The Reformed Rejected Both World-flight And Earthly Golden Ages

The Swiss Brethren, who signed the Schleitheim, confessed (in article 6) that a Christian may not serve as a magistrate and the magistrate may not enforce religious orthodoxy and (in article 7) that Christians may not swear oaths for any purpose.60 The Mennonite Short Confession of Faith (1610) and the Dordrecht Confession (1632) continued the tradition of the Schleitheim on civil life and oaths.61 If, however, we consider the entirety of early Anabaptist history, we see stark contradictions of that confession. Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525) was a significant leader in the Anabaptist movements who, in his 1524 sermon on Daniel 2, virtually commanded the Elector Saxony to enforce religious orthodoxy.62 By Easter 1525, we find him at the vanguard of a widespread and violent peasant revolt in Thuringia and the Black Forest seeking to realize his eschatological vision by force. The violent Münster rebellion (1533–1536) was not led by theocratic Reformed folk but by Anabaptists. The Reformed rejected both the Schleitheim’s call for disengagement from civil life and the Anabaptist vision of a theocratic golden age on the earth.63 It seems most accurate to say that since the eighteenth century, many Reformed and Presbyterian churches have come to agree with some aspects of the Mennonite critique of Christendom, but the history of the Reformed reconsideration of Christendom is complex and one could certainly not draw a straight line from Menno to Abraham Kuyper’s critique of Christendom.

…The Reformed churches are able to revise ethical inferences without vitiating the system of doctrine because ethics are the product of the system of doctrine and not the reverse. Should the churches change the doctrine of God, that would necessarily produce changes throughout Reformed theology, piety, and practice, but there is no evidence nor any good reason to think that rejecting theocratic politics has the same effect.

R. Scott Clark, “A House of Cards? A Response to Bingham, Cribben, and Caughey,” in Matthew C. Bingham, Chris Caughey, R. Scott Clark, Crawford Gribben, and D. G. Hart, On Being Reformed: Debates Over a Theological Identity. Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World (London: Palgrave-Pivot, 2018), 84–85, 86).


60. Pelikan and Hotchkiss, 699–703.

61. Pelikan and Hotchkiss, 766–777; 781–782.

62. See Hans-Jürgen Goertz, Thomas Müntzer: Apocalyptic Mystic and Revolutionary, trans.
Jocelym Jaquiery (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993), 123.

63. See, for example, Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 3 vol. (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982–1999); Greg L. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1977).


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  1. Given the range of groups that were gathered under the term Anabaptist, it is not surprising that not all of them agreed with either the Schleitheim or Dortrecht confessions. Muntzer was an outlier among Anabaptists and not a signatory to the Schleitheim Confession. Anabaptist confessions did not have the same authority as Reformed confessions.

    • Rich,

      My reading of the Anabaptists suggests to me that M. wasn’t really an outlier. He represented a wing of the movement that had a fair bit of influence which would reverberate through Modern church history, including in the Pentecostal movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.

    • I would say he was more of an outFALLER, with Beukelszoon and, probably, Matthys as well being even worse. What other Anabaptists went in for for violent insurrection in this sort of way? I don’t think the others went in even as forth as Zwingli did for violent resistance.

  2. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why, but there seems to be a strong tradition of postmillennialism (strictly speaking post-future-millennialism, because I believe that τὰ ἔθνη in Revelation 20:3 means “the gentiles”, placing the start of the millennium shortly after Pentecost. Which makes me a post-present-millennialist, commonly called an amillennialist) among Reformed, particularly in the Scottish Reformed churches – Robert Murray M’Cheyne, though a postmillennialist himself, seems to have perceived the intractable problem when he asked his elders, “Do you think Christ could come tonight?” – etc.

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