Hans Denck’s life is simply sad. Born somewhere between 1495 – 1500, he was young when the Reformation fires were lit. Remember that while the Reformation led to many good things, this was all new. Many sects and branches of Protestantism were being formed fast.
Denck was in Nuremberg for awhile. Nuremberg at that time was in conflict between the Lutherans, those frustrated with the Reformation, and those leaving the Protestant movement and going back to the Catholic Church. What a mess. Denck became influenced by both Zwingli and the radical reformer Thomas Muntzer. The result was, well, not the best. In his search for truth, he was kicked out of different cities many times, before settling in Switzerland. In 1527, he contracted the bubonic plague and died.
His theology is messy. He believed that the inner word of God was more important than the Bible. He did not value the scripture as the source of all true religious knowledge, but instead the spirit that speaks from within each person.
He frustrated people when he preached that the sacraments were only symbols. And angered people when he said that baptism was a sign of commitment.
Luther taught the beautiful doctrine of justification by faith. While Denck’s emphasis was on discipleship to Jesus. Not many of his writings survive, he did author a little tract where he said that “No one may truly know Christ except one who follows Him in life.”