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.

15 thoughts on “Why Not Be Anabaptist?”

    1. Hi Duarte, yes indeed. The consensus of the church for the first three hundred years is very similar to Anabaptism (with some minor disagreements), so I would point you to Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, and Clement of Alexandria, for a start. For the exact quotations, just read the articles on this website, such as these: /early-christian-quotes

      1. In my opinion, you can trace most of what is now Anabaptist doctrine back to virtually any point on the timeline, including, as you’ve noted, many early church fathers.

        Have you done much research period from ~395AD (when Roman Catholicism took the civil power of the sword) to the Piedmont Easter massacre of the Waldensians in 1655AD? In my research, I’ve come to believe that the remnant of Christ’s church was preserved during that time within the Alpine regions of Europe. Christian groups, such as the Albigensians, Cathari, Waldensians, Bogomils, Patarines, Paulicians, and others, maintained the faith tradition in those mountain regions, relatively safe from organized and targeted persecution.

        The Waldensian document “La nobla leyczon” claims to be written in the early 12th century and reads like a modern Protestant creed, despite being written long before the Protestant Reformation. How did the Waldensians write a Protestant creed three centuries before Luther, unless there was a faith community that extended farther back in which to base it on (as the document itself claims)?

        1. That era of history is a very interesting one, and I’d love to look into it more. I know a bit about the Waldensians, but not about the others. I think there were many faithful Christians both in and out of the RCC during that time, and I think it would be good to know more about the ones who were outside of it.

  1. My frustration as a Protestant is that the churches I’ve attended are so focused on the right theology and the sermons seldom encourage godly living. Often Protestant elders absolutely fail on very simple christian teachings on marriage, divorce, modesty, headcovering for women, staying away from accumulation of wealth, staying away from serving in the military and other professions that present conflicts of interest for a christian, etc. Also, I find that the elders of these Protestant churches have a REAL problem with meeting 1Timothy 3 elder qualifications….There are often elders with divorce in their past, wrecked lifestyles, or some other major sins that disqualify them….yeah they may have the Theological degrees but I don’t see where theological degree is even a qualification for elders, it doesn’t exist in the New Testament. I am rather discouraged when I see the total disregard for Jesus’s words, however I follow Jesus no matter what church I go to, I listen to Jesus, I simply don’t listen to elders who clearly don’t follow Jesus.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mary! Yes, many people today find themselves in your position. I hope you can find a church that encourages you in your commitment to following Jesus.

    2. Neither Christ nor the apostles told soldiers to leave their posts, and there’s no explicit statement against “accumulating wealth” in your words. Why would Paul tell wealthy Christians to be generous with their wealth? Wouldn’t he have , according to your statement, told them to give it all away? That’s not what he says. I’m totally against a “prosperity gospel” but I think things are read into the scriptures that aren’t there.

      1. Taylor,
        Matthew 6: 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —–I think Jesus meant what He said, don’t have it as a goal to become wealthy and if you are already, use your wealth to bless others instead.
        As to soldiers in the New Testament, the fact soldiers were mentioned that came to the faith, is a negative statement, not a positive one about their professions. Just like mentioning tax collectors, prostitutes and other types of sinners were dinning with Jesus and were called to repentance.

        1. Also please quote the Scrupturw where he tells soldiers to leave their post. I think you’re reading that into the Bible. But if you can show me where it says that and not just where you claim it means that, I would have to accept it.

          1. Matthew 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.
            Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day,…
            Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  2. If you believe as the Christians of the first 300 years believed, do you also believe in the real presence in the Eucharist?

  3. As I understand from reading anabaptist history, they claim that many groups outside of the catholic (small “c”) church were the true Christians. This presents a problem as the Early church fathers claimed these groups were gnostics (among other claims) and didn’t believe in the real presence. Please correct me if I’m misunderstanding something as am not a historian, just interested in history.

    1. Good question. I’m not familiar with the Anabaptist history on this point, but you’re probably right. I don’t think that either the Anabaptists or the early church fathers were quite right on this issue. It wasn’t as simple as “the institutional church apostatized, and only the dissenters were real Christians,” but nor was it as simple as “none of the dissenting groups contained true Christians.” I’m not talking about the Gnostics; they were definitely not Christians. However, there were groups like the Novatianists and the Donatists, who I think were real Christians, even though I believe the main church was probably right in both cases. Does that answer your question?

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