Ozment, Steven E. The Age of Reform: 1250-1550 : An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press, 1980. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 10, “The Sectarian Spectrum” pp. 340-351.
“Reform movements normally have moderate and extreme wings, those who are satisfied by half a loaf and those who will settle for nothing short of the whole, and the Reformation was no exception” (Ozment 1980, 340). Once the movement began there were almost immediate counter movements. Ozment considers that the various degrees of deviation in the Reformation are often viewed on a spectrum. “Those who have so characterized them envision a spectrum of religious practice ranging from medieval and reactionary, on the far right, to liberal and modern, on the far left” (Ozment 1980, 340).
Ozment discusses Ernst Troeltsch who “depicted the Anabaptists and ‘Spirituals’ as far more progressive than the major Protestant reformers, almost on a par with Renaissance humanists. Troeltsch particularly praises the radicals for breaking with the ‘patriarchalism’ of mainstream Protestantism” (Ozment 1980, 341). Ozment sees the earlier writings about the topic as “dark.” “Luther’s influential views on Anabaptists and Spiritualists had resulted from his bitter personal feuds with Karlstadt and Muntzer and never rose above them” (Ozment 1980, 341). Ozment goes on to list some of the genuine doctrinal differences, a move which tends to erode his earlier assertion.
In the 20th century George H. Williams classified the “Radical Reformation” (Ozment 1980, 344) including the heirs of the Anabaptists and the Spiritualists. Williams makes several descriptors of the Radicals beginning on p. 345. After detailing the diversity tracked by Williams, Ozment observes small numbers but a powerful impact on the thought life of Germany (Ozment 1980, 348).
Ozment summarizes the achievements of the radicals, citing policies of “separation of church and state and religious pluralism and toleration” (Ozment 1980, 349) accomplished as a secondary goal, settled upon when they failed to gain full political support. The separation of the Anabaptists resulted in their having less political influence than other groups, such as the Lutherans and Calvinists. In turn, they had relatively little leverage in social political decisions which are often based on the religious sensibilities of the political leaders.