THE ANABAPTIST STORY by William R. Estep
The Good: First published in 1963, later revised in ’75, this is very well researched and from cover to cover the author consistently cites the works of numerous previous historians and theologians. This is recommendable as a primer for any Christian who is at the initial stages of waking up from the narcotic ether of Churchianity, Inc. and is beginning the process of learning more about his/her Middle Age antecedents–16th century Anabaptists–who went through the same process in droves, and all the history that went along with that that practically no one, least of all evangelicals, appreciates anymore.
The Bad: Although the contention of scriptural “believer’s baptism” vs. the institutionalized churches’ practice of infant baptism was at the center of the firestorm of controversy surrounding the Anabaptist movement, nevertheless this reader came away feeling as though the author spent just a little too many pages explaining this issue and history, and it is this reader’s opinion that one very basic reason for the verbosity overkill on this subject is because it is nowadays a very “safe” issue to talk about, which of course was very far from true in the 16th century.
The Ugly: Now, the other main foundation underpinning the 16th century Anabaptist movement besides believer’s baptism was the concept that we have come to call today the “separation of church and state,” and though this author does cover this revolutionary Anabaptist issue, he only devotes about four or five pages to it in the whole book. This reader is of the opinion that there are two reasons for this, and that the second is the logical extension of the first. Those reasons are as follows:
#1) The author makes the mistake of assuming that today’s American church-attending evangelicals are enjoying the blessings of a “separation of church and state.” In doing this, the author demonstrates his ignorance of the anti-scriptural covenants that almost all American evangelical churches have signed today in the form of the secular 501c3 tax exemption and state incorporation contracts. Even from the scant amount that the author writes about this subject, it is clear that there is no way the 16th century Anabaptists would have ever rendered to Caesar that which is the Lord’s as have today’s American evangelicals. The author does not consciously apprehend this.
#2) However, given the extreme brevity with which the author writes about this important issue, this reader cannot help but wonder if the author doesn’t perhaps subconsciously sense that something is indeed wrong with today’s American counterfeit of separation of church and state but he just can’t put his finger on it. Perhaps this might explain the headscratching oversight of only devoting four or five pages to this foundational Anabaptist issue, because such a realization would mean that the scriptural separation of church and state is, in our day, the unsafe issue to talk about, as opposed to scriptural believer’s baptism which is now accepted by most.
Rating: Δ Δ Δ