In his book The Jesus Paradigm, Dave Black celebrates the Anabaptists, but he makes it clear that he is not trying to claim perfection for them. This relates to some recent discussion around the blogs on this topic.
From Dave Black Online, used with the author’s permission:
I am very busy with my new book, but I would like to take this opportunity to say that my love for the Anabaptists is not absolute. I tried to make this clear in the conclusion to chapter 3 of The Jesus Paradigm:
A question may legitimately be asked by those who have had the patience to complete the reading of the preceding pages: Why should a committed Baptist so vigorously promote Anabaptist ideals? The answer is that Anabaptist principles can be applied to many modern problems of church life – restoring church discipline to our nominal memberships, fostering the ministry of the “laity,” promoting global missions – to name but a few.
I didn’t write this chapter because I’m in favor of belittling the work of the Magisterial Reformers. For clarity’s sake I must repeat that I am indicting the Reformers only because they were inconsistent with their own principles of reformation. Here, of course, I am not alone in my thinking. As far back as 1914, Henry Vedder, in his book The Reformation in Germany, had this to say about the Anabaptists:
They were the only party among those protesting against the errors of Rome who were logical and thoroughgoing. They alone accepted in absolute faith and followed to its necessary consequences the principle avowed by the leading reformers, that the Scriptures were the sole source of religious authority…The Anabaptists alone had penetrated beneath the surface of traditional Christianity and comprehended the real Gospels of Jesus…. In a word, the Anabaptists were the real reformers, and the only real reformers, of the Sixteenth century.
I hope no reader will suppose that Anabaptism is being put forward as an alternative to the Word of God, as if any man-made movement is preferable to the testimony of inspired Scripture. The record of Anabaptism is by no means a spotless one. Like every movement of the Holy Spirit it is the story of a weak, stammering church that moved over a field of ecclesiastical rubble. I’m not condoning everything in the movement or offering pious panaceas. If I have left an overly positive impression, it is because I believe that an appreciation of Anabaptism can prove fruitful in many areas of Christian life and witness. The important point is this: Anabaptism was a valid, if incomplete, representation of Christ’s Body – nothing more, nothing less.
I must say that writing this book was one of the strangest and most terrifying things I’ve ever undertaken. But if you’re sincerely interested in knowing what I think about the Anabaptists, it’s a must read.
I agree fully that this is a must read if you want to understand what Dave Black is trying to say about the Anabaptists, and in turn about who we should be as Christians today. As editor, the book was hardly what I expected when I first contracted for it; it was, in fact, substantially better than I had hoped. I should apologize to Dave for my inadequate expectations. I knew he was a good writer, but things turned out even better!
— Henry Neufeld, Energion Publications