The Anabaptists and their Stepchildren - by F.N. Lee
The Anabaptists were various sixteenth-century sects. They all repudiated infant baptism. They baptized -- and often rebaptized -- adults alone. Such Anabaptists as were trinitarian, generally did so by pouring. Unitarian Anabaptists, however, did so largely by a novel single submersion (at variance with the sprinkling previously practised by the Early Church till A.D. 250ff).
In the Middle Ages, the ritualistic Romanists had usually baptized by total immersion. The Protestant Reformers alone re-asserted Biblical baptism. Such is baptism only of believers and their babies and their other children. It is baptism also precisely by way of Scriptural sprinkling.
The Baptists are the (equally antipaidobaptistic) stepchildren of the Anabaptists. Baptists, however, have baptized by single submersion -- at least ever since about 1638. In this, they have followed Mediaeval Romanism -- and repudiated both the Protestant Reformation and most Anabaptists.
In modern times, Mennonite Leonard Verduin has written a book on the Anabaptists with the very misleading title: The Reformers and their Stepchildren.1 He would represent the latter as being but the disowned children of Luther and Calvin -- and, more remotely, of Waldo and Wycliffe. However, the truth is -- the Anabaptists disclaimed dependence upon the Reformers. For the Anabaptists actually represent re-emergent variants of neo-paganized sub- christian early-mediaeval and mid-mediaeval heresies.
Anabaptism was syncretistic. On the one hand, it descended from the communal concepts of Romish monasticism. On the other hand, its ancestors included the semi-Manichaean Paulicians and the neo-Marcionitic and antipaidobaptistic Petrobrusians (who denied even the possibility of infant salvation).
The Anabaptists were principally clustered in Central Europe --from Germany to Italy. Yet they also had great influence in Western Europe from Frisia to Flanders, and in Eastern Europe from Lithuania to Hungary. Indeed, scattered groups also functioned from Russia to Spain -- and even in France and England.
Professor Dr. G.H. Williams, the foremost sympathetic authority on Anabaptism, has called it 'The Radical Reformation.'2 That is a real misnomer. 'Radical' -- yes! 'Reformation' -- no! For, as Williams himself rightly pointed out -- Anabaptism "broke on principle with the Catholic-Protestant corpus christianum and...induced currents in history and the interpretation thereof which pulsate today..., through democratic progressivism to Marxism."3 Servetus the Anabaptist rides again!
Harvard's Dr. Williams has not hesitated to describe himself4 as "a professor who, and in a university which, has spiritual connections with Calvin's principal foe, Michael Servetus." Extolling the neo-Anabaptist Karl Barth as "the greatest modern theologian," Williams has saluted the Anabaptists as architects of the modern post-Christian pluriform society. Indeed, he has expressed the wish to "salute them from afar -- as the honored citizens of that larger community which is the commonwealth of all mankind."5
The Anabaptists, then, were sixteenth-century antipaidobaptists. As to their doctrine of God, they were variously Unitarian, Binitarian, Tritheistic -- or, occasionally, even quasi-Trinitarian. As to creation and providence, many were either anarchistic or neo-Manichaean. Indeed, some were very lascivious -- and either adulterers or polygamists.
Nearly all maintained a heretical neo-Gnostic christology. Several claimed to be prophetic visionaries and/or glossolalists, and more than a few were thoroughly communistic. Most were millenarian, fanatically predicting the imminent return of Christ. Nearly all of them taught both soul-sleep and the final annihilation of the wicked (thus denying the eternal punishment). Absolutely all of them were either antinomian or legalistic. What was good in them, was not original. What was original in them, was not good.
They all agreed in hating the Biblical and patristic practice of infant baptism. They all resurrected and rehashed various heresies already decisively rejected many centuries earlier and only after a thorough evaluation by the Early Church.
Very demonstrably, their modern stepchildren comprise various contemporary ecclesiastic revolutionaries. Such include the Christadelphians, the Mormons, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Jehovah witnesses, the Pentecostalists, and the left- wing liberationists.
Anabaptist views in general altogether foreign to Holy Scripture
Many, then, were the errors of Anabaptism. There were also different varieties of Anabaptists. Yet all agreed in rejecting infant baptism6 -- and, more importantly, also the historical continuity and therefore the social stability which it promotes.
In Holy Scripture itself, there is neither antipaidobaptism nor submersionism. The Bible insists that both believers and their infants were to be circumcised, before Calvary. There, however, circumcision was replaced by baptism -- and hence infant circumcision by infant baptism. Genesis 17:7-14; Acts 2:38f; Romans 4:11f; Colossians 2:11-13.
For an exhaustive demonstration of this, see Francis Nigel Lee's dissertation titled Baby Belief Before Baptism.7 However, both the Anabaptists and the Baptists deny that the babies of believers should be baptized.
The modern Baptists (just like the mediaeval baptismal regenerationists) further insist that baptism should be administered only by way of submersion. That method, however, is totally foreign to the Word of God -- which knows only of sprinkling and pouring. Isaiah 32:15 & 44:1-5 & 52:15f; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Daniel 3:33 & 5:21; Joel 2:16,23,28f; Acts 1:5f & 2:1-4a,16f,33,38f and Hebrews 9:10-21. For abundant proof of this, see Francis Nigel Lee's monograph titled Sprinkling is Scriptural.8
The antipaidobaptism of the Anabaptists strongly characterizes their Baptist stepchildren today. Also the other views of the Anabaptists are still encountered -- among many of their other different stepchildren. The latter include: sacramentalists like the Campbellites; unitarian Christadelphians; 'charismatic' Pentecostalists; premillenial Dispensationalists; polygamous proto-Mormons; state-hating "Jehovah's witnesses"; soul-sleeping Seventh-day Adventists; and various assorted deniers of everlasting punishment.
At this point, we merely mention the various heresies of Anabaptism which spawned this seed. There was the anti- trinitarianism of Jan Denck, David Joris, Jan Campanus, and Miguel Servetus (against Genesis 1:1-3 and Matthew 28:19 and Revelation 4:5-8f). There was the denial of Christ's incarnation by Melchior Hofmann and Menno Simons (against Luke 1:31f and Romans 1:3f and Hebrews 2:9-17 & 5:1-8).
There was the repeated adultery of Louis Haetzer -- and the polygamy of the demagogue Jan Beukels of Leyden and of the murderer Jan Matthys of Haarlem (against Malachi 2:14-16 and Matthew 19:4-9 and First Thessalonians 4:3-8). Indeed, there was also the revolutionism of Thomas Muenzer, Bernard Knipperdolling and even David Joris (against Romans 13:1-7 and First Peter 2:13-17 and Titus 3:1f).
Then there was their communism (alias community of goods and community of wives) -- squarely condemned by Exodus 20:15-17 and Acts 5:4 and Ephesians 4:24-28. There were the pseudo-pentecostal babblings of Thomas Muenzer, and the false prophecies of Menno Simons -- against Matthew 6:7 and First Corinthians 14:7-21 and First John 4:1-6. There was an anarchical opposition to oathing -- against Deuteronomy 10:20 and Jeremiah 4:2 and Second Corinthians 1:23. There was also a heretical doctrine of soul-sleep -- against Luke 23:43 and Second Corinthians 5:1-9 and Philippians 1:21-23. Indeed, in some cases, there was even a denial of everlasting punishment --against Isaiah 34:8- 10 and Mark 9:42-48 and Revelation 14:11 & 20:10.
Anabaptist views contrary also to the history of the Early Church
Not just Holy Scripture but Early Church History too clearly substantiates the above claims. The Early Church Fathers opposed communism,9 revolutionism,10 soul-sleep,11 and pseudo-pentecostalistic babblings12 etc. Here, however, we now focus our attention specifically on antipaidobaptistic deviations from Biblical baptism.
There are few post-biblical extant records about baptism at all, until Cyprian in 250 A.D. Yet, many pre-250 works do yield fragmentary traces of either sprinkling or infant baptism or both -- but none of antipaidobaptism.
Such pre-250 works include:13 the Tanna; the Talmud; the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha. They include the writings also of: Philo; Josephus; Clement of Rome; the Didachee; (Pseudo-)Barnabas; Ignatius; Pliny; Aristides; Matheetees (to Diognetus); Papias; the Shepherd of Hermas; the New Testament Apocrypha; Justin Martyr; Polycarp; the mid-century martyrs around 150 A.D.; Athenagoras; Theodotus; Irenaeus; Polycrates; Clement of Alexandria; Tertullian; the Old Egyptian Ordinance; Hippolytus; Origen; Dionysius of Alexandria; and archaeological evidence.
Even the Baptist A.W. Argyle -- Regent's Park College tutor at Oxford -- has made some important concessions. He conceded14 that there indeed "appears to be [at least] one cryptic reference to infant baptism in an allegorical passage of the Paedagogus" written by the 195f A.D. Clement of Alexandria.
Indeed, Baptist Argyle has further conceded that the 230 A.D. Origen describes "the practice of infant baptism not only as a custom of the church, but as an apostolic custom." Nay more! Argyle also conceded the indisputable fact that (the 250f A.D.) "Cyprian Bishop of Carthage...directs that infants should be baptized."
Yet sadly, we also find in Cyprian the evidence that submersionistic paganism was just then beginning to infiltrate the Christian Church. Until that time, ever since the apostles, baptisms of believers and their children had been administered in the Universal Church by way of sprinkling.
Only heretics had previously rejected infant baptism, and had begun to insist on neo-paganistic submersionism. The Church, however, sprinkled believers' babies. See Francis Nigel Lee's three theses Baptism Does Not Cleanse and Rebaptism Impossible and Baby Belief Before Baptism.15
After 250 A.D.: submersionism and other baptismal heresies
From the 250 A.D. time of Cyprian onward, however, the Church Universal degenerated -- by syncretizing with paganism. More and more water now got used at baptisms. This was because of the false and new theory that the greater the quantity of water at baptisms (and the more naked the candidate), the greater the quantity and quality of sins were thereby washed away. Enter baptismal regenerationism.16 So, too, from 350, baptism was often deferred till death.
Fortunately, however, there was no attack against infant baptism as such. For even the romanizing Church Universal rightly regarded babies too as sinners -- all stained with Adam's original sin. Thus, paidobaptism was clearly enunciated by: Lactantius; Asterius; Basil; Gregory of Nazianze; Gregory of Nyssa; Hilary; Ambrose; Chrysostom; Jerome; and Augustine. Yet Biblical sprinkling decreased, and magical submersion increased.
In the Middle Ages, the neo-paganistic doctrines of the inherent goodness of babies and the denial of their original sin (in certain circles) -- sometimes expressed itself in a rejection of infant baptism. This was found in various heretical sects outside the Church Universal.
Thus the wildcat adoptionistic Paulicians now arose in Armenia at the end of the seventh, and increased especially in the ninth century. Drawing from Marcionism and Manichaeism, most of the Paulicians rejected the Christian sacraments altogether.17
The non-baptizing Paulicians and the infant-damning Petrobrusians
As Prof. Dr. Edwin Yamauchi has pointed out18 in his important article Manichaeans: "The Paulician movement, which spread in Armenia from the seventh to the twelfth century --though it repudiated Manichaeism -- resembled it in its dualistic views. The Paulicians came to Bulgaria in the tenth century and helped to develop the Bogomils, who flourished in the Balkans in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The latter in turn stimulated the important Manichaean-like heresy of the Cathars or Albigensians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries."
In 1012, neo-Manichaeans appeared even in Germany. A group in Treves rejected infant baptism. These were the so- called Cathari -- called 'Bogomils' in the East, and 'Albigensians' in the West. Instead of Biblical baptism, they substituted their own rite (called the consolamentum) -- which also women were allowed to administer. Thereby, they laid on hands -- and imposed John's Gospel onto the candidate's breast.19
As Prof. Dr. Paul D. Steeves has indicated20 in his article The Paulicians and the Bogomils, "the Paulicians...held that only the Gospel and letters of Paul were divinely inspired. An evil deity...had inspired the rest of the New Testament, and the Old Testament. The Paulicians claimed that this evil deity was the creator and god of this world. The true God of heaven, they said, was opposed to all material things.... Physical and material...sacraments...must have come from the same evil spirit....
"Some of the Bulgars adopted Paulician ideas into a new religious system that acquired the name 'Bogomilism'.... Around the middle of the tenth century, Bogomils began to teach that the first-born son of God was Satanael.... This deity was expelled from heaven. He made a new heaven and earth, in which he placed Adam and Eve. Satanael and Eve became the parents of Cain.... Moses and John the Baptist, according to Bogomil teaching, were both servants of Satanael.... The Bogomils...despised marriage.... They rejected baptism and communion as Satanic rites."
In Western Europe and especially in France, a group of neo-Marcionistic antipaidobaptists arose at the beginning the twelfth century. Around 1105, Peter de Bruys and his 'Petrobrusians' and Henry of Lausanne and his 'Henricians' rejected infant baptism and practised rebaptism.
Unlike nearly all modern Baptists, however, these Petrobrusians held that infants are incapable of being saved! They also revived the Donatistic view that piety is essential for the valid administration of a sacrament. Indeed -- even according to the modern Baptist Erroll Hulse -- just like the later Anabaptists, "Peter de Bruys...rejected large parts of Scripture and embraced the false doctrine of 'soul-sleep.'"21
According to the great British Puritan Rev. Dr. William Wall,22 "the Petrobrusians -- otherwise called the 'Henricians' -- did own water-baptism, and yet deny infant-baptism.... Peter Bruis and Henry [of Lausanne were] the two first antipaedobaptist preachers in the world."
However, in denying infant baptism they had no long-term historical stability. Consequently, concluded Wall,23 they "quickly dwindled away -- or came over to those that owned it." Indeed, with the exception of these non- ecclesiastical and disorganized infant-damning twelfth-century Petrobrusians, "there is no certain evidence of any church or society of men that opposed infant baptism" -- till the antireformational German and Swiss Anabaptists from about 1522 onward.
The Waldensians maintained the infant baptism of tiny Christians
Ritualistic Rome, with her rigid heresy of baptismal regenerationism, increasingly practised baptism specifically by submersion. Yet from about 1180 onward, we also encounter the protests of the proto-Protestant Waldensians.
While rejecting the various ritualistic additions to baptism, these disciples of Peter Waldo did not repudiate the validity of baptisms as such -- not even when performed in the Church of Rome. Indeed, when unable to avail themselves of the rather scarce services of their own mostly itinerant pastors -- some of them very questionably permitted their own children, rather than to remain unbaptized, to be baptized even by Romish priests. Still others, with reluctance, even delayed those baptisms (because not necessary for salvation) -- until their own Waldensian pastors were later available and able to officiate.
"The Waldensians," Martin Luther rightly wrote,24 "baptize little ones.... They proceed, then, to baptize little children." Indeed, as Dr. Wall explained,25 apart from the infant-damning Petrobrusians "there is no certain evidence of any church or society of men that opposed infant baptism -- till those in Germany, A.D. 1522.... For the main body of the Waldenses, there is no probability at all." So too the Baptist A.H. Newman, in his History of Antipedobaptism:26 "The early Waldensian pastors...had scarcely anything in common with Baptists."
For "the Waldenses," as Rev. Prof. Dr. Samuel Miller rightly pointed out in his work Infant Baptism,27 "in their Confessions of Faith and other writings drawn up between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries...for several hundred years before the Reformation...have indeed written on the subject." However, the evidence leads to only one conclusion: "The great body of the Waldenses, were Paedobaptists."
Miller then cited from Waldensian historians themselves: "'Baptism,' say they, 'is administered in a full congregation of the faithful, to the end that he who is received into the church may be reputed and held by all as a Christian brother.... We present our children in baptism.... The things which are not necessary in baptism, are -- the exorcisms; the breathings; the sign of the cross upon the head or forehead of the infant'" and/or the adult.
Later, under the influence of Calvinism, the Waldensians linked up with the Reformed Faith. The Waldensians' own historic adherence to infant baptism is clearly seen in their 1655 Waldensian Confession. For there, they state28 "that we do agree in sound doctrine with all the Reformed Churches of France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland...and others as it is set forth by them in their Confessions -- as also in the Confession of Augsburg."
Indeed, that Protestant Augsburg Confession -- endorsed also by Calvin and the Calvinists -- states29 "that children are to be baptized." It then goes on to "condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the baptism of children."
The impact on baptism of Thomistic Roman Catholicism
However, it was not the Biblical but rather the magical view of baptism which predominated in the Late Middle Ages. For around 1250, Thomas Aquinas programmed 'baptismal regeneration' as the only view which would soon be standardized officially -- in the Roman Catholic Church.30
Sometimes, Thomas upheld the right view -- for the wrong reason. Thus:31 "A sacrament is a sign of a sacred thing -- inasmuch as it sanctifies a man." By the latter he meant, wrongly, that baptism itself regenerates. Again wrongly, he also held that originally it was administered by submersion.32
Indeed, centuries of baptismal regenerationism had by this time made submersionism very popular. Yet even Thomas conceded that "pouring and sprinkling are also allowable."33
Sadly, he also opined that baptism is itself an "instrumental cause" initiating saving grace and bringing it to man.34 "Baptism is given this ability, so that anybody is regenerated through it itself":35 ex opere operato.
Baptism, believed Thomas, is therefore the door to the kingdom of heaven.36 It is essential to salvation -- except for those desiring to be baptized yet who die before this can be accomplished. Baptism, he insisted, is regeneration.37 Lay-baptism was and still is permitted -- chiefly because all unbaptized children were and are regarded as being excluded from heaven.38
Under practically-universal baptismal regenerationism, submersion (whether triple or single) was now thought to be a "safer" mode of baptism than sprinkling. This can still be seen throughout ritualistic Eastern 'Orthodoxy' -- as well as in the entire Eastern Rite of Romanism.
However, the water still needed to be applied to the head --as the most important part of the human body.39 The 1284 Council of Nemours limited head-sprinkling to cases of necessity.40 But the Pre- Reformation, and especially the Protestant Reformation, would erelong restore that Biblical mode to its rightful place. Acts 2:1-4,16a,33 and Revelation 7:3f & 22:4.
Meantime, the Deformed Church had long abandoned the fourth century's tendency unnecessarily to delay baptism. It had instead, now for many centuries, administered it all too hastily. Yet it now did this -- chiefly because it was superstitiously terrified that all unbaptized persons, including babies, could not go to heaven. Hence also babies were baptized, and often by submersion.
Wycliffe and Huss and their followers on infant baptism
Fortunately, however, the Christian Gospel was still preserved --especially in Northern Europe. In 1377, the English 'Pre-Reformer' John Wycliffe (1324-84) assailed the Romish mass.41 In 1402, the Wycliffite Huss did the same in Bohemia.42
Neither of them ever questioned infant baptism. To the contrary, Wycliffe declared: "On account of the words in the last chapter of Matthew [28:19], our church introduces believers who answer for the infant....
"The child of a believer is carried into the church to be baptized, according to the rule of Christ." Yet "it seems hard...to assert" like the Romanists, "that this infant will be lost" if dying unbaptized. Nevertheless, "without a doubt, infants are duly baptized with water."43
Wycliffe and his English followers the Lollards rejected baptismal regenerationism. As the great Puritan Rev. Dr. Wall has pointed out,44 "one of the articles usually enjoined [by their enemies] for the Lollards...to recant, was (as the martyrologist John Foxe45 recites it) this: 'that an infant, though he die unbaptized, shall be saved.'"
Indeed, the Norfolk and Suffolk followers of the 1424 Wycliffite William White were constantly "speaking against [Romish] women baptizing new-born infants in private houses, [and] against the opinion of such as think children damned who depart before they come to their baptism.
"Wycliffe had said that the water itself, without...the Spirit, is of little efficacy.... He and his followers had said that if the parents be good Christians and pray for their child, there is hope that it may be saved -- though it do by some sudden chance die before it can be baptized."
England's great 'Pre-Reformer' John Wycliffe was thus not only a convinced paidobaptist, but apparently both an antirebaptist and opposed to baptismal regenerationism. England's King Richard's Queen Anne was herself a Wycliffite, and the sister of Wenceslaus King of Bohemia (in the modern Czech Republic). It was probably chiefly through her agency that Wycliffe's views were taken over almost without amendment by the Bohemian 'Pre-Reformer' John Huss -- and also by his friend Jerome of Prague, who had become a Wycliffite while at Oxford University before returning to his native Bohemia.46
The followers of Huss were called the Hussites. "The Hussites of Bohemia," according to the great Puritan Rev. Dr. Wall,47 were of the "opinion...that infants dying unbaptized, may be saved by the mercy of God.... Indeed, they were disciples of our Wycliffe."
The influence of Wycliffe through Huss upon Luther
The Wycliffite Huss would influence Martin Luther himself -- and thus launch the Protestant Reformation. Rome's 'Holy Council' itself pronounced "John Huss to have been and to be...the disciple...of John Wycliffe."
Thus the Romish controversialist Eck, Luther later exclaimed, "vilifies me as a 'heretic' and a Bohemian" -- even "publicly accusing me of the heresy of and support for the Bohemian 'heretics.'" For Eck was indeed accusing Luther: "Many of the things which you adduce, are heresies of...Wycliffe and Huss!"
Luther himself, however, insisted that "John Huss and Jerome of Prague were good Christians." Luther also insisted that "Paul and Augustine are in reality Hussites." And again: "All this is not Luther's work. The credit belongs to John Huss." Thus, "it is high time that we seriously and honestly consider the case of the Bohemians, and come into union with them.... I have no desire to pass judgment...upon John Huss's articles.... I have not yet found any errors in his writings."
Luther even went back behind the Wycliffite Huss -- to the Englishman Wycliffe himself. Declared Luther: "As far as the [papal] 'decretals' are concerned..., they are...things it is not necessary to believe -- as John Wycliffe said." Indeed, in 1520 Luther boldly admitted: "I shall be called a Wycliffite!"
So, according to both Luther himself and his Romish opponent Dr. Eck, Luther was both a Wycliffite and a Hussite. For proof of all the aforesaid claims, see the documentation given in Francis Nigel Lee's 1989 monograph Luther and Calvinism on Antichrist in the Bible.48
The rebaptismal error of the Bohemian 'Minor United Brethren'
Now after Romanism's murder of Huss, his numerous followers unfortunately soon split up three different ways. Thus arose the partially-Reformed Calixtines, the militant proto-Protestant Taborites, and finally the separatistic 'Bohemian Brethren' (alias the later 'Moravians').
They, the church historian Dr. Philip Schaff explains,49 rightly "denounced the Pope of Rome as Antichrist." Yet they also wisely recognized that something of the historic Christian Church (though grossly deformed) was still to be found even within Romanism, despite its numerous papal perversions.
"At first, they received the sacraments from Calixtine and Romish priests who joined them." Indeed, "in 1467 they effected an independent organization...under the lead of Michael, formerly a Catholic priest." This was the 'Minor United Brethren' -- a minority party within the antirebaptist Bohemian Brethren as a whole.
Yet the minority party then over-reacted. Misinterpreting Joshua 5:2f and Acts 19:3f, it forgot that in Biblical times Josiah and Paul had not recircumcisingly discarded or rebaptizingly jettisoned but retrieved and reformed -- the deformed Church of God.
Too, in Ezekiel 34:11-15, God does not say He would send new shepherds to build new sheepfolds for new sheep. He says He Himself would re-gather His scattered sheep; bring them back into their old sheepfold; and punish not them but the false shepherds who had scattered them.
In Bohemia, however, the ex-priest Michael and his Minor United Brethren did something rather different. They forgot that baptism had replaced circumcision; and that re-baptism is therefore just as impossible as is re- circumcision. Romans 6:1-5f cf. Colossians 2:11-13. They revolutionarily went and elected by lot three priests from their number, and then laid their own ex-Romish hands on them. Then they themselves were all solemnly 'rebaptized' by those three priests.
This latter act was a neo-Donatist and a catabaptistic error, itself certainly not devoid of sacramentalism. Never, however, did these Bohemian Brethren either abandon infant baptism as such -- nor rebaptize as adults those they deemed to have been baptized in infancy. Thus, these Bohemians -- though indeed confused Catabaptists -- were not antipaidobaptistic Anabaptists. Still less were they adult-submersing Baptists.
As even the Mennonite Verduin has admitted:50 "The Brethren did practice infant baptism...of children born to 'believing parents'.... The point was not anti-pedobaptism, but anti-Constantinianism" -- or rather an exaggerated anti- Romanism and a wrongly-'invalidating' Neo-Donatism quite contrary to Holy Scripture (cf. Exodus 4:24-26).
The United Bohemian Brethren recanted the error of rebaptism
Fortunately, some of the later and better theologians of the 'minor party' Bohemian Brethren soon resiled from their catabaptistic position. They then abandoned that 'rebaptismal' radicalism -- perhaps still during the fifteenth century. Indeed, already by the time of their 1504 Bohemian Confession (subsequently published in 1535) -- they had also abandoned a 'purely symbolical' sacramentology similar to that of the later Baptists.
Perhaps under Luther's influence from 1520 onward, they opted for consubstantiation. Later yet, they also gradually abandoned even that -- for the purer truth of Calvinism. See their letter sent to Beza in December 1575 -- and, further, their Bohemian Confession of that same year.
Now it seems this 1467f Bohemian Brethren 'minor party' had already abandoned its catabaptistic doctrines -- by 1504. No doubt its leaders informed the antirebaptismal Luther about this, before he supported them in 1520. At any rate, in their 1504 Bohemian Confession -- as well as in its 1535 Prologue -- they courageously distantiated themselves from the previous rebaptistic lapse of their own ancestors.
Thus, in the 1535 Prologue, the Ministers of the Church of the Bohemian Brethren assured the King of Bohemia and Hungary (Ferdinand I) that they were certainly not Anabaptists. This disclaimer was necessary. For their Romish opponents were then quite falsely alleging that very thing.
Explained these 'Bohemian Brethren':51 "It is not unknown to anybody that we do not belong to the party of the Anabaptists. For we take our origin from the Church of the Bohemians.... We had already existed many years before them [the Anabaptists], and we do not defend their error-filled teachings.
"We have nothing in common with the Anabaptists...and have taken over nothing from them.... Our association has been in existence for much longer -- from before anyone ever first heard anything about the Anabaptists....
"However, although our ancestors were wont to rebaptize those who had been baptized by Romish priests in former years -- they [our ancestors] still had an altogether different viewpoint and another purpose and an entirely other reason than the Anabaptists. Now, however, even this rebaptism has been abolished completely among us. Pre-eminently hereanent, a short account will be given in this writing -- by the most excellent men of our Church....
"Further. Whenever we are, because of this rebaptism, regarded as Anabaptists -- by the very 'sophisticated' [Romish] priests of Bohemia -- even this weapon is necessarily turned against them. For their ancestors too 're-re-baptized' those who had been baptized by papal priests, but who had thereafter been dedicated in [re]baptism" by the Bohemian Brethren. For the Romish priests then, "by way of reprisal, once again repeated the baptism [already given] by the Bohemian Brethren -- to those [re-]renewed as papists." The Romish priests in Bohemia thus "[re-]rebaptized those [re-]baptized by both us and by our ancestors -- and they forced people, even with violence, to receive their baptism....
"Yet the [Romish] priests maintain they had not faltered nor erred when they rebaptized those baptized by us. For they regarded us as heretics, sectarians and ecclesiastical excommunicatees. Thus it also seemed very right to them -- that our baptism was of no significance, effect and power. This is why they rebaptized....
"We answer that we...like they give nothing to [administering] baptism...among ourselves.... We used to regard the baptism administered by them as invalid, and void.... It is therefore clear that they have just as much guilt toward us, as we have toward them -- in rebaptizing the baptized!"
The Bohemian Confession(s) on rebaptism from 1504 onward
Thus the 1535 Prologue. However, even earlier -- also before Luther's conversion to Protestantism alias his return to Biblical Christianity -- we already encounter a 1504 Bohemian Confession to King Vladislav (which was thereafter constantly updated). We now cite from the 1535 version.
Article 12 declares "that children are baptized...and dedicated to Christ...according to His words: 'Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them; for of such is the Kingdom of heaven' [Matthew 19:14]. Therefore, we baptize ours."
For we all "rest upon the words of the Lord for children, in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, this statement [Matthew 28:19] is general: 'Teach all nations, inasmuch as you baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' We do not baptize them again thereafter; and we no longer rebaptize....
"They [a former generation of 'Bohemian Brethren'] previously rebaptized those who wished to be taken up into our churches from others.... When the Romanists violently fought against the 'Bohemians' in matters of faith and religion, the leaders of both Churches clashed with Scripture....
"In several localities the one repeated the baptism of the other, for as long as they persevered in the greatest hatred. For the ancestors of our faith, who then completely separated themselves from them [and indeed from all others], had their own particular association, and administered the sacraments -- and rebaptized all who wished to join their churches....
"This kind of rebaptism existed in our churches -- until we acquired a better insight about this. However, in the course of time -- after through the goodness of God the light of truth illuminated our men more brightly, and after they had investigated the Scriptures more carefully, and after they had at the same time been supported by the help of several learned men -- they realized that rebaptism is not necessary for the Church. And they then immediately discontinued and abolished it, with the approval of all.
"Hence, with the general agreement of our men, every repetition of baptism was abolished.... Nowhere is baptism any longer repeated among us. Yet some priests of the so-called Bohemian-Romish party, just as in former times, even now still rebaptize our people -- although for the most part against their wishes, and in opposition to the parents."52
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1 Paternoster Press, 296 pp..
12 See: Did. 2:3-8 & 3:1-7 & 11:2-12 & 16:3-4; 1st Clem. 1:1-2; Barn. ch. 20; Ignatius's Epistle to the Ephesians chs. 9.16,19; Hermas II:11:1f; Tatian's Greeks 1 & 12; Justin Martyr's First Apology 14 & 30; Theophilus's Epistle to Autolycus II:8; Athenagoras's Plea chs. 26f; Irenaeus's op. cit. I:13-16; Clement of Alexandria's Stromata IV:16f & VIII:18; Caius's Fragment against Proclus 2 and Muratorian Canon 4; Hippolytus's Refutation of Heresies V:3 & VIII:12 & X:22f; Origen's Celsus III:24 & VII:3-4 & VIII:48; and Eusebius's Church History IV:26 & V:16.
13 See esp.: Clement of Rome's First Epistle to the Corinthians chs. 9:4 & 12:5 & 17 & 46; Didachee 7:1- 3; Barnabas' Epistle 6,8,9,11,13f; Hermas's Shepherd I:3:3-7,29 & II:2:1 & II:4:3 & III:9:16,17,29-31; Justin Martyr's First Apology chs. 15 & 61-64 and his Dialogue with Trypho chs. 14-19 & 23-24 & 29 & 104; Irenaeus's Heresies I:21:1 & II:22:4 & III:17:1-7 & III:18:7; Clement of Alexandria's Exhortation to the Heathen X:12f and his Paedagogue I:6f & III:11f; Tertullian's Prescriptions Against Heretics ch. 40 and his On Repentance 6:4f; Origen's Homily on Luke 14:2 (on Luke 2:22a); and Cyprian's Epistles 59 or 64 and 72 or 73 and 74 or 75 and 76 or 69.
15 His M.Div. and Dr. Sac. Theol. dissertations (respectively in 1990 and 1991 at Whitefield Theological Seminary in Florida). See too his 1989 D.Ed. and his 1991 D.R.E. dissertations on Catechism Before Communion ( pp. 117f & 126f & 201f) and Baby Belief Before Baptism I & II -- both at the Dominion School of Education in Florida.
21 Schaff: Ch. Hist. V pp. 483-85; S. Miller's Infant Baptism, in Baptism and Christian Education, Presb. Heritage, Dallas, 1984 rep., p. 30; E. Hulse's Introduction to the Baptists, Carey, Haywards Heath, p. 6 n. 1.
41 F.F. Bruce's Bible (English Versions) and R.G. Clouse's Wycliffe, John (c. 1329-1384) in ed. Douglas's op. cit. pp. 127 & 1064; R. Vaughan's Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe, D.D., Wycliffe Society, London, 1845, pp. lxxxviii, 140-43, 151, 301; H.B. Workman's John Wyclif, Clarendon, Oxford, 1926, II, pp. 40 & 416.
46 Thus Schaff's Ch. Hist. VI pp. 258f,370f,381f,387f; and esp. W.G. Dixon's The Romance of the Catholic Presbyterian Church, Board of Religious Education, Presbyterian Church of Australia, Melbourne, 1930, pp. 26f.
48 3 Kenya St., Wavell Heights, Brisbane, Australia -- citing Schaff's Church History (VI p. 381); Luther's Works (Muhlenberg, Philadelphia, 1960, American ed., XXXI, pp. 307,313,321; XLVIII, p. 153; XXXII pp. 123,128f,3,56,71,74f); The Works of Martin Luther (Holman ed., Philadelphia, 1915, II pp. 140f & 171); and Luther's Writings (Concordia, St. Louis, Walch ed., 1881, XV col. 1639, XIX cols. 70-71, & XV cols. 783-7).
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