Balthasar Hubmaier and His Theological Participation in the Reformation: Ecclesiology and Soteriology -- By: Emir Caner

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 21:1 (Fall 2003)
Article: Balthasar Hubmaier and His Theological Participation in the Reformation: Ecclesiology and Soteriology
Author: Emir Caner


Balthasar Hubmaier and His Theological
Participation in the Reformation:
Ecclesiology and Soteriology

Emir Caner

Associate Professor of Church History and Anabaptist Studies
Southeastern College at Wake Forest
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

When the First (Ana) Baptist Church of Nikolsburg, Moravia, called their new pastor in the summer of 1526, little did they know the enormous impact that he would have on their small town of six thousand. Balthasar Hübmaier (A.D. 1480-1528), already known by Roman Catholics and Magisterial Reformers as the arch-heretic of Anabaptism and its leading theologian, shepherded the flock for only fourteen months. Yet within that time Hübmaier baptized more than six thousand believers and wrote seventeen books on controversial subjects such as free will, baptism, government, church discipline, and the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, many of his writings still remain as essential reading for today’s Christian, including On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them, which is one of the first treatises written on complete religious liberty, and On the Christian Baptism of Believers, arguably one of the best defenses of believer’s baptism ever written. Though his life was snuffed out by King Ferdinand of Austria on 10 March 1528, his legacy continues to grow as Baptists and others who hold to a regenerate church engage his writings and continue to herald the concepts of a believer’s church within a religiously free society.

Since the legacy of Hübmaier is found largely in his writings, it is essential to evaluate from them his system of thought on major doctrines such as the sacraments, church discipline, salvation, and free will. The reader will find that Hübmaier was influenced by such giants as Erasmus, Zwingli, and Eck. Erasmus impressed upon Hübmaier the idea of free will, Zwingli affected Hübmaier’s beliefs on the Mass and Images, and Eck swayed Hübmaier on Mariology. Yet, this is not to say that Hübmaier incorporated all that he heard from his mentors; rather, Hübmaier used his literal hermeneutic of Scripture and applied it to the theologies of his day. Thus, one can see why Hübmaier affirmed Zwingli on his view of the Lord’s Supper, yet denounced the Swiss Reformer on his view of baptism. To understand the systematic theology of Hübmaier, one must first begin with his understanding of Scripture as the inerrant and infallible rule of faith. Hübmaier states his overall opinion of Scripture as follows:

For Holy Scripture alone is the true light and lantern through which all human argument, darkness, and objections can be recognized. This the prophet David knew perfectly well as he said to God, “Thy Word is a lamp to my fe...

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