The Protestant Reformation: A Two-Front War


The Protestant Reformation was waged on two fronts: the errors of Rome and the errors of the radical Reformation (i.e., so-called Anabaptists). The battle waged by the Reformers against the errors of the radical Reformation is often unknown within Evangelical circles from which I grew up in.

In his book, Our Inheritance of Faith: A Commentary on the Thirty Nine Articles, Martin Davie points out that the Protestant Reformation confessions (in this context the 39 Articles) that resulted from the Protestant Reformation were "a ‘two edged sword’ designed to ‘smite with equal impartiality’ on the one hand the errors of Rome and on the other hand those of the radical Reformation” (36).

Davie shares a letter sent by John Hooper to Heinrich Bullinger from London in June 1549 that illustrates the two-front battle the Protestant Reformers faced. Hooper writes to Bullinger:

"The Anabaptists flock to the place, and give me much trouble with their opinions respecting the incarnation of our Lord; for they deny altogether that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, according to the flesh. They contend that a man who is reconciled to God is without sin, and free from all stain of concupiscence, and that nothing of the old Adam remains in his nature; and a man, they say, who is thus regenerate cannot sin.

They add all hope of pardon is taken away from those who, after having received the Holy Ghost, fall into sin. They maintain a fatal necessity, and that beyond and beside that will of His, which He has revealed to us in the Scriptures, God hath another will, by which he altogether acts under some kind of necessity. Although I am unable to satisfy their obstinacy, yet the Lord by His word shuts their mouths, and their heresies are more and more detested by the people. How dangerously our England is afflicted by heresies of this kind, God only knows; I am unable indeed from sorrow of heart to express to your piety.

There are some who deny that man is endued with a soul different from that of a beast and subject to decay. Alas, not only are these heresies reviving among us, which were formerly dead and buried, but new ones are springing up every day. There are such libertines and wretches, who are daring enough in their conventicles not only to deny that Christ is the Messiah and Saviour of the world, but also to call that blessed seed a mischievous fellow, and deceiver of the world.

On the other hand hand a great portion of the kingdom so adheres to the popish faction, as to altogether set at nought God and the lawful authority of the magistrates; so that I am greatly afraid of a rebellion and civil discord” (36-37).