Anabaptist Distinctives

In this article, I’ll list the distinctive Anabaptist beliefs, with an explanation of what they consist of. Many of these beliefs and practices are also accepted by other groups. However, few groups practice them all. If you believe and practice them all, you are for all intents and purposes an Anabaptist.

Note that some people in historically Anabaptist churches no longer affirm some of these beliefs. Are they still Anabaptists? It depends on your definition of Anabaptist. Also note that I am not including the extra practices that many Anabaptist churches also have. To learn more about those, see my article on standards and Ordnung.

These beliefs stem from a plain reading of Scripture. I will link to the posts or categories on this blog that deal with these questions. In time, I hope to have post reasons for all of these beliefs on this blog.

Shared Beliefs

Anabaptists accept the basic beliefs that Christians have historically held to, such as those mentioned in the Apostles Creed. Here are some of those, described in more Anabaptist terms:

Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all divine, with the same nature. When Scripture speaks of God, typically it means to refer to the Father, but Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also both God. However, the Father has authority over the Son.

Second coming. Jesus will return someday to judge the living and the dead. We are to obey him so that we are prepared for his coming.

Theology

Christlikeness and following Jesus. The essence of Christianity is following Christ and becoming like him. To understand our Christian duties, we focus most on what he teaches us and on his lived example. In following this, we become like him. This is the Anabaptist conception of theosis.

Free will. Human choices come from the humans themselves. They were not determined by God, though many agents influence us. However, God foreknows all our choices and works out his plan through our choices.

Salvation: We are not justified by faith alone. God accepts those who seek him and obey him. Obedience to Jesus’ and the apostles’ commands is necessary. The essence of salvation is in discipleship; becoming a faithful follower of Jesus.

We can lose our salvation. The doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved, or Eternal Security, is not true. However, we don’t need to be afraid of losing our salvation, since God helps us to remain in Christ. We just need to keep living the Christian life faithfully.

Ethics

Two Kingdoms: (the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world) & separation from the world. We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom rather than of earthly nations. Here’s an article that describes this view and one that defends this view.

Nonresistance and Gelassenheit. We shouldn’t resist evil people with violence, but instead, we should love our enemies and do good to them. Gelassenheit is a German word that signifies yieldedness. We put God’s will ahead of our own and submit to the circumstances we find ourselves in, not responding in anger or selfishness.

New Testament sexual ethics. Sex is a beautiful institution from God that is intended to be expressed only within a marriage of one man and one woman.

Divorce and remarriage. Divorce is not permissible except for in the circumstances given by Jesus in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. Remarriage is not permissible.

Modesty. We should dress simply and live simply, avoiding expensive ornamentation.

Head covering. A Christian woman should wear a covering over her hair when praying. Since we should pray often, she should wear it as much as possible. A Christian man should not cover his head when praying.

Servanthood and almsgiving. We should actively show love and service to those who are both inside and outside of church (our brother and our neighbor). We should give voluntarily to those who are needy and live as servants of each other.

Church

Community/brotherhood. The church is primarily a community or brotherhood of believers who exemplify Christ in their interactions with each other. We share with each other and help each others’ needs.

Church discipline. Those who continue in disobedience to the New Testament must, after adequate warning, be put out of the church, and encouraged to repent so that they can rejoin the community of believers.

A voluntary church made up of believers (no infant baptism or state forcing). Christians should be baptized and take communion as believers, not as infants. It is up to each person whether they will follow Christ and join the church or not; no one else can decide that for them.

Sacraments cannot be administered mechanically or sacerdotally. Baptism and communion have no meaning except when accompanied by faith. Proper ordination doesn’t confer the ability to administer the sacraments.

Complementarianism. Men and women have functionally separate roles in the church and in the home, as described by the New Testament. God has chosen to institute a functional inequality, though in his sight there is an actual equality.

The church is an active force in the world. We are to evangelize and bring others into the Kingdom of God, spreading the Kingdom throughout the world. We are also to take every thought captive for Christ, waging war in the realm of ideas. The early Anabaptists were excellent examples of this, and they grew hugely during persecution. However, after the severe persecution had ended, Anabaptists settled into normal life and lost much of their zeal. However, they are slowly regaining it today.

Scripture

Scripture: Plain reading of Scripture. We should read Scripture with a simple, theologically unadorned hermeneutic, preferring face-value interpretations.

High view of Scripture. The Old and New Testaments are God’s word and are infallible in all they teach. Today, Anabaptists typically accept the Protestant canon.

New Testament commands are binding; Old Testament commands are not. The New Testament is our rule of life, but the Old Testament was only ever intended to be a temporary measure and is no longer in effect.

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