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Pray for the Bennetts in Australia as they with God's help and for His glory are seeking to establish: Western Plains Baptist Fellowship, and Gilgandra Baptist Fellowship as New Testament Baptist churches.
 

THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN

A BOOK REVIEW

Missionary David C. Bennett, D. Min.

Perhaps you are one of those people whose family is knowledgeable concerning their heritage and family roots. That is great but my family never spoke much about our roots. My grand-father, my father’s dad, often said we did not talk about our heritage since there was sure to e a horse thief or two in the bunch. Well, that was probably true but the older I get the more getting to know one’s heritage grows more interesting, horse thieves or not.

As I write this review my wife is making a birthday cake for our eldest son who lives near by. This cake calls for a covering of home made whipped cream. My wife made the whipped cream topping and took a spoon and asked me to taste it to see if it was sweet enough. It was, but it only took one taste and I had a desire for more. Now, she did not allow me to have any more since it was needed for the cake and which my body did not need either, but the point being, is that I want to give you enough from this review so you will desire to taste more!

The book you are being introduced to traces our roots as Bible believing Baptists. The author, Leonard Verduin, lived from 1897-1999. The first printing was in 1964 by Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI. My copy is a reprint by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. Paris, Arkansas. It has 292 pages and cost eleven dollars plus shipping.

One interesting fact concerning the writing of this book is it was sponsored by the Calvin Foundation, Grand Rapids, MI. The eight chapters contained within its pages shows forth a negative aspect of the Reformers toward our spiritual ancestors. For instance on page 50 we read "Since this study is published under the auspices of a Foundation that calls itself by the name of one of the major Reformers, John Calvin, it will be in place to take a closer look at his thinking in regard to the matter in hand." "Although Servetus was not typical of the Stepchildren...his case does throw a great deal of light upon the mind of John Calvin in regard to the matter we are discussing." On page 51 we read that "The burning of Servetus – let it be said with utmost clarity – was a deed for which Calvin must be held largely responsible." Servetus is an example of what the Reformers thought of our spiritual ancestors.

Introduction:

The Reformers found that they were opposing not only Rome but "the Radicals." The Radicals also had various names given to them of which the "Stepchildren" is one. This war waged against the Radical was known as the Second Front and it was in relation to what "the Church of Christ is by definition and what its relation is to that which lies around it" page 16.

Chapter One: Donatisten

On page 21 we read that "One of the terms of reproach used by the Reformers as an incriminating label of those comprising the Second Front was ‘Donatists’; the form ‘neo-Donatists’ also occurs in the sources." Dr. Thomas Strouse in I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH page 57 says "To the Donatist, the true church was the assembly of immersed believers in a particular locale..." In the Reformers pulling away from Rome they took with them the sacral philosophy. "By sacral society we mean society held together by a religion to which all the members of that society are committed" page 23.

On page 30 we read that "As early as the year 250 Origen was already..." hinting at a sacralistic society. Origen haled from Alexandria in Egypt, the home of the Greek texts underlying Westcott and Hort’s Critical Greek Text which is the basis for the majority of the new English versions. It is the Critical Greek Text that has spawned an ever rapidly expanding ecumenical movement. The ultimate end of the ecumenical movement is a sacral society.

The merging of the sacred with the secular was fully realized in 313 under Constantine when the Edit of Milan legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. It was this to which our spiritual ancestors ardently protested. It is also with Constantine that the monogram is said to have been invented by him "...and which has found its way into almost every Christian Church, the monogram that looks like the letter p with and X worked into its stem (the X representing the first letter of the Greek word Christos and the p being the second letter of it) was introduced on the shields of Constantine’s soldiers; the ‘converted’ emperor seems not to have had any interest in making it available as a badge for men not in uniform" pages 31, 32.

"It was at this point that Donatism appeared. Donatism was essentially a protest against the new sacralism" page 32. Our spiritual ancestors did not accept a sacral society or those symbols adopted by such. They also rejected the word "catholic" as it "is derived from the Greek kata (meaning ‘according to’) and halos (meaning ‘the entirety’); the combination means then ‘according to the entirety’ and fits into the language of ‘Christian sacralism’" page 34. Our spiritual forefathers were Biblicists and opposed sacralism because "...the fact that the blue-print of the authentic Church" was "still accessible, in the New Testament" page 41.

In concluding the review of Chapter One we read that "One can always learn where a man stands in regard to the tensions that came to expression between the Reformers and the Stepchildren if we ask him what he thinks of the Constantinian change as such" page 59.

Chapter Two: Stäbler

The name stäbler means staff carrier and "The Donatists may have been the first staff-carriers" page 64. A foot note on page 64 says "At a hearing, held in 1590 to ascertain whether there had been any Anabaptists in the area, witness based his testimony, that there had indeed been some, on the fact that he ‘had met them often enough when with their little staff ... they were on their way to their preachings or whatever it is they do.’"

Our forefather’s had many names of which we have noted a couple already but they were also known as "heretic". What caused them to be called such? The heretics said "that their Church is the true Church and that the Roman Church is no Church but a Church of malignants" page 70. This was a group in which most of us would feel right at home!

The forerunners of today’s Bible believing Baptists did not hold to the concept of an invisible church. "Calvin’s visible Church is the Church of Constantinianism; his invisible Church is the Church of the New Testament" page 82. In fact "This whole concept of ‘Church visible’ and ‘Church invisible’ is foreign to the New Testament..." pages 82, 83.

Chapter Three: Catharer

This name Catharer was also given to the Stepchildren and in its noun form was a derogatory name used to discredit them. The Roman church and the Reformers both saw the Anabaptists as "a major threat to what is conceived to be Biblical Christianity" page 98.

A man was known to be an Anabaptist by his good deportment. "Conversely, we read of people cleared of Anabaptist leanings by their bad deportment." That should wake us up as to how we are living!

The Catharer’s believed the new birth was internal and as such the Church looked "for signs of this inner renewal. In this sense a ‘walk worthy of the calling’ is a prerequisite for membership" page 118.

Chapter Four: SACRAMENTSCHWÄRMER

The above name simply means "Sacramentarians" and was a term of reproach used by the Reformers against the Stepchildren. A definition of the derogatory name Sacramentarian was given to "a person who had a low view of the Sacrament, giving it a place below that of the Word" page 142 footnote.

"Augustine taught, and all adherents of ‘Christian sacralism’ repeated after him, that society cannot hang together unless it be bound by a common religion. And he taught that it is in the Sacrament that the cohesive power of religion resides. Calvin in his day endorsed much of this, saying, in the Institutes IV, 14:19, that ‘Men cannot be welded together in any name of religion, whether true or false, unless they be bound in partnership of signs or visible sacraments.’ It was the Anabaptists’ assault upon the sacraments as binders of society that made them so odious in the sight of the Reformers" Footnote page 139 (Emphasis added). Again I say we are found in good company with the Anabaptists.

This chapter is worthy of a good slow read as it shows forth the works salvation entailed in the Roman Church via the sacraments. Against this "a chorus of protest resounds across the ages, contesting all that feeds the idea of salvation by sacramental manipulation, and sustaining all that which belongs with the formula of salvation by believing response to the preached Word" page 142. Where is the "chorus of protest" today?

Before leaving this chapter it is worth noting that in the days of our spiritual relatives "it was frightfully dangerous to possess such a copy of the Word, the ‘heretics’ played it safe by storing the Word in a place to which the inquisitor had no access, namely in human memory" page 152 (Emphasis added).

Chapter Five: Winckler

This word was another name of derision given our spiritual forefathers and is derived from the German "Winckel" which means a corner or an out of the way place. Prominent in the word is the idea of illicit or unauthorized. When these Bible believing people gathered together they were "formed without license from the civil powers" page 161. The Winckler gathering was not for entertainment but "the expounding of the Scriptures was paramount, the main dish on the menu" footnote page 160. In other words today’s emphasis on drama, dance, and music in the church was not the diet of the Winckler.

The Winckler gatherings "were a standing threat to a sacral order" page 168. "Of the Winckler it may certainly be said that ‘the common people heard them gladly" page 170.

Chapter Six: Wiedertäufer

The above word simply means "Anabaptists". "Rebaptizing is as old as Constantinianism. There were Anabaptists, called by that name, in the fourth century" page 190. And "To rebaptize was considered a capital crime" page 190. The Anabaptists were not new on the scene for "The Donatists were the original Anabaptists" page 192. Praise the Lord for those who have gone before!

Our spiritual ancestors were a hated lot and "in 1529, the Diet of Speier decreed, ‘Every Anabaptist or rebaptized person, of either sex, is to be put to death, by fire, or by the sword, or by some other means" page 202. "Speier was, of course, Catholic-controlled. The rigor practiced by the Catholics against the Anabaptists did not, however, exceed that of the Protestants" page 202 footnote.

Chapter Seven: Kommunisten

The above term has to do with "what is known as ‘community of goods’" page 221. The Anabaptists were charged with sharing not only their worldly material goods but their wives and children. In answer "it may be said that the charge of ‘wives common’ was fed by the fact that Anabaptist husbands traveled a great deal, partly because of their urge to carry the Gospel to others and partly as a safety measure" page 228. Therefore until the husband returned the Anabaptist wife and children took refuge with another Anabaptist family.

Chapter Eight: Rottengeister

The "Rottengeister are people who agitate within a society to form a party" page 243. These people, who are our spiritual family, were a threat to not only Rome but the Reformers "monolithic society" and sacral society, page 243.

"Not one of the Reformers seems to have been aware of the fact that Christians are, and in the nature of things must be, Rottengeister" page 244. These Rottengeister’s were also evangelistic. It is said one of them swam "across the Ibs River, full of floating ice at the time, in the deep of night, in order to reach a person on the other side who had given evidence of being receptive to the gospel" page 266 and quoted from Death Penalty for Heresy page 175.

When one accepts a sacral society, evangelism is dulled if not buried. In the thinking of our spiritual ancestors there was not foreign missions as opposed to home missions but simply missions. "Whether a man lives in the jungles of the Amazon or in the jungles of Omaha makes no essential difference, both are objects of the missionary outreach, and in the same way" page 270.

Postscript:

The battle is not over as "There are straws in the wind which indicate that the battle that raged at the Second Front is not ancient history and a thing of the past" page 278. One of these straws in the wind is the "overtones of the so-called ecumenical movement that leave the impression that sacralism is not quite dead..." page 278. Mr. Verduin has aptly told in THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN a story that "will be useful reading for all who come after them and who seek to fight the good fight of faith" page 281. I trust this review has sweetened your taste enough to purchase the book for; this book presents our great spiritual family heritage as Bible believing Baptists.
 

 
Please click here for the Most Important Message of the Bible Concerning You. "
Is any of the following a blessing to you today?
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Matthew 24:3

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

1 Corinthians 2:9


Missionaries David and Pamela Bennett

The Bennetts Serving the Lord in Australia Since 1979.

Phone/Fax: 011-61-2-6884-2846

E-Mail: revdocbennett@gmail.com or aussiedubbo@yahoo.com

Blog: www.bennettsnews.blogspot.com.au/

Address: Dr. and Mrs. Bennett, PO Box 1241 Dubbo NSW 2830, AUSTRALIA

Send Support to: The Bible For Today Baptist Church -- c/o Dr. and Mrs. Bennett Mission Fund --
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