Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

Reformation Time Line: A Handy Little Pamphlet

For years I have enjoyed occasional online shopping trips to, which has a huge selection of Christian-themed clothing, books, music, gifts, and more, and recently I bought a little fold-out pamphlet called “Reformation Time Line.” It’s glossy, full color, and chock-full of information, so if you think you know *everything* about the Protestant Reformation and its historical tendrils, you might just be challenged by this little pamphlet.

Today I just let it fall open and allowed myself to be led wherever my eyes were meant to go. The paragraph my eyes fell upon said, “The Anabaptist movement, predecessor to Brethren and Mennonite churches, teaches believers’ baptism only, democratic decision making, and separation of church and state.” Oddly enough, the Mennonite leader Menno Simons was the subject of my post yesterday! So, once again, I feel I was led to write this. This little pamphlet got me to wondering about “believers’ baptism” and how other Protestant groups felt about that statement.

Groups such as the Lutherans (which separated from Catholicism but retained many church traditions, at least in some form) and the Calvinists (who absolutely went in the opposite direction of Catholicism and allowed no ornamentation or anything influenced by Rome) were firmly in the corner of baptizing babies soon after birth. A Huguenot confession of 1559 stated in part: “Nevertheless, although it is a sacrament of faith and penitence, yet as God receives little children into the Church with their fathers, we say, upon the authority of Jesus Christ, that the children of believing parents should be baptized.” The Anabaptists, however, taught that babies could not know what their baptism symbolized or what choosing Christ meant, thus they proclaimed that believers’ baptism made more sense and was more doctrinally sound. 

I do know that the Anabaptists were persecuted even by other Protestant groups who could not imagine waiting until childhood or even adulthood to baptize. Of course, this was not the only issue, but it was a large bone of contention. Thinking upon that, I remembered a story I once read. In the 1600s, when Catholicism and Calvinism were up-in-arms in France, news traveled quickly that a baby had been born into a particular family. Often the Catholic priest and the Huguenot minister would dash to the house to see who might christen the infant first; imagine inadvertently making a game out of such a thing! It is possible that the Anabaptists simply shook their heads and rolled their eyes at such a notion . . . and it was probably the subject of many a witty debate around the kitchen table, perhaps in the fashion of Luther’s Table Talk :-)

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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