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Adam Pastor: Anabaptist - Rejected Paul

Adam Pastor was a famous Anabaptist preacher and elder/ bishop who died in 1560. Pastor was trained in Greek, Hebrew and Latin. (Newman: 79.) He rejected Paul's doctrines as they conflicted with those of Christ. (See Dosker discussion below.) Pastor taught our duty is to preach Christ, and only His words. Pastor also taught that Jesus was Divine but only in the sense that God indwelled Him fully. Pastor said Jesus did not exist as an 'eternal' Son of God prior to coming to earth. Pastor denied the church had the power to kill or exile those who did not adhere to doctrine the 'church' endorsed. Dosker in his book Dutch Anabaptists says of Pastor: "He was unquestionably the most brilliant man and scholar in the entire Dutch Anabaptist community of his day." (Dosker, Dutch Anabaptists (1921) at 58.)

The Anabaptist-Menonite Encylopedia Online has this to say about Adam Pastor:

Adam Pastor (died 1560), originally called Roelof (Rudolph) Martens or Martin, born at Dorpen in Westphalia, was a Catholic priest at Aschendorf, gave up the office in 1533 and joined the Anabaptists, probably in Münster. He was one of Jan Bockelson's emissaries, but soon freed himself of Münsterite influence and united with the peaceful Anabaptists. Between 1543 and 1545 (in 1542 according to Vos, p. 102) he was ordained as elder by Menno Simons, took an active part in the conference at Lübeck, opposing Blesdijk, and was also at the conferences at Emden and Goch in 1547, at which Menno was chairman. At the latter he was banned on the charge of denying the Trinity, but he continued his work as an Anabaptist preacher, especially along the Lower Rhine and in Münster. In Odenkirchen he headed a congregation which existed for a long time. In 1552 he had a meeting in Lübeck with Menno Simons where the deity of Christ and the Trinity were the subjects of a disputation. On this disputation see the second part of his only extant writing (with the exception of his Een Concordantie oft Register der ganscher Bibel, 1559), Underscheit tusschen rechte leer unde valsche leer der twistigen articulen (published by Samuel Cramer in Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica V, 361-581 with an excellent introduction, 317-59). The report of the disputation occupies pages 517-581. Other writings from his pen were: Disputation mit Dirk  Philipps, Von der Barmherzigkeit Gottes, Von Menschengeboten, and Dit zijn die Articulen van Davidt Jorisz leere . . .(originally written in Dutch), none of which have survived. He spent his last years wandering. He died between 1560 and 1570, probably in Münster, and was buried in Ueberwasser.

However, it is from Dosker that we learn that Pastor rejected Paul. In The Dutch Anabaptist: the Stone lectures delivered at the Princeton  theological seminary (Judson Press, 1921) by Henry Elias Dosker at page 60, we learn of Pastor's only surviving work -- Contrast or Difference Between True Doctrine and False Doctrine:

He denied the Trinity, the preexistence of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Ghost. He evinced little sympathy with Paul, whose doctrine of salvation was apparently repugnant to him. Christ, his life, his words— that is the content of his religion. He was totally averse to the Munster spirit, evidently a man of a clean life and a kindly disposition. He sided with the other Anabaptists in the rejection of infant baptism; but was against the overvaluation of adult baptism on faith. But he condemned the position of the David-Jorists, who, although they called themselves Anabaptists, permitted infant baptism, because they had no faith in any external application of the sacrament.

In Papers of the American Society of Church History (1917) at 89, it says Pastor explained the difference between true preachers and false -- including going beyond Christ's words:

In the sixth section he points out the difference between preachers sent by God and such as run of themselves. He calls attention to the true and false prophets in the Old Testament time and insists that true prophets were so filled with the spirit of God that all selfish and human considerations were eliminated and they were able to speak God's pure truth to their contemporaries. Christ was sent by his Father. He in turn sent forth the Apostles. They in turn ordained and sent forth those who were like-minded and were called by God and qualified for the proclamation of the gospel. True preachers are those who preach what their sender commissions them to preach and nothing else. He takes Jesus' statement of his own mission in John v. and vii. as applicable to Christian preachers, where he speaks of having come in the name of his Father and been rejected by those who will receive another who shall come in his own name. And again: "He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." As holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, so should the Christian preacher.

What was the salvation doctrine that Pastor found in Scripture? What Jesus taught, which should not be surprising:

In the seventh section on true and false repentance or penitence he discusses the corresponding words in Greek and Hebrew and insists on heartfelt sorrow for sin and a turning away from it in obedience to the will of God, as essential. He directs his polemics chiefly against the Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, with its priestly absolution, resting on the power of the keys bestowed upon Peter and his successors to secure the binding and loosing of souls on earth and in heaven. The only way in which any man can bind or loose is to have such spiritual discernment as to know the mind of God and the condition of the soul of the penitent. No man can forgive sin, who has not the Holy Spirit and whose own sins are not forgiven. It is a false binding to kill or banish. The only penalty Christ approves is exclusion from fellowship and treating impenitent sinners as heathen and publicans." Id., 91.

Pastor proves that salvation is "more than assent to a proposition." Id., at 92.

Of Adam Pastor, whom we will meet again, we read in Dosker.

His influence survived for a long time, for as late as 1628, some Flemings, the " Contra-house-buyers " (Contra-huiskoopers)—a great name for a sect of believers— are mentioned as adherents of Arius and Adam Pastor. He unquestionably prepared the way for the reception of Socinianism in Northern Europe and inoculated Anabaptism with it. His motto evidently was Intelligo ut credam; what he could not understand he would not believe....(Dosker at page 60.)

Incidentally, Pastor said he believed in Jesus's divinity. Here is a summary of his book Contrast Between True and False Doctrine along with corrections refuting exaggerations of Pastor's views. It is John Horsch, Menno Simons, his life, labors, and teachings (Mennonite Publishing: 1916) at 194:

Pastor asserts that he does not deny the divine nature in Christ,2 but nevertheless he holds that He did not exist as the Son of God previous to His coming into the world, and was divine only in the sense that God dwelled in Him....3

The Bible was for him the only authority in matters of faith.6 He says in the course of a debate, "Where is this written? I do not believe reason; give me Scripture to prove this."7 He defends the doctrine of the atonement. Not through the "fruit of the vine," in communion, he says, but "through the blood which flowed from Christ's wounds" we have forgiveness of sin. Christ paid the debt of the first Adam. He only is the Redeemer, "the only Mediator between his Father and fallen man;" through His merit and blood alone are we saved.8 In view of the assertion that Pastor held "liberal views touching the church," it should be noted that he is quite outspoken in denouncing the teachers of false doctrine, principally the priests of the national church, whose sermons he forbid his followers to hear.9 The idea of the purity of the church and the perfection of the believers he carried to a point considered unsound by Menno Simons.10 Concerning "avoidance" he taught that eating and drinking with the excommunicated is forbidden, but in the Disputation he says, the excommunicated should be held as the world.11 He believed that ministers should not be chosen by the church, but direct of God. The doctrine of non-resistance is not found in his extant writings. On the oath also he seems to have differed from Menno and his friends.12 That he did not teach the resurrection of the body is a groundless assumption.18 Pastor's denial of the true divinity of Christ was considered a grave offense by the Mennonites. This is evident from the strong opposition of Menno Simons, the spokesman of the Brethren, against Pastor, and further from the fact that he succeeded to win to his views only a small company of those among whom he had formerly labored. Menno wrote his Confession of the Triune God in vindication of the deity of Christ. In no uncertain tones and with the full conviction that the scriptural truth was on his side and that a most fundamental doctrine of the Gospel was at stake, he warned the church of this new teaching. S. Cramer has asserted that Menno's defence is "neither convincing nor strong"14 but J. G. de Hoop Scheffer finds that Menno in this book made "a strong confession, a pressing demand without any reservation, he showed zeal over a matter for which he was willing to die, if need be,"15 a view with which the unbiased reader will doubtless concur.

Anthony Buzzard explains what impelled Adam Pastor to insist on a correct Christology:

In 1547, however, it became apparent that Pastor differed sharply from the Melchiorite Christology of Menno. The Melchiorites believed that even the flesh of Christ was not derived from Mary, but had descended from heaven. For Pastor this belief seemed plainly to threaten the humanity of Christ. (A. Buzzard, "Adam Pastor, Anti-Trinitarian Anabaptist," Volume 3, Issue 3 (Spring 1994) available online at this link.)

Buzzard continues and shows the nuances of argument over the point of how Jesus became the Son of God. Dietrich Philips whom Buzzard mentions was the one who urged Menno to excommunicate Pastor:

Dietrich Philips himself held to a form of subordinationist Christology with his belief that the Son had been given a body by the Word sometime before the birth of Christ. Pastor rejected the notion of personal preexistence in any form and espoused what Raymond Brown appropriately calls “conception Christology.” It should be noted that G.H. Williams’ reference to Pastor’s Christology as “adoptionism” is not strictly accurate. Adoptionism, as generally defined, posits that Christ became the Son of God at his baptism. “Conception Christology” describes the belief that Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary brought him into being as Son of God. It therefore rejects as unscriptural the Chalcedonian and Athanasian belief in the “eternal generation” and preexistence of the Son.

The “conception Christology” of Adam Pastor corresponds with what Raymond Brown maintains is the Christology of Matthew and Luke:

In the commentary [The Birth of the Messiah] I shall stress that Matthew and Luke show no knowledge of preexistence; seemingly for them the conception was the becoming (begetting) of God’s Son. Id.

Buzzard then gives us some final discussion on the later impact in Poland by Adam Pastor:

Adam Pastor was “earnest and critical, but remained mild, reverent and comprehensive in his arguments against the Nicene formulation.” His influence spread to Cracow where many of the same Scriptural arguments reappear amongst the Polish unitarian Anabaptists. The Racovian Catechism of 1574 acknowledges the importance of Pastor’s work in the following note:

Another antitrinitarian of this period was Adam Pastor, a man of great learning, who had previously borne the name of Rudolphus Martin. He belonged to the Anabaptists of Frisia, from whose society he was excluded about 1546, on account of his sentiments concerning the Trinity, having before held a public disputation at Goch in the Duchy of Cleves, with Theodore Philips and Menno Simonis. He maintained that the Father alone was the true God. . . . In the year 1546, a native of Holland, who went by the name of Spiritus, but who is supposed on good grounds to have been Adam Pastor, already noticed above, settled at Cracow. Being one day in the library of John Tricessius, a person of high celebrity in that city, distinguished for his literary acquirements, who had invited him to meet some of the most eminent men of the place, he took down by accident a book wherein he observed prayers addressed to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He immediately exclaimed—“What! Have you then three Gods?” The conversation to which this question led made a deep impression on the minds of all the party, but especially on that of Andrew Fricius Modrevius, the king’s secretary, who shortly afterwards, in consequence of prosecuting his inquiries upon the subject, abandoned the doctrine of the Trinity, and appeared as the open advocate of Unitarianism in a work which he published under the title of Sylvae. This proved an important event to the new settlers, and greatly contributed to the spread and establishment of their new opinions.

Buzzard identifies where more information on Pastor can be found:

The fullest account of Adam Pastor’s work is given by A.H. Newman in a paper read to the American Society of Church History, on December 28, 1914. Newman notes that:

many of the most conscientious and profoundly religious thinkers of the 16th century [were led to] reject simultaneously the baptism of infants and the traditional doctrine of the Trinity . . . The doctrine of the tripersonality of God as set forth in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, involving the coeternity and consubstantiality of the Son with the Father and the personality of the Holy Spirit, they subjected to searching and fundamental criticism.

Whether we agree or not with Pastor, he is a role model above reproach:

Adam Pastor, who was born in Dorpen, Westphalia ca. 1510, was “among the most learned, the most Scriptural, the most logical and the most devout” of those who rejected orthodox views of the two natures in Christ. Dr. F. Pijper of Leyden describes Pastor’s exegesis and insight into the Bible as:

sound, honorable and unprejudiced in a degree rarely met in the sixteenth century, as, though learned, absolutely free from the slightest suggestion of scholasticism and dogmatism, as well as from sharpness and arrogance in polemics, as warm and devotional, as well as vital, fresh and original in thought.[Quoting Newman's article at 78.]

Adam Pastor left a significant following, and they became avowedly anti-Trinitarian:

There is no doubt that Pastor was taken with Erasmus’ advocacy of freedom of exploration in all matters of doctrine. This pursuit of truth led him to reject much of the teaching traditionally connected with the faith.

After his excommunication at the hands of Menno Simons in 1547, several of the anti-paedobaptist congregations sided with Adam Pastor and from this time onwards he was regarded as the head of an Anabaptist sect known as “Adam Pastorians” or “Adamites.” A number of these congregations persisted until the early seventeenth century when:

a large proportion of the Mennonites under Socinian influence became anti-Trinitarian in sentiment. . . . Johannes Anastasius in 1554 places Pastor side by side with Menno as the head of an Anabaptist party. A year later Cassander wrote, “Two outstanding leaders of the Anabaptists today, Menno Simons and Adam Pastor, are as it were in a state of civil war with each other.”

Adam Pastor saw in Paul proof that Jesus was not God (albeit divinely indwelled):

Adam Pastor brings together an exhaustive array of biblical texts which teach the oneness and soleness of God, and those which explicitly distinguish Jesus Christ from God. John 17:3 is a favorite verse, as always amongst evangelical unitarians: “This is eternal life: that they may know Thee [the Father], the only true God, and him whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ.” He adds I Cor. 8:6 and I Tim. 2:5 which likewise expressly define the Father as the One God as distinct from Jesus who is the “man Messiah.” He insists that Jesus and the Holy Spirit cannot be regarded as divine personalities in the same sense as the Father. God is a single person. Obviously, with his stress on the humanity of Jesus, Pastor disagrees with Menno Simons’ “Eutychian” view that Christ’s body was a “human body” but not “the body of a man.” Further, Pastor objects to the notion that the eternal Logos, conceived of as a Person of the Trinity, could have been changed into flesh. How could He, as God, have died? How could He have been tempted? Pastor wants us to believe that only the Father has immortality inherent within Himself and that Jesus was foreknown before his birth (I Pet. 1:20), preexisting “notionally” or “ideally” rather than actually. (Buzzard, id.)

Further Research

Albert Newman, "Adam Pastor, Antitrinitarian, Antipaedobaptist," American Society of Church History (1917) at 75 et seq.

Pastor's only extent writing was Underscheit tusschen rechte unde valsche leer der twistigen articulen, de hyr vor angetekent syn: dorch A.P. (Newman: 83.)

For Pastor's argument that the trinity is at odds with John 17:3 and 1 Cor. 8:6, see Newman: 85. "He does not formally draw the inference that the orthodox trinitarianism is tritheism and that to accept and to worship Jesus Christ as God is idolatrous; but this he clearly intends to teach." Id.

21 Century Article on "Adam Pastor" - emphasizing issues of Christology -page 3

 Mennosimons.net - articlee "Adam Pastor" says:

The principal source of our information concerning Pastor's teachings is his Contrast Between True and False Doctrine to which is added an account of the debate held between Mennonite elders and Pastor at Lübeck in 1552. (1) This account was probably written later than the first named treatise; no date is given in either instance. Pastor asserts that he does not deny the divine nature in Christ, (2) but nevertheless he holds that He did not exist as the Son of God previous to His coming into the world, and was divine only in the sense that God dwelled in Him. It is difficult to see that Christ would in that case be divine in another sense than the Christian believer.

 

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