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Anabaptist Menno Simons

Updated on October 22, 2019
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Barry is the founder and dean of Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

Menno Simons: Anabaptist Pacifist

Menno Simons was a Dutch priest who was ordained at the age of 24 in the year 1524. He, like many around him, had been influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther and other protestants like Huldrych Zwingli. Through these influences, he came to see that the Bible was the only authority for the Church. He also became evangelical and preached the necessity to be spiritually “born-again.” He was influenced by other Anabaptists, such as the Swiss Brethren, as well. [MORE HERE]

There were at least three other things that influence Simons. As with many people at the time, he came to doubt the teaching of Transubstantiation. This is the Roman Catholic teaching that at the blessing of the elements in the Lord’s Supper by the priest, the bread becomes the flesh of Christ and the wine becomes the blood of Christ. Luther adopted a view that said the elements did not become the literal flesh and blood until they were consumed. Zwingli denied the sacramental nature of the Lord’s Supper, as well as the magical transformation of the elements. He said the bread and wine were a testimony and a reminder of the grace that had been given in salvation. Simons turned to Scripture to settle his mind and came to agree with Zwingli’s view.

The Execution of Snider the Tailor

In 1531, Sicke Freeks Snider was a tailor living in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. He was arrested for receiving adult baptism. Of course, the state church saw this as “re-baptism,” and hence those who denied infant baptism and saw only adult baptism as valid were labeled Anabaptist. The Anabaptists did not accept this label as they reject infant baptism as legitimate and saw themselves only as being baptized.

Snider was “…executed with the sword; his body shall be laid on the wheel, and his head set upon a stake, because he has been rebaptized, and perseveres in that baptism.” [1]

After the death of Snider, Simons found the arguments for infant baptism to be unsatisfactory. He searched the writings of the Protestants but was still perplexed. Again, he returned to read the Scriptures and in time, came to embrace adult believers’ baptism.

Up until this time, he remained in the Catholic Church but there was one event that was the final straw for Menno. It was the death of his brother. His brother was killed in one of the actions led by the radical, revolutionary Anabaptists. Menno blamed himself for the death of his brother and others. He believed that he was in a small way responsible for not teaching them the truth. If they knew the truth of the Bible they would not have been led astray by the radicals. Finally, in 1536, he left the Catholic Church.

Passivism

After disasters like the Peasants War in 1524 and the revolt in Munster, Germany, Simons said that the only sword that a Child of God should every weld is the Sword of the Lord, the Word of God. He taught that Jesus was a person of peace, that He never fought back and Christians should be the same way. This also meant that a Christian should never participate in a war.

The teachings of Simons went on to conclude that Christians form a distinct, separate community from the world. They were to be citizens of the world and the state in which they lived, but with minimal involvement. The church should live together and be governed under ministers and church teachers.

The Strange View of Simons on Christ

For the most part, the teachings of Simons are considered orthodox. Some theologians today are concerned with what appears to be works-based salvation. His teaching of the radical separation from the world and the rejection of all innovation and technology appears heterodox, at the least. It is not so much that he believes a person is saved by works but seems to conflate sanctification with justification. However, it is his view on the person and body of Christ which causes the most concern.

Menno argued that the woman of any child was merely a vessel for the baby and she contributed nothing of her own to the child. In a logical, simplistic way, he saw that the male sperm was the seed planted in the field of the woman’s womb. In all fairness, it is not until the late 1600s that science discovered spermatozoa and the oocyte (egg). He embraced the teaching of monophysitism: that Christ had one nature. He explains this by saying that the body of Christ was composed of "celestial flesh." This was an innovation in the teachings of the Church.

Menno found himself in opposition to both the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Both groups accepted the Chalcedonian Creed (451 A.D.) which said that Jesus was “truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body…two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Menno could not grasp the idea of two natures and said that the Creed and the Church would be teaching two men and two Sons of God. He went on to say that if any part of Christ was from Mary than Christ’s nature would be corrupted.

Foornotes

http://www.reformedreader.org/history/cramp/s05ch05.htm

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