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John J. Friesen is Professor Emeritus at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg. This write-up was produced for Meetinghouse, a consortium of Anabaptist publications. 

2017 is the 500th anniversary of boy name Luther posting 95 theses top top the doors the the churches in the city of Wittenberg, consisting of the every Saints Church. What Luther intended as a conflict over exactly how to reform abuses in the roman Catholic Church brought about the break-up of the Catholic Church and the begin of the good news Reformation.

Why should Anabaptist Mennonites care around Martin Luther, a young university professor, and his reforms? Why need to this anniversary be detailed in Mennonite denominational papers?

The primary reason why Mennonites should care about Luther’s reform is that Luther is the reason why there to be an Anabaptist Mennonite reform activity at all. Luther’s reforms, and the conflicts they spawned in between Catholics and also Protestants, created space for the Anabaptist activity to take root.

They sprang up in German states, north Switzerland, Moravia, and also the Netherlands. Without Luther, and the various other reformers who followed his lead, there would have been no Anabaptist movements.

Mennonites should likewise care around Luther’s reform since the at an early stage Anabaptist leaders were influenced by Luther’s crucial ideas. Luther’s reform started as a critique the the Catholic Church marketing indulgences (payments to alleviate the lot of pain experienced for sin). In response, Luther recipe his central view that salvation is through grace, the is, a gift from God, and also not by works.

When challenged around how he could make such a claim since it deviated indigenous the beliefs of many of the an excellent teachers that the medieval church, Luther said his authority was the Bible, no tradition. Specifically, that based his check out of grace on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans and Galatians. It to be the bible alone, Luther said, top top which the based his watch that salvation is by confidence through grace.

Following this claim, Luther made decision to do the Bible easily accessible to the masses through translating it right into the German language. Widespread circulation was made possible by the newly invented moveable type printing presses. Access to the Bible allowed people to read Scripture because that themselves and to implement reforms the they thought were constant with scripture.

Luther additionally rejected the manage that the Catholic priesthood had actually over accessibility to forgiveness. Luther thought that every believers had actually direct access to God – no priestly mediation to be necessary. Luther referred to as this the priesthood of all believers. Every these emphases Anabaptists applauded.

Even despite at an initial Luther appeared to empower common people, he additionally spoke very of the duty German princes need to play in any kind of reform. Once the peasants revolted in the year 1524-25, Luther condemned castle harshly. He actors his lot v the princes and embraced the state-church version for his reform. Luther looked to the German princes both because that protection and also direction. This decision set Luther and also the Anabaptists against one another.

Anabaptists thought that Luther’s reform concepts should have resulted in a believers’ church. Such a church would certainly have had those who truly had belief in God and also had committed themselves to a life that Christian discipleship. This alternative would have actually resulted in a church that was a decimal in the population. Agree a believers’ church would have resulted in a pluralist society, in which minority church teams were tolerated. As soon as Luther opted for the state-church model, put the Lutheran church under the authority of the state, and also persecuted decimal churches, Anabaptists believed that Luther had betrayed the teachings that the Bible.

This commitment come a believers’ church allowed Anabaptists to reshape basic Christian beliefs and practices. Anabaptists emphasized baptism top top the communication of adult confessions of faith, rather of infant baptism. Church leader were preferred from in ~ the neighborhood of believers rather of being appointed through church hierarchies, or by state officials. Revolutionary were based on the church community’s analysis of scripture, quite than on the basis of what was politically expedient and approved by princes. Church discipline and also social shunning changed trials and also executions of those with whom lock disagreed.

For worship, Anabaptists gathered in houses, barns and caves to read scripture together. They disputed biblical texts and discerned together, under the leading of the divine Spirit, how to use them to day-to-day living. Castle sang songs composed by their very own members based upon experiences the persecution and martyrdom. No an ext majestic cathedrals, chants, organs, monastic choirs, and elaborate liturgies wherein members were largely spectators. Lock rejected feudal oaths due to the fact that their primary loyalty was to God and not come princes and emperors. They supported a life of peace, rubbish violence, refuse to lug swords, forgave those who wronged them, and also reconciled conflicts between members that the church.

One cannot imagine the Anabaptist activity without Luther’s reforms. And yet, the direction the Luther’s revolutionary took led to Luther becoming one the Anabaptists’ bitterest enemies. Also the Augsburg Confession the 1530, the straightforward Lutheran confession, consisted of the following amongst a number of condemnations: “We guilty of Anabaptists who forbid believer to host office,” and also “We blame to Anabaptists who reject the baptizing the children, and also say that kids are conserved without baptism.” many Lutheran says crushed Anabaptist teams within your borders.

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This sharp break between Luther and also the Anabaptists, however, is not the end of the story the Luther’s influence on Anabaptist Mennonites. In the so late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Lutheran Church spawned a Pietist movement, which has in plenty of ways positively affected Mennonites. Pietism emphasized scriptures reading by laity, a warmth devotional life, an suffer of switch and personal commitment to God, a life of discipleship, and comprehensive hymnody. Pietists drew upon the beforehand emphases of Luther, and also thus in numerous respects, to be close come the emphases of the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement.

Martin Luther and his followers have had a an effective shaping influence on Anabaptist Mennonites, then and now. It is ideal to mental Luther and the far-reaching contributions the made to all denominations of the Christian Church, consisting of the Anabaptist Mennonites. Luther was a giant in his age and also will constantly be honored for the significant impact that made.