My years in theology school taught me a lot about the history of Christianity. The feud between the Calvinists and the Mennonites was particularly interesting to me. I found out that Calvinists once participated in the persecution of the Mennonites and other Anabaptists. In my final year, I spent two months attending churches that subscribe to Calvinism, then I used another couple of months to visit Mennonite churches. During this period, I recorded numerous differences and several similarities between the two groups. Last Friday, my bible study group asked about the differences between the Mennonites and Calvinism. Having had first-hand experiences with both theologies, I had the answers at my fingertips. So, are Mennonites Calvinism?
Mennonites and Calvinists subscribe to two different theologies. While Calvinists practice Calvinism, Mennonites teach Armenian theology. The start of both movements was catalyzed by the protestant reformation and the rejection of Roman Catholic doctrines.
In this article, we will have a detailed look at the differences in the beliefs of the Mennonites and the Calvinists. Join me as we discover the troubled history between these Christian groups, their similarities and much more!
General Differences between Calvinism and Mennonites
For starters, Calvinists are not as strict as the Mennonites. Christians who subscribe to Calvinism do not feel the need to dress a certain way. This is different for Mennonites who believe that modest dressing is the only acceptable dress code for their members. What’s more, Calvinists are not opposed to modern technology, unlike Mennonites who insist on living simplistic lives away from things like televisions and the internet.
A little-known fact is that Calvinism is not a denomination. No church identifies as a Calvinist church. Calvinism is a set of beliefs that many different Christian denominations have adopted Calvinism and used its doctrines to shape their doctrines. On the contrary, Mennonite is a Christian denomination that has purposed to stay away from other forms of worship.
The difference in beliefs between Calvinism and Mennonites
Calvinists believe in an unconditional election or unconditional grace. The concept is based on the Calvinist theory of predestination. Calvinism proposes that God has already decided who should receive salvation when the world comes to an end. The group argue that there is the special “elect” who will receive salvation despite their good deeds, faith or lack thereof. For Mennonites, salvation can only come through obedience to the ten commandments and doing good works. This idea is espoused in Armenian theology. Mennonites trust that whoever believes in Jesus Christ and repents their sins will receive salvation.
Calvinists firmly stand on the authority of the Old and New Testaments. According to Calvinism, the Bible people should apply the teachings in the Old Testament just as much as the ones in the New Testament. On the other hand, the Mennonite Church is more focused on New Testament. They consider the New Testament to be the ultimate guide to navigating life and nurturing your faith.
Perseverance of saints
According to Calvinism, once you achieve salvation, it is impossible to lose it. Calvinists support their claim with scriptures like Romans 8:29-30. This scripture talks about God’s chosen people who he predestined to be His children. The word of God says that God has already justified his chosen people despite their flaws. In the Mennonite church, you have to keep working to maintain a right standing with God. Mennonites reject the idea of eternal justification. The church teaches that one can lose their salvation if they sin and refuse to repent.
Mennonites are peaceful people who strongly advocate for non-resistance. This is why most of them fled Europe instead of fighting for their homes. Mennonite doctrines teach that God is opposed to any kind of violence or bloodshed. Christians who subscribe to Calvinism see things differently. Their principles are far from pacifism. Calvinists suggest that resistance is necessary in certain circumstances. For instance, if a society is suffering under a bad government, it would be acceptable for people to band together in resistance and opposition.
Calvinists equate infant baptism with the circumcisions of the Jewish tribe in the Old Testament. They view baptism as a way to carry God’s covenant from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In contrast, Mennonites view baptism as the establishment of a New Covenant which has nothing to do with Old Testament circumcision rites. Based on their age-old doctrines, a person should make an informed decision about getting baptized and living life according to t the teaching of the gospel. Therefore, they do not advocate for infant baptism.
Similarities between Mennonites and Calvinism
Mennonites and Calvinists share several similarities. First, both groups started during the protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The Mennonites came from the Anabaptists movement while Calvinism arose from other protestant denominations that disagreed with Roman Catholic Church and its theology. A fun similarity is that both groups were named after Protestant reformers. Mennonites got their name from Menno Simmons, while Calvinists got their name from John Calvin.
Calvinists and Mennonites believe in the Bible over all other sources of spiritual inspiration. They trust that God’s will can only be understood by following scripture. Additionally, they believe in the divine power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Can Mennonites attend Calvinism church?
No, Mennonite practice a separationist brand of Christianity, which discourages mingling with other denominations. Mennonites are firm believers in the gospel. They base their beliefs about separation on Jesus’ teachings in the gospel of John. In the book of John 17:14-15, Jesus teaches that Christians should only exist in this world physically. On a spiritual level, the followers of Christ should separate themselves from anything that is considered to be of this world.
When Jesus talked about this notion, He made it clear that the world is ruled by a sinister power. Therefore, he urged his followers not to conform to the false doctrines of the world. In the same way, Mennonites believe that their theology contains true Christian doctrines based on the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Consequently, they do not mingle with other denominations since they trust that theirs is the true interpretation of Christianity.
Can a Calvinist attend a Mennonite Sunday service?
Yes, it is not unusual for a Calvinist to attend Mennonite Sunday services. As mentioned earlier, Calvinism is a set of ideologies and traditions within the Christian community. This means that a Christian from any denomination can have Calvinist dogmas. Calvinists attend churches with alternative philosophies for several reasons. One, they may be curious about the worship practices of churches like the Mennonites. Second, they may attend other churches to try and spread the doctrines of Calvinism.
In recent years, there have been numerous instances of Calvinists infiltrating North America evangelicalism. This is particularly noticeable among Canadian Mennonite Brethren who seem to embrace certain Calvinist principles. For example, Mennonite leaders from two Mennonite Brethren churches have openly endorsed Calvinism. What’s more, numerous Mennonite Brethren churches have grown close ties with Calvinist associations such as Acts 29 Network.
What do Calvinists think of Mennonites?
Although both movements started during the Protestant Reformation, Calvinists do not agree with the majority of Mennonite theology. Mennonites’ rejection of infant baptism, oath-swearing and serving in government caused major friction between the Calvinists and Mennonites in the 1500s. During this era, Calvinist rulers believed that theirs was the only true religion. Consequently, they persecuted non-Calvinist groups such as the Mennonites. In the 16th century, Calvinists used four methods to challenge the Mennonites.
One, they would send reformed ministers to Mennonite churches to interrupt the preachers and try and impose their Calvinist doctrines on them in front of the congregation. Two, the Calvinists would organize public disputations where debates would be held between Mennonite leaders and Calvinist leaders. Three, Calvinist theologians embarked on a literature war against the Mennonites. These individuals published numerous books disputing the teachings of the Anabaptists and Mennonites.
Four, Calvinist Christians took the radical approach by urging the government to stop the growth of the Mennonite denomination. In the 1700s, Calvinist leaders rallied for the state and city authorities to shut down or demolish Mennonite worship houses in the Netherlands. Today, Calvinists are much more tolerant of the Mennonite church. Some have been known to visit their meeting houses to spread the doctrine of Calvinism.
Can you convert from being a Mennonite to a Calvinist?
Mennonites have strict regulations about mingling with Christians whose theology disagrees with Armenian theology. Mennonites encourage their members to marry within the Mennonite faith. However, Mennonites teach that joining their church is a matter of choice. One has to continue to trust in their doctrines to worship with the Mennonites. In case a person decides to switch churches, they should be prepared to be shunned from the Mennonite community since it is prohibited.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.