Baptists Studying Anabaptists: Some Recommendations
Many Baptists are interested in studying the Anabaptists and other radical reformers, myself included. Many readers know there is a longstanding debate among scholars about the degree of influence, if any, that Continental Anabaptists had on some of the early English Baptists. And even those Baptists who argue for zero or minimal Anabaptist influence recognize a “family resemblance” in many ecclesiological practices between orthodox Anabaptists and the Baptists.
One of the best resources available is the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, or GAMEO. This online encyclopedia is the collaborative effort of several Anabaptist and Mennonite colleges, universities, seminaries, and other ministries. According to its website,
The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online provides reliable, freely-available English-language information on Anabaptist-related congregations, denominations, conferences, institutions and significant individuals, as well as historical and theological topics. Secular subject articles from an Anabaptist perspective and full-text source documents are also included.
If you are interested in learning about Anabaptist leaders and theology, or reading Anabaptist primary source documents (including confessions of faith), GAMEO is a great place to start.
If you want to do some further study, I’d recommend beginning with accessible introductions like William Estep’s The Anabaptist Story: An Introduction to Sixteenth-Century Anabaptism, 3rd ed. (Eerdmans, 1996) and Cornelius Dyck’s An Introduction to Mennonite History: A Popular History of the Anabaptists and Mennonites, 3rd ed. (Herald Press, 1993). Then you can move on to groundbreaking studies like Leonard Verduin’s The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Eerdmans, 1964; Reprint, Baptist Standard Bearer, 2001) and Claus Peter Clasen’s Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618 (Cornell University Press, 1972). For the truly brave, you can take a stab at George Huntston Williams’ magnum opus The Radical Reformation, 3rd ed. (Truman State University Press, 2000). An excellent refereed scholarly journal related to Anabaptist history and theology is The Mennonite Quarterly Review.
Readers interested in the possibility of appropriating elements of Anabaptist theology and practice in a Southern Baptist context, see Paige Patterson’s essay “Learning from the Anabaptists” in Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future, ed. David S. Dockery (Crossway, 2009) and chapter three of Malcolm Yarnell’s The Formation of Christian Doctrine (B&H Academic, 2007). For similar arguments from a more progressive, postmodern perspective, see Curtis Freeman’s review essay of James Wm. McClendon’s three volume systematic theology, titled ”A Theology for Brethren, Radical Believers, and Other Baptists.”
For those interested in reading about how Anabaptist thought (among other influences) may have factored into early Baptist theology and practice, see the first chapter of James Leo Garrett’s Baptist Theology: A Four Century Study (Mercer University Press, 2009) and the introduction to Baptist Roots: A Reader in the Theology of a Christian People (Judson Press, 1999), edited by Curtis Freeman, James Wm. McClendon, and C. Rosalee Velloso Da Silva. For my own view of the relationship between Anabaptists and Baptists, which is sympathetic to the proposals of Garrett and Freeman et al, see my two-part “Toward a Convergent View of Baptist Origins” (part one and part two) and “Why I Don’t Freak Out about the Anabaptists,” all of which were published at Between the Times.