ridiculed for their views on baptism, this 16th century group of Bible
believers planted a seed that has grown into virtually millions of modern-day
Baptists around the world.
| The name was
originally intended as one of scorn and ridicule. Theose who held
that infant baptism is not Scriptural and that baptism by immersion is
for believers only were called Anabaptists (rebaptizers).
Considered the "radical"
wing of the Reformation, the Anabapists in 16th century Europe were condemned
and persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants.
| Church history tells us that
the very first Baptists were located primarily in Germany, Switzerland,
Morovia, and the Netherlands. The first converts were baptized in
Zurich in 1525. It was there that the Swiss Brethren separated themselves
from the state church that had been established by Ulrich Zwingli.
They became the first to practice the separation of church and state which
is now held to be a Baptist distinctive.
As the fledgling Anabaptist
movement began, they modeled their churches after those from apostolic
times (Acts of the Apostles). The Biblical concept of being free
to practice their faith as individuals while congregating together to emulate
the early first century church became the driving force that fueled this
movement. While refusing to associate themselves with the Protestant
movements of their day, these believers simply desired independency; both
for themselves and their churches. Feeling that the reformers had
only gone half-way in separating themselves from Roman Catholocism, the
Anabaptists determined that they would leave both them and the Protestants
to themsleves while they struck out on their own. Since then, they
have never looked back.
Historically, there have
been three marked groups of Anabaptists...
The contemplative Anabaptists
accepted adult baptism but were not so inclined to fellowship with any
visible body of believers in a church setting. Those like Hans Denck
(1500 to 1527) believed that the inner Word held priority over any gathering
of believers, regardless of the reason for which they congregate.
This early manifestation of what
are now contemporary Baptists can be traced back to these committed Christians
who decided to look to the Bible to determine the framework of their lives
and the church assemblies in which they worshipped. The twenty-first
century Baptists can trace themselves back to this brave band of believers
who risked for the purpose of aligning themselves with the Bible.
| A more radical
and revolutionary group attempted to set up an theocracy in Munster between
1534 and 1535. Their idea was to establish the New Jerusalem of the
Scriptures by force. Of course, they failed.
It was the evangelical Anabaptists
of that same time period who went on to become the sole survivor of the
three groups. They were avowed pacifists, church and state separatists,
and committed to bringing others into the fold. The names of Jacob
Hutter and Menno Simons (Mennonites - portrait to the right) stand out
as their first leaders.
Today's Baptists still do