I’ve got some new friends who had never heard of anabaptism. So I wrote a summary of what I understand Anabaptism to be. Look it over. What would you add or subtract? What would you nuance differently?
And if you aren’t anabaptist, what questions would you have?
The Anabaptist tradition
In 1525 the reformation of the church in the West was just beginning. There was a lot of excitement about Luther’s reforms, not least of all in Zurich, Switzerland. Zwingli was leading the city leaders into a reform there based on Scripture alone, but many of the reformation’s supporters there didn’t think that Zwingli was going far enough. They noticed that when he spoke about certain issues, that he was more interested in his theological point, rather than actually brining the church back into obedience to Jesus. So they baptized themselves in the name of Jesus, making each other citizens of Jesus’ kingdom instead of any kingdom on earth. This movement grew, and they were called ana-baptists by their enemies, because it was claimed that they would re-baptize their members. But in reality, the Anabaptists affirmed that they were spreading the one true baptism–an entrance into God’s kingdom through true understanding and not just assent to the society of the church. This movement has continued to this day.
What Anabaptists Believe:
1. Jesus only
“No one knows the Father except the Son”
Anabaptists hold to no theology except that stated by Jesus himself. Even as Jesus supersedes the Old Testament law, Jesus also rules over all theology that the church itself created, whether that by Paul or by Calvin or by N.T. Wright. And the focus of our belief is not a Jesus we create–such as a glorified, theological Jesus or a model of a historical Jesus or a cultural Jesus–but the Jesus of the gospels. Thus, the four gospels lead us to interpret all things through the words and life of Jesus.
Since Anabaptists affirm the superiority of Jesus, we also recognize the weakness of all things human to achieve truth or justice. Thus, any particular denomination or creed is only in a process of getting closer to or further from Jesus, but no church could ever be complete in and of itself. Various governments may attempt to achieve justice, but they all fail. Schools attempt to teach truth, but no matter how precise they are, they fail to achieve the full truth that Jesus gives us.
“Have salt in yourselves and be at peace.”
Anabaptists are a peaceful people. We wish to make changes in the world, but not through violence or hate speech. Rather, we believe that we need to display the actions we want in others. If we want peace in the world, we cannot create peace through violence. Yes, dramatic change must happen for the world to have peace, but God can create the dramatic change–it is our responsibility to be the ideal community the world must become.
“Love one another”
Following Jesus cannot be done separated from others. Jesus, again and again, commands us to “love” and love cannot be done in isolation. We must support each other in communities and our communities must reach out to others outside of our community to display our love. We must also support and provide hospitality so that no one within our community has need.
4. Believer’s Baptism
“Those who believe and are baptized are saved.”
Today, it may not seem as important as an issue, but the Anabaptist communities originally began as groups who baptized only those who could understand and be faithful to Jesus. Thus, Anabaptists don’t baptize infants or assume that everyone within a particular social group is a follower of Jesus. That is a personal commitment that each person must determine individually, and lives out in their own lives.
5. Love of Enemies
“Do good to those who despitefully use you.”
Because we will not cause others to be afraid of us, that makes us vulnerable to others. Jesus showed us that even if people do disrespectful, hateful or even violent acts, that does not mean that we should return such acts in kind. Rather, we are to display God’s love even–nay, especially–to those who do terrible things to us. In order to have security, we do not depend on our strength, but on God’s.
6. Communion with the outcast
“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
Anabaptists know what it means to be outcast, because they have been rejected. But we are also to reach out to those who have been rejected by society. Rather than create another outcast group, the Anabaptists connect with those who are hated, and welcome them as Jesus would.
7. Assistance to the poor
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
Jesus helped the poor with what resources he had, so also do Anabaptists. We see the needs of the poor, and rather than simply ignoring their basic needs, we meet them with love in relationship. We understand that it isn’t enough just to give to the poor, but to connect with them as well, because without relationship we cannot love.
What is the difference between Anabaptist and Mennonite?
Both Anabaptists and Mennonites have the same historical foundation, and much of their understanding of Jesus and life is similar. Historically, the Mennonites have a more complex life than Anabaptists, relating to particular ethnic groups, particular nationalities, forming denominations and mission groups and going through serious cultural changes over the last fifty years. Mennonites have often tried to follow Anabaptist ideals, but as a conglomerate of human institutions, they have often gotten caught up in the concerns of the cultures around them.
Anabaptists, however, are found not just in certain denominations or ethnic groups, nor are they limited to a certain historic line. Anabaptists are people who choose Jesus over any human institution, and choose to follow Jesus’ ethical pattern as a personal choice. They may gather in any denomination or create their own, separate communities. They aren’t bound to a particular theology or ideology, but are separate from them all. There are many Anabaptists within Mennonite groups, but they usually are a minority of them. There are also many Anabaptists outside of Mennonite groups, but count all people who follow Jesus, no matter what group they are a part of, as a part of their global family.
If you want to know more about Anabaptism, then please check out the following blogs or podcasts that give different perspectives on what it means to be Anabaptist:
Anabaptist Distinctives by Steve Kimes
Across The Pond by Tony Campolo
Woodland Hills Podcast by Greg Boyd
Blog on Christarchy! By Mark Van Steenwyk
Featured Photo by Tim Nafziger of ceramic pieces by Dennis Maust. See full size on Flickr
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Hey steve, Looks pretty good. I would have a couple suggestions on a number of paragraphs. I’ll give you the full on explanation of my thoughts and then you can figure out how to re-word it for entry level conversation. For the record, I’m a Mennonite Pastor who’s grown up in the Mennonite world of Central Kansas, so if there are certain biases that comeout, that’s why. I also don’t see myself as the ultimate authority on this, it’s just my perspective. Hopefully some new Anabaptists chime in too.
By the way, here’s my attempt at doing a similar thing. Hope it helps
Overall it’s pretty good. In the intro, my personal bias is that it’s worth noting that 16th ce. Anabaptism arose naturally on it’s own all over europe. Menno Simons himself was dutch, don’ forget that influence. H.S. Bender is the historian who argued that all Anabaptists came from the Swiss in Zurich. Since then, C.A. Snyder has quite successfully shown that the movement had a wide variety of originating points that emerged equally. I’m not sure how important that really is for what you’re doing, but it’s one of my pet peeves.
On Point 1 – Anabaptists are not “Jesus only”, we’re Jesus centered. We read everything else in the Bible through the lens of Jesus. There are some groups who want to do away with the whole OT and Paul, we’re not them. That’s worth being clear on. I think you get to that point later in your description, but it doesn’t appear to start out that way.
Point 6 and 7 might be representative of current Anabaptists, but it probably wouldn’t be very accurate to describe the 16th Ce. Anabaptists. Yes the were radical for proposing that they take care of everyone in the church, but many were still pretty self protectionist and didn’t really reach out to a lot of people outside their own group. It does help that they would have been among the poor and outcast, but they would have also been very much against Jews and other outcast groups as well. Also, along with all of the other things you’ve mentioned, early Anabaptists would have had a strong focus on the active movement of the spirit and the real presence of God in the gathered body of believers. I’ve even heard them described as the Pentecostals of the 1500’s. Modern Anbapatists are more concerned with things like discipleship than they were.
In your last paragraph – Perhaps you’re using Anabaptist to describe something different that what I might be talking about. Your categorizing Mennonites compared to Anabaptists seems a bit off to me. From a historical perspective, the category Anabaptist means two things. First it is used to describe the groups of people who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is also currently used to describe the descendants of those groups along with others who have joined since then. Mennonites are one branch on the tree of Anabaptism, if you will. the Church of the Brethren is another branch that started in the early 1700’s, but would still be well within the larger category of Anabaptism. Currently, places like England have seen a spontaneous resurgence of Anabaptism by people who have stumbled upon that time in history and who have sought to begin again in the current day.
My biggest issue is when you say that “There are many Anabaptists within Mennonite groups, but they usually are a minority of them” I’m assuming you mean that there are a minority of “Anabaptists in within Mennonite groups”. While I might have my theological questions about specific people, The Mennonite church, and other Anabaptist denominations, are a key part of the stream of Anabaptism and to dismiss them so easily is not legitimate. To be fair, I may not understand what you’re trying to say clearly enough. Perhaps I don’t fully understand what you mean by “Anabaptist”. The way it’s stated now is problematic though.
Overall, I really want to encourage you in this endeavor. While I do believe that life and faith are more complicated than a bumper sticker, I also find myself struggling to concisely respond when someone asks, “so what is a Mennonite?” And I’m a pastor, it seems like I should know how to do this kind of thing. Anyways, keep up the good work, it’s desperately needed.
Allan and Steve, thanks for writing this post and critique of it. I’ve learned a lot. I’m currently doing genealogy and have found many of my ancestors were Anabaptists, Mennonite and Amish. So I tried to read about what the Anabaptists believe since I have never heard of them before. Everything, and I do mean everything, I read is so horribly dull I can’t make sense of any of it.
I just stumbled onto this post and now I finally have a small understanding of what my ancestors believed. So thank you for that.
Allen, I’m curious that you mentioned 16th ce. Anabaptists would’ve been against Jews; I have been under the impression that Mennonite Simons was a Jewish man. Have I been mislead in that?
Alan– I really appreciate your critique. I think you made some good points there. As far as the historical point, you are correct, of course, and I’ve read Snyder’s work and think it’s an excellent history. I just wanted to start somewhere, so I began there. It could be just as accurate to say that our current form of Anabaptism began with a reaction to Munster as well as Zurich. Also, you are correct about the first point. I was aiming for Jesus-centric and wanted to make the point strongly because most Christians consider themselves Jesus-centric. I’ll reconsider my wording there.
As far as the rest,you are correct, I am not talking about historic Anabaptism as a continuing stream, but current Anabaptism as it exists now, as a cross-denominational movement. Although I would argue that early Anabaptists were concerned about mutual aid and the persecution of the true church, which reflects my last two points. I understand that I might offend some Mennonites with my final paragraph, but the fact is that most Mennonites do not hold strictly to a peace stance or are really concerned about mutual aid or community. Mennonite PASTORS are, for the most part, concerned about such things, but the majority of congregants are not.
My main point is that we do not want to lock anabaptism into a denomination, but rather see it as something that exists in many places, at many times. And, I believe, that anabaptists are almost always a minority amidst the Christian streams, even though they can focus on the biblical Jesus more than other groups.
I think that you’ve right that you shouldn’t lock Anabaptists into any one denomination. Mennos err of thinking we’re the only Anabaptists around. I have a wife who grew up in the Church of the Brethren who often reminds me of that fact (usually when she’s upset with me….but that’s a different story) Keep broadening the definition brother.
On the commitment to peacemaking and justice I would still challenge you on that. As a Pastor, like yourself, it often FEELS like there’s a small percentage of my church members who actually care about this stuff. The numbers seem to tell a different story though. The way Conrad Kanagy, in Road Signs for the Journey, puts is is this:
Other statistics in that chapter also bear out that the majority of Mennonites in MCUSA still hold up peace as a high priority, maybe not as high as I would like but still way higher than other denominations. Also, don’t underestimate that our entire denominational orientation is one toward active nonviolence, peace, justice, anti-racism and a whole host of other things that are the definition of what it means to be Anabaptist, in the past and currently.
I don’t know what Mennonites you’ve been hanging around with, and I am truly sorry for the distorted impression they’ve given you, but before you dismiss the entire Mennonite church as being un-anabaptist, you might want to start hanging out with some better Mennonites first.
Maybe the difference comes in how you and I value the impact of the organized church. It sounds like you see the organized denomination, as a concept, as a liability to the understanding and perpetuation of Anabaptism. I see it as an asset. Yes there are issues, but there isn’t a group of believers in the world who doesn’t have issues. It’s organizations like denominations who do things like create seminaries and colleges where Anabaptism can be passed on and continue to grow in the next generation. As big and slow and sometimes off target they can be, they have played a vital role throughout history.
The other trend that Anabaptists have always had is that when two groups of people can’t agree on a particular issue, they will split into two groups rather than work through it and figure out how to live together. As you seek to get back to a better and lager definition of what it means to be Anabaptist, make sure you include people who you don’t agree with and who you might even think aren’t “real” Anabaptists. They have something valuable too.
Again, I’m not trying to attack you. I really do think you’ve got something here and I still want to encourage this work. Keep it up. And, hey, someone else chime in here. I always hold out the possibility that I could be full of it, even when I say something as though I actually know it’s true. Hopefully ours won’t be the only two voices in this.
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I would add one more thing that Anabaptists believe, or should believe.
Peace was half of a duology in the Mennonite Church in which I was raised. We were to be committed to peace and /justice./ Love of enemies, commitment to community and the poor, and communion with the outcast are all part of living a just life… but living a just life is not all there is to justice. One must also advocate for justice in the world outside the community and come to see all of society as one’s community in the same way that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that everyone is our neighbor.
The Good Samaritan was not merely helping the poor, but assisting a victim of a great injustice and helping to right that justice in a peaceful and personal manner.
In my personal life, I have taken this to mean social justice and have drifted into a more Unitarian strain of Anabaptism which puts peace and justice first and proselytization a distant third or fourth. So while I identify as a Mennonite in the same way a friend of mine in Israel identifies as a ‘Jew’ despite very different religious thoughts than orthodox Judaism, I do not know if it is entirely honest to call myself a Mennonite.
At the same time, my entire view of the world has been so heavily colored by Mennonite beliefs that it is difficult to call myself anything else. I’ve called myself a ‘Christian Deist’, ‘a Unitarian Christian’, and a ‘secular Mennonite’ and none of them fully capture what my spirituality means to me.
Yet I don’t think I’ll ever stop seeing myself as an Anabaptist, because of that commitment to peace and justice instilled in me in the Mennonite Church and my belief that the ceremony of baptism itself is a rite that reflects a change already accepted in the heart rather than a literal act of change/
Can someone please explain what the difference is between anabaptists and Baptists?
When explaining Anabaptist to people who don’t understand the word. I always start with comparing it to Protestant. It is simply an umbrella that encompasses many denominations. I would be hesitant to declare someone un-Anabaptist. This seems like a subtle way of being judgmental.
I am a former military member who left as a Contentious Objector, so it rubs me the wrong way when I hear of Anabaptists who part from the teaching on non-resistance. Even so, I would be wrong to declare them not Anabaptist.
I would lean toward the view that all Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, Brethren, etc are Anabaptist. It is just a title that helps define a belief structure. Hopefully our focus is more on following Christ than assigning titles.
Anabaptists and Baptists stem from different movements within Christianity. Most Anabaptists would be considered Armenian (ability to lose ones salvation) vs Baptists who would primarily be considered Calvanists (eternal security). There seems to be a misconception among many that the Baptists were an evolution of Anabaptism, but I have yet to seem historical evidence for this.
There are probably others on here that can do a much better job of explaining the differences.
Skip the historical reference what is the biblical scripture teaching on which Anabaptist stand on to practice this belief? I just see doctrine no scripture to confirm biblical teaching. Curious ~ thank you! Be blessed
Adopted April 21, 1632, by a Dutch Mennonite Conference held at Dordrecht, Holland.
I. Of God and the Creation of all Things
Since we find it testified that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that he that would come to God must believe that there is a God, and that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him; therefore, we confess with the mouth, and believe with the heart, with all the pious, according to the holy Scriptures, in one eternal, almighty, and incomprehensible God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and in none more, nor in any other; before whom no God was made or existed, nor shall there be any after Him: for of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things; to Him be praise and honor forever and ever, Amen. Hebrews 11:6; Deuteronomy 6:4; Genesis 17:1; Isaiah 46:8; 1 John 5:7; Romans 11:36.
Of this same one God, who worketh all in all, we believe and confess that He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible; that He, in six days, created, made, and prepared, heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; and that He still governs and upholds the same and all His works through His wisdom, might, and the word of His power. 1 Corinthians 12:6; Genesis 1; Acts 14:15.
And when He had finished His works, and had ordained and prepared them, each in its nature and properties, good and upright, according to His pleasure, He created the first man, the father of us all, Adam; whom He formed of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living soul, created by God in His own image and likeness, in righteousness and holiness, unto eternal life. He regarded him above all other creatures, endowed him with many high and glorious gifts, placed him in the pleasure garden or Paradise, and gave him a command and prohibition; afterwards He took a rib from Adam, made a woman therefrom, and brought her to him, joining and giving her to him for a helpmate, companion, and wife; and in consequence of this He also caused, that from this one man Adam, all men that dwell upon the whole earth have descended. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:7, 17, 18, 22.
II. Of the Fall of Man
We believe and confess, according to the holy Scriptures, that these our first parents, Adam and Eve, did not continue long in this glorious state in which they were created, but that they, seduced by the subtlety and deceit of the serpent, and the envy of the devil, transgressed the high commandment of God and became disobedient to their Creator; through which disobedience sin has come into the world, and death by sin, which has thus passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, and, hence, brought upon themselves the wrath of God, and condemnation; for which reason they were of God driven out of Paradise, or the pleasure garden, to till the earth, in sorrow to eat of it, and to eat their bread in the sweat of their face, till they should return to the earth, from which they were taken; and that they, therefore, through this one sin, became so ruined, separated, and estranged from God, that they, neither through themselves, nor through any of their descendants, nor through angels, nor men, nor any other creature in heaven or on earth, could be raised up, redeemed, or reconciled to God, but would have had to be eternally lost, had not God, in compassion for His creatures, made provision for it, and interposed with His love and mercy. Genesis 3:6; 4 Esdras 3:7; Romans 5:12, 18; Genesis 3:23; Psalms 49:8; Revelation 5:9; John 3:16.
III. Of the Restoration of Man Through the Promise of the Coming Christ
Concerning the restoration of the first man and his posterity we confess and believe, that God, notwithstanding their fall, transgression, and sin, and their utter inability, was nevertheless not willing to cast them off entirely, or to let them be forever lost; but that He called them again to Him, comforted them, and showed them that with Him there was yet a means for their reconciliation, namely, the immaculate Lamb, the Son of God, who had been foreordained thereto before the foundation of the world, and was promised them while they were yet in Paradise, for consolation, redemption, and salvation, for themselves as well as for their posterity; yea, who through faith, had, from that time on, been given them as their own; for whom all the pious patriarchs, unto whom this promise was frequently renewed, longed and inquired, and to whom, through faith, they looked forward from afar, waiting for the fulfillment, that He by His coming, would redeem, liberate, and raise the fallen race of man from their sin, guilt; and unrighteousness. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19; Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8; 2:1; Hebrews 11:13, 39; Galatians 4:4.
IV. The Advent of Christ into This World, and the Reason of His Coming
We believe and confess further, that when the time of the promise, for which all the pious forefathers had so much longed and waited, had come and was fulfilled, this previously promised Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior, proceeded from God, was sent, and, according to the prediction of the prophets, and the testimony of the evangelists, came into the world, yea, into the flesh, was made manifest, and the Word, Himself became flesh and man; that He was conceived in the virgin Mary, who was espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and that she brought Him forth as her first-born son, at Bethlehem, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. John 4:25; 16:28; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 1:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:7.
We confess and believe also, that this is the same whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, without beginning of days, or end of life; of whom it is testified that He Himself is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last; that He is the same, and no other, who was foreordained, promised, sent, and came into the world; who is God’s only, first and own Son; who was before John the Baptist, before Abraham, before the world; yea, who was David’s Lord, and the God of the whole world, the first-born of every creature; who was brought into the world, and for whom a body was prepared, which He yielded up as a sacrifice and offering, for a sweet savor unto God, yea, for the consolation, redemption, and salvation of all mankind. John 3:16; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 8:32; John 1:30; Matthew 22:43; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 10:5.
But as to how and in what manner this precious body was prepared, and how the Word became flesh, and He Himself man, in regard to this we content ourselves with the statement pertaining to this matter which the worthy evangelists have left us in their accounts, according to which we confess with all the saints, that He is the Son of the living God, in whom alone consist all our hope, consolation, redemption, and salvation, which we neither may nor must seek in any other. Luke 1:31, 32; John 20:31; Matthew 16:16.
We furthermore believe and confess with the Scriptures, that, when He had finished His course, and accomplished the work for which He was sent and came into the world, He was, according to the providence of God, delivered into the hands of the unrighteous; suffered under the judge, Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, was buried, and on the third day, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high, whence He will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Luke 22:53; Luke 23:1; Luke 24:6, 7, 51.
And that thus the Son of God died, and tasted death and shed His precious blood for all men; and that He thereby bruised the serpent’s head, destroyed the works of the devil, annulled the handwriting and obtained forgiveness of sins for all mankind; thus becoming the cause of eternal salvation for all those who, from Adam unto the end of the world, each in his time, believe in, and obey Him. Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:14; Romans 5:18.
V. The Law of Christ, i.e., the Holy Gospel or the New Testament
We also believe and confess that before His ascension He instituted His New Testament, and, since it was to be and remain an eternal Testament, that He confirmed and sealed the same with His precious blood, and gave and left it to His disciples, yea, charged them so highly with it, that neither angel nor man may alter it, nor add to it nor take away from it; and that He caused the same, as containing the whole counsel and will of His heavenly Father, as far as is necessary for salvation to be proclaimed in His name by His beloved apostles, messengers, and ministers — whom He called, chose, and sent into all the world for that purpose — among all peoples, nations, and tongues; and repentance and remission of sins to be preached and testified of; and that He accordingly has therein declared all men without distinction, who through faith, as obedient children, heed, follow, and practice what the same contains, to be His children and lawful heirs; thus excluding no one from the precious inheritance of eternal salvation, except the unbelieving and disobedient, the stiff-necked and obdurate, who despise it, and incur this through their own sins, thus making themselves unworthy of eternal life. Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 9:15-17; Matthew 26:28; Galatians 1:8; 1 Timothy 6:3; John 15:15; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Romans 8:17; Acts 13:46.
VI. Of Repentance and Reformation of Life
We believe and confess, that, since the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and, therefore, prone to all unrighteousness, sin, and wickedness, the first lesson of the precious New Testament of the Son of God is repentance and reformation of life, and that, therefore, those who have ears to hear, and hearts to understand, must bring forth genuine fruits of repentance, reform their lives, believe the Gospel, eschew evil and do good, desist from unrighteousness, forsake sin, put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness: for, neither baptism, supper, church, nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, change or renewing of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation; but we must go to God with an upright heart, and in perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ, as the Scripture says, and testifies of Him; through which faith we obtain forgiveness of sins, are sanctified, justified, and made children of God, yea, partake of His mind, nature, and image, as being born again of God from above, through incorruptible seed. Genesis 8:21; Mark 1:15; Ezekiel 12:2; Colossians 3:9, 10; Ephesians 4:22, 24; Hebrews 10:22, 23; John 7:38.
VII. OF Holy Baptism
Concerning baptism we confess that all penitent believers, who, through faith, regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, are made one with God, and are written in heaven, must, upon such Scriptural confession of faith, and renewing of life, be baptized with water, in the most worthy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to the command of Christ, and the teaching, example, and practice of the apostles, to the burying of their sins, and thus be incorporated into the communion of the saints; henceforth to learn to observe all things which the Son of God has taught, left, and commanded His disciples. Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:19, 20; Romans 6:4; Mark 16:16; Matthew 3:15; Acts 8:16; Acts 9:18; Acts 10:47; Acts 16:33; Colossians 2:11, 12.
VIII. Of the Church of Christ
We believe in, and confess a visible church of God, namely, those who, as has been said before, truly repent and believe, and are rightly baptized; who are one with God in heaven, and rightly incorporated into the communion of the saints here on earth. These we confess to be the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, who are declared to be the bride and wife of Christ, yea, children and heirs of everlasting life, a tent, tabernacle, and habitation of God in the Spirit, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ Himself is declared to be the cornerstone (upon which His church is built). This church of the living God, which He has acquired, purchased, and redeemed with His own precious blood; with which, according to His promise, He will be and remain always, even unto the end of the world, for consolation and protection, yea, will dwell and walk among them, and preserve them, so that no floods or tempests, nay, not even the gates of hell, shall move or prevail against them-this church, we say, may be known by their Scriptural faith, doctrine, love, and godly conversation, as, also, by the fruitful observance, practice, and maintenance of the true ordinances of Christ, which He so highly enjoined upon His disciples. 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 2:9; John 3:29; Revelation 19:7; Titus 3:6, 7; Ephesians 2:19-21; Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 1:18, 19; Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Matthew 7:25.
IX. Of the Election, and Offices of Teachers, Deacons, and Deaconesses, in the Church
Concerning the offices and elections in the church, we believe and confess, that, since without offices and ordinances the church cannot subsist in her growth, nor continue in building, therefore the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as a husbandman in His house, has instituted, ordained, enjoined, and commanded His offices and ordinances, how everyone is to walk therein, and give heed to and perform His work and calling, as is meet, even as He Himself, as the faithful, great, chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, was sent, and came into the world, not to bruise, break, or destroy the souls of men, but to heal and restore them, to seek the lost, to break down the middle wall of partition, to make of twain one, and thus to gather of Jews, Gentiles, and all nations, one flock, for a church in His name, for which — that no one should err or be lost-He Himself laid down His life, thus ministering to their salvation, and liberating and redeeming them, (mark) wherein no one else could help or assist them. Ephesians 4:10-12; 1 Peter 2:25; Matthew 12:19; Matthew 18:11; Ephesians 2:14; Galatians 3:28; John 10:9, 11, 15; Psalms 49:8.
And that He, moreover, before His departure, left His church supplied with faithful ministers, apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, whom He before, through the Holy Ghost, had chosen with prayer and supplication; that they might govern the church, feed His flock, and watch over, protect, and provide for it, yea, do in all things, as He had done before them, had taught, by example shown, and charged them, to teach to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. Luke 10:1; Luke 6:12, 13; John 2:15.
That the apostles, likewise, as faithful followers of Christ, and leaders of the church, were diligent in this respect, with prayer and supplication to God, through the election of brethren, to provide every city, place, or church, with bishops, pastors, and leaders, and to ordain such persons thereto, who would take heed unto themselves, and unto the doctrine and flock, who were sound in faith, pious in life and conversation, and of good report without as well as in the church; that they might be an example, light, and pattern in all godliness and good works, worthily administering the Lord’s ordinances — baptism and supper — and that they might everywhere (where such could be found) appoint faithful men who would be able to teach others also, as elders, ordaining them by the laying on of hands in the name of the Lord, and provide for all the wants of the church according to their ability; so that, as faithful servants, they might husband well their Lord’s talent, get gain with it, and, consequently, save themselves and those who hear them. 1 Timothy 3:1; Acts 23:24; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1, 2; 1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:2; Luke 19:13.
That they should also see diligently to it, particularly each among his own over whom he has the oversight, that all places be well provided with deacons (to look after and care for the poor), who may receive the contributions and alms, in order to dispense them faithfully and with all propriety to the poor and needy saints. Acts 6:3-6.
And that also honorable aged widows should be chosen and ordained deaconesses, that they with the deacons may visit, comfort, and care for, the poor, feeble, sick, sorrowing and needy, as also the widows and orphans, and assist in attending to other wants and necessities of the church to the best of their ability. 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 16:1; James 1:27.
Furthermore, concerning deacons, that they, especially when they are fit, and chosen and ordained thereto by the church, for the assistance and relief of the elders, may exhort the church (since they, as has been said, are chosen thereto), and labor also in the Word and in teaching; that each may minister unto the other with the gift he has received of the Lord, so that through mutual service and the assistance of every member, each in his measure, the body of Christ may be improved, and the vine and church of the Lord continue to grow, increase, and be built up, according as it is proper.
X. Of the Holy Supper
We also confess and observe the breaking of bread, or Supper, as the Lord Christ Jesus before His suffering instituted it with bread and wine, and observed and ate with His apostles, commanding them to observe it in remembrance of Him; which they accordingly taught and practiced in the church, and commanded that it should be kept in remembrance of the suffering and death of the Lord; and that His precious body was broken, and His blood shed, for us and all mankind, as also the fruits hereof, namely, redemption and eternal salvation, which He purchased thereby, showing such great love toward us sinful men; whereby we are admonished to the utmost, to love and forgive one another and our neighbor, as He has done unto us, and to be mindful to maintain and live up to the unity and fellowship which we have with God and one another, which is signified to us by this breaking of bread. Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23.
XI. Of the Washing of the Saints’ Feet
We also confess a washing of the saints’ feet, as the Lord Christ not only instituted, enjoined and commanded it, but Himself, although He was their Lord and Master, washed His apostles’ feet, thereby giving an example that they should likewise wash one another’s feet, and do as He had done unto them; which they accordingly, from this time on, taught believers to observe, as a sign of true humility, and, especially, to remember by this feet washing, the true washing, whereby we are washed through His precious blood, and made pure after the soul. John 13:4-17; 1 Timothy 5:10.
XII. Of the State of Matrimony
We confess that there is in the church of God an honorable state of matrimony, of two free, believing persons, in accordance with the manner after which God originally ordained the same in Paradise, and instituted it Himself with Adam and Eve, and that the Lord Christ did away and set aside all the abuses of marriage which had meanwhile crept in, and referred all to the original order, and thus left it. Genesis 1:27; Mark 10:4.
In this manner the Apostle Paul also taught and permitted matrimony in the church, and left it free for every one to be married, according to the original order, in the Lord, to whomsoever one may get to consent. By these words, in the Lord, there is to be understood, we think, that even as the patriarchs had to marry among their kindred or generation, so the believers of the New Testament have likewise no other liberty than to marry among the chosen generation and spiritual kindred of Christ, namely, such, and no others, who have previously become united with the church as one heart and soul, have received one baptism, and stand in one communion, faith, doctrine and practice, before they may unite with one another by marriage. Such are then joined by God in His church according to the original order; and this is called, marrying in the Lord. 2 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Genesis 24:4; Genesis 28:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39.
XIII. Of the Office of the Secular Authority
We believe and confess that God has ordained power and authority, and set them to punish the evil, and protect the good, to govern the world, and maintain countries and cities, with their subjects, in good order and regulation; and that we, therefore, may not despise, revile, or resist the same, but must acknowledge and honor them as the ministers of God, and be subject and obedient unto them, yea, ready for all good works, especially in that which is not contrary to the law, will, and commandment of God; also faithfully pay custom, tribute, and taxes, and to render unto them their dues, even also as the Son of God taught and practiced, and commanded His disciples to do; that we, moreover, must constantly and earnestly pray to the Lord for them and their welfare, and for the prosperity of the country, that we may dwell under its protection, earn our livelihood, and lead a quiet, peaceable life, with all godliness and honesty; and, furthermore, that the Lord would recompense unto them, here, and afterwards in eternity, all benefits, liberty, and favor which we enjoy here under their praiseworthy administration. Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:17; Matthew 22:21; Matthew 17:27; 1 Timothy 2:1.
XIV. Of Revenge
As regards revenge, that is, to oppose an enemy with the sword, we believe and confess that the Lord Christ has forbidden and set aside to His disciples and followers all revenge and retaliation, and commanded them to render to no one evil for evil, or cursing for cursing, but to put the sword into the sheath, or, as the prophets have predicted, to beat the swords into ploughshares. Matthew 5:39, 44; Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3; Zechariah 9:8, 9.
From this we understand that therefore, and according to His example, we must not inflict pain, harm, or sorrow upon any one, but seek the highest welfare and salvation of all men, and even, if necessity require it, flee for the Lord’s sake from one city or country into another, and suffer the spoiling of our goods; that we must not harm any one, and, when we are smitten, rather turn the other cheek also, than take revenge or retaliate. Matthew 5:39.
And, moreover, that we must pray for our enemies, feed and refresh them whenever they are hungry or thirsty, and thus convince them by well-doing, and overcome all ignorance. Romans 12:19, 20.
Finally, that we must do good and commend ourselves to every man’s conscience; and, according to the law of Christ, do unto no one that which we would not have done to us. 2 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 7:12.
XV. Of the Swearing of Oaths
Concerning the swearing of oaths we believe and confess that the Lord Christ has set aside and forbidden the same to His disciples, that they should not swear at all, but that yea should be yea, and nay, nay; from which we understand that all oaths, high and low, are forbidden, and that instead of them we are to confirm all our promises and obligations, yea, all our declarations and testimonies of any matter, only with our word yea, in that which is yea, and with nay, in that which is nay; yet, that we must always, in all matters, and with everyone, adhere to, keep, follow, and fulfill the same, as though we had confirmed it with a solemn oath. And if we do this, we trust that no one, not even the Magistracy itself, will have just reason to lay a greater burden on our mind and conscience. Matthew 5:34, 35; James 5:12; 2 Corinthians 1:17.
XVI. Of the Ecclesiastical Ban, or Separation from the Church
We also believe in, and confess, a ban, Separation, and Christian correction in the church, for amendment, and not for destruction, in order to distinguish that which is pure from the impure: namely, when any one, after he is enlightened, has accepted the knowledge of the truth, and been incorporated into the communion of the saints, sins again unto death, either through willfulness, or through presumption against God, or through some other cause, and falls into the unfruitful works of darkness, thereby becoming separated from God, and forfeiting the kingdom of God, that such a one, after the deed is manifest and sufficiently known to the church, may not remain in the congregation of the righteous, but, as an offensive member and open sinner, shall and must be separated, put away, reproved before all, and purged out as leaven; and this for his amendment, as an example, that others may fear, and to keep the church pure, by cleansing her from such spots, lest, in default of this, the name of the Lord be blasphemed, the church dishonored, and offense given to them that are without; and finally, that the sinner may not be condemned with the world, but become convinced in his mind, and be moved to sorrow, repentance, and reformation. Jeremiah 59:2; 1 Corinthians 5:5, 13; 1 Timothy 5:20; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 13:10.
Further, concerning brotherly reproof or admonition, as also the instruction of the erring it is necessary to exercise all diligence and care, to watch over them and to admonish them with all meekness, that they may be bettered, and to reprove, according as is proper, the stubborn who remain obdurate; in short, the church must put away from her the wicked (either in doctrine or life), and no other. James 5:19; Titus 3:10; 1 Corinthians 5:13.
XVII. Of Shunning the Separated
Concerning the withdrawing from, or shunning the separated, we believe and confess, that if any one, either through his wicked life or perverted doctrine, has so far fallen that he is separated from God, and, consequently, also separated and punished by the church, the same must, according to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, be shunned, without distinction, by all the fellow members of the church, especially those to whom it is known, in eating, drinking, and other similar intercourse, and no company be had with him that they may not become contaminated by intercourse with him, nor made partakers of his sins; but that the sinner may be made ashamed, pricked in his heart, and convicted in his conscience, unto his reformation. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14.
Yet, in shunning as well as in reproving, such moderation and Christian discretion must be used, that it may conduce, not to the destruction, but to the reformation of the sinner. For, if he is needy, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in any other distress, we are in duty bound, necessity requiring it, according to love and the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, to render him aid and assistance; otherwise, shunning would in this case tend more to destruction than to reformation.
Therefore, we must not count them as enemies, but admonish them as brethren, that thereby they may be brought to a knowledge of and to repentance and sorrow for their sins, so that they may become reconciled to God, and consequently be received again into the church, and that love may continue with them, according as is proper. 2 Thessalonians 3:15.
XVIII. Of the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment
Finally, concerning the resurrection of the dead, we confess with the mouth, and believe with the heart, according to Scripture, that in the last day all men who shall have died, and fallen asleep, shall be awaked and quickened, and shall rise again, through the incomprehensible power of God; and that they, together with those who then will still be alive, and who shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trump, shall be placed before the judgment seat of Christ, and the good be separated from the wicked; that then everyone shall receive in his own body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or evil; and that the good or pious, as the blessed, shall be taken up with Christ, and shall enter into life eternal, and obtain that joy, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, to reign and triumph with Christ forever and ever. Matthew 22:30, 31; Daniel 12:12; Job 19:26, 27; Matthew 25:31; John 5:28; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 15; Revelation 20:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 2:9.
And that, on the other hand, the wicked or impious, as accursed, shall be cast into outer darkness, yea, into the everlasting pains of hell, where their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched, and where they, according to holy Scripture, can nevermore expect any hope, comfort, or redemption. Mark 9:44; Revelation 14:11.
May the Lord, through His grace, make us all worthy and meet, that this may befall none of us; but that we may thus take heed unto ourselves, and use all diligence, that on that day we may be found before Him unspotted and blameless in peace. Amen.
These, then, as has been briefly stated before, are the principal articles of our general Christian faith, as we teach and practice the same throughout in our churches and among our people; which, in our judgment, is the only true Christian faith, which the apostles in their time believed and taught, yea, testified with their life, confirmed with their death, and, some of them, also sealed with their blood; wherein we in our weakness with them and all the pious, would fain abide, live, and die, that we may afterwards obtain salvation with them through the grace of the Lord.
Thus done and finished in our united churches, in the city of Dordrecht, the 21st of April, 1632, new style.
And was signed by the mutually united:
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