Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Schleitheim Confession (Part 4)

The articles which we discussed and on which we were of one mind are these 1. Baptism; 2. The Ban [excommunication]; 3. Breaking of Bread; 4. Separation from the Abomination; 5. Pastors in the Church; 6. The Sword; and 7. The Oath….

Sixth. We are agreed as follows concerning the sword: The sword is ordained of God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and puts to death the wicked, and guards and protects the good….In the perfection of Christ, however, only the ban is used for a warning and for the excommunication of the one who has sinned, without putting the flesh to death, - simply the warning and the command to sin no more….

Seventh. We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His [followers], whether true or false….
...Testifying and swearing are two different things. For when a person swears he is in the first place promising future things, as Christ was promised to Abraham Whom we a long time afterwards received. But when a person bears testimony he is testifying about the present, whether it is good or evil….Christ also taught us along the same line when He said, Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil….


It is instructive to note what these early Swiss Anabaptists did not incorporate into their confession. They did not include anything about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the gospel. Later Anabaptists did write out statements of their belief on these subjects; they were not anti-theological. However, the omission here reveals that the driving force behind the Anabaptist movement was primarily moral concerns. It was their own first hand experience of corruption and coercion within the confessing church which shaped their convictions. Unfortunately, they tended to confuse crucial doctrines such as justification, which mitigated the good effect of their high moral aspirations.

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