Monday, March 25, 2019

Mencken on the Democracy and Morality

Mencken on the Democracy and Morality
Thomas Allen

    In 1926, H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) wrote Notes on Democracy in which he expressed his views on democracy and related issues. He was a journalist, satirist, and critic and a libertarian and one of the leaders of the Old Right. In his book, he describes democracy and morality, pages 162-176. Below is an overview of his discussion on democracy and morality; my comments are in brackets.
    “Liberty gone, there remains the majestic phenomenon of democratic law.” A glance at the law is sufficient to reveal “the identity of democracy and Puritanism.” [Puritanism extends far beyond vice, which today is a minor part of Puritanism — drug laws, especially anti-tobacco laws, and, to a declining extent, the prohibition of prostitution being about the only aspects of this type of Puritanism remaining. Today, Puritanism appears mostly as political correctness, abortion, civil rights laws, laws controlling businesses, zoning laws, hostility toward Confederate monuments, hostility toward Christianity, and the like.] They are merely “different facets of the same gem. In the psyche they are one.” Both derive “their primal essence out of the inferior man’s fear and hatred of his betters, born of his observation that, for all his fine theories, they are stronger and of more courage then he is, and that as they go through this dreadful world they have a far better time.” [Although Mencken description of the inferior man fits many, if not, most Whites, it fits nearly all Blacks. Yet, the old Black man said that he was glad that he was Black instead of White because Blacks knew how to have a good time and Whites did not.] This fear and hatred lead to envy.
    Envy is not “a speciality of democratic man. It is the common possession of all men of the ignoble and incompetent sort, at all times and everywhere.” Nevertheless, democracy liberates it; “it is only under democracy that it is liberated; it is only under democracy that it becomes the philosophy of the state.” [Therefore, all democratic countries have evolved into a welfare-state, which is based and built on envy.]
    Although humanity owes the old autocracies a great debt, the democrat is not likely to remember that debt. About the old autocracies, Mencken writes, “Their service, perhaps, was a by-product of a purpose far afield, but it was a service none the less: they held the green fury of the mob in check, and so set free the spirit of superior man.” When Flavius Honorius collapsed, Europe fell into chaos for four hundred years. [Flavius Honorius {384 –423} was the Western Roman Emperor from 393 to 423.] Charlemagne revived the autocracy and made possible the Renaissance and the modern age. [Charlemagne {742 –814}, King of the Franks {768–814} and Emperor of the Romans {800-814} united much of Europe during the early Middle Ages.] The autocracies kept the mob “from the throat of civilization.”
    Mencken points to the French and Russian Revolutions to illustrate what happens when the autocracy collapses: “The instant such a catastrophe liberates the mob, it begins a war to the death upon superiority of every kind not only upon the kind that naturally attaches to autocracy, but even upon the kind that stands in opposition to it. The day after a successful revolution is a blue day for the late autocrat, but it is also a blue day for every other superior man.”
    Mencken continues, “Democracy, as a political scheme, may be defined as a device for releasing this hatred born of envy, and for giving it the force and dignity of law.” Moreover, “the democratic state, despite the contrary example of France, almost always shows a strong tendency to be also a Puritan state.” Especially, in the field of public law, Puritan legislation “is a thing of many grandiose pretensions and a few simple and ignoble realities. The Puritan . . . always tries to convince himself (and the rest of us) that it is grounded upon altruistic and evangelical motives — that its aim is to work the other fellow’s benefit against the other fellow’s will.” [This is true even after Puritanism abandoned the Bible, of which Mencken probably approved, and became a secular religion.]
    Mencken notes, “The Puritan’s actual motives are (a) to punish the other fellow for having a better time in the world, and (b) to bring the other fellow down to his own unhappy level. . . . Primarily, he is against every human act that he is incapable of himself.” [Mencken has just described the motives of the Yankee.] However, he notes, “The Puritan is surely no ascetic. Even in the great days of the New England theocracy it was impossible to restrain his libidinousness: his eyes rolled sideways at buxom wenches quite as often as they rolled upward to God. But he is incapable of sexual experience upon what may be called a civilized plane; it is impossible for him to manage the thing as a romantic adventure; in his hands it reduces itself to the terms of the barnyard. Hence the Mann Act.” [The Mann Act makes it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of people for the purpose of prostitution or illegal sexual acts.] Likewise, with an alcoholic beverage, the Puritan “can have experience of it only as a furtive transaction behind the door, with a dreadful headache to follow. Hence Prohibition.” [Every chance that Mencken gets to condemn Prohibition, he does so.] Also, “with the joys that come out of the fine arts. Looking at a picture, he sees only the model’s pudenda. Reading a book, he misses the ordeals and exaltations of the spirit, and remembers only the natural functions. Hence comstockery.” [Today, censorship appears in the form of political correctness and vulgar mobs preventing anyone with whom these low-lives disagree from speaking peacefully on college campuses. Now, books are seldom removed from libraries because of sexual content, most sexual content now being politically correct, but because of political content, i.e., the book is politically incorrect because it disagrees with democracy, liberalism, progressivism, socialism, communism, Marxism, or the ever-growing power of the government or is considered “racist.”]
    The Puritan’s “delight in his own rectitude is grounded upon a facile assumption that it is difficult to maintain that the other fellow, being deficient in God’s grace, is incapable of it. So he venerates himself, in the moral department, as an artist of unusual talents, a virtuoso of virtue.” Mencken continues, “His error consists in mistaking a weakness for a merit, an inferiority for a superiority.” Being moral in the Puritan sense “is not actually a sign of spiritual eminence; . . . it is simply a sign of docility, of lack of enterprise and originality, of cowardice.” Once the Puritan forgets “his mainly imaginary triumphs over the flesh and the devil, . . . [he] always turns out to be a poor stick of a man in brief, a natural democrat.” [Thus, Puritans and democrats are twins, and “Puritan” is merely another name for “Yankee.”]
    Mencken adds, “No Puritan has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a poem worth reading — and I am not forgetting John Milton, who was not a Puritan at all, but a libertarian, which is the exact opposite. The whole Puritan literature is comprised in The Pilgrim’s Progress.” He continues, “Even in the department wherein the Puritan is most proud of himself, i.e., that of moral legislation, he has done only second- and third-rate work.” [Puritanism explains the low quality, meddlesome legislation flowing from Washington and most State capitals.] “His fine schemes for bringing his betters down to his own depressing level always turn out badly.”
    “Since the first uprising of the lower orders, the modern age has seen but one genuinely valuable contribution to moral legislation: . . . the Code Napoleon. It was concocted by a committee of violent anti-Puritans, and in the full tide of a bitter reaction against democracy.”
    Mencken continues, “If democracy had not lain implicit in Puritanism, Puritanism would have had to invent it. Each is necessary to the other. Democracy provides the machinery that Puritanism needs for the quick and ruthless execution of its preposterous inventions.” Puritans face great difficulty in advancing their schemes under autocracies. They can only convince the King if the King is crazy. Even then, the King’s ministers will restrain him. “But the mob is easy to convince, for what Puritanism has to say to it is mainly what it already believes: its politics is based upon the same brutal envies and quaking fears that lie under the Puritan ethic.” Continuing, Mencken notes that “the political machinery through which it [democracy] functions provides a ready means of translating such envies and fears into action. There is need only to sound the alarm and take a vote: the debate is over the moment the majority has spoken.” Thus, in democratic countries, “even the most strange and dubious legislative experiments are” enacted with ferocious haste. [Examples are Bush’s police state laws, which were mostly passed by Congress without anyone in Congress reading them and with little or no debate, and Obamacare, which Congress passed without reading or even knowing what was in it. Unfortunately, once enacted even the most egregious, intrusive, meddlesome, cumbersome, ineffective, inefficient laws are next to impossible to  repeal.]
    Mencken remarks “that this process of law-making by orgy, with fanatics supplying the motive-power and unconscionable knaves steering the machine, is bound to fill the statute-books with enactments that have no rational use or value save that of serving as instruments of psychopathological persecution and private revenge.” [And now you know why we have the laws that we do and so many of them.] Most laws “involve gross invasions of the most elementary rights of the free citizen, but they are popular with the mob because they have a virtuous smack and provide it with an endless succession of barbarous but thrilling shows.” Mostly, the victims of these laws are men whom “the mob naturally envies and hates — men of unusual intelligence and enterprise, men who regard their constitutional liberties seriously and are willing to go to some risk and expense to defend them. Such men are inevitably unpopular under democracy, for their qualities are qualities that the mob wholly lacks, and is uneasily conscious of  lacking: it thus delights in seeing them exposed to slander and oppression, and railroaded to prison.” [Although most members of the mob had never traded a stock, the mob was delighted when Martha Stewart went to prison.] Mencken notes that a district attorney is always ready to prosecute a superior man because “district attorneys are invariably men who aspire to higher office, and no more facile way to it is to be found than by assaulting and destroying a man above the general.” These are the type of district attorneys who become Congressmen. (One “is seldom promoted because he has been jealous of the liberties of the citizen.”) Furthermore, many judges reach “the bench by the same route.” [Most of the laws that Mencken uses as illustrations are petty, irritating laws. He seldom mentions the really despotic laws such as the wartime laws enacted during the Wilson administration that have been used since then to terrorize and imprison people who disagreed with the government. The laws that he mentions are nothing compared to today’s tax laws, which gather the mob’s support because they feed the mob’s envy: The mob is convinced that the tax laws are written to punish the rich and give the inferior man a free ride.]
    Mencken continues, “The whole criminal law in America thus acquires a flavour of fraud. It is constantly embellished and reinforced by fanatics who have discovered how easy it is to hurl missiles at their enemies and opponents from behind ranks of policemen. It is executed by law officers whose private prosperity runs in direct ratio to their reckless ferocity.” [If one listens to talk radio for a few days, especially on the shortwave and the Internet, he would discover the truthfulness of Mencken’s observation. He would discover that America has many political prisoners whose real crime, as opposed to the fraudulent crime of which they have been convicted with the aid of bias, prejudice judges, is that they stood for liberty.] Morons “whose chief delight lies in seeing their betters manhandled and humiliated” applaud this injustice. [Political cartoonists on the left are among the most idiotic of these morons.]
    “In the criminal courts a rich man not only enjoys none of the advantages that Liberals and other defenders of democracy constantly talk of; he is under very real and very heavy burdens.” Railroading a “better,” especially one who stands for liberty, is morally excusable. Sarcastically, Mencken asserts, “The district attorney is an altruist whose one dream is Law Enforcement; he cannot be terrified by the power of money; he is the spokesman of the virtuous masses against the godless and abominable classes.”
    Next, Mencken discusses Prohibition and the evils that it has brought instead of the paradise promised by its proponents. At the time that Mencken wrote, even the mob had turned against Prohibition, but its promoters refused to “repudiate their original nonsense.” [This sounds familiar. How many other laws are still being enforced that the mob has turned against? At least the mob got Prohibition repealed — and that required a constitutional amendment instead of a simple legislative enactment.] Prohibitionists are moved by “the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and, whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate.” [We see this with other laws — probably all mala prohibita laws. {Mala prohibitum is an offense prohibited by statute, but not inherently evil or wrong, such as failure to submit a report or to have a permit or license, failure to pay taxes, and most traffic violations. They are wrong because the government declares to be wrong. Opposite of mala prohibitum is mala in se, which is an offense that is evil or wrong from its own nature, irrespective of a statute, such as murder, rape, or robbery. Basically, the difference between the two is that mala in se is what God prohibits and mala prohibitum is what man prohibits.}] Like Prohibition, such laws become a means to “badger and annoy everyone who” does not comply with the letter of the law or its spirit, whichever is the most oppressive. Such laws “fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences” [as the drug laws do today]. Most of all, such laws satisfy “the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy.” Moreover, the Puritans can do this “with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.” Freedom from personal risk is the secret of the Puritans’ continual frenzy.
    Mencken notes “the American mob, far from being lawless, is actually excessively tolerant of written laws and judicial fiats, however plainly they violate the fundamental rights of free men, and . . . this tolerance is sufficient to protect them [the Prohibitionists, Puritans, and other meddlesome busybodies] from what, in more liberal and enlightened countries, would be the natural consequences of their anti-social activity.  If they had to meet their victims face to face, there would be a different story to tell.” However, “they seldom encounter this embarrassment. Instead, they turn the officers of the law to the uses of their mania.” He continues, “Thus, under democracy, the normal, well-behaved, decent citizen — the Forgotten Man of the late William Graham Sumner — is beset from all sides, and every year sees an augmentation of his woes.” [Sumner {1840–1910} was a classical liberal, a libertarian, and an American social scientist.] “In order to satisfy the envy and hatred of his inferiors and the blood lust of a pack of irresponsible and unconscionable fanatics, few of them of any dignity as citizens or as men and many of them obviously hypocritical and corrupt, this decent citizen [the Forgotten Man] is converted into a criminal for performing acts that are natural to men of his class everywhere, and police and courts are degraded to the abhorrent office of punishing him for them.” [Although Mencken writes this about Prohibition, it is true of most mala prohibita laws.]
    [What Mencken has written about the Puritan could just as well have been written about the Yankee. Substituting “Yankee” for “Puritan” would not change the meaning of what Mencken has written. The two are synonymous.]

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Beliefs of the Early Anabaptists -- Part 2

The Beliefs of the Early Anabaptists -- Part 2
Appendix. The Radical Anabaptists
by Thomas Allen

[Editor’s note: The following is a brief presentation of some radical Anabaptist leaders as presented in The Dutch Anabaptists: The Stone Lectures Delivered at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1918-1919 by Henry Elias Dosker. Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to the Dosker’s book referenced above.]

    Many historians identify Thomas Münzer or Müntzer  (1489 – 1525) as a founding father of the Anabaptists, although the conservative wing existed in Switzerland before his arrival. Münzer and his followers “prided themselves on an inner light, rejected infant baptism, and preached a millennial kingdom of Christ, in which believers would rule the world, lead an idyllic life, and enjoy social equality and communistic wealth” (p. 29). Münzer believed that “people had the right to rebel against a government which refused to obey the gospel of Christ and to rule accordingly” (p. 82).
    Melchior Hoffman (c. 1495 – c. 1543) preached the imminent arrival of the millennium, which he expected to begin 1553 at Strasbourg, the New Jerusalem (p. 52). Several years before he died, he recanted this notion (p. 53). According to the judges who condemned him to death, Hoffman (1) denied both the divinity and humanity of Christ, (2) denied the presence of God, and the doctrine of election by which he impugned the plan of salvation and taught an absolutely free will, (3) attacked the comfort of the consciousness of the forgiveness of sin, and (4) assigned infant baptism to the devil and disrupted the communion of saints (p. 52).
    His followers, who were called Hoffmanites, were accused of impure living. To which, they replied that they were not sinning and could not sin because their old Adam was dead (p. 52). With his death, the Hoffmanites died out (p. 53).
    David Joris (c. 1501 – August 1556), whom the Reformed Protestants considered the greatest heretic (p. 53), elevated himself above Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and even Christ, whose revelations became void for salvation with the arrival of Joris. He (Joris)was the true Messiah (p. 54). “Christ did not rise in the flesh, but is now reincarnated in” (p. 54) him (Joris). Thus, he (Joris) could “absolutely pardon sin, and . . . [could] also damn forever; and, at the last day, he will judge the world” (p. 54). Furthermore, he (Joris) “will again raise the House of Israel and the true children of Levi, with the true tabernacle of God; not by the way of the cross and of death, like the other Christ, but with mercy, love, and grace” (p. 54). Contrary to the fundamental practice of other Anabaptists, he allowed infant baptism because he had “no faith in any external application of the sacrament” (p. 60). His two primary ideas were these: “First, the Scriptures, their commands and ceremonies, must not be taken literally, but must be translated into the terms of one’s environment. . . . And secondly, the believer is a changed man, drastically changed; he lives not only in a different sphere of thought, but in a really new world, he stands individually before the great question of life and salvation. No church, no theology, no dogma can help him. God lives in and with believers, in a sense they are deified” (p. 56). His theology was so radical and unscriptural that even the Anabaptists excommunicated him (p. 56).
    Adam Pastor (d. 1560s), whose original name was Roelof Martens, professed an anti-Trinitarian doctrine, for which the Anabaptists excommunicated him (p. 59). He rejected “the Trinity, the preexistence of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Ghost” (p. 60) Mostly ignoring or downgrading the epistles of Paul, he focused on Christ, his life and teachings, which became the content of his religion. “He was totally averse to the Münster spirit” (p. 60). (The Münster spirit was violence of the Anabaptists that nearly destroyed Münster.) Like other Anabaptists, he rejected infant baptism, “but was against the overvaluation of adult baptism on faith” (p. 60). His followers were called “Pastorites.”
     Sebastian Franck (1499 – c. 1543) was an extreme liberal, a radical of the radical Anabaptist. Along with opposing the Münster party, he “rejected the Church as an institution. with her dogmas and sacraments, and taught an undogmatic, anti-ecclesiastical type of Christianity entirely depending on individual convictions. . . . He considers the inward testimony of the Spirit far superior to the Word of God, and utterly denies the doctrine of the Trinity, whilst he derides preaching and preachers and the sacraments” (p. 61). Moreover, the “Church of God is found everywhere; not only among Christians, but also among Jews, heathen, and Turks. Everyone who fears God is our brother, even though he never heard of baptism” (p. 60). According to Franck, The Church abandoned and overturned the entire apostolic traditions; therefore, “the Church will remain a hopeless makeshift till the end of time” (p. 61). Moreover, “no man has the right to gather the dispersed body of Christ, unless God specifically commissioned him to do so” (p. 62). His followers were called “Franconists.”
    What Bolshevism was to the twentieth century, radical Anabaptism was to the sixteenth century (p. 64). Bolsheviks were atheistic communists; radical Anabaptists were “Christian” communists.

Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Coley Allen

Part 1

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Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Beliefs of the Early Anabaptists -- Part 1

The Beliefs of the Early Anabaptists
Thomas Allen

    The following is a brief presentation of the beliefs of the early Anabaptists as presented in The Dutch Anabaptists: The Stone Lectures Delivered at the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1918-1919 by Henry Elias Dosker (published by The Judson Press, Philadelphia, 1921). Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are to Dosker’s book referenced above.
    According to Doctor Harnack, the Anabaptists “‘were three hundred years ahead of their time’” (p. 1). “Doctor Vedder calls them ‘the radical Reformation’” (p. 2).
    Initially, two primary factions of Anabaptist existed: the radical and the conservatives. The radical faction lasted only about two decades before it burned itself out. However, their violent behavior left such a disdainful taste in Europe that Protestants and Catholics would persecute the Anabaptist for most of the sixteenth century and even beyond. Some of the beliefs of a few leaders of the radical Anabaptists are presented in the appendix.
    Furthermore, many beliefs of the conservative Anabaptists, such as their rejection of infant baptism and taking oaths, terrified both Catholics and Protestants alike. Thus, both persecuted even the conservative Anabaptist. Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Zwingli, and other Protestant leaders condemned them as disciples of Satan (pp. 44-45). Seldom did the persecutors distinguish or even attempt to distinguish the various factions of the Anabaptist. They were all the same: heretical enemies of Church and State.
    Unlike the radical Anabaptists, the conservative Anabaptists had no political aspirations or millennial dreams and shunned carnal lusts (p. 94). For the most part, the conservative “withdrew from the world with almost ascetic austerity” (p. 94). However, many of them manage to acquire a good deal of wealth. Unlike the radical Anabaptists, who paid little or no attention to the Scriptures, the conservatives “depended absolutely on the Scriptures for their faith” (p. 94).
    In their practices, the Anabaptist had “[n]o regular priesthood, great simplicity of worship, no bearing of arms, no oath, but simple affirmation, separation between Church and State, and rebaptism of those who joined them from the old Church” (p. 16). They did not recognize infant baptism; they only accepted “adult baptism, based on the confessed faith of the candidate” (p. 17). Anabaptists “were well versed in the Scriptures, exceedingly strict in their lives, and rigorous in their church discipline” (p. 33).
    They believed themselves to be the chosen people; all others were gentiles. Only they were true Christians (p. 189).
    Anabaptists had no fixed ecclesiastical organization. Each congregation was autonomous (p. 201).
    Anabaptists believed in the absolute authority of the Holy Scriptures. They relied “on the Scriptures and on them alone” (p. 151). Each individual decided for himself what the Scriptures meant. However, they gave little weight to the doctrine of inspiration. Furthermore, “they spiritualize the Scriptures . . . [and] believe them explicitly” (pp. 152-153).  Nevertheless, they tended to read the Scriptures extremely literally. Still, the Scriptures “have an inner meaning, which may or may not be the same to different individuals” (p. 153). Following the Church of Rome, nearly all Anabaptists seem to accept the Apocrypha of the Old Testament as canonical (p. 153).
    Baptism was a distinguishing characteristic of the Anabaptist. The distinction was not in the form or method of baptism. The Anabaptists followed the common practices of the day of using affusion, i.e., pouring water over the head, or sprinkling (pp. 32, 180). (Baptism by immersion was not used until the mid-seventeenth century when their Baptist descendants adopted immersion, which was the form used by the early Christians, as the only appropriate method of baptism [pp. 176-177, 182]) Initially, rebaptism was optional (p. 32).
    Their distinction was their refusal to baptize infants and to accept the baptism of infants. To the Protestants and Catholics of the sixteenth century, such treatment of infants made them child-murders because “the age-long doctrine of the Church of Rome anent the absolute necessity of baptism to secure the salvation of the child” (p. 44). (Most Anabaptists did not even accept the baptism of children or teenagers.) Thus, the distinguishing characteristic “is the status of the child in the church of God. . . . It is the question of the immutability of the God of the covenant [Old Testament] and of the permanency of the covenant of grace [New Testament] and therefore of the true Scriptural significance of the sacrament of baptism” (pp. 183-184).
    Anabaptists believed in “adult baptism on confession of a personal faith in Christ” (p. 176). According to Anabaptist teaching, faith must precede baptism. As infants and young children lack the capacity to understand the gospel, the baptism of infants and young children was rejected. Moreover, “[i]nfant baptism is anti-Christian and of Satanic origin” (p. 185).
    The Anabaptists were not Trinitarians in the orthodox sense of the Trinity. They objected to the Trinitarian teachings of “consubstantiality” and “person” because of their lack of Scriptural support. However, they freely used the term “Trinity” by which they seem to mean God’s impenetrability or an expression of God’s being (pp 153-154).
    They may not have been Trinitarians in the sense of the Athanasian Creed. However, many Anabaptists believed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were so intertwined that they were inseparable — the “one is not without the other,” that is, the “one must be conjoined with the other, or the entire Deity is denied”  (p. 156). Others held that only one God existed, and in the New Testament, this God is called the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (p. 156).
    For most, “the Holy Spirit has no independent personal existence. He is merely the ‘inspiration,’ ‘the inward moving of the heart to things that are good’” (p. 155). Moreover, “God’s Spirit cannot thus separate itself from God” (p. 155). Besides, “God’s Spirit can [not] be conceived apart from himself . . . [or else the Spirit] would form a separate, self-existent, personal being” (p. 155). Also, the Father is a self-existing being, but the “Holy Spirit is no independent or personal being” (p. 155).
    In summary, the Anabaptists lacked a clear idea of the Trinity. Some approached the Catholic Trinity Doctrine whereas others resembled  Modalism (God, who is one person, exists in three modes or manifestation: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Yet, others approached Unitarianism or Socinianism (p. 157).
    Some Anabaptists believed that Jesus Christ had two natures: divine and human (p. 157). Others denied Christ divine honors (p. 159). Still, for others, Christ had only a divine nature.
    On the incarnation, most Anabaptist believed “that Christ had not taken his human body from Mary” (p. 82). They rejected the notion that Christ was incarnated of the Virgin Mary because of her sinful flesh (p. 160). Christ, the Word, did not take “his flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary; but has become flesh and blood in Mary’s womb, that is, he has been changed into it” (p. 160).
    God “‘has sent his own eternal word of power into this world, in the flesh, which has become flesh and a body, in form like any other man, without sin, and that he has been a bodily, visible word of God. . . . He has not taken flesh unto himself, but has become flesh and a body’” (pp. 160-161). Thus, Christ did not take his flesh and blood from Mary. He, as the Word, was made flesh and blood in Mary. Therefore, Christ did not possess two natures (p. 162).
    Whereas the Mennonite Anabaptists and most other Anabaptists accepted the notion of a preexisting Christ and, by that, an incarnation similar to that taught by the Church of Rome, some rejected it. For those who rejected the incarnation, Jesus was a natural but a sinless man. However, “‘God’s word, God’s will, God’s spirit, [and] God’s nature’” (p. 163) indwelt Christ along with an imminent conversation with God, which made him more than Adam’s flesh. Christ was the Son of God, “in so far as he was like God, in all the operations of heart and soul and mind, and thus felt himself to be the Son of God” (p. 164).
    However, most Anabaptists accepted the divinity of Christ. As for his humanity, most believed that the “‘Word within the body of Mary was changed into flesh, without taking over anything from the nature of Mary’” (p. 165). Christ had abandoned “his first, eternal, divine substance or essence . . . [and] was changed into another, i.e., a human substance and thus became man, able to suffer and to die, and has lost his first essence’” (p. 166). Thus, Christ had no human father or mother or relations. Nevertheless, many embraced the Catholic concept of the incarnation (p. 170).
    Anabaptists believed “that sin entered this world through Adam’s disobedience” (p. 171). However, Christ removed everything that Adam’s sin introduced, including death, into the world. As for children, the obedience of Christ, not baptism, liberates children from the liability of eternal damnation. Thus, “‘they deny absolutely that original sin, in young children, tends to eternal death’” (p. 172). For most Anabaptists, the atonement of Christ wiped out original sin.
    Anabaptists believed that all have sinned, but most believed that all “are called to salvation, because Christ died for all. This universal call presupposes the power to answer it. The cause of one’s damnation never lies with God” (p. 174).  Although God forces no man, he desires all to turn from self to him. They contend that all “salvation is from grace, but that grace is common to all” (p. 175). Like the Church of Rome, “they saw in justification a medicinal rather than a forensic act of God” (p. 175).
    Anabaptists “believed in salvation through Christ, but they glorified the Christian life” (p. 152). This stress was the result of “the legalistic character of their theology” (p. 152). Many so overemphasized the Christian life in the present that little regards were given to heaven or hell (p. 175).
    Anabaptists opposed “the mass, with its altars, images, garments, and, all its
heathenish ceremonies” (p. 151). Most followed the teachings of other Protestants on the Lord’s Supper. However, a few modified it (p. 185). Their churches lacked musical instruments (p. 214).
    A major cause of strife among the Anabaptists was the “ban”, i.e., excommunication. One congregation would ban one of its members or even another congregation over matters ranging from important doctrinal issues to such trivial matters as how one walked. Although the Anabaptists were “governed by the principle of individualism” (p. 190), the ban became popular and was a major cause of controversy among the  Anabaptists and the primary cause of schisms.
    Anabaptists were “a body of believers who had deliberately turned their backs on the world and now were a people separate unto the Lord” (p. 189). Any member who failed to live up to the ascetic standards of the congregation was banned, excommunicated. Whereas some congregations were fairly tolerant, others were extremely strict and would ban a member for any deviation.
    An example of the rigorousness of the ban was a marriage between a church member and a nonchurch member. For some, only marriages between members of the Anabaptist church were recognized (in this regard, they were similar to the Church of Rome). Anyone who married someone outside the church was banned and could never be reconciled or readmitted to the church (p. 190).
    Besides an inappropriate marriage, a person could be banned because his house, furniture, clothing, or ornamentation was above the standards of the congregation. (Although the Anabaptists did not condemn wealth, they did condemn ostentatiousness [p. 199].) Likewise, one could be banned for social contact with nonchurch members or a banned person or for attending the funeral of a nonchurch member (p. 194).
    Members of the church were not to have anything to do with a banned person, even if the person banned was a parent, child, spouse, or sibling. The ban prohibited all intercourse with the banned person, including buying, selling, eating, drinking, or conversing (p. 193).
    Although eschatology was important to many Anabaptists in the early years, the fanaticism that it caused resulted in the Mennonite descendants of the Anabaptists virtually to ignore eschatology, the future, heaven, and hell (p. 196).
    Women were not allowed to speak in their meetings and were not allowed to vote in the election of elders and deacons (p. 17). However, women occupied an honored place in their church life (p. 214).
    Some beliefs peculiar to a small minority of Anabaptist were polygamy (because “the Bible saints had practised it” [p. 82]) and the refusal to wear clothes (because “they were the naked truth, the image of God, and therefore were ashamed of nothing” [pp. 88-89].
    As shown above, the Anabaptists lack uniformity in their beliefs. They were highly variable on many important doctrines of Christianity, which should be expected from its decentralized structure and individualism with each congregation and even each individual free to decipher the truth from the Holy Scriptures.
    Because of the fanatics, the name “Anabaptist” had become synonymous with “violence, outrage, rebellion, sensuality, and every kind of outrage” (p. 92). Because of the stigma attached to “Anabaptist,” most Anabaptists rebranded themselves under different names. They became the Baptists and Mennonites. Many faded into the nonconformist movement in the Church of England (p. 46). Also, included among their descendants are the Quakers, English Independents, and Congregationalists (pp. 292-293).

Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Coley Allen

Part 2: Appendix

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