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The Anabaptists : Neither Catholics or Protestants

PDF The title of this article will seem somewhat strange to a reader who may have the rather popular but erroneous idea that there are only two kinds of professing Christians: Protestants and Catholics. Originally the term "protestant" was applied to a group of German princes of the early sixteenth century who wanted to manage the religious affairs of their own territories as they saw fit, without any interference from Rome, or any other "higher power,"-when an emperor denied them this right, they protested, and insisted on making the Church in their territories a department of the government, as the post office is in America. Because most of these princes professed "reformed doctrine" (that is, they favored the teachings of Luther and Calvin, as opposed to the teachings of the old Catholic church), the name applied to them came to be the name applied generally to the party and program of the famous reformers. But many evangelical churches reject this name protestant and claim to want no connection with it. As a matter of fact, the early Anabaptists (forefathers of the present-day Mennonites) not only rejected the name, but also repudiated the famous reformers themselves! We might ask, Why did they refuse to be identified with the Protestant movement? Why did they claim to have a Christianity which was more than Protestantism? Can we make the same claim today? We can find the answer to these questions in a survey of Church History-which we should always be eager to study since the Apostle Paul admonishes us not to be ignorant of what happened in Church History, lest we repeat the same mistakes that others before us made. (1 Cor. 10:1-14) To understand why the Anabaptists refused to be identified with Protestantism, we must understand the problems which were in back of the whole Reformation movement of the sixteenth century.

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