Why not "German Christian"
A word to the Community toward the discussion
of the teaching of “German Christians"
Dr. theol. Adolf Sannwald,
pastor at St. Mark's Church in Stuttgart.
Price 10 cents
Published by "The Source" of the Evangelical Society, Stuttgart
Translated into English by Marieluise Sannwald Christopher
One can often hear the following from folks who are not involved in the present argument of the Church: "The parties are no longer fighting in our fatherland, why cannot the clergy stop fighting amongst themselves? It is time to stop this nonsense for the sake of the fatherland." There are three things to be said against this:
1. If the fight within the Church concerned itself with" interests" or advantages, peace could indeed be imposed by the power of the State. But because it is not a question of interests or advantages, but a question of true understanding of the gospel, true peace can never be achieved with force but only with spiritual means.
2. Because the Church concerns itself with Truth, there cannot be peace in the Church in which Truth and Untruth happily reside next to one another. The Church would commit treason against Truth if the Church were to seek peace at any price, even at the price of Truth. It would indeed be a rotten peace. There can only be peace in the Church if everybody bows to one Truth.
3. Since the fight of the Church is about Truth, it is not just an argument amongst men of the Church, i.e. clergy, but it concerns the congregation. The clergy only want to assure that the congregation gets the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. Those who do not care about this fight put themselves outside of the congregation, which is nourished solely by the proclamation of the Truth.
The Truth, the proclamation of which has been assigned to the Church, is the revelation of the threefold God, as witnessed to us by the Old and New Testament. The confessions of the Church are meant to instruct us in the right evangelical understanding of this Truth.
The German Christians tell us over and over: "We don't intend to question Bible and Confession of Faith; in today's fight it is not a question of those fundamentals of our Church, not a question of the kernel of the Gospel. It is only a question of giving this kernel a contemporary shell. The kernel, of course, must remain untouched. But it is essential that the shell be modernized to streamline with today's times, in other words with National Socialism.
But, of course, if it were just a question of the exterior - if the kernel remained untouched - the severity of today's fight would be hard to understand, then it would be relatively easy to make peace, because there would be unity in the fundamental questions. But here we find the real error, one must be quite vigilant. Because it is not enough to state (even if the statement comes from an honest opinion): The Bible and the Confession are untouched. No, the earnestness of this statement must be proven by the way the Church acts and teaches. And there we must say, loud and clear and with every emphasis that the teaching and the actions of the church of the German Christians is in direct conflict with Bible and Confession: The changes to the exterior affect the kernel as well. That is why the teaching of German Christians is wrong teaching.
"No, my dear fellow,"- Luther says to us - "don't advise me peace and unity where the Word of God is concerned, because that would mean that eternal life and everything else would be lost. We must not budge nor make concessions for your sake or someone else's. But everything and everybody must make room for the Word. Word and teaching shall form a Christian unity. Where they unite, the rest shall follow. Where they don't unite, there shall be no unity. Therefore let no one talk to me of love and friendship where the Word or the Faith shall be broken."
It is important at this time to demonstrate of what the false doctrine of German Christians consists. All in all one can say: it consists in the attempt to assimilate the teachings of the Church and its actions with the spirit of the times and the people. This attempt is not new but has been tried for the past two centuries to bend the biblical direction of church thinking and action. Of course, as Christians we are obliged to serve our people and our times in a selfless manner, simply because God's commandment calls us to Love. But the first service the Church owes to the people is the preaching of the Gospel and the proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom through Christ. The Church must jealously guard against any confusion of the voice of one with the voice of the other. The attempt of German Christians to streamline the two is based on such confusion. This shall be shown more clearly in the following points:
The centerpiece of the Christian message must not be the sermon on the supporting power of land, blood and race but on the power of God, onto salvation to everyone that believeth ( Romans 1, 16 ); not the sermon on our human hopes of the Third Reich but the sermon on God's Kingdom. (Thy Kingdom come) Not the sermon on faith in the grandeur of Germany but of Christ, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth, ( Phil.2,10 ) not the sermon on national and racial awakening but on the awakening to repenting and faith and the resurrection of the dead (1. Corinthians, 15). Only when this message has been proclaimed loud and clear, can and even must be said that our German fatherland is our most precious possession on this earth, by which God sustains our earthly life and for the well being of which we are responsible to God. In the light of God's Word the commandment of the" great historical hour" first and foremost must be: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! and only after that, prove your faith by your willingness to sacrifice for your country. If God, through Adolph Hitler gives us one extra day of life, GOD gave it so that by redemption, faith and hope we have one more day to prepare for the great day on which Jesus Christ shall come. It may be our most precious possession, but for a Christian the focus on nationalistic life can never be for its own sake: For here we have no continuing city but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13, 14) Woe to the Church that is silent to the fact that all governments, all "Reichs" of this world shall come to an end. The Church which proclaims that all flesh is like grass is not being politically pessimistic but has simply pointed out the fact that God has limited all things human by Death.
Viewed from this perspective a statement like the one made by Bishop Hossenfelder must be rejected: "It is from the people that the faith of the present time gets its meaning." Evangelical (protestant) teaching must proclaim just the opposite: Faith in the Gospel helps us toward a protestant stance toward today's political and human happenings. Just as questionable is the phrase which is the pinnacle of the pamphlet written by the leading theologian of the German Christians (E. Hirsch): " The questioning of an alive and alert people - Hirsch is talking about the aliveness achieved through the populist movement - "is the prerequisite for the active listening to the gospel as an answer given to us in a wonderful way by the Lord." No, it is untrue that the awakening to faith is in any way connected to the awakening of the populist awakening. The Holy Spirit "causes faith to happen when and where it will in those that listen to the Gospel." (Article 5 of the Augsburg confession)"
Faith and world view are not the same, therefore we may not and will not confuse in Jesus Christ with some other "faith" in religious world view or political doctrine. A world view may be pious and idealistic but knows nothing about the God who is the father of Jesus Christ, no matter how loudly it speaks of God. The New Testament tells us very clearly: "No one knows the father but the son and those who the son has enlightened. " (Matthew 11, 27) And "Whoever has the Son of God, has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1.John 5, 12) The faith in Jesus Christ excludes any faith in others, however, both Christendom and National Socialist world view agree in that they both ask a high moral standard of a person. Indeed, National Socialism owes its convincing power to the fact that it has dared to command moral standards and to preach order, obedience, responsibility and sacrifice. But to call the populist movement "Christian" or original Protestantism (Schairer) can only be understood as another attempt to mistakenly streamline Christianity. Because anyone can know about self control, order, obedience, responsibility and sacrifice even without Christ. To preach those values we don't need Christianity and Protestantism. I'm not saying that the church should preach that self control, order, obedience etc. are unimportant; no, they are indispensable for the life of a People. But the special calling of the Church, which no one but the Church can take care of, is to clarify twofold: first this that a self disciplined and responsible person can always remain a person without God if he does not accept peace with God through Jesus Christ. This will be a harsh statement, especially for morally highly developed persons - but the Church denies God's Word if she doesn't speak these hard words in all clarity. Then the other: The Love, of which the bible speaks and which is the completion of the Law (Romans 13, 10) we cannot come up with by our own strength or wisdom. This Love springs not from human elation and not of the strength of the people but alone from faith in the incomprehensible Love of God the Father who calls us his children.
To say that it is sufficient before God to be "a good person and to do one's duty to one's fellow man” (as stated by a well-known "German Christian ") is therefore in view of the bible and Confession of Faith an impossibility.
The "German Christians" demand a true to type Christendom. Their demand is closely connected to what I have written previously, especially thesis 1. The demand includes a threefold: First, the message of the Bible should be stated in such a way that we Germans can truly understand it. There is nothing objectionable about this, we all should learn to speak a better German with Germans. But if behind this demand stands the opinion, Jewish testimonies would be easier to understand if they were German instead of Jewish, something very important of God's revelation is lost, which is that the natural man in general, Jew or German, is distanced equally from the understanding of God's Word (an annoyance to the Jews, a silliness to the Greeks: 1. Corinthians 1, 23). God's way is always in opposition to our way. Viewed from this angle, "true to type Christendom" is a Christendom that no longer is a Christendom. But if Christendom is never the same as human ways and actions, we still cannot say that the "national socialist position can replace faith for a German person." (Dr. Kinder, leader of "faith movement of German Christians")
Second: Those that want "true to type Christendom" will follow by altering the bible so that it fits in with our northern hero mythology. This will happen first of all with the Old Testament. In his latest book Schairer says about the Jews that "the magic" with which man tried to influence God has reached its peak. “Everything that other peoples have invented, everything what pagans still do today to win over their godhead, pales against Judaism and its grandiose attempt to try its very best to conquer the godhead". As if it was a question of what Jews said to God instead of what God said to the Jews!!
Furthermore the historical Jesus is not being taken seriously by way of questioning whether Jesus was or was not completely Jewish. Schairer uses the doctrine of the virgin birth to prove that "the Bible makes point to show us that Jesus was not a pure Jew". But wouldn't it be objectionable to someone with this view that God chose a Jewish woman as mother to his son? Isn't that the purpose of it all that God does not choose his children based on race?
Finally there is an attempt to prove that the Reformation was a "breakthrough of German Christian faith (the 28 theses of the German Christians which Dr. Kinder considers essential)" German Christendom means Lutherdom" (thesis 20) I ask you: are our reformed Germans less good Germans or worse Christians than our Lutherans only because they feel that they must listen to Calvin in addition to Luther? No, the Reformation is the breakthrough of the Gospel, even through the barrier of National values and on the ground and through the soul of German men.
Third: Whoever wants a “true to type Christendom" must necessarily take away the rights of a Jewish Christian, someone who lives among Christian ariens and sees himself connected to a Christian community. "Only those can be members of our Church who, by law of the state are citizens (# 3 of the above named theses). A contradiction is apparent in thesis 4: "the people's church does not mean exclusion of Christians of other races of Word and Sacrament". I want to say this: If a Christian Jew is allowed to partake in the Holy Sacrament (Eucharist) he is, by his partaking, a full member of the community, by the Teaching of the New Testament and customs of the New Testament. Because only one thing is vital for belonging in a Christian community, faith in Jesus Christ. Not racial origin! So we see - either assimilation of Church and People or Gospel!
The intent to assimilate has directed German Christians to project the "Fuhrer principle" which originates from the life of the People and the State onto the Church. Because - so they say - it would guarantee a unified, tight and aimful leadership of the Church, which would not be guaranteed by a "democratic" constitution. May I say the following in opposition:
l) Only the Word of God can lead the Church, i.e. Jesus Christ. A man can only lead the Church by proclaiming the Word loudly and clearly and thereby allow the Word to lead. Therefore we must ask the present leaders of the German Church whether they proclaim the Word correctly. And, sadly, this cannot be affirmed of the bishops of the "German Christians"
2) The proclamation of the Reich's bishop and the spiritual ministerium of April 13, 1934 says that it is "necessary to strengthen and enlarge the exterior order of the German Evangelical Church by avoiding arguments of the Faith." But doesn't that mean to start with the roof when building a house instead of starting with the foundation? The foundation of the Church and its unity is the Word of God. But in the understanding of this Word we are so split. In addition, we are split also amongst the Churches of the various counties. There cannot be a unity which is not a unity on the foundational level. Therefore we must reject the suggestion to start with the exterior order to help along the interior unity and harmony.
3) It is also untrue that the inner life and exterior order of the Church have nothing to do with one another: The formation of the exterior has to follow the interior laws: the kernel forms its shell. Therefore, it is an impossible undertaking to eliminate the individual parishes in which the true life of the community pulsates by applying the "Fuhrer principle" and thereby deliver them of responsibility for the Church. That would mean nothing else but to abandon the gift that the Reformation gave to us, which is the general priesthood, and to replace it with Papal order.
4) There is only one spiritual authority in the evangelical Church, whose only weapon is the Word of God. The authority of the exterior order of the Church obtains its strength by the spiritual authority. Therefore we reject phrase of Bishop Peter of Magdeburg. "The authority of the evangelical Bishop is not a spiritual authority. The authority of the offices of evangelical bishops rests on history. Because for the Germany of the Third Reich exists only one authority which is the authority of the Fuhrer." Yes, this is true for all of us in things that concern the State, but for all affairs of the Church God's Word is the only authority which counts. There ends even the authority of the State.
About Adolf Sannwald