Melchior Rinck, 1493 –1545, challenged the Christian authorities at Wartburg,
“the fact that you bring against me and all who are of the same face murder, robbery, prison, fire, water, sword and similar lying arguments, proves by your own work that your baptism is an anti-baptism and that you are indeed the Anti-Christ, of whom all prophets, Christ and the apostles have earlier spoken.”
The charges above have been shown to be factual.. Michael Sattler, who authored the first Anabaptist confession of faith, was not just killed, his tongue was cut off, his body was to torn six times with glowing tongs, after which he was still thrown into the fire so hot that his remains were cremated. It is hard for some in our day and time to think of such terrific persecution, but while the government may have been “Christian”, it was purely totalitarian in most regions, and civil obedience, even to the religion of the realm, was enforced with cruel force. It was in this overbearing political environment that these brave Anabaptist pioneers made their stand for primitive Christianity.
It is crucial to understanding this movement that the original Anabaptists were seeking to not just reform the existing church, but to restore the church to its original state with all that that entails. To the Anabaptists Christ was the true authority, not the government. The connection to Christ was the spirit. The guide was the New Testament. And anyone that opposed that and to the degree that they opposed that focus were Antichrist. It is important to realize then that the Anabaptists’ charge of being Antichrist was not just leveled at the Catholic Church, more often it was leveled at churches of the Reformation because it was in those Reformation controlled geographical areas that the Anabaptists started their mission and were extremely persecuted.
There were some in power who tolerated the Anabaptists. Philip of Hesse was an example of the few tolerant Christian authorities towards Anabaptists. Phillip advocated that the early church itself had tolerated those in opposition instead of persecuting them. He viewed the Anabaptist movement of as a challenge to take the “matter of Christian discipline seriously.” Himself a Landgraf (Holy Roman feudal authority) Hesse led in advising the church to view the Anabaptist mission as a force to further purify the church. This shows that not only did the Anabaptists themselves strive to get closer to primitive Christianity, but they inspired at least some of the church at large to do likewise.
© copyright 2010 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.