Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leaving & Staying in Faithfulness: looking at various church ages & movements 4

The Church struggle in Nazi Germany

A book, Cross and Swastika: the ordeal of the German Church, written by a Swiss, Dr. Arthur Frey, about the confessional battles going on in Germany has a forward written by Karl Barth. The book was published in its English edition in 1938 in the very midst of the church struggle. Interestingly, even the translator, J. Strathearn McNab, got into the act of making a comment on the struggle. He wrote:

The ideas of the “German Christians” have their counterparts in the Churches of Britain and America, but there the different elements that compose contemporary Christian culture remain interfused. No crisis has arisen to isolate them. We can still remain comfortably vague about many things just because we have not thought them out. The German conflict calls us and helps us to see just where we stand. And it must be apparent that we should be well advised to think these things out, not merely for the sake of intellectual clarity and theological integrity, but practically, because the crisis that has confronted the Church in Germany is certainly—if with some superficial differences of form—going sooner or later to confront us here. Germany has no monopoly of paganism and it is not the habit of paganism always to remain passive and non-aggressive.
And what was that paganism that McNab was referring to? It was a God and a revelation centered in the German culture rather than God’s revelation, the Bible, and the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

The hardcore Nazis were totally pagan. They fulfilled their religious needs and ideals in the German landscape, culture and history. On the other hand, the German Christians were compromisers; they mixed their Christianity with the Nazis paganism. God’s revelation was in Jesus Christ, but it was also in the history and culture of the German people. God was supposedly completing his revelation in Christ with the rise of National Socialism.

Another movement, the German Faith Movement, was very different than Christianity. Frey using Professor Wilhelm Hauer who wrote about their beliefs writes of the Faith movement’s view of death:
The Germanic German faith in life discloses also the eternal meaning of death. The earth is home and sanctuary, it is her will that the generations sink back again into her as they rose up from her, “We say ‘yes’, to death also, for it is the divine’ ‘Must’, the sacred original law of life, to which we willingly submit ourselves.”
And in a ceremony written out by Hauer for the dead the end is, "Loyalty to the earth/Loyalty to the God in us,/Loyalty to the eternal ‘Die and Become.’"

In the midst of all of this the orthodox, called evangelicals in Germany, lost their teaching and pastoral positions. Christianity could not be spoken of in the schools and young people were socialized into the Nazi culture. Believers also lost their freedom to speak publicly of Christianity from a confessional viewpoint and many of them lost their lives in concentration camps. The only Christians with any power were the German Christians who insisted on a synthesis of paganism and Christianity.

But the words that Karl Barth writes in his forward to Cross and Swastika are wholly filled with promise and hope:
In the trials and temptations of these years the Church in Germany has had to learn and has indeed learned, during a long period of shifts and confusions, to look away from these and to turn back anew to its original foundations, to the Holy Scriptures and to the doctrine of the Reformers. In doing so it has experienced that it is itself free, strong and alive in the measure in which it dared to hold to its Lord alone and to His own Word, in opposition to the new bonds with which it was threatened … In present day Germany where it is so despised, the Bible is being more diligently and more attentively read, both by theologians and non-theologians, and its Word is making itself more mightily heard than perhaps has been the case since the sixteenth century. Faith in God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, now that it is so contested, has become a precious thing. Trouble has taught men to pray.
The Lord of the church, Jesus Christ, the word of God, the Bible, prayer in the midst of trouble and confusion, these are for the church under the cross. We are now called to be the church under his cross. This is how we follow Christ and hold onto the unity that we have with one another through our union with Christ.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem his name. “They will be mine” says the Lord of hosts,, “on the day that I prepare my own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:16-18).


Peter Larson said...

"Trouble has taught men to pray." I like that. By the way, we are showing the "Perfect Storm" video with the Dutch hymn this Sunday in our contemporary worship service. Deeply moving for those in the midst of the storms of life. I hope you will read the quotes from Calvin's Institutes that I posted on the Facebook page...they are very instructive, I think.

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Peter. My husband will love that you are showing it. He placed it on Facebook where I found it. He has but in the mountains tuning for a music festival for almost two weeks now. But he will be home today and I will tell him.
I will read the Calvin quotes.

Stushie said...

Viola, have you any significant information on the Budris movie that being released on the 15 September? Some people on our presbytery's peacemaking team want to sponsor this, but I don't know if its connected to those anti-semitic groups you were writing about.

Viola Larson said...

Stushie, you can look here That is Budrus. I don't see a lot of bad stuff on the site, but I think a fair assessment would be that they still need to think about Israel's right to self-defense. I am one of those who believe that they need the wall but they need to move it to fair lines. And I don't believe Hamas can be trusted until they will agree that Israel is a Jewish state. But I'm sure there is some good in what the film is doing also. I would take more time but I am sick and don't much feel like staying at my computer.