Monday, August 21, 2006

Blog Name Explanation

It's not my intent to insult the intelligence of any theological students or church history buffs who might wander by and read this post, but as my blog was recently referenced by a coworker in a monthly email newsletter distributed by the BGCM, I felt that some might visit my site for the first time and wonder about the significance of the title "Radical Reformation Fan."

The Radical Reformation refers to a smaller movement within the greater Reformation movement that has traditionally been identified most with the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others in either the Lutheran or Reformed traditions. The Radical Reformers (also known more popularly as the Anabaptists) went beyond the Magisterial Reformers (as the above men are labelled) by insisting on the need for a separation of the church from the state. Both Luther and Calvin tied the success of their reforming movements to the support of the German and Swiss states respectively. The Anabaptists contended that the state had no right to impose a system of beliefs on anyone and insisted that only an uncoerced faith was a legitimate expression of belief in Christ.

The Anabaptists also took the daring step of initiating believers' baptism in January of 1525, less than 8 years after Luther had tacked his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church. They argued that only true believers could understand the significance of the ordinance and demonstrate their commitment to the lordship of Christ by submitting to baptism. Many of the other basic beliefs that we maintain today as Baptists can be traced back to the Anabaptists.

My love for Anabaptist history was whetted by a church history professor I was privileged to study under at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary--Dr. William Estep. His book, The Anabaptist Story, contains many moving accounts of the sacrifices that these radical reformers paid for their beliefs--many of them having suffered martyrdom. The sad fact is that they were persecuted not only by the Roman Catholic Church, but also by Lutherans and Calvinists. My wife and I took a Reformation study tour to Europe with Dr. Estep when we were still in seminary and it was one of those unforgettable experiences in life. While his book is out of print, it is still possible to find a copy of it in seminary libraries and even some church libraries. I would commend its reading if you can find it.

1 comment:

GuyMuse said...

Dear RRFan,

I have Estep's book sitting right on the shelf behind me as I type. What struck me about the book were the similarities of experiences that many house church folks have with the established church of today. Of course I don't know anybody who has been actually strangled or drowned for their convictions, but there is plenty of comparable areas between Anabaptists and contemporary house church advocates, as they are both greatly misunderstood by the established western church.