Why Not Be Anabaptist?

This article is an argument for Anabaptism for those who are confused by endless doctrinal disputes. You may see good things in different Christian denominations, but you also see the holes in the narratives of different sides. So how are you going to pick which Christian denomination you should be a part of? You just want to be true to the Christian faith. Why is it so unclear who is right?

Protestants and Catholics are always poking holes in each other’s definitive doctrines. It’s easy for each side to point out the faulty exegesis or leaps in logic that are required in order to uphold the other side’s teachings. Each side rightly points out that the other side’s doctrines—faith alone, sola scriptura, Calvinism, the Papacy, prayers to saints, and apostolic succession—are not found in Scripture or the history of the early church. Yet, while each side is great at exegesis and logic when disputing the other side, and they can easily show that the other side is adding their doctrines to Scripture, they can’t see their own flaws when they go to defend their side.

You can bypass this by simply setting aside those extra doctrines and living as the early church did. You don’t need to join an Anabaptist church to do that, but you might find it helpful. Why not be Anabaptist?

The Perks

  • You can hold to all the central doctrines of the Christian faith, like salvation through Jesus Christ, our God and King—but you don’t need to understand how it all works; you can simply live it out faithfully, as thousands of Anabaptists do today.
  • You can believe and live as the apostles and the early church did for its first approximately 300 years, and as many of the persecuted church has believed and lived throughout the ages.
  • You don’t need to believe any of the specific doctrines of Catholicism and Protestantism that aren’t scripturally sound. You can just take Jesus and the apostles at their word.
  • There may continue to be verses in Scripture that are hard to understand. But there will be few verses that won’t just immediately fit into the Anabaptist worldview, and for those that won’t, you won’t need complicated interpretations to fit them in.
  • You can be part of a movement which was never a state church and which didn’t expand through making new Christians by force or by baptizing infants. You get to transform peoples lives around you through Jesus’ way, which is antithetical to the world’s way.
  • You get to be like Jesus in the Anabaptist way of theosis, often called “Christlikeness,” in which we model the suffering love and faithful obedience of Jesus. You don’t become Christlike through spiritual disciplines hardened into formulae over the centuries (though some of them can be very helpful), but through discipleship: following Jesus and obeying his example and teachings.

If you join the Anabaptists, you won’t be part of a perfect church, but at least you probably won’t be part of a church that believes its teachings to be infallible. You probably won’t be part of an intellectual or educated church, but at least you probably won’t be in a church that’s wedded to a particular theological system which needs to be read into Scripture. Your church might ask you to live according to certain agreed-upon standards that aren’t directly from Scripture, but at least they won’t expect you to disobey Christ by going to war.

Dear brothers and sisters among the Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants: There is no need to obsess over obscure doctrines that somehow divide cleanly between orthodoxy and heresy. Many people have been declared heretics for believing doctrines that have nothing to do with either Scripture or following Jesus, such as the Filioque, monoenergism (yes, those are words, and they have bothered some people quite a lot), and the precise wording that for some reason we need to use about the incarnation. And at the same time, the central aspects of Christianity, such as living as Jesus’ disciples, have often been neglected. These heady ideas may be interesting questions, but they don’t define Christianity. The essence of Christianity doesn’t hang on church councils and doctrines which were decided through infighting, and enforced through persecution.

Yes, I do love you Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. I know that you are sincere. But these things bother me, and they’re why I am still an Anabaptist.

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