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Hubmaier's Death and the reat of a Free State Church

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This piece reevaluates the events surrounding the 1528 execution of Anabaptist leader Balthasar Hubmaier by Ferdinand I of Austria in order to accurately assess Hubmaier's place in the development of early modern church-state relations. Rather than the commonly suggested motive of practicing rebaptism, the evidence indicates that Hubmaier was arrested and executed for his establishment in Waldshut and Nikolsburg of “free state churches,” a unique sixteenth-century historical modality of believers' churches financially administered by local governments which protected dissenters, including Jews, from persecution. The first early modern advocate of freedom of thought, Hubmaier insisted that the obedience Christians owed to government was exclusively socio-political and not religious in nature, a redefinition which not merely affected the relationship between lay subjects and any given state but also extended to the relationship between lower and higher magistrates. Such developments threatened the ability of the Habsburg church-state amalgam to enforce obedience to the Catholic faith, prompting its charges of sedition against Hubmaier.

Affiliations: 1: Adjunct Professor, Trinity Christian College and Carthage College, Theology and Religion, USA—Palos Heights, IL and Kenosha, WI;, Email:


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