Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Possible Response to the "Hitler Objection" to Two Kingdoms

I was doing some reading this morning and was intrigued to learn (yes, through Wikipedia) about Hitler's own form of Christianity known as "Positive Christianity". This was a Christianity which had a very anti-Jewish, essentially Marcionite canon (no Old Testament, for example). Now, my thoughts on this are short and sweet, and I am not a crusader for the two-kingdoms view like Stellman or Hart, but it strikes me as implausible that Hitler would need to create or introduce a new version of Christianity if old school, two-kingdoms Lutherans posed absolutely no threat to a genocidal Nazi regime.

The old caricature of two kingdoms is that they would just sit by and watch Hitler roll over Europe. But two kingdoms, as I have come to understand it, simply says that the church, as the church, doesn't function in the political realm, but in the devotional/spiritual realm. Its members are still free to oppose Hitler every step of the way, but as citizens, not as the Church qua Church. What I'm arguing is that if the old cartoon of the socially disengaged Lutherans were accurate, Hitler would have had no need of Positive Christianity, and there wouldn't have been a Confessing Church vs. a National Church.

If the old cartoon were really true, then the Lutheran churches would have been untouched as the Nazis rolled through Austria, Poland, France, and then the rest of the world, all the while clutching the Augsburg confession and singing "This World Is Not My Home" (or the German equivalent).

1 comment:

  1. Bingo. And to add to your Wiki-gut here: Herman Sasse, a faithful confessional Lutheran, who played a leading role in the German Church Struggle against Nazi coercion within the church contends:

    "No, it was not Lutheranism as such, but a sick Lutheranism that gave National Socialism an open door into the church. It was a Lutheran Church which was no longer capable of standing guard over the souls of its people because it had fallen asleep itself. It had lost its power over demons because it no longer possessed the power of distinguishing between "spirits."...We have noble families in which the grandfathers were conservative and confessional Lutherans, the fathers were German nationalists and members of the union church and the sons joined the SS. …

    They picked out of Luther's teaching those phrases regarding governmental authority which were opportune and which people wanted to hear; phrases concerning the dignity of divinely ordained offices and the duty of obedience to them. But what Luther said about the sins of governmental authority; about the tyrannous murder of man's soul by the authority which goes beyond its limits or about the boundaries of obedience — all that was whispered very softly in the first years of the Third Reich, or not mentioned at all. …They supplemented Luther with Robespierre." (Stewart Herman, The Rebirth of the German Church, 50–52).

    And this was precisely because, as Sasse alludes to above, the church failed to guard its home (i.e., failed its 2k heritage). Incidentally, I wrote about a related theme—pacifism and the two kingdoms—here.


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