Practical Christianity rather than theology was the actual primary concern of the Anabaptists and Mennonites. A brief comparison of the first Anabaptist confession of faith, the seven articles of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527, and the general Protestant confession, namely the Apostles' Creed, makes this very clear. As early as 1526 Hans Denck expressed this interest in his familiar words, "No one can truly know Christ without following Him in life." Hansel Gremser, who was on trial in 1533, said that the Anabaptists, in case they were asked, recognized each other by the phrase, "I do Christian works." In his Reply to False Accusations Menno Simons himself defends the Anabaptists and their charitable deeds: "No one among them is allowed to beg. They take to heart the need of the saints. They entertain those in distress. They take the stranger into their houses. They comfort the afflicted; assist the needy; clothe the naked; feed the hungry; do not turn their face from the poor; do not despise their own flesh." And about 150 years later, in 1693, George Thormann, the Reformed pastor of Lützelflüh in the Emmental, used very similar words concerning the Bernese Mennonites in his book, Probierstein. Only on such a basis could the church ban and church discipline in general become of such importance to the Anabaptists. With their aversion to all luxury, their ethics lean toward sanctification and good works, and criticize the one-sidedness of Luther's doctrine of justification. Their home missions, and homes for the poor, the aged, and the orphans are expressions of this inclination. Indeed, relief and nonresistance have always appeared as two sides of the same principle. The Mennonite relief organizations, such as Christenpflicht, Mennonitische Flüchtlingsfürsorge (relief organization of the Vereinigung), the Dutch Committee for Foreign Needs, and Stichting voor Bizondere Noden, the Mennonite Central Committee as well as the numerous orphanages, old people's homes, and hospitals in several countries where Mennonites are living, are evidence of this fact, as well as the history of all the various groups which at times gave and at other times received help, from Switzerland to Lithuania, Ukraine, and in mission fields, especially in Java and India.
The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, c. 1496-1561, trans. Leonard Verduin, ed. J. C. Wenger. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956: 558.
Crous, Ernest. "Hilfswerke der Mennoniten in früherer Zeit." Unser Blatt III (1949): No. 42.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: III, 387 f.
Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1952): 68-72.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 208-209. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Crous, Ernst. "Practical Christianity." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/practical_christianity.
APA style: Crous, Ernst. (1959). Practical Christianity. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/practical_christianity.