Menno Simons | Life and Times | 15


15. Adam Pastor

Roelof Martens, who is better known by the name of Adam Pastor, of Dorpen in Westphalia, was about 1530 priest at Aschendorf.

The date when he cast his lot with the Obbenites is unknown. He served the Church as a minister and was ordained an elder or bishop by Menno Simons and Dirk Philips, probably in 1542.

At an early date he wrote a tract against the Davidians. He took part in the debate between Mennonite leaders and Davidians at (or near) Lübeck in 1546.

About the same time or somewhat later certain doctrinal deviations of Pastor became apparent. In 1547 the elders came together in Embden to confer concerning his unorthodox opinions:

He deviated from the teachings of the Brethren principally on the incarnation and the deity of Christ. Hopes were entertained for his restoration to his former doctrinal position. When these hopes proved ungrounded, the elders in the same year held a convention in Goch which resulted in his excommunication.

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:

Pastor asserts that he does not deny the divine nature in Christ, 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.

On point of the Incarnation, or the origin of Jesus' body, Pastor defended the view of the state churches.

That Pastor does not speak of the Scriptures as God's Word, as has been said, cannot be maintained. The Bible was for him the only authority in matters of faith:

He says in the course of a debate, "Where is this written? I do not believe reason; give me Scripture to prove this."

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.

In view of the assertion that Pastor held "liberal views regarding 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.

The idea of the purity of the church and the perfection of the believers he carried to a point considered unsound by Menno Simons:

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.

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. That he did not teach the resurrection of the body is a groundless assumption.

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 laboured.

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.

Menno says:

"Dearly beloved brethren, understand me rightly:

Christ is the eternal wisdom, the eternal power of God.

For just as we believe and confess that the Father was from eternity and will be to eternity, yea He is the First and the Last,

so we may certainly also fully believe and confess, that His wisdom, His power, His light, His truth. His life, His word, Christ Jesus, has been eternally with Him, in Him and by Him, yea that He is the Alpha and Omega.

Or else, we should be compelled to admit that this only begotten incomprehensible, truly divine Being, Christ Jesus (whom the church fathers have called a person), through whom the eternal Father has made all things,

has had a creature-like beginning, an opinion which certainly all true Christians confess and consider a terrible blasphemy, a curse and abomination.

May the gracious beloved Father ever protect and uphold all His beloved children in the right and true confession of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

The author of one of the older books on Mennonite history alleges that Adam Pastor was excommunicated by Dirk Philips. If this be correct, it is nevertheless certain that Menno Simons fully approved of this measure:

Not only does Menno testify that Pastor had received his dismissal "from us," but it is clear that he was held responsible by Pastor for his exclusion.

Menno, in the same passage in which he testifies that Pastor was excluded "from us" says further that he (Menno) is "of one mind with Dirk Philips." It is inconceivable that he should not have recognized an excommunication announced by his co-labourer Philips.

It is true that Menno at a later date had a discussion with Adam Pastor (at Lübeck):

This, it should be observed, was not contrary to his position on the avoidance of the excommunicated, as has been supposed. Menno repeatedly emphasized the duty of making efforts to win back the excommunicated.

Adam Pastor had according to the testimony of one of the old chroniclers at the time of his exclusion a small number of followers.

Certain is that the Adam Pastorites had a short history. There may have been those who held to Pastor's teachings after his death, but no evidence to that effect has yet been found.

Adam Pastor died in Münster. The time of his decease is unknown. He was buried in the public cemetery. If he, at the time of his death, held the views which he defended in his writings, his fellow citizens were evidently not aware of it.

The Swiss Brethren agreed with Menno Simons and his friends in their position on the divinity of Christ:

The opinion advanced by a few writers that the Swiss, in the conference held at Strasburg in 1557 declared the question of the deity of Christ to be of secondary importance, is without any foundation whatever:

Not the divinity of Christ but the well-known peculiar doctrine on the incarnation of Christ as held by the Brethren of the lower countries, was discussed and declared non-essential by this conference.

In 1592 representatives of the Swiss Brethren met again in Strasburg and confessed their steadfast faith in the deity of Christ.