Two-Kingdom Mennonite

In the early 16th century thousands of Anabaptists coverts spread throughout Germany and the Netherlands. Although both Catholic and Reformed denominations together persecuted them, they continued to grow in number from 1525-1550. So much that by 1553 the Doopsqezinde, better known as Mennonites were the largest evangelical group in the Netherlands! With that, they became the largest evangelical group which complied an enormous martyrology. Menno Simons through this time and after continued to increasingly rigid church discipline as he grew older, and by 1561 at Menno’s death, the Netherlands Mennonites were broken into four orders; the Flemings, the Frisians and Germans, and the Waterlands. By 1580’s confession-making was well established through Europe and denominations within protestantism. So John de Rys and Lubbert Gerrits, ministers in the Mennonite denomination wrote The (40 article) Waterland Confession, better known as A Brief Confession of the Principal Articles of the Christian Faith (For Mennonites).

When reading this confession, I understand the German-Anabaptist/Mennonites had differences with the German-Refromers, but one article stands out to me among the other 39 articles. Article 37 of The Waterland Confession, dealing with The Office of the Civil Magistrate states,

“Government or the civil magistrate is a necessary ordinance of God, instituted for the government of common human society and the preservation of natural life and civil good, for the defense of the good and the punishment of the evil. We acknowledge, the Word of God obliging us, that it is out duty to reverence magistracy and to show to it honor and obedience in all things which are not contrary to the Word of God. It is our duty to pray to the omnipotent God for them, and to give thanks to Him for good and just magistrates and without murmuring to pay just tribute and customs. This civil government the Lord Jesus did not institute in his spiritual kingdom, the church in the New Testament, nor did he join it to the offices of his church: nor did he call his disciples or followers to royal, ducal or other power; nor did he teach that they should seize it and rule in a lordly manner; much less did he give to the members of his church the law, agreeable to such office or dominion: but everywhere they are called away from it (which voice heard from heaven ought to be heeded) to the imitation of his harmless life and his footsteps bearing the cross, and in which nothing is less in evidence than an earthly kingdom, power and sword. When all these things are carefully weighed (and moreover not a few things are joined with the office of civil magistracy, as waging war, depraving enemies of good and life, etc., which [do not agree with] the lives of christians who ought to be dead to the world), they agree either badly or plainly not at all, hence we withdraw ourselves from such offices and adminstratrations. And yet we do not wish that just and moderate power should in any manner be despised or condemned, but that it should be truly esteemed, as in words of Paul, the Holy Spirit dictating, it ought to be esteemed.”

I could be crazy, but seems a bit 2-K to me.

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4 Comments on “Two-Kingdom Mennonite”

  1. Mike – I’m not certain what the Anabaptist view of 2K has to do with the Reformed one. This at least on the surface seems a bit like “guilt by association.” That would be like a KJV-Onlyist saying that dispensationalism is wrong because it came about at about the same time as the RV of the Bible was released (1880s). The Anabaptists embraced two-kingdoms because 1 – it was the closest view geographically that they knew and 2 – it affirmed and justifiied their desire to radically separate from the world. A whole different paradigm was at work. I don’t think it can be taken seriously that Anabaptists are like WSCal. Not trying to put words in your mouth – just sayin’

    Best,
    Scott

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Dewalt, Michael Dewalt. Michael Dewalt said: Two-Kingdom Mennonite: In the early 16th century thousands of Anabaptists coverts spread throughout Germany and … http://bit.ly/ehcQqp […]

  3. Pete Garcia says:

    These ideas are almost lifted off the pages from patriarchs such as Tertullian and Justin Martyr. They clearly taught non-participation in matters of the state based on the state’s participation in violence and idolatry.

    It seems to me like Luther and Calvin bite the hands that feed them.

    The problem I encounter with 2K theology is that it negates redemption and transformation of unjust systems because they are relegated to the “wordly” realm of civil authorities or big business or public institutions.

    It’s my understanding that Luther heavily favored the German authorities. Look at the Peasant’s Revolt, for example. Luther’s support for civil authority rather than the reformation principles he set in motion lost him a lot of lower class supporters.

    Mennonite pacifism wasn’t as far-reaching as it is today. They let the state do it’s thing and advocated for peace among Christians and non-participation with the state’s sword. I think the main difference is in how the two strands understand civil authorities. By and large, Anabaptists understand the state as an authority set in place (i.e. it’s there, but we don’t care), however, not instituted by God to do God’s will. God is in favor of justice rather than civil order and obedience. Again, this is very similar to Tertullian and Justin Martyr.

    How was 2K theology received or practiced in its historical context?

  4. Michael,

    Since 2K Theology seems to be a developing influence in the last 2 years I might be walking on dangerous ground in saying what I am about to. While 2K is not a monolithic theological construct, I do concur that Anabaptist separationism, and certain Two Kingdom views have a similarity to them. While we should rigorously defend the spirituality of the church, we should never fear encouraging believers to exercise their gifts in the civil realm if they are being called by God to do so. The question that arises then is the following: “If a believer holds a law-making office, what law should govern his lawmaking?” The 2K guys would span the spectrum from hesitant to radically opposed if one were to suggest that they use special revelation. Herein lies the similarity. The 2K men would not formulate a doctrinal position of believer-separation from political involvement, but I think that they would practically land there. Hope this doesn’t confuse matters more!


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