.). They believe that at conversion God purges a person's past sins by Christ's blood and changes that person at his very core, freeing him from the enslavement of sin and enabling him actually to live a righteous life. God declares the sinner righteous because of Christ's work on the cross and his present work in the heart of the believer enabling him to live righteously in reality. Right living is therefore crucial evidence that an individual has repented, believed, and yielded to Christ.

This is in contrast to the Evangelical view that justification is the result only of an accounting procedure in the books of Heaven that happens totally outside the person. According to this view, when a person says the sinner's prayer, his sins are deducted from his account, and Christ's righteousness is credited to his account instead. Thus, when God looks at the person, all He will ever see is Christ's righteousness regardless of how the person lives (or dies). God declares the sinner righteous no matter what is true in reality. In this view, right living should follow conversion but is completely unrelated to God's evaluation of the person and will affect only his rewards.

Evangelicals see a huge, oversized cross on top of Scripture that obscures Christ's call to discipleship and renders obedience unnecessary. Anabaptists, on the other hand, see no distinction in the Bible between a disciple of Christ and a saved person. As Milo Zehr wrote, "Protestants believe Christ did enough on the cross to deliver those who believe from the guilt of original sin, and Anabaptists believe Christ is doing enough day by day to deliver people from both the guilt and practice of sin."

The Evangelical view of salvation leads to careless living in many cases. For example, the divorce rate among Christians in America is nearly equal to that among non-Christians. Is this not a small window giving a view of something seriously wrong within popular Christianity? Most Evangelical Christians see no advantage to living a holy life because of their view of salvation.

I need to clarify that Anabaptists do not believe a person is perfected at conversion. According to 1 John 1:7: "If we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." If we walk in the light perfectly, we do not need cleansing from sin, so John apparently believed a person walking in the light may still stumble at times and need cleansing. The two false beliefs that we must avoid are these: (1) We never sin after conversion. (2) We can habitually sin and have fellowship with God.

The cleansing of sin does depend on our walking in the light, which I understand to mean striving to obey Christ and do what is right. Noah, Abraham, and Job were righteous in the sight of God, yet we know they weren't perfect. We also know that their righteousness was not just the result of an accounting transaction in the books of Heaven, but rather a righteousness (right living) that was a basic pattern in their life. What kind of affront to Satan would it have been if Job's righteousness had been just the result of bookkeeping in Heaven?

Another difference regarding salvation is the status of children. Although Anabaptists are diligent in teaching children the word of God, their focus is not on converting the child as soon as possible. They believe their children are safe and covered by the blood of Jesus until they reach the age of accountability, at which time the child will either accept or reject Christ. This age varies between individuals, but for most it falls between the ages of 8 and 17. Evangelicals believe children are lost until they accept Christ.

Their focus therefore is on getting the child saved. Many of their children will say the sinner's prayer by the age of 7. To me, child evangelism does not differ much from infant baptism. I think I could get most 3-year-olds to say a prayer accepting Christ into their heart. But 3-year-olds know nothing of discipleship, and unless they are taught discipleship later in life when they can truly understand what it means, they will never become true disciples of Christ, which is what a Christian is. Thus, sadly, many say a sinner's prayer by age 7, but by 17 they are following the world rather than Christ.

Anabaptists believe their chief citizenship is in the Heavenly Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ. Thus they believe it is not their job to keep order in the kingdoms of this world wherein they are only pilgrims, but rather to invite people into the Heavenly Kingdom. Evangelicals believe Christians need to help keep order in society. They have never been able to figure out, however, how to follow the laws of Jesus' Kingdom, which he taught in the Sermon on the Mount, and still keep order in the kingdoms of this world. It seems they have ended up dropping the Heavenly Kingdom values.

Because of Jesus' commands to "love your enemies" and "resist not evil", Anabaptists believe strongly in non-participation in war. Yet they hold that the state is necessary and ordained by God to keep order in an unregenerate society by using carnal force. They therefore do not oppose the death penalty, recognizing that the government "bears not the sword in vain." They also are not, as Harold Martin says, "Humanitarian pacifists crusading for the end of all wars." Their attitude is that they will thankfully accept the protection the state provides as the Apostle Paul did. But if that protection should fail or if the state should turn against them, they will rather suffer violence than harm a fellow human being.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Catholic and Protestant controlled governments in Europe did turn against the Anabaptists and persecuted them with terrible cruelty. Despite the horrible persecution Anabaptists maintained their beliefs and multiplied. We are grateful the Protestants no longer persecute us and are rather apologizing for their forefathers' persecution.

Anabaptists need to stay on the alert, however, so they do not now unconsciously and gradually surrender their beliefs during this time of geniality. The issues for which the Anabaptists were persecuted have not been resolved. We made it through the physical persecution. How are we doing in the face of the subtle onslaught of Evangelical books and media?

I do not wish to present the Anabaptists as "having it all together"! We certainly have quite a few problems of our own. Wherever we are right, it is by the grace of God. I also do not want to present Evangelicals as being all wrong. As I said at the beginning, we have a lot in common. Many of them despite their embrace of what I believe to be wrong doctrines are sincerely seeking God and striving to do His will. I do think it is important, though, that people understand that there are significant differences which go deeper than dress and nonresistance and which make Anabaptist denominations necessary. Furthermore, I call us all to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ while living up to the light we have already received.


Marketing Amish! Source: AmishAmerica.com
'Amish' sells. That fact is not lost on the numerous merchants of Amish-branded stuff. Software, refrigerators, and organic cotton bed sheets are among the products that non-Amish dealers have sold under the Amish moniker or by association with Amish images. Often, the connection to bona fide 'Amishness' (whatever that term means) is dubious at best.

David Luthy wrote an article in the mid-90s in Family Life on the phenomenon of Amish-name branding. Luthy offers the example of a turkey-processing plant which used the Amish name, writing, 'to qualify for such a label all that was needed was that someone Amish carried buckets of commercial feed to them or an Amish person worked in the processing plant!' Amishness often seems to be a near-mystical quality that the Amish alone may dispense, apparently by merely running fingers over a product or with an approving nod in its direction. A female Amish acquaintance in Ohio who runs a food-related business herself offered another example, complaining, good-naturedly, about the use of the Amish name on products. 'Amish-made whatever! We feel it's not right to use 'Amish' just so we can sell something.

Not everybody feels that way, and that's okay.' 'Amish water, hey!' She continued. 'We didn't make the water, God did! Or they'll go to a restaurant and say 'is this Amish chicken?' Well, that chicken has never been Amish!' 'Still not baptized!' I pointed out. Yet, many Amish owners don't exactly mind if word gets out about their background. They know what sells. What is the general Amish view on the topic? It's an interesting issue, as opinion is divided.

You won't find many Amish-owned firms with 'Amish' in the name. A general rule of thumb is that 'if it says Amish, then it ain't'. When asked, an acquaintance in Ohio knew of just one firm with 'Amish' in the name that was Amish-owned (and which had subsequently been sold to a non-Amish person). Yet some Amish promote their status in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Some release promotional literature and catalogs with images or text implying or stating the owner's Amishness. Others may use pictures of Amish children for marketing purposes, as their un-baptized status places them conveniently outside the stricture against photography.


Catholics, others ask forgiveness for persecution of Anabaptists! Source: Rich Preheim: Religion News Service!
In the early 16th century, groups of European Christians started splitting from the Roman Catholic Church in what is now known as the Protestant Reformation. But while Protestants and Catholics were at odds, they had one thing in common: Anabaptism had to be eliminated. The Reformed Christians drowned Felix Manz, the first of thousands of Anabaptist martyrs over the next two centuries.

The Catholics burned at the stake Michael Sattler, author of the first Anabaptist confession of faith. Even Martin Luther, who is credited with ushering in the Reformation, urged the execution of all Anabaptists as heretics. Such persecution helped drive the early Anabaptists; the spiritual ancestors of today's Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites, into isolation, suspicious of the rest of the world.

But now nearly 500 years later, the Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed churches, the primary antagonists of Anabaptists in the 16th and 17th centuries, are seeking to make amends. "We all have black sheep in the family. We all have ancestors that we aren't proud of," said Bishop Joseph Martino, head of the Vatican-appointed delegation that last fall concluded five years of meetings with a group from Mennonite World Conference, the global Mennonite Fellowship. In addition to the Catholics, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Mennonite Church USA this spring finished a two-year series of meetings, and on June 26 the Reformed Church in Zurich, Switzerland, will hold a reconciliation ceremony with participation by Anabaptist descendants from around the world.

The Protestant Reformation was born in 1517 when Catholic monk Martin Luther challenged the church by posting his 95 thesis in Wittenberg in what is now Germany. He went on to found the Lutheran church. Another pivotal development came in the early 1520s, when priest Ulrich Zwingli renounced Catholicism but remained in the pulpit of Zurich's main church, leading to the start of the Reformed movement. But some Christians thought Luther, Zwingli and other reformers did not go far enough. Particularly at issue was infant baptism. For generations, newborns had been baptized, but some believers argued that only adults can make a decision to follow Jesus Christ and join the church. Anabaptists insisted on believers' baptism (first conducted in Zurich in 1525) and refused to have their children baptized as babies.

But the Anabaptist position, while religious, was also political. Baptism was not only into the church but also into citizenship in the state, since state and church were one, be they Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed. So rejecting infant baptism was seen as threatening the civic order. As a result, Anabaptists were severely persecuted, forcing them to frequently flee across Europe and eventually to the Americas in search of security to practice their faith. But that was then and this is now, according to church leaders.

In fact, said Paul Schreck, ELCA associate for bilateral dialogue, many church members are unaware of that chapter of their church's history. "I think most Lutherans around the world would be horrified that their forebears put to the sword people who disagreed with them," he said. Both the Catholic and Lutheran dialogues covered many topics, but they also included repentance. In the final report of the Catholic-Mennonite meetings, released this spring, the Vatican delegation said Catholics "can express a penitential spirit, asking forgiveness for any sins which were committed against Mennonites, asking Gods mercy for that, and Gods blessing for a new relationship with Mennonites today."


Let us Honor God with our Lives! (Eberhard Arnold 6/9/1933)
Our concern is to find an inner relationship with all our friends. We want to have a contact with them that means something to us and that shows them which way leads to God's Kingdom, with His justice, His love, His joy, and His peace. Let us encourage each other to be what we are called to be, that is, people who live for the honor of His majestic glory, His sovereign rulership. Let us honor Him with our lives. That is the task set us again and again.

May it be granted to us to keep it alive in our hearts. In every man there are two specific obstacles in the way of this task. The first is obvious and blatant; the evil in us, self-will and self-interest, self-importance, arrogance and conceit, the proud spirit. The second, more subtle, is no less dangerous to the task of living for God's glory. It is religious self-concern, the introspective study of our own religious feelings, absorption in our own religious life and development and in attaining redemption and holiness.

Many people think that is not so dangerous. They say that attaining personal holiness belongs to being a Christian. They are right. Unless there is personal redemption and consecration of the individual, there is no community, his life is not lived for the honor of God, and nothing constructive is done for the holy cause. Yet the fact remains that this subtle egotism is just as dangerous as crass egotism.

In the first years we get to know the bitter Christ who leads us into death and hews away all our rough, awkward corners – the obvious sins – so that we can be fitted into the wonderful marble tower He is building. But once we form part of the building, the Spirit of Jesus Christ has a much harder task to prevent us from radiating our own light, to prevent the block of marble from contemplating itself in its own setting. This leads us just as dangerously astray as selfishness and greed. How does this happen? How do we account for it?

It is because of the power of Satan and the nature of the evil spirit. It is a mistake to think that the nature of evil consists exclusively in clinging to worldly riches and amassing private property, in direct, shameless lying and deception. There is more than this to the spirit of Satan. Lucifer is a light-bearer. And far more dangerous for us than thick, crass darkness is the false light that mirrors itself. The fallen light-bearer tries to mislead us by making us vain, proud of our own light, of our own holiness. I believe not one of us is immune to this danger. We are all tempted to fall prey to Lucifer through his subtle demonic temptation to religious self-exaltation. We must first be liberated from all vanity in our own religious feeling and thinking if we really want to do a service to our guests and friends, to the whole world, in the utter tragedy and horror of this decadent age.

We must be completely freed from all concern with our own image; only then can we in any way live for the honor of Him who, in all His majesty, occupies the throne of God. It is not by showing people how we have developed or how our Bruderhof has developed that we can represent something to them, but only by pointing them to the radiant majesty on the throne of God. May our lives be an honor to His throne! What shall we tell our dear guests when they ask us how our community is set up and how we arrive at the religious certainty of our inmost experience, unity in the Spirit? When we try to answer them, we must avoid the way of Lucifer. That is difficult. A danger lurks in all personal witnessing to experiences of Christ's nearness and God-given powers. Again and again the redeemed person, testifying to his experience, puts himself in the center. The minute that happens, we are lost and our task has come to nothing.

It has to be quite clear that it must be the Holy Spirit who speaks through us and that we want to be led by the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who has come to make the world believe in judgment, righteousness, and redemption. He will convince the world of judgment by showing with total certainty that Lucifer is overthrown, that the god of this world, working as he does through every kind of unbelief, is judged and stands condemned.

This means for one thing that all those going the way of the Prince of this World will also be judged; that includes those who are living in stubborn self-will or who hold on selfishly to their private property, and also those who indulge in subtle religious introspection. Secondly, the Gospel tells us that the Prince of this World is vanquished for all believers. Those who no longer think about themselves but only of God's honor are born anew so that they may see and enter the Kingdom of God.

That means they are free from Lucifer's domination, free from violence and tyranny, free from every demand made on us by a tyrannical government, free from the power of the covetous will within us, and finally, free from the religious egotism of our Lucifer-like nature. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will, make the world believe in righteousness and justice. What is righteousness? It consists not in what we more or less redeemed men are doing, but in the fact that Jesus has come to occupy the throne of God's Kingdom. Jesus has entered upon the government of God's Kingdom. He is given all power in Heaven and on earth and is now among us with the full power of His government and His throne. He holds sway over all other thrones and powers. Christ rules; that is righteousness. This is the only way that salvation can be revealed, also in our talks and conversations.

Behind our words and our pitifully imperfect work and actions, behind our failings and all our faults, our guests must search for this reality, that Jesus Christ has entered His rulership. But over against all this we have to see that neither the people we talk with, nor we ourselves, who belong to the poor and needy, are sufficiently convicted of sin. The Holy Spirit {in the world} convicts men of sin.

Being convinced of one's own holiness can never convict others of sin, nor can moralistic superiority. Some people make the mistake of thinking they must convince immature souls by being an example of righteousness. Anyone will see through that. They will see the imperfections that exist even in the best examples. Moralism can never convict the world of sin. How does the Holy Spirit show men their sins? When a man sins, he is isolated from God. A man living in sin lives in isolation. And my isolation has its roots in my lack of faith in Jesus.

That is my sin – I do not acknowledge His rule. That is why I am separated – I do not accept His uniting, purifying Spirit, I do not accept His redemption, I do not take hold of Him in faith, and I do not let His kingly authority work through my human self. "For the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, by their refusal to believe in Me" (John 16:8-9). So what we really need is to be given the speech and language of the Holy Spirit in order to tell seeking people something of what it means to believe in Christ. If we acknowledge this to be our task, then we see plainly how incapable we are, for what man can tell another what it means to believe in Christ? When we hear such remarks as: "If anybody has the right to believe in Jesus," then we say there is no right about it.

The voice that says, "If anyone has a right to believe in God, I am the one," or even "He is the one," or "She is the one," is the voice of the serpent in Paradise, the dragon that rises up from the abyss and rides upon the beast in the form of the government in power. No man has the right to believe in God. We have all forfeited this right. No one can insist on any right before God. Nobody can, not one. The mystery of faith begins just at the very point when we lose all our rights, forfeit every privilege, no longer think that we have any kind of claim whatsoever. That is the beginning of faith. Blessed are those who, faced with the Spirit, are poor. Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Woe to those who are satisfied, who want to have a right, or who are looked upon as having a right.

So we come before God – people with no rights at all, and that is hard to bear. Time and again our Bruderhof too has been shown up as having no right at all to believe in God or receive anything from Him. Every last one of us is without rights, unsuitable, and incompetent. We are unable to believe or to love or to live in unity, unable to move the world or to check Hitler's progress, unable to get access to the rulers of Central Europe or to shift Europe from its position – let alone to move or get access to America, Africa, or Australia. We cannot move a single mountain. We have no right to faith. Faith is like a tiny seed. It is an undeserved gift of God. Whether a man's name is Adolf Hitler or John Smith or Paul Jones – all men are the same. So we need to be given the faith for our task.

The Holy Spirit must convince and overpower us anew and teach us the meaning of sinner and justified, judgment and the Kingdom of God. Faith is God's affair, not man's. Man must believe, but only God can lead him to faith; only God can give faith. We are completely helpless, unable to do anything for all our dear friends and guests. We have only one prayer: Come to us, Holy Spirit! Veni, creator Spiritus. Come to us, Creator, Holy Spirit, and give us faith! Jesus knew this. When He was about to take leave of His disciples, He stood before them, laid His hands on them, and said, "Accept the Spirit, receive the Holy Spirit." He gave them faith as a free and undeserved gift. With the gift of the Holy Spirit He gave them faith!


Christian Communalism of the Hutterian Brethren! (Robert Friedmann: American Society for Reformation Research 12/29/1954)
The epistles and confessions of faith and the tracts [of the 16th century] by Jacob Huter, Peter Riedeman, Ulrich Stadler, Peter Walpot, and all the lesser known brethren, the numberless martyrs and witnesses to their faith, clearly disclose three major motives which produced the Christian communalism of the Hutterian Brethren which has endured for almost 500 years.

Motive one is brotherly love in action, the strong longing of Christians for brotherly sharing and togetherness. Motive two is Gelassenheit, a term derived from the mystics and almost untranslatable. It means yielding absolutely to the will of God with a dedicated heart, forsaking all selfishness and one's own will. Motive three, finally, is obedience to the divine commandments, understood as the inevitable consequence of the attitude of Gelassenheit. As one gives up one's own will, one naturally accepts God's commandments as the basis and guidepost for all further actions.

Motive one: the idea of love – brotherly togetherness and mutual giving and sharing – was present among the brethren at all times. It was the very center of Jacob Huter's work. He visualized the brotherhood as a great family. Since in such a family all material things are shared as a matter of fact, this should also be the case in a true Gemeinschaft, or community.

And so we read throughout our records confessions like this: "Love is the tie of perfection: Where she dwelleth she does not work partial but complete communion". It means having everything in common out of sheer love for the neighbor. "Where Christian love of the neighbor does not produce community in things temporal, there the blood of Christ does not cleanse from sin." In short, "Private property is the greatest enemy of Christian love." In love, all men are considered equal and united in the oneness of the Spirit.

The references to communal living in the Book of Acts in these early tracts, however, serves not as a motivation but rather as an undergirding of this love motive, as an exemplification of how it works, and as an assurance that this way is the right one. It was never to be understood as a strict commandment of God to be followed in obedience without any further questioning.

The second motive is "Gelassenheit," a term of great richness, meaning self-surrender, yieldedness, the giving of one's self to God's guidance, even unto death. Among the Hutterites it also means the forsaking of all concern for personal property, thus leading almost naturally to a complete community of goods. At the earliest period this idea of Gelassenheit almost dominates the thought of the brethren. "To have all things in common, a free, untrammeled, yielding, willing heart in Christ is needed," writes Ulrich Stadler about 1536. "Whosoever is thus inwardly free and resigned (gelassen) in the Lord is also ready to surrender all temporal possessions."

To the rejoinder that such a community of goods is not a commandment of the Lord, the same brother answers as follows: "To serve the saints in this way with all one's possession is true and genuine self surrender (Gelassenheit), and it is also the way of brotherly love. In summa: one brother should serve the other, live and work for him, and no one should do anything for himself." Elsewhere we read, "If you want to become a disciple you must resign to such a Gelassenheit and must renounce all private property."

The Hutterites, in their strict biblicism, became extremely sensitive and alert to the pitfalls of "mammon" in all its forms. "As the beetle lives in the dung, and the worm in the wood, so avarice (or greed) has its dwelling place in private property". Whosoever refuses communal living, they taught, shows obvious sympathy for avarice (or greed). And then they quote the example of the rich young man in the parable who could not enter the Kingdom of God because he was not willing to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Avarice, the demon of possession, must therefore be overcome if true Gelassenheit is to be achieved. But once it has been overcome, there follows complete community of goods in brotherly togetherness and sharing. The ready acceptance of such complete community, incidentally, became the very touchstone of the regenerate. In particular it was also an indication whether or not a brother was capable and worthy of becoming a leader of the group.

Taken all in all, the Hutterites represent a most original type of "theocratic society" or "theocratic communism," as it was once aptly called, a venture otherwise rather foreign to the western world. The brethren were aware of this antagonism to world and culture, but affirmed time and again that no other way to salvation was possible. "It is but through Gemeinschaft, that is communal living, that the blood of Christ may cleanse sinful man. Christ cannot help us unless we follow him all the way, without any reservation."

This concept of "theocratic communism" naturally implies also the third motive, the principle of unconditional obedience by which we "bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2Co 10:5 KJV), as quoted now and then in Hutterite tracts). It means what the brethren never tired of repeating, that what really is needed for a true disciple is this: walking the "narrow path," breaking the self-will, and subsequently submitting to the will of God, whatever He may command.

It is quite obvious that this principle of obedience involves a certain paradox: On the one hand, it is the most profound and most spiritual principle imaginable where the individual surrenders completely to divine guidance and ask nothing for himself, doing only that which he feels is required of him, even if it should lead to martyrdom. "Not my will be done, but Thine." That means genuine discipleship. It is the spirit of the first generation of Anabaptists, in particular Hutterites, who gave up everything in order to obey God. Suffering was accepted almost gladly as the inescapable consequence of such acts of obedience.

Although this new life in perfect community of goods did bring a certain external security through mutual help and service, it meant a hard, daily internal struggle with that part of man's nature which insists upon self-will and personal possession. The brethren by no means belittled this desire. In fact, they liked to quote in this connection a jingle which in the Great Article Book of 1577 concludes the third article "Concerning community of goods": Communal living would not be hard – If there were not such self-regard!


Community! (Elmo Stoll: Late pastor of the Christian Community in Tennessee)
But now be prepared to go into shock – my observations compel me to tell you that for most people living without wheels and gadgets is not the biggest hurdle. For most the most difficult challenge is learning to live in brotherhood and under what the Plain People consider a scriptural concept of church authority.

Included in this part of the picture is the lack of privacy that brings forth exasperated comments like, "You people gossip so much! You're all so nosey. Why do people think they have a right to mind my business?" No doubt we do gossip too much, and our noses should be shorter. But that does not remove the part of the problem that results from having grown up in a society that puts a premium on independence and self-identity rather than a brotherhood's caring for one another.

Living in a close community, everyone tends to know a lot about everyone else. This is not necessarily nosey. Living in brotherhood means sharing your life to a degree many people have not been used to. They discover that what they thought was normal may not be, and what strikes them as abnormal may actually be more in line with what God intended. Our lives are not our own. We are accountable to others, and others to us.

We mentioned church structure. We are not a democracy where the majority vote rules. We commonly make a comparison between the natural family and the spiritual family. Just as the husband is the head of the natural family, so the bishop and ministers are responsible to watch over and care for the spiritual flock entrusted into their care. In the natural family, many times the husband abuses or is unworthy of his position. That calls for his repentance, but does not change what is God's order. The same is true in the church. Someone is responsible to lead and shepherd, and others are responsible to support and submit. Otherwise, there can be no godly order.

Another subject that may take you unaware, especially if you come from an evangelical background, is how we look at faith and works. One visitor to our community said, "They act like they thought their works have something to do with their salvation." He was perceptive. We do. The strong modern-day emphasis on faith only is a dangerous imbalance that leads to cheap grace, and a false hope. We do not find such an imbalance supported either in Scripture or in the teaching of our forefathers, whose writings we trust.

We find that many people who come to us are truly a product of the "now generation." They have been basically raised with a concept of living for the present without being overly conscious of the past or of the future. In contrast, we believe the Christian faith is something that God intended should be handed down from one generation to the next. God never intended for every generation to reinvent the church. We should learn something from the wisdom and experience of those who lived before us.

Today's world has been brought up with the idea that a reason should be given for every action and practice and tradition. We agree with that, as long as we have the mindset that it is perfectly acceptable to include among those reasons: "That is how our fathers taught us to do it, and we see no Scriptural reason to change it." If Malachi 4:6 is put into practice, and the hearts of the fathers are turned to their children, and the hearts of the children are turned to their fathers, that answer should not see strange to us, but reassuring.

We believe in going by the Bible, and no doubt, you do too. But even here, you may discover a difference. We may put less emphasis on the printed word, and more emphasis in reading how it is lived out in the lives of God's people on a daily basis. As an example of what I mean, I think of a father who spent a short time in the community here.

He had read Solomon's words, "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell" (Pro 23:13-14). He read these words and believed them, and put them into action as he understood them. But when I saw him use a club on his son, a club three or four inches in diameter, I was horrified. Yes, Solomon did say to beat your child, and he was certainly beating him. I could not correct him from the printed word, but I found that I went more by the "living" word – the way I had seen this verse lived out.

In fact, I had personally experienced my father putting the verse into action in how he "beat" me – not with a bruising club, but by taking a slender green branch from a hickory tree and stinging my rebellious little bottom. I think I mentioned earlier that you should not act in haste as you consider joining a plain community. It might be well to balance that out here. It is true that you should visit as much as you can, and read anything that is pertinent, and ask many questions. Do your homework well.

I even like to advise prospective Seekers to go and talk with the people who have gone away from us unhappy, and ask them why they left. But when you have done all that, and are still interested, the time comes to take action, especially if you have growing children. Small children will adjust quickly, and soon feel at home. For older children it may be harder, especially if they don't want to make the change. Ideally you should move before your oldest children are twelve, and sooner would be better. If they are older, you will just have to make the best of it, obviously.

But be prepared that there may be a price to pay for having waited too long. Losing your oldest children back to the world you are seeking to leave can be heart-rending. A worse possibility is that your reluctant son or daughter will stay with you, but fit in so poorly that his presence will be disruptive, putting a strain on your relationship with the rest of the community. No close knit community can tolerate a rebellious son or daughter on the long term without dealing with the problem in some way to stop any harmful influences.

Many Seekers contemplating a move to a plain community find their marriage under attack. Going from mainstream American culture to join a plain group is a drastic step. It is not surprising that sometimes husbands find their wives struggling to submit. I would like to stress here the importance of husbands and wives working together. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Many times husbands may be the fault that their wives struggle to trust their leadership. Be very open to examine your own heart, and humbly confess your failures in not providing leadership in the home in the past that could build confidence. Seek humbly God's help and blessing in winning the support of your wife and be open to the possibility that you may be moving too fast.

Also, be completely honest with the group you are considering joining. Share with them your personal needs, and your family situation. If it is not something you can discuss with the group, ask to speak personally with one of the leaders. Open your heart, and ask him for advice. If you really want help, and hope to establish a relationship in a close brotherhood, you cannot get far by hiding and denying your problems. It may seem hard for you to confess your sins, and expose your failings, but it is not only Scriptural, but also good for the soul.

One last caution before we end this article – don't try to outdo the people you are going to join. It is not uncommon for Seekers to live among, but try to retain some separation from the people they live with. There is certainly a place for being a good example within a group, but for you, new on the scene, let that example match whatever the ministry and concerned members are doing. Don't wear your hat rim a half inch wider than they do, or forbid your children to join in the activities their children are allowed, or ask your wife to wear a longer dress or a bigger covering. Just be content to live the level they live at for ten years, and if by then you still feel you have a better recipe to live a godly life than they do, it may well be in order to consider some improvements. By that time your example will likely carry some weight. Before then, what may look to you as convictions, may appear to those you join as only your individuality showing.

The Bible does give us an example of the perfect – and successful – convert: A young widow from Moab, Ruth. Spend some time reading her story, and meditating upon it. Faith in Israel's God had rooted in her heart and would not let her go. Even the common sense logic of her mother-in-law did not shake her resolve. "...Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die I will die..." Ruth gave herself totally to the people she went to join, holding nothing back. And God saw her desire, and blessed her efforts. She was a Seeker that found what she was looking for: the blessing of yielding her own self-will and her past identity to be molded and shaped by God's people. She not only received a blessing, but became a blessing to many future generations. By God's grace, you can too!


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