FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – In the city where 16th-century Spanish Reformers came to their deaths under the Inquisition, scholars from across the world testified to the contribution of Spanish Reformers and Anabaptists alike to the cause of religious liberty, Oct. 26-29.
During an international conference on social ethics and communications, sponsored jointly by Southwestern Seminary and the University of Seville, President Paige Patterson, Southwestern professors Octavio Esqueda and Daniel Sanchez, and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, joined secular scholars in praising this contribution of the Reformers.
Spain has few believers and “a long history of oppression against evangelicals,” said Esqueda, assistant professor of administration and the foundations of education. “Therefore, for the University of Seville to host a conference about the Spanish Reformation represents a huge milestone.
“Although slowly, Spain is now receiving the message of salvation in Christ that the Spanish Reformers boldly proclaimed, even to the point of giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel.”
Esqueda said the conference, in fact, “served as an opportunity to remember the 450th anniversary of the public execution of one of the greatest Spanish Reformers, Constantino Ponce de la Fuente.” Once a preacher in the Cathedral of Seville, Constantino was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition and died in prison on Dec. 22, 1560, while awaiting his trial.
The conference in Seville was organized by Spanish Reformation scholar Emilio Monjo Bellido, director of the Center for the Investigation of the Memory of Spanish Protestantism in Seville. In 2009, Monjo presented a lecture on the Spanish Reformers at Southwestern Seminary, recounting the story of these Reformers and displaying their dependence upon the expository preaching of God’s Word.
Monjo also donated to the seminary the already published volumes of a series containing the works of Spanish Reformers, titled Obras de los Reformadores Españoles del Siglo XVI. According to Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern, the seminary is cooperating in the translation of remaining Spanish Reformation documents into modern Spanish and English.
“The main leader of the research center (Monjo) has a very strong belief that uncovering these books and acquainting people with the basic teachings of the Reformers can actually be used of the Lord to bring revival to Spain,” Sanchez said.
“The Spanish Reformers were on the same page with the Anabaptists on many doctrines, actually, but also on the issue of religious freedom,” he added. Sanchez translated for Patterson during a presentation highlighting this connection at the conference in Seville.
The ethic of religious liberty, Patterson claimed, is a legacy of the Anabaptists who, like the Spanish Reformers, preached and suffered for the freedom of the church to serve its Lord.
“Whatever the case and however stinging may be the attempts to suppress the idea of a free church in a free state,” Patterson said, “the Anabaptist legacy was released in the 16th century like a tiger from its cage. The ideas discovered by those courageous men and women will never be caged again.
“Let us be invigorated afresh by the superlative examples of these Anabaptists who taught us how to live, how to debate, how to stand, and how to die for our Lord.”
Patterson expressed his excitement that the University of Seville would join with Southwestern Seminary to sponsor a conference featuring the contributions of Anabaptists and Spanish Reformers. Although some would say Spain, with its secularism, is hostile to Christianity, “its interest in the Spanish Reformation shows there is a certain openness to consider, at this point, the effects of the Reformation.”
“For a major secular university to co-sponsor with Southwestern Seminary a conference on the Reformation in the city that in many ways spawned the Inquisition,” he added, “is a remarkable development.”