What follows is my hesitant attempt at distilling some of the core differences between Calvinist Christianity and Anabaptist Christianity, at least as I see it, into a simple to digest form.

Take this as a conversation starter, not a comprehensive statement. You’ll note that I have divided this up into four areas of message, teaching, practice and experience. It could be said that this is a very Anabaptist way of seeing things, given we emphasize orthopraxy as much as orthodoxy. For this I make no apologies. But I am open to dialoguing about it.

The differences I am highlighting here are more a matter of emphasis than fundamental difference, but it’s the nuances that give the different paths their different flavours. In essence, I see Calvinism as more abstract and objectivist and Anabaptism as more concrete and subjectivist. Does any of this ring true for you?

8 thoughts on “How is Calvinist Christianity and Anabaptist Christianity different?

  1. Not for me. I’ve thought of myself as Calvinist and Anabaptist for some time now, and I know a few others who do as well. I can’t see that they are mutually exclusive.


  2. Well I’m not suggesting they’re mutually exclusive in every detail. Again, it’s more a matter of emphasis.
    Understand also that I’m hardly free of Calvinist influence myself. I attended a Sydney Anglican church for many years (which, for the uninitiated, has staunchly Calvinist leadership) and have some John Piper and Don Carson books in my library which I would happily recommend to others. I still have Calvinist friends too. And despite my disagreements with Calvinists on some issues I admire their theological backbone and commitment to tackling the hard parts of scripture.
    But, I’ve got to ask, if you see no meaningful differences why do you suppose they have different names? And why do you suppose Calvinists denounced, persecuted and in some cases executed Anabaptists during the reformation? Were and are the differences entirely illusory?
    I can think of a few concrete differences just off the top of my head. For one, Calvinists tend to affirm infant baptism, Anabaptists tend to reject it. And more, Calvinists have historically been quite comfortable with state sponsored religion, Anabaptists have historically opposed it even to the point of personal imprisonment. And even in contemporary times, it has been my experience that Anabaptists tend not to get nearly so excited about TULIP doctrine as Calvinists.
    Of course, Calvinists and Anabaptists both worship the same God and both affirm the grace of God, so the differences need to be kept in perspective. And I know hybrid belief and practice is possible to some extent. But what do you do when you come up against those concrete examples I mention above? Do you see no tension?


  3. Was just reading today in the Sydney Herald Sun how state Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell had been attacked by the Christian religious right in his own party for being divorced once.
    It reminds me that if certain people in the religious right got their way, we would head back into state sponsored religion, which I think is very dangerous for a variety of reasons…Talliban, Inquisition etc.
    Anibaptists have clearly within history opposed state sponsored religion… separation of church from state tends to lead to better government political outcomes for all the people, whether Christians or not.


  4. Well, given my committment to reciprocal ethics (‘do as you would be done by’ ethics) I find it very hard to endorse state sponsored religion on the one hand, and condemn the horrendous Islamic ‘Dhimmi’ system on the other. You’ve either got to endorse both, condemn both, or abandon all claims to logical consistancy.


  5. Matt, It is really quite simple.
    There is no need to go into any doctrinal analysis.
    Just compare their applied politics which are always a demonstration of where they are really at.
    The balanced sanity and work of Stanley Hauerwas, as compared to the self-righteous toxic psychosis promoted at First Things (applied brutalism)


  6. I think it’s very simple: No country can be Christian. Countries will always be made up of different groups of people. How could we have state sponsered prayer or Bible-reading when we’re not a Christian nation?


  7. To be sure, there are a great many differences between Reformed and Baptist but a large percentage of Baptists firmly believe and teach predestination.


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