Neither Catholics Nor Protestants
Turning last to the eighth Roman Catholic abuse which faced any potential reformer, we must ask, did the Protestant reformation recover the New Testament teaching on the Church? Did they abolish the Roman Catholic concept of a mass-church composed of members by virtue of the accident of nationality and geography, by "infant-baptism," rather than saving faith? The answer again must be no. They did not restore their church to the New Testament standard of a church composed of believers only, of born-again, blood-washed disciples of Christ. One and all, the reformers retained and defended the unscriptural church founded upon infant baptism and including all the inhabitants of a "Christian" county. In this singular failure, this further betrayal of the goals of a true reformation, as in all the others, the famous reformers cannot be justified by the lame excuse that "they did the best they knew how, anyway." The tragedy of it is that they all considered, and rejected, coolly and deliberately, the Bible standard of a believers’ church. They knew of others who chose to follow the Bible standard, and they not only rejected their conviction, but they tried to wipe them out by fire and sword. Those others that stood true to their Lord and His standard for the Church were the Anabaptists.
Numerous unprejudiced scholars of the history of Reformation times have come to the same conclusion: the Anabaptists fulfilled the real task facing the Reformation, and the Protestants failed. Roland H. Bainton attempts to assign one reason for this:
"The ideal of restitution or restoration was common in the age of Reformation, and all parties desired to restore something. The difference was only as to what, and how far back to go. [Italics used in quotations are by the author of this article. Luther wished to restore the church of the early Middle Ages; for him the great corruption was the rise of the temporal power of the papacy in the eighth century. The Anabaptists went back further than any of the other groups, and turned exclusively to the New Testament. Even within the New Testament they tended to neglect Paul and to push back to Jesus. That is why (their) ideal of Restoration tends to coincide with the ideal of the imitation of Christ."[1]
This is not to say that they rejected Paul, but rather simply looked to the indwelling Christ as Lord, rather than to take Paul’s doctrine of justification out of its New Testament context, and invent (like the Protestants) and unscriptural "only-believe" (sola fide) cheap-grace salvation. Paul himself says, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Col. 1:27) not only Christ reckoned as your righteousness, but His righteousness also fulfilled in you, (Romans 8:4, 13:10) and: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1) Another great scholar, Hoffmann, says:
"The roots of the Reformers lay chiefly in St. Paul, while the Baptists (Anabaptists) preferred the teaching of Jesus, with its ethical imperatives and its eschatological hopes....In this respect the Baptists (Anabaptists) were certainly nearer to Biblical Christianity than the Reformers, though the Reformers too made Biblical Christianity their objective."[2]
Hall, in comparing Anabaptism and Protestantism, in his HISTORY OF ETHICS WITHIN ORGANIZED CHRISTIANITY, has the following penetrating commentary:
"Nor was it (Anabaptism) in any degree a truly Protestant movement, if by Protestantism one means moral and religious autonomy. It was thoroughly under the Roman Catholic conception of external authority, only it was the authority of a Book and a written law rather than a tradition and a pope. Everything we find among the Anabaptists one also finds in the New Testament. It is simply a matter of emphasis. If to take the New Testament literally is Protestantism, then as over against Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, the Anabaptists were the real Protestants. They based their teaching upon Luke’s estimate of poverty or upon the communism of Acts, or the freedom of the spirit in the Pauline sense, or upon the premillenarianism of the early church and the early Gospels. They took the Sermon on the Mount literally, and rejected with more or less consistency all things not commanded by the Bible. They saw, generally, as the reformers did not see, that primitive Christianity was inherently opposed to the existing and non-Christian social order. They found, of course, no warrant in the New Testament for sacramental magic, because it is not there. All this is not new in church history. From the time of Jovinian and Claudius of Turin, from the days of primitive British Christianity to the Waldensians and Lollards, the New Testament has always raised up men who took it seriously and tested by men who took it seriously and tested by it at one point or another the traditional dogmatic Christianity. And as dogmatic Christianity is not, in fact, built upon the New Testament, it has never stood the test....the revolt of Munster and the peasant wars were made the most of by the small nobility and the reform leaders to accomplish their own purpose of re-establishing their power on the basis of national and provincial churches as heirs of the rejected imperialism. The cold-hearted callousness of Zwingli in torturing his former friend Balthasar Hubmaier and forcing from him on pain of death a humiliating and false confession is of a piece with Calvin’s attitude toward Servetus or Luther’s to Carlstadt. There is nothing in the teachings of the Anabaptists that cannot be shown to at one time or another have had the support of the orthodox reformers. Mysticism mingled with Luther’s teaching, legalism and bloody rebellion with that of Calvin and Knox. Zwingli was staggered by infant baptism, and did emasculate to the end the magic sacramentarianism of the Lord’s Supper. It was a question of power, order, and submission to the new heirs of Catholic imperialism and not a question of ‘evangelical purity’ or ‘dogmatic correctness’ that separated the reformers from their persecuted and despised brethren....True it is that the orthodox reformers also professed to take the letter of the Scriptures as their guide and also claimed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But they neither took it so seriously as the Anabaptists, nor did they permit themselves to be led by Scripture too far away from the interpretations and ideals of the Protestant princes of Germany or the military bourgeoisie in Switzerland. They were in fact, all unconsciously no doubt, yet completely and always the expression of the sober-minded, well-balanced national, rising middle-classes. . . ."[3]
Another contemporary scholar, Joseph M. Dawson, writing on the origins of the religious liberty enjoyed by all in the United States of America today, finds that it came not from the intolerant reformers but from the Anabaptists:
"Not Protestantism, as such, but small independent nonconformist groups, which accepted the larger implications of Luther and Calvin, procured full religious liberty and church-state separation."[4]
Not the Pilgrim fathers and the Puritans brought religious liberty to America—on the contrary, they whipped and burned Quakers at the stake, cheated Indians, etc. It was the Baptists, directly influenced by the Anabaptists of the Continent, who could write as did Roger Williams:
"The Christian church doth not persecute; no more than a lily doth scratch the thorns, or a lamb pursue and tear the wolves. . . . The Christian religion may not be propagated by the civil sword."[5]
If it were not for our Anabaptist forefathers, America might never have become a democracy with religious liberty for all. Think of that the next time you are reproached for being only a "pacifist parasite" by some super-patriot!
Having surveyed the record of the Protestant movement in each of the eight flagrant abuses of Catholicism, and having seen how the famous reformers generally failed to effect a true reformation, we might look also at the political and social results of the movement. Attention has already been drawn to the fact that the Protestant movement was not just a religious movement, but a far-reaching political upheaval of nationalism. In the wake of the reformers’ teachings and adherents, a wave of moral deterioration, persecutions, revolution, and "religious wars" spread over Europe. Nation rose against nation, brother against brother, and great predatory armies crisscrossed the map of Europe, where upheaval, plunder, and brutality became the order of the day. A century and a quarter of intermittent warfare followed. By the peace of Westphalia in 1648, after thirty final years of continuous warfare and intrigue, Europe was in ruins, and Germany alone had lost 10,000,000 out of a population of 13,000,000 in only thirty years. Not only the millions of innocent civilians that perished excite our pity and horror, but moreover the cruel atrocities committed against the peaceful Anabaptist martyrs, in the name of religion. The great Baptist church historian, A. H. Newman, is forced to raise the following question about the whole bloody carnage:
"We are prompted to inquire whether this war was a necessity; whether this was the only way in which Protestants and Catholics could be taught to respect each others rights? We cannot answer; but we have grave reason for doubting whether the destroyer (Luther) of old evangelical Christianity and the father of the great politico-ecclesiastical Protestant movement, which called forth the Counter-Reformation and the Jesuits, and which directly and indirectly led to the Thirty Years’ War, was after all as great a benefactor of the human race and promoter of the kingdom of Christ as has been commonly supposed."[6]
Not only loss of human life, but the ruin of business, the arts and education, and the abandonment of towns and cities ensued, with a fearful moral decay overtaking most of the survivors. Nationalism had been born full-fledged, and the first great European "world-war" had been fought, an international war.
I am sure that many of our readers have never known these facts about the tragic results of the Protestant movement. A legend about the infallibility and spotless saintliness of the famous reformers has been cultivated by their followers, and many people have been unwittingly deceived. If we ask whether the early Anabaptists had good reason for rejecting Protestantism and repudiating the famous reformers, we must say, Yes! Anabaptism indeed was "More than Protestantism." There were four chief points of difference between the Anabaptist movement and the Protestant movement:
1. The Revelation of Authority: both Anabaptists and Protestants claimed the authority of the Word of God, but only the Anabaptists accepted Christ as the final authority, the absolute arbiter of all life, the final appeal in all allegiances and loyalty conflicts. They accepted Christ as Lord, and rejected the "only-believe" saviourhood that was the center of the Protestant teaching. The Anabaptists believed that Christ must be both our Saviour and our Lord, while the Protestants appealed to Him as Saviour but obeyed the authority of the princes and rulers, and the traditions of early Medieval Christianity. The Anabaptist restitution or reformation was the recovery of the Lordship of Christ, Christ as the Lord of universal morality, making no exceptions for persons nor positions, commanding all men everywhere to repent and bow the knee to Him.
2. The Proclamation of Authority: the Anabaptists believed that the good news of the Great Commission was to proclaim the delivering salvation and Lordship of Christ to all men, as binding upon all men, not excepting church-goers of other "denominations," nor the governing magistrates (who were called to repent, lay down their worldly power, and follow Christ alone). The Anabaptists understood this Great Commission to be binding upon every member in the priesthood of all believers, and saw the chief purpose of the Church as a nurturing, disciplining, missionary community going into all the world, declaring the power of the Lamb to deliver, to conquer, and to judge souls. The Protestants accepted, on the other hand, the territorial mass-church, obedient to the religion of its own particular ruler, and to the priests and pastors appointed by the State-church.
It is one of the strange truths of church history that the Protestant reformers and their followers rejected the Great Commission by the unscriptural theory that it was fulfilled by the apostles! The Anabaptists went everywhere preaching the Gospel, and defying the commandments of the state-church to cease. The Anabaptists’ favorite reply to their persecutors who forbade them to preach the Gospel, was the verse: "The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof," therefore they went boldly and without fear to carry out the Great Commission despite all opposition. But the Protestants, believing that only the State is responsible to provide for the preaching of the Gospel, fiercely contended that Christians had no business going forth in the Great Commission! Aberly, in his book, An Outline of Missions (pp. 47-48) tries to explain this strange Protestant rejection of the Great Commission and missions:
"The return of the Reformers to the Pauline message of salvation by grace for Jew and Gentile alike ought to have carried with it the missionary program of the great apostle to the Gentiles. Protestants were, however, at least until after the Thirty Years’ War, engrossed in struggles on which their very existence depended....Logical inferences from accepted principles are but slowly drawn when they run counter to prevailing customs. The support of the church was supposed to be the responsibility of the state. The Lord’s command to go and make disciples of all nations was for a long time understood even by the theologians to have been given only to the apostles and fulfilled by them. It was thought that nations which had neglected or rejected the opportunity then given could be left to their well-deserved fate. . . . Theodore Beza, from among the Reformed, replied to Saravia in 1592, to disprove his contention that the command to preach the Gospel to all nations was given to the church for all times. Among Lutherans some prominent laymen broached the subject of missions. One was Count Trucheses who addressed the theological faculty at Wittenburg about certain scruples he had which he thus expressed: ‘Since faith comes alone from preaching, I would know how East and South and West shall be converted to the only saving faith since I see no one of the Augsburg Confession (sic) go forth thither.’ The question was answered by the Wittenberg faculty which said in substance that Jesus’ command applied only to the apostles and they had already fulfilled it; besides this, it is not the church but the state on which rests the responsibility to provide for the preaching of the Gospel."
This ignorant and unscriptural position prevailed among the protestants for almost two centuries. It is one of the ironies of history that while the Protestant forefathers rejected the Great Commission, and the Anabaptist forefathers fervently believed and practiced it, there are today some groups descended from the Anabaptists that actually oppose missions and reject the Great Commission, claiming that it was only for the apostles and fulfilled by them! They even are so bold in their ignorance as to claim that in rejecting missions they are being faithful to their Anabaptist forefathers! Often one hears such people give the reason: "Die Vorvaeter hen’s net gedu’." (A German dialect expression which means: "The forefathers didn’t do it.") In the beginning it was not so, but ye have made the law of God of none effect by your tradition.
3. THE APPLICATION OF AUTHORITY: the Anabaptists believed in the free establishment and protection of a disciplined Church, consisting only of born-again disciples united in a voluntary, self-binding commitment to the standards and discipline of the New Testament, as interpreted and applied by the through the brotherhood. The Protestants rejected a disciplined church of voluntary disciples, and defended a mass-church of baptized infants. Calvin did operate a limited church discipline, but through the power of stocks, whippings, mutilations, and the gallows for transgressions (such as gambling, swearing, etc.).
4. THE CONFLICT OF AUTHORITY: the Anabaptists believed that the true Christian cannot compel men with force nor even exercise himself in the realm of worldly justice; he is rather a prophet of God, bearing the cross-love which always suffers opposition because it cannot be silent or indifferent or tolerant in the presence of evil, and remains a salty obstacle to all sin (salt, not leaven). The true Christian is a luminous testimony against all human authority which demands absolute allegiance that men can only absolutely give to Christ the Lord, and therefore the true disciple of Christ is always seen as a threat to human security, compromise, and false peace, and always must suffer enmity and rejection and cross-reproach from the evil world. The Protestants believed that the world could be Christianized, and that if there was any conflict between a man's duty to Christ and his duty to the State, he must first obey the State, lest society collapse in anarchy. Thus it was that the Anabaptists became the persecuted, and the Protestants the persecutors.
We might briefly summarize these four distinctions, by remembering that the Anabaptist reformation was the restoration of the authority of Christ as Lord over His disciples, while the Protestant reformation tended to become the rejection of Roman Catholic authority in favor of the authority of the princes and rulers and their territorial churches; briefly, the Anabaptists believed that the true Church was:
1. A Church of disciples, obeying the LORD;
2. A Church of missionary-prophets, witnessing to all men;
3. A disciplined Church, holy and pure;
4. A suffering, cross-bearing, non-resistant Church.
This was the faith of our fathers, some four hundred years ago. What about today? Since the principles of religious liberty for which our forefathers died have become generally accepted even by the Protestants now, why should we today desire to be More Than Protestantism? Why not just let the crimes and mistakes of the past be forgiven and forgotten, and unite in the ecumenical movement with the Protestants? Because the Protestants have not changed their theology, even if some of their methods are different. They do not uphold the absolute authority of Christ as Lord over the Christian as a disciple.
In concluding this article, I wish to challenge our brotherhood today on twenty counts of abandoning the faith and vision of the Anabaptist reformation:
1. We have lost the prophetic zeal of the Anabaptists, and have turned to pietistic quietism we no longer prophesy against sin in the nations and in the denominations.
2. Because we no longer vigorously testify of the world and worldly religions that the works thereof are evil, they no longer hate us, and we have become respectable at the price of polite silence on popular sins.
3. We have been too much ingrown and withdrawn to ourselves, almost content to be just a group of blood-relatives with familiar names.
4. We are succumbing to the idol of prosperity, hypnotized by shiny machines, big houses, luxuries, comforts, and economic insurance and securities. No covetous man shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
5. We are becoming practical relativists; we believe that Christ's commandments are relevant and binding only for those with a Mennonite background we believe that non-resistance and nonconformity are Mennonite doctrines, that God therefore does not require them of other Bible-professing Christians; unlike the Anabaptists, we seem to have no message for the denominations, no concern for the millions of lost church members who are not disciples of Christ. If non-resistance is only a Mennonite doctrine, abandon it! If it is Bible doctrine, let us get a deep burden and a bold testimony to those professing Christians in government and in the military services. Either we love our neighbor and refuse to execute carnal judgment on him (whether he be friend, criminal, or enemy), or we are breaking the second of the two Great Commandments, and cannot be saved until we repent and come out!
6. We apparently believe today more and more that the Protestants were right in the first place after all, the simple gospel is only believe, a man need only make a decision to be saved once and for all, he need not be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. We now seem commonly to believe that a man can be saved by accepting forgiveness, he does not need to repent, be born-again, and receive Christ into his life so that he becomes a Christ-indwelt disciple of the Lord; we do not need to receive Christ and abide in Him, we need only accept what He has done, and then go ahead and live like the world.
8. Many of us who still believe in discipleship, appear to think that it is not necessary to salvation, but that it is just something we graciously do to thank God, not that we have to, but just as a little something extra, a kind of favor to God!
9. Not a few of us seem to think that tolerance of sin and worldliness is next to godliness, is Christlike love, and that we dare not rebuke or reprove sin and sinners, because that would be judging.
10. Many think that discipline is legalistic every voluntary organization, association, or club has its standards and discipline, but only the Church dare not, lest it be legalistic!
11. So many among us uncritically praise and exalt the famous reformers, like Luther, that one sometimes wonders if these admirers might not have joined the Protestants rather than the Anabaptists if they had lived in those days! One sad example of this is to be seen in some of our churches infatuated with religious entertainment, that are using a rather poor and romanticized movie-film glorifying Martin Luther, in their worship services! This film, at best, is only an entertaining historical romance about a few scenes from the life of the young Luther. It promotes the legendary infallibility of Luther by suppressing his intolerance, violence, vulgarity, and conceit. One of the historians that helped to produce this film has tried to justify it (and Luther) by saying that Luther was after all just a product of his times and made the same mistakes as everyone else in that age. We know that Luther acted against better light. The film is only a kind of cheap, dramatic, but unrealistic historical novel, romantically playing up the hero. This is neither good history, nor true biography, nor even an honest documentary film. Perhaps we are being weakened by members who are members only by the accident of birth and upbringing, and not really by choice if only they would repent and give up their disloyalty, or leave and go to a church of their own choice and stop undermining our own brotherhood.
12. Our principal emphasis is shifting from evangelism, conversion, and discipleship, to emphasis on institutionalized religious education, which is always a sign of the organizational machine displacing the living organism.
13. We are abandoning adherence to strict Biblical standards, and gradually drifting more quickly to acceptance of pagan American cultural and social standards. As we see more and more cut hair, lipstick, jewelry, ornaments, pins, neckties, etc., we wonder if these can be the descendants spiritually (perhaps only by blood, like the Jews who are merely physical descendants of Abraham!) of that Menno Simons who wrote in such vigorous defense of the whole Gospel, disclaiming the carnal walk of the reformed Christians not only because they were not obedient disciples of Christ in non-resistance, but also because:
They say that they believe, and yet there are no limits nor bounds to their accursed wantonness, foolish pomp, show of silks, velvet, costly clothes, gold rings, chains, silver belts, pins, buttons, curiously adorned shirts, handkerchiefs, collars, veils, aprons, velvet shoes, slippers and such like foolish finery; never regarding that the enlightened apostles, Peter and Paul, have in plain and express words forbidden this to all Christian women. If this is forbidden to women how much more then should men abstain from it, who are the leaders and heads of their women. Notwithstanding all this they still want to be called the Christian Church![7]
14. We sense a terrific pressure for the destruction of any remaining signs of peculiarity which set us apart from American crowd-culture the devotional veiling is on the way out, to say nothing of distinctive attire and head-gear, which are already in most places gone. The early Anabaptists were often recognized by their distinctive clothes and general appearance, but the conformity-neurosis has made most of our present-day Anabaptists rush to get rid of any marks which identify them as a Christian in a crowd of worldlings. A truly zealous New Testament Church is at war with the existing carnal customs, practices, and beliefs of the pagan world about it, but that is no longer true of us! We would not dare to think of testifying prophetically against the sinful world and its works (cf. John 7:7), let alone look different from any worldling!
15. Today we exult in a kind of popular evangelism that invites men to make decisions, but not to receive Christ into their hearts, not to abide in Him, not to follow Him, not to seek the fellowship of a church which upholds and disciplines for the standards of the New Testament. Indeed, we find converts oftentimes discouraged from uniting with our brotherhood, under the generous false modesty and false charity that we do not want any proselytes! Where do we think the first Anabaptists came from? They were all proselytes from Catholicism or Protestantism! If we have nothing to export to others, we have nothing worth keeping for ourselves. New Testament evangelism is making disciples, not just making decisions.
16. Subtle inroads are being made on our belief in the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures through the latest theological fad, neo-orthodoxy. We count it of great importance to fraternize with the ecumenical movement, to prove to them that we are not as narrow-minded as the Anabaptists!
17. We ignore the fact that there are undoubtedly millions of professing Christians in Hell, souls that at one time or another professed or accepted Christ as Saviour, but never submitted to Him as Lord. When will we learn that it is easy to get decisions, but that the way of discipleship is narrow, and that only disciples shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?
18. Many today have faith only in faith (self-assurance), or faith in ceremonial magic (church-going and liturgies), but we are told that they are Christians too, and that all churched people need no further testimony from us. We are also being told repeatedly that this Gentile nation in which we are strangers and pilgrims is a Christian nation! Anathema!
19. We see a flood of professional ministers about to deluge us, men in whose interest it will be not to be prophets of God leading the people out of the bondage of sin's slavery. Menno Simons was not paid-pet of a spoiled and petulant church council but his successors may become so.
20. We have lost both persecution and the teaching that it is natural for the Church to be persecuted; we shun all reproach and expect God to make us pleasing even to our enemies (even though Christ and the martyrs displeased the evil world). Now our goal is success, good public relations, and adjustment to society, with zealous pursuit of refinement, entertainment, culture, prestige, and social climbing.
Men and brethren! What shall we do? Are we still members of a brotherhood which is more than protestantism and Catholicism? Wherein we have drifted and backslid let us repent and recover the first love, before God takes away our candlestick! Dear reader are YOU betraying the vision of the Anabaptist restoration? Have you been deceived into thinking that there is nothing you can do about the drift worldwards except to stay loyally in the drifting organization? We beseech you by the love of God and His holy Word that you be loyal first to Him and recognize that this first loyalty will not permit you to go along with a drifting multitude. Come out from among them and either fellowship with a church that is true to the vision of our Anabaptist forefathers, or form such a church in your area with like-minded disciples of the Lord Jesus. If you are betraying the Anabaptist vision, we beg of you to REPENT and return to the Bible truth and practices. Do not be guilty of the crime of pushing and dragging the church further worldwards. The true church is the blood-bought Bride of Jesus Christ, not the harlot church which goes hand in hand with the world. Amen.
[1] Roland H. Bainton, quoted in Church History, June, 1955; p. 150.
 [2] Hoffmann, in Pfister, ibid; p. 468.
 [3] Hall, History of Ethics Within Organized Christianity. p.   505tt.
 [4] Liberty, ibid, p. 28.
 [5] Liberty, ibid.
 [6] Newman, A. H., A Manual of Church History. vol. II. p. 411.
 [7] Menno Simons, vol. I, p. 144.