This book contains the presentations that were given at a 2012 conference by (essentially) the same name at my alma mater, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. (Videos of the presentations can be viewed here.) I have been mildly interested in reading this, to be honest, but not overly so. However, when I saw it offered on sale at Amazon the other day I happily purchased it. Having just finished it, I can say that this is an extremely interesting and informative work and one, I should say, that is more than worth the full retail cost. (In fact, I may very well purchase a hardcopy because I think this would be a valuable addition to my library.) Thus, my mild skepticism was wrong, and I gladly stand corrected!
There is way too much information in the book to summarize here, but, suffice it to say, you will walk away from a reading of this book with a very good understanding of the key personalities, historical developments, and controversies of the Anabaptists. You will also come away with a deep appreciation for these brave men and women. To be sure, the authors do not seek to gloss over some of the more unfortunate theological, political, and personal aspects that have been associated with the movement, but they convincingly show these to be anomalies and perversions of the true Anabaptist spirit.
What is the true Anabaptist spirit? I would say it is radical discipleship. This discipleship arose out of a fearless and honest reading of scripture and a desire to implement what was read therein. This led to regenerate church membership, believers baptism, missions, and personal holiness. The Anabaptist movement was filled with fascinating and colorful personalities who were persecuted by Catholics and (amazingly) Protestants alike.
There were many things in the book that I found very interesting. The Anabaptists’ relationship with Zwingli, for example, is as interesting as it is frustrating. Furthermore, if Luther hatched the egg that Erasmus laid then the Anabaptists can rightly be said to have hatched the egg that Luther laid. Speaking of Erasmus, the book’s discussion of his impact on Balthasar Hubmaier was likewise intriguing. The account of Luther’s detestation of the Anabaptists is tragic. What is more, the magisterial Reformers’ wrestling with and ultimate rejection of believer’s baptism is a most unfortunate example of the victory of eisegesis over exegesis.
This is a very, very good book. I’m sorry I did not read it when it first appeared. If you would like to see church history taught in an engaging way, read the lectures in this book.