Many books and history lessons have been dedicated to the popular reformers such as: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Wycliff, and the like. Much less attention is given to the many martyrs who died in the battle over the future of Christianity. There are hundreds of innocent victims that were drowned, burned at the stake, tortured, and even caged and starved.
This series will be paying homage to the many saints that gave their lives in the fight for their faith. Each entry will be highlighting a courageous man or woman who paid the ultimate price so that we can have freedom of faith. But before we get too far let’s go over some basic reformation information.
Anabaptism under attack
When the Catholic church started to sell indulgences in the 14th and 15th century guys like John Wycliffe began to speak out. With the birth of the printing press in the 15th century people opposed to the church could publicly voice their opposition and spread that much more rapidly than previous. With the rebirth of the original biblical languages and new translations in the various languages of the people, the Catholic church was in a full-on onslaught. To make matters worse, many inside of the Catholic church wanted reform and they were not going to quiet about it.
The final straw for the Catholic church was the invasion of the Turks from eastern Europe. With pressure on all side and a foreign invasion looming, the Catholic church went with the nuclear option and decided to start executing those who were driving opposition to the church. One of the main groups were the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists were protestants that believed in believer’s baptism and they were re-baptizing adults. This was considered treason to the church. The other problem with the Anabaptists is that they were pacifists. Rome had no use for protesters that refused to even defend Europe against the Turks. They were as good as dead.
The Decree Against The Anabaptists
“Therefore we ordain and will, that henceforth all men, women, youth, and maidens forsake Anabaptism, and practice it no longer from this time on, and that they have their infants baptized; and whosoever shall act contrary to this public edict, shall, as often as it occurs, be fined one mark silver; and if any should prove utterly disobedient and obstinate, they shall be dealt with more severely; for we shall protect the obedient, and punish the disobedient according to his deserts, without bearing with him any longer. Let everyone act accordingly. All this we confirm by this public document, sealed with the seal of our city, and given on St. Andrew’s day, A. D. 1525.”
No longer would it be permissible to baptize an adult unless they had previously been unbaptized. They were threatened initially with fines but the church had already started executing Christians before the letter was released.
The First Martyr
The first Martyr recorded in the Martyr’s Mirror for this time is Caspar Tauber (A. D. 1524). In what is the first and shortest entry in the list of Anabaptist martyrs, the account tells of Caspar’s execution via burning at the stake.
In this year, also Caspar Tauber, a tradesman and citizen of Vienna, in Austria, was apprehended for the Christian faith; and as he faithfully and steadfastly continued to confess Christ, without apostatizing, he was condemned and burned. (Martyr’s Mirror)
In the remainder of this series we are going to highlight some of most fascinating and encouraging stories of those who died for the faith.