Friday, September 24, 2010

Zwingli Persecutor of Baptists

Henry Clay Vedder in his Short History (pp138-40) shows uncharacteristic understatement in his assesment of Zwingli and his treatement of the Anabaptists:

It would be a painful and useless task to detail the cruelties that followed [the torture of Belthazar Hubmair by Zwingli and his followers].  No persecution was ever more gratuitous and unfounded . . . They were condemned for Anabaptism and for nothing else . . . The Zwinglians found that having once undertaken to supress what they declared to be heresy by force, more stringent remedies than fines and imprisonments were needed.  In short if persecution is to be efficient and not ridiculous, there is no halting-place this side of the sword and stake . . . Felix Mantz, who had been released for a time and had renewed his labours at Schaffhausen and Basel, was rearrested on December 3, found guitly of the heinous crime of Anabaptism, and on January 5 was sentenced to death by drowning.

About two years later Jacob Faulk and Henry Rieman, having firmly refused to retract, but rather having expressed their determination to preach the gospel and rebaptize converts if released, were sentenced to death [by drowning].

For these persecutions Zwingli stand condemned before the bar of history.  As the burning of Servetus has left an eternal stain upon the good name of Calvin, in spite of all attempts to explain away his responsibility for the dark deed, so the drowing of Mantz is a damning blot on Zwingli's career as a reformer.  All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten the hand that has been stained with the blood of one of Christ's martyrs.  If Zwingli did not take an active part in the condemnation of Mantz, if he did not fully approve of the savage measures of the council, he did approve of the suppression of Anabaptists by civil power.  There is no record of protest of his, by voice or pen against [these] barbarous cruelties . . . he stood by, like Saul at the stoning of Stephen, approving by silence all that was done.

Any reform which hangs on to the constantinian prerogative to murder those who don't agree with you is only half baked.  The reformers who used the civil authority to do their murdering for them are even more guilty than if they had done the deed themselves, having allowed those under their pastoral care to commit such disgusting perversions of the gospel of Christ.  Zwingli eventually died, not for Christ as those noble Anabaptists did, but fighting the petty wars of a city state, in doing so he proved beyond doubt where his true allegiance lay.  May God have mercy on his soul.


  1. what rubbish. and a total and gross misunderstanding of the legal system of 16th century switzerland where NO cleric no matter how important had the power of the sword.

    you simply parrot the same tired lutheran line which he (luther) initiated and his blind followers accepted uncritically and unthinkingly

  2. Fair enough, so are you saying that Zwingli did not approve of the civil authority persecuting the anabaptists?