Aug 272014
 

michael-sattler-ivan-moonHaving looked at some of the stranger and more radical wings of Anabaptist history, we turn our attention to the mainstream as represented by Michael Sattler and Menno Simons.

Sattler authored the Schlietheim Confession which is summarized by James and Woodbridge as follows;

“The seven articles assert that (1) baptism is contingent on repentance and a moral life; (2) brethren who fail to live according to the Christian code of ethics are to be banned from the community; (3) a memorialist or Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper is the correct one; (4) there should be a radical separation of Christians from secular society ; (5) the pastor must maintain high moral standards in his life and ministry; (6) true Christians must not serve the civil government; and (7) all oaths to the state are to be prohibited.”

These Anabaptists had a radical vision of a pristine church restored to New Testament ways and standards, according to their interpretation.

Theirs was a call to holy living, to separation from the world and in particular from governmental involvements in the church.

It was a call to Biblical “literalism”unencumbered by the traditions of Rome, encouraging pacifism, and sometimes communalism.

It indeed resembled in many ways how the earliest church fathers portrayed the Christian life.

Sattler took a pastorate in a small church after the drafting of the Articles, but was arrested by the Catholics a month later.

He was given a trial…but the outcome was never in doubt.

“In the case of the attorney of His imperial majesty vs. Michael Sattler, judgment is passed that Michael Sattler shall be delivered to the executioner , who shall lead him to the place of execution and cut out his tongue, then forge him fast to a wagon and there with red-hot tongs twice tear pieces from his body; and after he has been brought outside the gate, he shall be plied five times more in the same manner.”

He was then burned at the stake, then his wife was drowned after she chose not to renounce her faith.

The religious and governmental establishment saw no difference between the peaceful faith of Sattler and the violent radicals of Munster.

Both were a threat to the established order, both had to be exterminated.

Menno Simons legacy continues to this day through the Mennonites.

Embracing the doctrines of Anabaptists after being a Catholic priest, Simons became a leader of the movement.

He denounced the “crazy”, violent wing of the movement,  while embracing and defending pacifism.

Like his Reformed contemporary John Calvin, his influence was primarily through his writings.

His magnum opus was “The Foundation of Christian Doctrine” which has served Anabaptists the same way Calvin’s “Institutes” have served the Reformed faith.

What lessons can we take from the Anabaptists?

Over the years Sattler  and his wife have become heroes in the faith to me, though we differ doctrinally.

He lived his faith, he persevered to the end, as did his wife.

The ideas about separation from the world and from government, (though overly radical) may be needed correctives in our day of compromise and nationalism.

The notion of the church being a distinct and recognizable people seems to resonate with the New Testament description of the people of God.

Had we listened to Sattler, much of the stains and sins of the Reformation committed in the name of the state would have been avoided.

Would would we profit by listening to him today?

Quotes were taken from the following volume, which I commend to your reading…

Woodbridge, John; James III, Frank A. (2013-08-08). Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context (Kindle Locations 3854-3858). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

  49 Responses to “Church History: The Anabaptists, Part 3”

  1. Informative post, as usual. Thank you, Michael.

    However, you left off one of the most important links in the article. Please offer the link to the book through your Amazon affiliate program. It will help any readers who are interested and also add a few bits to your account. A win-win.

  2. Wow. Unfathomable torture ‘in the Name of the Lord”….. beyond comprehension…. Thank you again, Michael, for your efforts to educate me/us, your readers.

    God bless you. You are in my prayers.

  3. Thank you, EricL…we’re linked up now. 🙂

  4. Thank you, Paige.
    I enjoy this a lot more than the other stuff I do… 🙂

  5. Michael, thank you for another great history lesson.

    Could you expand and/or clarify this point:

    “The ideas about separation from the world and from government, (though overly radical) may be needed correctives in our day of compromise and nationalism.”

    Is this referring to the church and/or individual Christians?

    If it refers to both the church and individual Christians (as it might appear from, for example, the large Amish and Mennonite communities here in Iowa), then I would like to know more about what the Anabaptist theology of kingdom is.

    How, within Anabaptist theology, would the church promote, for example, social justice or help the poor outside its community (if at all)?

    Does Anabaptist theology affirm evangelism?

    Is there a missional component to Anabaptism?

    Sorry for all the questions, but if Anabaptist ideas offer potential correctives for today, it would be good to flesh out the “separation” issue a little more.

  6. I understand the rationale of those who put people to death who are deemed heretics. Understand … but not affirm. If a heretic spreads heresy then he sends others to hell with him. So it is deemed better to kill a heretic than to allow him to infect others with his mania and cause them to suffer eternal torment.

    Torture is what I do not understand. Does anyone know the religious rationale for torturing another person? What made the church feel that cutting out tongues and tearing of flesh was warranted?

  7. Because it deterred other people from becoming heretics

  8. “What made the church feel that cutting out tongues and tearing of flesh was warranted?”

    Those who believe such actions are justified by Jesus have simply forgotten and ignored Him.

    Anyone who keeps Jesus and the Gospels central to their theology would never descend into such evil and claim that God justifies or is glorified in it

  9. “In the case of the attorney of His imperial majesty vs. Michael Sattler, judgment is passed that Michael Sattler shall be delivered to the executioner , who shall lead him to the place of execution and cut out his tongue, then forge him fast to a wagon and there with red-hot tongs twice tear pieces from his body; and after he has been brought outside the gate, he shall be plied five times more in the same manner.”

    This is absolutely no different than the behavior of ISIS

  10. The Anabaptists were able to forge a moral argument by enduring the suffering. They would forge the argument that would prevail that real faith cannot be coerced. Sacramental expressions of faith tend to diminish the focus upon personal faith. If one stays in relation to the church and participates in the means of grace then one is in the faith.

    Luther’s justification by faith ultimately becomes the lever to separate sacrament and faith. I think this aspect might be overlooked. Am I over stating this?

    The Anabaptist revolt (from institutional religion) and willingness to suffer and die for their faith destroyed the hegemony of state religion. It took time but it prevailed. Even where state religion is maintained it has much less power, much less influence.

  11. Guitar man,

    When fear of hell is gone… the power of intimidation goes also.
    Anabaptists believed their faith not their institutional relationship kept them.
    And of course today people simply do not believe in eternal torment so … no fear

  12. I can only answer briefly…I have a baptism this morning.
    The Anabaptists did not believe faith could flourish without separation from the world and could not live biblically under the influence of government.
    Today there is often no recognizable difference between the church and the world in ethics or entertainment.
    We divide along political party lines in the Body of Christ…the idea of a countries flag in the sanctuary would be blasphemous to the Anabaptist as would be pledging allegiance to an earthly nation.
    This was particularly problematic in Switzerland…which was a rabidly patriotic country.

    The Anabaptists felt that the Lutherans were close to antinomianism…they were very concerned about living a holy life and “works” toward others were extremely important…particularly works that mirrored those of the New Testament community. Thus the “social justice’ component.

    It was missional, but not many want to sign up to have their flesh removed with burning tongs…

    Finally, one has to understand all of these events in the political and social context of the times…not to defend them, but to understand them.

    The great fear was that such groups would overturn the social order and bring about both heresy and anarchy…and you can read people claiming the same about each other today on Facebook…

  13. “Luther’s justification by faith ultimately becomes the lever to separate sacrament and faith. I think this aspect might be overlooked. Am I over stating this?”

    Not in the least…not in my opinion…well said.

  14. “Today there is often no recognizable difference between the church and the world in ethics or entertainment.”

    I think that this is overly cynical and simply untrue. I’m not trying to be unkind or critical. I just wonder if you’d consider taking another look at your pendulum.

  15. “Luther’s justification by faith ultimately becomes the lever to separate sacrament and faith. I think this aspect might be overlooked. Am I over stating this?”

    Only a total mis interpretation of justification by faith would lead to any understanding of separating sacrament and faith. All one would need do is read further Luther’s thought and watch his actions on the topic.

    This has been my argument against the Anabaptist movement these past couple of weeks. They were not founded in reality and were head strong into ‘doing there own thing’. – although the price was high, hey we have had crazy people all through history go through torture, separation and death for crazy ideas … Jonestown – Hale Bopp etc.

    I don’t put the Anabaptist quite there, but it does explain how people put themselves through such grief for no reason.

    One last thing – nowhere does the Bible tell God’s people to avoid the government – in many cases in scripture God’s people were the government.

  16. MLD,

    Your defense of Luther is well put. The Anabaptist interpretation is simply unintended consequence. Nevertheless… it is there.

    Comparing the suppression of Anabaptist by church/state persecution to cults and their self-destruction is unwarranted and untrue. As you said you “don’t put” them there. But you do link it and I completely disagree there can be no comparison between self-destruction and persecution of those who refuse do deny conscience.

    As for government … that is the real discussion opened by the Anabaptist chapter and I am up for more discussion of the matter. One thing sure is that church state marriage ends badly and carries horrific outcomes over and again.

  17. Babs,
    Well, we were never called to marry the state either. My best church/ state religious ceremony is usually to just give the state the finger.and move on.

    However, the church does have certain responsibilities to the state.

  18. BD asked – “Torture is what I do not understand. Does anyone know the religious rationale for torturing another person? What made the church feel that cutting out tongues and tearing of flesh was warranted?”

    London is correct. Torture served as a means of changing the heretics beliefs and as a deterrent to those who may find the heretics viewpoint somewhat worthwhile, but not yet fully embrace it.

    If it never worked, they would have stopped using it.

  19. Another question: If the State didn’t outlaw torture, would the Church continue to use it?

    So perhaps the State does have a purpose, besides roads and collecting tax revenue? 😉

  20. papia… that is a tragic and good question… Sadly I believe radicalized christians would indeed hurt people in the name of faith.

  21. Guitar man,

    When fear of hell is gone… the power of intimidation goes also.
    Anabaptists believed their faith not their institutional relationship kept them.
    And of course today people simply do not believe in eternal torment so … no fear

    Jesus never intended the motivator to be fear, he intended it to be love.

    Screw fear of a nebulous punishment.

    If we’re going to fear anything, better to fear hurting those you love and love you, those whom you look right in the eye, whom have invested in you and you in them.

  22. “If it never worked, they would have stopped using it.”

    …um, no, it just steels the beliefs even more, and it goes underground to become emboldened to rise up at the right time.

  23. “This has been my argument against the Anabaptist movement these past couple of weeks. They were not founded in reality and were head strong into ‘doing there own thing’. – although the price was high, hey we have had crazy people all through history go through torture, separation and death for crazy ideas … Jonestown – Hale Bopp etc.”

    What an asinine comment.
    This group of the Anabaptists was utterly orthodox and frankly, far more committed to “sola scripture” than the Lutherans.
    I don’t hold all their doctrines, but I find this to be a heroic and holy group of brethren.
    As the Reformed great Bucer said, “God had a great friend in Michael Satller”.

  24. Imagine my surprise that you would take issue with my comment … that you quoted out of context.

  25. “Torture is what I do not understand. Does anyone know the religious rationale for torturing another person? What made the church feel that cutting out tongues and tearing of flesh was warranted?”

    I think there was more to the torture than our modern categories, like deterrence. In the mind of the medieval church, I think the motive might have been to give the heretic a last chance (i.e., the slow death) to repent before suffering eternal torment; in that way the torture might have been thought of as merciful. Secondly, some medieval authorities might have thought that the torture could have actually liberate the sinner from his/her damned state.

    These are a long way from thoroughly researched hypotheses, but I think they’re closer to the motive than deterrence.

  26. I don’t necessarily agree with all of this writers thoughts(Anabaptists used their martyrdoms as stages), but interesting nonetheless:

    “Simon’s performance of public heresy challenges one of the fundamental assumptions of public punishment. Torture must be imposed on the victim before becoming an insignia of power. The state-sanctioned theater of violence begins to lose its power at the moment when Simon publicly invites such punishment. This relationship is further challenged by the inclusion of suffering as a tenet of Anabaptist theology. Pain and persecution became marks of “true” Christianity and those who underwent this punishment were regarded as heroes within the movement. These public punishments became public rewards.

    While any martyr must have a willingness to die, Anabaptists took this to an extreme. Not only would they behave in ways that would most certainly lead to their execution, but they would often rejoice when that punishment was meted out. Braght’s martyrs would often delight because they were deemed worthy to suffer for Christ. This was the highest honor God could bestow. The Anabaptists were so willing to suffer that martyrs from other faith traditions began to denounce them as masochistic and suicidal (Byman 628).”

    http://liminalities.net/5-3/martyrdom.pdf

    He does cite much of his source material from the “Martyrs Mirror” – a book similar to “Fox’s book of Martyrs”, but focuses on Anabaptist martyrs.

  27. Martyr Mirror online from CCEL: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/vanbraght/mirror

    And from Wikipedia: “The Martyrs Mirror is still a beloved book among the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and Conservative Mennonites with a copy usually in every home and often given as a wedding gift to new homes.”

    Makes a GREAT wedding gift! 🙂

  28. Luke 12:4-5 red letters….all

    Jude 1:21-23 for anyone else who sees value in the rest of the Bible

  29. #28,

    Steve, to which prior comment are you responding? What is your point? Thanks.

  30. I think he is responding to the “people do get sent to hell” deniers. 🙂

  31. Restating,

    Jesus never intended the motivator to be fear, he intended it to be love.

    Screw fear of a nebulous punishment.

    If we’re going to fear anything, better to fear hurting those you love and love you, those whom you look right in the eye, whom have invested in you and you in them.

    Here’s why love is THE best motivator, not because of saving one’s own hide but because of hurting those who love you…

    “And when it comes to the “big sins” I would not have burned in hell for sleeping with the many women I’ve looked at longingly, but adultery would have ruined my marriage and the home where I play with my grandchildren… What I fear today isn’t God’s theoretical wrath but my family’s palpable sorrow when I hurt them.”

  32. however we become motivated, love for each other, and ultimately God, is the primary goal

  33. #30.

    MLD,

    I don’t think question is “hell”, but the nature of hell, and those verses aren’t that helpful in that debate.

  34. Jean,
    There are a few folk here who are compelled to respond with their unique disdain.

  35. Jean,
    I guess I will let Steve answer the question – however, someone said that we should not fear the one who could toss us in hell but we should fear those we look in the eye.

    I think Steve’s passages contradicted that – but hey, those are only Bible verses – and many times are of no value to the American masses.

  36. Let’s think the best until comments can be clarified…. Sheeesh.

    “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

    “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

  37. “When fear of hell is gone… the power of intimidation goes also.
    Anabaptists believed their faith not their institutional relationship kept them.
    And of course today people simply do not believe in eternal torment so … no fear”

    I would put it this way in the case of the Anabaptists:

    When the fear of death is gone, the power of intimidation goes also.
    Anabaptists believed that the Way is the way of the cross; that suffering and even death were expected outcomes of being a disciples of Christ.
    Anabaptists had hope in eternal life, so no fear.

    Today, many Christians expect to get prosperous and/or spiritually high on Christ, so no suffering.

  38. Jesus never intended the motivator to be fear, he intended it to be love.
    Screw fear of a nebulous punishment.
    ————————————————————–
    The words of Jesus are clear as to the first line being false, making the personal opinion that followed in the second line quite shocking.

    But this is old, tired ground here – but when someone speaks for Jesus in a way that so clearly contradicts His own words in the Gospels, it is worthy of a Bible quote in reply.

    As an aside, the line that got me out of the Unity School of Christianity and into a search for a real Christian church was the pastor saying “Jesus never spoke about hell, that was Paul and he never met Jesus”

    By then I had been reading the Bible a few months and knew how wrong that was and thus the leader of this “church” actually was very ignorant or wholly deceptive about the Lord. However, since this place never, and I mean, never mentioned anything about the Bible before this event, I had not noticed. (Later I would find out the things it believed wrongly about the Person and Nature of Jesus)

    (I tossed in the Jude quote as a reminder that it is not an all or nothing sort of idea either – nobody is denying the love, grace, and mercy of God that leads to repentance)

    Maybe the church history thread will take us to the First Great Awakening and Edwards’ sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’….and we can talk further about the sort of messages the Lord might use for His work.

  39. We’ll see if we survive a few weeks of Calvin before I think about going farther… 🙂

  40. LOL 🙂

  41. #38,

    Steve, I agree that it would be good to have further opportunities to discuss the nature of hell. Interestingly, perseverance was the context of the two passages you quoted and perseverance is pervasive in the NT. However, not a lot of Western Protestant church leaders teach much about the issue of perseverance because of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, which can cheapen the actual issue of perseverance. I think to be faithful to the texts we need to discuss them in full context.

  42. Jean,
    I’m a universalist so I approach Jesus’ words about hell as the context of Sheol, the garbage dump.

    Bottom line for me, God/Jesus is warning us all to love and not approach this life as a throw away, don’t take it casually or for granted. We end up just as dead without Him, so our best is to love and embrace Jesus.

    I wonder how long the torturers would have put up with me and my heresies, but then that’s pure speculation on anyone’s part. I’m just glad to be able to point anyone with willingness toward Jesus in the 4 Gospels.

    Have a great holiday weekend!
    =)

  43. G, you’re cool with me 🙂

  44. Jean,
    U2 =)

  45. This is the face I like to put on today’s Anabaptists – actually I have watched a good amount of his stuff these past couple of weeks – I agree with a lot of what he says.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYjdgrRyfMA

  46. This is the 1st of 19 videos on Anabaptist history – I have gone through the first 5.
    The guy has an interesting story in this video on how he came to be an Anabaptist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n21zdEHYDHs

  47. I watched this video a couple of weeks ago – the first I watched of Bruxy Cavey. It really is a good explanation of today’s Anabaptism.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxc-DVDnyEM

  48. G-man

    Just to clarify … I was commenting not advocating

  49. Babylon’s Dread,
    No worries =)

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