V.   The Radical Reformation

The Radical Reformation was the response to what was believed to be the corruption in both the Roman Catholic Church and the expanding Magisterial portion of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther and many others. Beginning in Germany and Switzerland in the 16th century, the Radical Reformation birthed many radical Protestant groups throughout Europe. The term covers both radical reformers like Thomas Müntzer, Andreas Karlstadt, and Anabaptist groups like the Hutterites and Mennonites, among others.

Although the proportion of the European population that rebelled against Catholic, Lutheran and Zwinglian churches was small, the literature on the Radical Reformation is proportionately large, partly as a result of the proliferation of the Radical Reformation teachings in the United States.

Many groups were influenced by Biblicism (like the Swiss Brethren), spiritualism (like the South German Anabaptists) and primarily absolute pacifism (like the Swiss Brethren, the Hutterites and the Mennonites from Northern Germany and the Netherlands).

Though the radical reformers were a small portion of the larger population, the various radical groups, especially the Anabaptists, consistently showed considerable growth in numbers.  Their growing numbers, coupled with the decrease in state church attendance and a decrease in the number of infants being brought to the state church for baptism led the leadership of the Swiss Reformed Church to act.

Next:  VI. The Anabaptists

1. Cameron, Euan . The European Reformation. New York: Oxford University Press. (1991)
2. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online Radical Reformation
3. Gonzalez, Justo L. A History of Christian Thought (Abingdon: Nashville, 1975)
4. Wikipedia.org Radical Reformation