How to Engage Culture like Balthasar Hübmaier

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Balthasar Hübmaier was a forerunner of contemporary Baptists. He lived in 16th-century Europe and is known for preaching the gospel under heavy opposition and persecution.

One significant moment in his life occurred when he was imprisoned in Zürich in 1525, and under torture he recanted some of his Christian beliefs. After being released, Hübmaier repented, confessed his sin of recanting, and wrote a Short Apology — in which he pointed out that he was human and had erred, but that he would never be a heretic because he lashed his theology to the Word of God. A short while later, in 1528, he and his wife, Elizabeth, were arrested by authorities, tortured, and tried for heresy. He was burned at the stake, and she was drowned in the Danube.

Hübmaier is probably best known for his conviction that Scripture is God’s revealed word to humanity, and that Scripture is the final court of appeal in any theological dispute. He stated this conviction repeatedly, and his life story supports the weight of his conviction. Both of the imprisonments mentioned above came about because of Hübmaier’s biblical convictions.

Hübmaier spoke on his convictions, even in the face of persecution and martyrdom

From Hübmaier we could learn many lesson, foremost among which are three:

  1. Be shaped by Scripture.
    Hübmaier, like Augustine before him, sought for Scripture to shape his cultural engagement.
  2. Be strong despite persecution.
    Hübmaier was willing to speak on his convictions, even in the face of persecution and martyrdom.
  3. Be against your culture — for the sake of your culture.
    In being willing to speak against prevailing cultural winds, Hübmaier spoke words that were good for his cultural context.

In what ways do Hübmaier’s insights on cultural engagement challenge you in your everyday activities?

This post is a modified excerpt of Dr. Ashford’s new book, Every Square InchLearn More>>

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Bruce Ashford

Bruce Riley Ashford is the author or co-author of six books, including 'The Gospel of Our King' (Baker, 2019), 'Letters to an American Christian' (B&H, 2018), 'One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics' (B&H, 2015), and 'Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians' (Lexham, 2015).

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