Posts Tagged ‘new Barmen Declaration’

The Manhattan Declaration As The New Barmen Declaration

November 25, 2009

Christians are hearing about the Manhattan Declaration with great excitement.  It is a tremendous document with tremendous support from some tremendous Christian figures.

The actual declaration (linked to above) is some 4,000 plus words long, and is available to read at the link above.  But here is the nutshell version:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

I hope you stand with me – and with (at last count as of November 24, 2009) 106,738 other believers – and sign this declaration.

It reminds me of another time, and another declaration: the Barmen Declaration of 1934, which was a point-by-point denunciation of the fascist and racist ideological doctrines of Nazism and a positive expression of true Christian faith against a government and a culture that had become evil.

Adolf Hitler attempted to redefine – or “Nazify” – the Church and transform it into a component of his ideological agenda.  At one point in its history Germany had been the seat of the Protestant Reformation, and while Germany had since become the most secular humanist nation in Europe, there was still a vestige of Christianity remaining.  And Hitler wanted to harness that still-influential vestige toward his own ends.  The government thus passed resolutions to limit the influence or dictate the agenda of the church.  One demanded the purging of all pastors who rejected “the spirit of National Socialism.”  Another resolution categorically rejected the very foundations of Judeo-Christian transcendent morality even as it tried to conflate “being a German” with “being a Christian”:

“We expect that our nation’s church as a German People’s Church should free itself from all things not German in its services and confession, especially from the Old Testament with its Jewish system of quid pro quo morality.”

The German Confessing Movement was a reaction against the German government’s attempt to impose its agenda upon the Christian Church in Germany.  As Gene Edward Veith put it in his book Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview:

The Barmen Declaration thus sets itself against not only the German Christian aberration but against the whole tradition of modernist syncretism that made it possible.

[Article 1 affirmed Christ as the transcendent authority and source of values (as opposed to the German race, the Nazi revolution, or the person of Adolf Hitler)].  Article 2 asserts the sovereignty of Christ over all of life.  Article 3 asserts Christ’s lordship over the church and rejects “the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political conventions.”  That is to say, the world does not set the agenda for the church.  Article 4 teaches that church offices are for mutual service and ministry, not for the exercise of raw power.  Article 5 acknowledges the divine appointment of the state, but rejects the pretensions of the state to “become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.”  Article 6 affirms the church’s commission to proclaim the free grace of God to everyone by means of the Word and the sacraments.  “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans [pp. 60-61].

One article, entitled “Hitler’s Theologians: The Genesis of Genocide,” takes time to describe how various key German liberal theologians systematically tore apart the Bible and orthodox Christianity – and in so doing systematically undermined the ethics and morality of the German people in preparation for the hell to come.  The author begins with Friedrich Schleiermacher, called “the founder of Liberal Protestantism,” and profiles the “contributions” of Friedrich Nietzsche, Julius Wellhausen, and Adolf von Harnack.

Georg Lukacs has observed that tracing the path to Hitler involved the name of nearly every major German philosopher since Hegel: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Dilthy, Simmel, Scheler, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Weber [page 5, The Destruction of Reason].  And Max Weinreich produced an exhaustive study detailing the complicity of German intellectuals with the Nazi regime entitled Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People.  Ideas have consequences, and it was the ideas of these liberal theologians, philosophers and scholars who provided the intellectual justification and conceptual framework for the Holocaust.  Thus Nazism did not merely emerge from a liberal theological system, but from a distinguished secular humanist intellectual tradition as well — a distinguished intellectual tradition that had repudiated all the moral and spiritual values inherent to the orthodox Christianity of the Confessing Church.

Josef Hromadka wrote that:

“The liberal theology in Germany and in her orbit utterly failed.  It was willing to compromise on the essential points of divine law and of “the law of nature”; to dispose of the Old Testament and to accept the law of the Nordic race instead; and to replace the “Jewish” law of the Old Testament by the autonomous law of each race and nation, respectively.  It had made all the necessary preparation for the “Germanization of Christianity” and for a racial Church.”

Veith subsequently says, “in deciding whether or not to sign the Barmen Declaration … the dividing line was clear.”  And he states, “The German Christian theologians predictably denounced the confessional movement as being ‘narrow’ and ‘fundamentalist.'”  He rightly described the opponents of the Barmen Declaration as being “modernists,” “existentialists,” and “dialectical” in their thinking.  The theologians who rejected Barmen were men like Emanuel Hirsch, who taught that the resurrection of Christ was only a spiritual vision, and that the idea of a physical resurrection distorted Christianity by focusing attention to the hereafter rather than to the culture and community of the present.

In short, it was Christians who thought like the evangelicals and fundamentalists of today who signed the Barmen Declaration and openly opposed Nazism, and it was “Christians” who thought like the mainline liberals of today who stood for the German Christian Nazification of Christianity and for the resulting Nazification of German ethics and morality.

Confessing Church pastors and priests who resisted this Nazification of the church paid dearly.  Thousands of clergymen were hauled away to the concentration camps.  According to the Niemoller archives, 2,579 clergymen were sent to Dachau alone – and 1,034 of them died in the camp.  And that only refers to the priests and pastors – not the untold thousands of devout Christians such as the Ten Booms who perished in the death camps for their opposition to Nazism.

An article entitled “Asking ‘Why Nazism?’” reviewing a book by Dr. Karla Poewe has this:

“One of the dangers of liberal Christianity, where all sorts of interpretations are permitted, is that it can easily slip into becoming a new religion,” Poewe says. “This is what happened. In a bid to rid Germany of what it saw as Jewish Christianity, several home-grown practices sprang up, including some that incorporated Icelandic and pre-Christian sagas, as well as ideas from German Idealism.”

Although initially these new religions were separate and disorganized entities, they eventually came under the umbrella of what was known as the German Faith Movement. Hitler saw in it a mechanism for transmitting and reinforcing the National Socialist worldview. “He shaped its followers into a disciplined political force but dismissed its leaders later when they were no longer needed,” Poewe says.

We’re clearly not to the point where Jews, or Christians, or anyone else are being gathered by the thousands and placed in death camps.  But we’re beginning to see a trend that is frightening, as government, with the assistance of liberal “Christian” churches and organizations, are trying to impose their will upon the church and its agenda.

We’ve had a “hate crimes” law imposed upon us that makes homosexuality a protected behavior.  And one evangelical expresses the Confessing Church position in a nutshell:

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement the bill “is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.”

In another recent case, a Christian mother who has homeschooled her child is being forced to put her ten-year old child in public school, not to improve her academic education, but to limit her exposure to Christianity and forcibly expose her to a government-approved “public” point of view:

According to the court order, the guardian concluded that Amanda’s “interests, and particularly her intellectual and emotional development, would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and…Amanda would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

This is a shocking case, in which the government is usurping both parental and religious freedoms.  And there are many similar usurpations today, in which our government is actively opposing Christian values.

Nearly fifty million babies have been killed in this country by a government-sanctioned “pro-choice” system.  Gene Edward Veith addresses the “pro-choice” movement and its philosophical underpinnings:

Existential ethics brackets the objective issues on abortion entirely.  At issue is not some transcendent moral law, nor medical evidence, nor a logical analysis.  The content of that choice makes no difference.  If the mother chooses to have the baby, her action is moral.  If she chooses not to have the baby, her action is still moral.  If she bears a child against her will or aborts a child against her will — then and only then is the action evil.  Those who believe that abortion should be legal do not consider themselves “pro-abortion.”  They are “pro-choice.”  The term is not only a rhetorical euphemism but a precise definition of existential ethics.

Existentialism is also reflected in those who are “pro-choice” but personally oppose abortion.  They do not believe in abortion for themselves, but refuse to impose their beliefs on others.  In this view, a belief has no validity outside the private, personal realm of each individual.  Moral and religious beliefs are no more than personal constructions, important in giving meaning to an individual’s life, but not universally valid.  Or, to use another commonly accepted axiom, “what’s true for you may not be true for me.”

Such a view of truth flies in the face of all classical metaphysics, which sees truth as objective, universal, and applicable to all” (page 96, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview).

We can return to the historical analysis of Nazism presented by Karla Poewe, and what happened when such “anything goes” belief systems were allowed to rule.  [I have written an article describing how existentialism became a primary component of Nazism, and link to it HERE].

Before we leave the issue of abortion as a vile violation of Christian ethics and morality, let us consider one more voice:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” — Mother Teresa

Christians should fight for life.  And allowing a human being to live should not be a “choice,” but a duty.

In 2003 one David Allen Black wrote an article bearing the question, “Do We Need A New Barmen Declaration?”  No Christian with a knowledge of history can answer any other way than, “YES!

The Barmen Declaration was written in 1934, but in many ways it was already too late: The Nazis were already in power.  Hitler was in his second year of power; and the ideas of the liberal theologians, the existentialist philosophers, and the amoral intellectuals were already firmly in place.

It is my fervent hope that we finally have that “New Barmen Declaration” to answer the evils of our own day.  If we already should have written one, then every day that passes is one more day wasted; if we are acting pro-actively, then let us thank God that we acting before it is too late.

From the UK Telegraph:

At last, Christians draw a line in the sand against their PC secularist persecutors

By Gerald Warner UK Last updated: November 24th, 2009

At long last, Christian leaders have faced up to their persecutors in the secularist, socialist, One-World, PC, UN-promoted axis of evil and said: No more. In the popular metaphor, they have drawn a line in the sand. For harassed, demoralised faithful in the pews it will come as the long-awaited call to resistance and an earnest that their leaders are no longer willing to lie down supinely to be run over by the anti-Christian juggernaut. This statement of principle and intent is called The Manhattan Declaration, published last Friday in Washington DC.

It is difficult to believe that so firm an assertion of Christian intransigence in the face of persecution will not have some beneficial effects even here. For this Declaration is no minor affirmation by a few committed activists: on the contrary, it is signed by the most important leaders of three mainstream Christian traditions – the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and Evangelical Protestants. For an ecumenical document it is heroically devoid of fudge, euphemism and compromise.

The Manhattan Declaration states that “the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions”.

For Barack Obama, the PC lobby, the “hate crime” fascists and, by implication, their opposite numbers in Britain, the signatories have an uncompromising message: “We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.” That is plain speaking, in the face of anti-Christian aggression by governments. The signatories spelled it out even more unequivocally: “We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will under no circumstances render to Caesar what is God’s.”

In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful, similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada, the European Court of Human Rights (sic) has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance is more than timely.

The signatories are unambiguously expressing their willingness to go to prison rather than deny any part of their religious beliefs. Those signatories are heavyweight. On the Catholic side they include Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus of Detroit; the Archbishops of Denver, New York, Washington DC, Newark, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Louisville; and other Bishops. The Orthodox include the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and the Archpriest of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. There are also the Anglican Primates of America and Nigeria, as well as a host of senior Evangelical Protestants.

In terms of influence on votes and public opinion, this is a formidable coalition. It has served notice on the US government that further anti-Christian legislation will provoke cultural trench warfare and even civil disobedience. As regards the sudden stiffening of resistance among the usually spineless Catholic leadership, it is impossible not to detect the influence of Benedict XVI.

We need more declarations like this, on a global scale, and the requisite confrontational follow-up. This is Clint Eastwood, make-my-day Christianity – and not before time. From now on, any governments that are planning further persecution of Christians had better make sure they have a large pride of lions available for mastication duties. The worm has turned.

As a young Christian, I was inspired by the music, lyrics, and album cover of Keith Green’s album, No Compromise.  The cover says it all:

The Manhattan Declaration – like the Barmen Declaration – calls for Christians who are willing to stand up and be singled out even in the face of persecution or punishment.

I hope you are willing to be one of those Christians.