It is the 25th of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
So if someone was introducing me to the vanities of reformation expressions, and they started down the list, “Lutheran Reformation, Calvin’s Swiss Reformation, the English Reformation, the Radical Reformation….” Maybe it’s that I have lived 39 of my years in Southern California, but the Radical Reformation would win hands down. Great marketing. Except of course that the “radical reformers” (once again, great name) would refer to themselves as Anabaptists, perhaps “primitive Christian”, maybe after the name of a leader (Mennonites, Melchiorites….) or maybe simply “brother” and “sister” with a refusal to affix any name on themselves besides Christian.
Today I want to look briefly at one of these radicals, the anabaptist David Joris on this, the anniversary of his death on the 25th of August in 1556.
Joris is fascinating if for nothing else than he was exhumed after death and posthumously burned at the stake (why does this keep happening!?!?). Let me give you the back of the baseball card details and then let’s ask a few questions about the Anabaptist movement in general.
Joris was born around 1500 in Bruges or Flanders (somewhere in Dutch-speaking Belgium). We know he worked in stained glass and was married in 1524.
In 1528 Joris stood outside of a local church on Ascension Day and attacked the practice of processing with the Sacrament. He was arrested, put in the pillory, and had a steel ball bored into his tongue as the mark of a heretic. He was banished from his home for 3 years.
Joris would become entrenched in the Melchiorite movement, saw the fall of Munster, was rebaptized himself, and soon became a leader in the movement. He broke with Menno Simons and soon believed that he would be revealed as the “Third David” (btw, he’s the second Anabaptist to play this strange game). It was said that he would be revealed to all as David III on the 20th of December in 1538. Before this could happen authorities began arresting followers of Joris known as “Davidists” or Jorists. While David was able to escape the authorities over 100 of his followers, including his mother, were arrested and put to death.
Joris would spend time amongst the Reformed in Basel and eventually abandon his own sect to join the Reformed church. He lived a relatively quiet life and died 3 days after his wife (it is suggested that his was death from sorrow). His son-in-law would later reveal him to be a crypto-Anabaptist and thus heretic. Three years after his death the University of Basel ruled that he should be exhumed and burnt at the stake with his writings. Sweet.
A few questions now, about this Anabaptist movement:
Where did they come from?
Anabaptist theology would blossom in the 1520s in parts of Northern Europe. Their spiritual forefather is Martin Luther. The Anabaptists (most not having read Luther) took what they heard as his call to freedom, to challenge authority, and use the Bible alone as an authority. Of course, Luther and others would condemn these men and women as “spiritualists” whose own preferences became their actual authority. It’s an interesting conversation.
Why were people so afraid of the Anabaptists.
They were seen as “too literal” and practiced polygamy and pacifism based on their reading of scripture.
They thought the world was ending and that can lead to justifying all sorts of bad stuff.
They called for a strict separation of church and state- an unheard-of claim in the 16th century!
Are they related to the Baptists today?
I always get this, so let’s answer this quickly: yes and no. “Anabaptist” as a broad group of theologies and practices still exists in groups like the Mennonites, Amish, Quakers, etc… but “baptists” today are an English and then American phenomenon with spiritual ties to other Protestant movements that reject the practice of baptizing infants.
Both groups fought strenuously for a separation of Church and State (especially when the state was persecuting their church). The Anabaptists are in a way the spiritual parents of the modern Baptist church.
It is also worth noting that I have never heard a Baptist claim to be the third David… so that’s different. We remember a dude who did, David Joris, on this the anniversary of his death on this day in 1556.
The last word for today comes from Matthew 5:
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christoper Gillespie who has always wanted a tongue piercing, but not the heretic kind.
The show is written and read by the Radical Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.