Unlike the magisterial reformers, their radical counterparts were more suspicious of the role of secular government, and their approaches to worldly authority appear on a spectrum from theocracy to entire separation. Many Anabaptists ultimately rejected politics and argued that church and state must be entirely distinct. One who disallowed any place for Christians in secular authority was the Moravian pastor Peter Walpot (d. 1578). In the following excerpt, he argues that Christians cannot be worldly rulers, as they employ force and power and seek after human honor.

Worldly Rulers Cannot Be Christians

You see, he makes a tight knot with this that will not be easily undone or reversed. For he introduces the authorities and the lords of the world and says drily, “But it should not be so among you, who are mine.” The princes “proceed by force, but it should not be so among you, but whoever among you wants to be thought powerful should be your servant, and whoever wants to be foremost should be your slave. Likewise the Son of Man did not come in order to be served but to serve.” That would be a bad sort of worldly glory, and it would not be at all right if Christ led a poor, slavish life and we disciples would want to be lordly benefactors instead. Therefore it should not be among Christians as it is among the princes of this world, who have power on earth and even over each other. One is the chief general of the cavalry, while another is the undergeneral; this one is the chamberlain, that one the chancellor, and so on, and so on. “But it should not be so among you,” he says. Christ does not remove the power of the worldly government with this comment, but he does leave it in the world. He takes it away from his disciples and Christians—they should not proceed by force or reek of blood, which will not be allowed here any more than it is in heaven. Likewise, there should be no worldly rulers at all among the Christians on earth. For Lucifer must have been cast out because, more than the others, he also wanted to sit in heaven, but even more will those who burden themselves on earth with such pagan business be cast out, so that they cannot be Christians. Luke said, “Those in authority are called benefactors, but not so with you.” For nothing leads to pride so much as the desire to rule and have a seat in government, and this is the origin of great crimes. For human honor and dignity lead into many harmful things, and lavish honors make them into self-important, immoral blasphemers and hypocrites.

The Great Article Book: On the Sword.

Luke, ed. Beth Kreitzer. Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT Vol. III, p. 428.


RCS: Church & State

Philipp Melanchthon | God Ordains Both Secular and Ecclesial Offices

Johann Eck | Our Prelates Have Reversed the Apostolic Command

Urbanus Rhegius | Compelled to Listen, Not Believe

John Calvin | Magistrates Are Servants to All

Peter Walpot | Worldly Rulers Cannot Be Christians

John Hooper | Two Types of Laws