Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 2
Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision…
[Part 2 of a 12-part series]
Thorwald Lorenzen: Up to the fourth century, the church and Christians were pacifists. In the 4th century, with the victory of Constantine on the Milvian Bridge, just before his military victory, Constantine had a vision of Christ, and in this vision, he was asked to fight the battle under the banner of the cross, and he did this and he won. And this military victory has become a major influence of the Christian church. Under Constantine, the church began to have privileges, the clergy began to have privileges, the church was used to unify the Emperor, and ever since this marriage between church and state has determined the history of the church. In the Reformation, in theory, this history was finished, but it is still living on in the state churches in many countries today.
Gary Bryson: Thorwald Lorenzen. It was a commitment to pacifism that first set the Swiss Anabaptists up against the mainstream Reformation. In Switzerland the Reformers were led by Huldrych Zwingli, one of the major Reformation figures alongside Luther and Calvin. The issue had quickly divided the country, canton against canton. But the Anabaptists resisted Zwingli’s call to arms against the Catholics. John Hirt.
John Hirt: Zwingli as a Protestant reformer in the Canton of Zürich was keen to raise an army to fight against the Catholic Cantons; tragically in the history of Christianity, here’s the church at war, fighting among itself, and it was slaughter and slaughter and slaughter all over the place. Zwingli therefore, wanted to get everybody he could into his army, to fight the Catholic Cantons. He happened to have two best friends, two of his best Biblical scholars, one a Greek scholar, the other a Hebrew scholar, one was Conrad Grebel, and the other guy called Felix Manz. They were both ardent Christians, who like a lot of people at the time said that there’s something more to what Jesus says than us being behoven to the state, or to be given to killing and to that whole process of what the world expects of us. They of course were seen by Zwingli as being betrayers, and when he began to raise an army, these two allies of his, two of his best scholar friends, said to him, ‘We cannot fight because it is not lawful for us to fight. We are followers of Jesus.’ And they chastised Zwingli – he didn’t take that kindly.
Then, to cut to the chase, the argument became about well, who belongs to the state and who doesn’t belong to the state? And at that point, Zwingli said, ‘If you’re baptised as an infant, you belong to the state’, and at that point the Anabaptists started to say, ‘Wait a minute, if that’s what infant baptism is about, me being behoven to the state, that’s a problem.’ And so that’s when the whole discussion really picked up.