Mennonites and the Anabaptist Tradition


Reaction score
Brian suggested I start a thread about Mennonites, and I am glad to do so. I will post something about their history, practice, and beliefs a bit later today when I get more time, but I wanted to get the topic up and running.
Does anyone have any specific questions about Anabaptists? (Mennonites, Amish, Brethren, among others) I am far from an expert, but I do have some things to share and can at least refer folks to resources.
Thanks, Eldanuumea - great idea! :)

This is an area I'm hazy at best with. While the fundies are ignoring this place it would also present a great opportunity for some constructive exchange of ideas.
Thanks Brian.
Just some quickie facts.....
The Anabaptists were a major part of what has been called the "Radical Reformation." Some folks thought the Protestant reformers weren't going far enough to purify the Roman Catholic Church. One of the battle grounds in Zurich during the early 1500's was the concept of infant baptism. A group of folks originally working to abet Zwingli's work decided that it was a mistake to baptize infants, indeed, impossible as they were incapable of voicing their belief in Christ.
They arrived at the idea that only an adult (looslely defined as being of the age of accountability) could accept baptism into Christ's body of believers.
In 1525, a small group met and baptized one another, with much fear and trembling.
They were dubbed "Ana-baptists," literally "re-baptizers." They were immediately in trouble because baptism had a secular function at this time. Baptismal records were important for keeping tabs on who was a citizen and who could therefore be subject to the state's authority.
Fierce, cruel persecution was soon underway. Hundreds, eventually thousands of persons lost their lives, many under hideous torture, because they refused to baptize their infants or accepted adult baptism themselves.

Mennonites get their name from a converted priest named Menno Simons, who was a signififcant early leader and teacher in this movement.
Later on, another splinter group under the leadership of Jakob Amens became known as the Amish.
There are many other groups stemming out of this tradition: Brethren, German Baptists, Church of God in Chrict Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, and the Baptist denominations in general (most Baptists have no idea of their historical link to that group of folks in Zurich).

That is all such a quick peek at a very rich history! But I wanted to get some things down to initially help identify who we are talking about.
It would be impossible to come up with a definitive list of blanket Anabaptist beliefs, but there are some distinctives that I believe are true of all such groups.

1. Jesus Christ is the model for the believer's life. His teachings in the gospels are authoritative and meant to be followed..

2. The believer lives his/her life of discipleship within a community of believers. This faith community reads and lives out scripture together, testing its truth and meaning in the crucible of daily living.

3. The Christian does not "take up the sword" because Christ taught to love one's enemies, to do good to those who hate you. Anabaptists are almost unlaterally pacifists.

4. Simplicility of lifestyle is usually prized if not explicitly mandated.
I hope that helps, for starters!
This sounds interesting. :) I'd actually been wondering recently where the Amish tradition came in - so it's interesting to see is relates to the Anabaptists.

It's also interesting to see a group come out from Switzerland that wasn't rabidly Calvinistic (or how it sounds, anyway). Or maybe you do have TULIP. :)

Especially nice to see emphasis placed on the words of Jesus, rather than focussing on the Pauline writings, which otherwise found the entire theology of Christianity.

What's the general Anabaptist peception of Jesus? Is it Trinitarian? Simply because in your post above you almost sound Arian! (which in itself would be extraordinarily fascinating :) )
"Mainstream" Anabaptist theology - if there can be said to be such a thing - is solidly trinitarian. But it intrigues me that you caught a hint otherwise, because Menno Simons actually was very fuzzy on the nature of Jesus.
Mennonites definitely do place extreme emphasis on the primacy of being a disciple of Jesus and far less on defining who/what/how he was/is........some people say we have a canon-within-the-canon, because of the importance of the Gospels over the rest of Scripture for many Mennonites.

Another thing.....Anabaptists are not generally credal. The various Christian creeds are perceived as manmade and subject to so much interpretation and arguyment that they are counterproductive. Curtrently, the Mennonite Church expresses vital faith distinctives in a Confession of Faith, which was recently developed after years of congregational input and perfecting.

I myself am decidedly trinitarian......I especially like the Celtic way of referring to God as the Three-in-One.
Did you know, BTW, that the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is a wild goose, not a dove?!!

I will be gone all next week, cooking for a church camp, but please leave questions and responses for me.....I'll be checking in once or twice for mail and stuff, and look forward to dialoguing here.

******P.S. Nope, no Tulip, or Petal either! I did at one time espouse a more reformed theology, and I can say with certitude that Mennonites are NOT reformed in their thinking. Assurance of salvation is about as close as some of us get to it, but most adopt a more Armernian belief.
The nature of Jesus is foremost one of philosophy that I am actually still quite uncomfortable with. Still, it is good to see that so much emphasis is place on the manner of Jesus Himself! Sometimes I fear too many become enthralled first by theological arguments first, and focus on Saint Paul first. It is nice to see those carrying the name of Christian actually trying to follow Jesus Christ in spirit.
I am a little curioous by what you mean by reference to assured salvation. Is this for a small select group of is it potentially more universal?
Hi Dave!
For me, the concept of "assurance of salvation" means that once I gave my life over to Christ as my master, model, and savior, my salvation is a done deal, and cannot be takemn from me.
Salvation for Mennonites means much more than a :fire insurance policy." It encompasses shalom, peace....peace with God, peace with others, peace with self. It involves bringing order and justice to all areas of life.
I am not a universalist, but not that far from one, actually. I view Christ's work on earth as essentially revealing to all of humanity the true nature of God and his desire to be in loving relationship with his creation.
My views are probably a bit left of center for the denomination!

C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere that we are like a roomful of statues....and some of the statues realize that one day they are coming to life. I like that image. For me, Christian disciples are those statues who know what will happen.
I like what you say about peace with God. I wonder if you have a more specific use of the word 'Salavation'? Sometimes I fear the word bandied around like a 'get out of jail free card' in Monopoly. It sounds like you have an interesting take on Salvation in the Mennonite tradition.
It's funny, actually - a lot of the NT apocrypha hosted here came from a Wesleyian site. I guess that's got to be a good sign. :)
"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."—Attributed to MARK TWAIN.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis notes that "bad names have played a tremendously powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development. They have ruined reputations, . . . sent [people] to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen."
. Name-calling slaps a negative, easy-to-remember label onto a person, a group, or an idea. The name-caller hopes that the label will stick. If people reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative label instead of weighing the evidence for themselves, the name-caller’s strategy has worked.......................... yes its amazing how name calling can travel all over the world and people get to believing the lie :eek: its good to see from the link about the mennonites that those honest hearted ones were not affected by negative things they were only after the truth of Gods word

Reminds me of a character on Star Trek the original series. Everytime someone quoted some great line, or great discovery in history, Ensign Checkov would pipe up that it had actually come from Russia first...