Anabaptism

Anabaptism (from Neo-Latin anabaptista,[1] from the Greek ἀναβαπτισμός: ἀνά- 're-' and βαπτισμός 'baptism',[1] German: Täufer, earlier also Wiedertäufer)[lower-alpha 1] is a Protestant Christian movement which traces its origins to the Radical Reformation.

The early Anabaptists formulated their beliefs in a confession of faith called the Schleitheim Confession. In 1527, Michael Sattler presided over a meeting at Schleitheim (in the Canton of Schaffhausen, on the Swiss-German border), where Anabaptist leaders drew up the Schleitheim Confession of Faith (doc. 29). Sattler was arrested and executed soon afterwards. Anabaptist groups varied widely in their specific beliefs, but the Schleitheim Confession represents foundational Anabaptist beliefs as well as any single document can.[2][3]

Anabaptists believe that baptism is valid only when candidates freely confess their faith in Christ and request to be baptized. This believer's baptism is opposed to baptism of infants, who are not able to make a conscious decision to be baptized. Anabaptists trace their heritage to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century. Other Christian groups with different roots also practice believer's baptism, such as Baptists, but these groups are not Anabaptist. The Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites are direct descendants of the early Anabaptist movement. Schwarzenau Brethren, River Brethren, Bruderhof, and the Apostolic Christian Church are Anabaptist denominations that developed well after the Radical Reformation.[4][5][6] Though all Anabaptists share the same core theological beliefs, there are differences in the way of life between them; Old Order Anabaptist groups include the Old Order Amish, the Old Order Mennonites, Old Order River Brethren, the Hutterites and the Old German Baptist Brethren.[4] In between the mainline denominations and Old Order groups are Conservative Anabaptist groups such as the Dunkard Brethren, Conservative Mennonites and Beachy Amish, who have retained traditional religious practices and theology, while allowing for modern conveniences.[7][8]

Emphasizing an adherence to the beliefs of early Christianity, as a whole, Anabaptists are distinguished by their keeping of practices that often include nonconformity to the world, "the love feast with feet washing, laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and the holy kiss, as well as turning the other cheek, no oaths, going the second mile, giving a cup of cold water, reconciliation, repeated forgiveness, humility, non-violence, and sharing possessions."[9][10][11][12]

The name Anabaptist means "one who baptizes again". Their persecutors named them this, referring to the practice of baptizing persons when they converted or declared their faith in Christ even if they had been baptized as infants, and many call themselves "Radical Reformers".[13] Anabaptists require that baptismal candidates be able to make a confession of faith that is freely chosen and so rejected baptism of infants. The New Testament teaches to repent and then be baptized, and infants are not able to repent and turn away from sin to a life of following Jesus. The early members of this movement did not accept the name Anabaptist, claiming that infant baptism was not part of scripture and was therefore null and void. They said that baptizing self-confessed believers was their first true baptism:

I have never taught Anabaptism. …But the right baptism of Christ, which is preceded by teaching and oral confession of faith, I teach, and say that infant baptism is a robbery of the right baptism of Christ.

Hubmaier, Balthasar (1526), Short apology.[14]:204

Anabaptists were heavily persecuted by state churches, both Magisterial Protestants and Roman Catholics, beginning in the 16th century and continuing thereafter, largely because of their interpretation of scripture, which put them at odds with official state church interpretations and local government control. Anabaptism was never established by any state and therefore never enjoyed any associated privileges. Most Anabaptists adhere to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7, which teaches against hate, killing, violence, taking oaths, participating in use of force or any military actions, and against participation in civil government. Anabaptists view themselves as primarily citizens of the kingdom of God, not of earthly governments. As committed followers of Jesus, they seek to pattern their life after his.[15]

Some former groups who practiced rebaptism, now extinct, believed otherwise and complied with these requirements of civil society.[lower-alpha 2] They were thus technically Anabaptists, even though conservative Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and many historians consider them outside true biblical Anabaptism. Conrad Grebel wrote in a letter to Thomas Müntzer in 1524:

True Christian believers are sheep among wolves, sheep for the slaughter… Neither do they use worldly sword or war, since all killing has ceased with them.[16]


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