Anglican Revisionism:
a comparison with
the Protestant Churches of Nazi
Germany.

[COMMENT: Again, the problem is not the revisionists, as bad as they are.  God's biggest problem has almost always, with a few exceptions in various ages, been His own woefully ignorant (intellectually, morally, and spiritually undisciplined) and cowardly people.  The people of God, intellectually, morally, and spiritually mature, are far more than a match for anything the world, the flesh, or the devil can throw at us.  Nothing has changed.  The devil should be running, not us.  

We in America are fast losing our own political freedom to deceitful propaganda about one-world government from persons who deny the One World Governor, Jesus.  Europe has already gone that route.  But Christians (with those few exceptions) are incapable today of standing up and saying (gracefully) out loud that "Jesus is Lord".  Our political as well as our personal freedom comes only from God, not from any human government.  If we will not acknowledge Him in public, neither will He acknowledge us in our prayers.  We are on our own, along with all the others in this fallen world.  No stability, no direction.  Not a good place to be. 

If you, dear reader, will peruse the two worldviews and understand them, you will begin to see why the revisionists of both eras were able to subvert us, and how we can take back our lost ground.  For a theology-in-the-trenches on these issues, read Homosexuality: Good & Right in the Eyes of God?   E. Fox] 

http://home.wol.co.za/~20063822/july2005/thebiblespeaks.htm

 Rev’d Canon David Doveton, Diocese of Zululand,  Ascensiontide 2005

Introduction

In this paper I use the term ‘revisionism’ to describe the broad theological attempt to reformulate the Church’s historic doctrine of sexual relations ; viz.  that the only appropriate place for intimate sexual relationship is within a monogamous life long union between one man and one woman.  Typical exponents of Anglican revisionist views are John Spong (Living in Sin?), William Countryman (Dirt, Greed and Sex), Timothy Sedgwick and Jeffrey John.  A widespread abandonment of established doctrine in the area of sexual morality especially by the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) is evidenced by the adoption of declarations such as the “Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality Justice and Healing” in 2000. This was signed by 22 Bishops of the ECUSA, and among other demands called for the recognition of same sex unions and the adoption of a new sexual ethic based on “personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts”.

There are vast differences in the historical circumstances in which the Protestant churches found themselves in the pre-war Nazi Germany of the 1930’s and the Churches of the Anglican tradition in the 21st century.  However there are uncanny and alarming parallels with Nazi Germany in the way a section of the church is dealing with the cultural and ideological pressures being brought to bear on it , in particular the emergence once more of a form of natural theology on which innovations in doctrine and liturgy are based.

The Protestant Churches in Germany during 1930's and the events leading up to the Barmen Declaration [1]

 “Race, Nation, and cultural heritage”

The rise of a mixture of pantheism, romanticism and Christianity in the Germany of the 1930’s is evidenced in the writings of people like Hauer.  In his book The German Vision of God, he called for a faith based on blood and soil,

“Why German faith? … ‘German’ has the meaning of ‘wedded to the soil’, ‘true to type’. Since we stand on German soil, are rooted in German life and blood, the term ‘German Faith’ arose naturally from our struggle…" [2]

and a faith based on the belief that God was revealing himself in contemporary events centring on the German Nation,

“…Paradoxically it is in these grave and difficult times that (the German man) has won through to a trust in the immediate present, to an awareness of the presence of God in the contemporary events of his life" [3] 

Hauer had a view of God as totally immanent, believing that God was encountered within the self through personal experience, though not through a personal encounter with Christ;

“…For us the earth is holy, because deep within it God himself dwells.  According to the Christianity of the East the deeper one looks into the nature of the earthly, the more one discovers its ungodliness.  Our experience is different.  Wherever the searching eye and the living life is able to penetrate to the heart of things, there they encounter the God who is active and living within them. It is for this reason that the earth is holy for us..." [4]

As the Nazis rose to power in the 1930’s, the German Protestant churches were largely still in the grip of the strong tide of liberal protestant theology, with its stress on the immanence of God, an optimistic evolutionary view of human history and higher biblical criticism.  Schleiermacher’s influence in particular was still being felt with his theological emphasis on the individual, the romantic and the historical and his belief that the nature of human freedom lay in recognising and developing one’s own identity in one’s own culture.  As Nazi ideology took root in popular culture, the church succumbed to a blend of National Socialist ideology and Christian theology [5] producing a particular and errant form of natural theology, specifically an errant doctrine of revelation. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth vehemently opposed this errant theology, which made him quite unpopular with certain ecclesiastic authorities as well as the Nazi hierarchy.  In his Dogmatics, Barth spells out some of the historico-political context from which his rejection of this form of natural theology emerged.  He writes,

The question became a burning one at the moment when the Evangelical Church in Germany was unambiguously and consistently confronted by a definite and new form of natural theology, namely, by the demand to recognise in the political events of the year 1933, and especially in the form of the God-sent Adolf Hitler, a source of specific new revelation of God, which, demanding obedience and trust, took its place beside the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, claiming that it should be acknowledged by Christian proclamation and theology as equally binding and obligatory. [6]

Further manifestations of this form of natural theology appeared in the declaration by the German Christian Movement whose aim, supported by Hitler, was to unite all protestant Christians into one pan-Germanic Church.  Their stated aims [7] published in 1932 called for the restructuring of the German protestant church and among other things declared;

“We campaign for a unification of the 29 churches gathered together under the German Protestant Church Federation into one Protestant Reich Church…”

“We stand on the basis of positive Christianity.  Ours is an affirmative, truly national faith in Christ, in the Germanic spirit of Luther and of heroic piety.”

In race, nation and cultural heritage we see the orders of existence which God has given us in trust; it is the law of God that we should be concerned to preserve them.  Therefore racial admixture is to be opposed…faith in Christ does not destroy the race, it deepens and sanctifies it,

We want a Protestant church rooted in our own culture, and are opposed to a spirit of a Christian cosmopolitanism.  We want to overcome the degenerate phenomena which derive from this spirit...." [8]

In January 1934 Karl Barth was among several church leaders and theologians who were making preparations for a meeting with Hitler.  Karl Fezer had prepared a theological memorandum to which Barth was asked to assent. He was horrified at the document and called it heretical – he said to Fezer;

“we have different beliefs, different spirits, and a different God" [9]

With that bombshell, pandemonium broke out in the meeting.  Barth was asked to withdraw his remark, but refused – this was now the situation between him and the German Christians.  In May 1934 at Barmen, Barth and several other pastors and theologians, among them Niemoller, framed a response to the heresy of the German Christian movement.  The Barmen declaration was an attempt to uphold the authority of the bible as the word of God and to deny that there were additional sources of revelation (especially categories of existence) that were equivalent sources of revelation.

The first declaration states: -

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation. [10]

As Assmussen has observed, in this first declaration we find reaffirmed the threefold solus of the Reformation: Solus Christus, sola scriptura, sola fide.  This first declaration places Jesus as attested by Holy Scripture as the only source of proclamation.  The word of scripture is our main basis of theology and through this written word, the living Word, Jesus Christ calls us to trust and obedience.  The declaration denied that there were other events (referring to the rise of National Socialism), powers (referring to race, blood and soil), figures (referring to Hitler) and truths (the ideology of National Socialism), that were equivalent sources of revelation.  This clearly challenged the totalitarian claim of the Nazi system by rejecting the idea that any category of being could be a source of truth apart from or above the revealed word of God. [11]

The second declaration states:

As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.

We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords – areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him. [12]

Asmussen, in his commentary on Barmen, shows us the background to this thesis, namely the connection between the grace of God and the life and behaviour of Christians.  Ultimately our freedom rests on our total submission to the claims of Christ’s Lordship and his divine law, which paradoxically does not bind, but gives us freedom.  There is constant temptation to seek God in ‘creatures and events’ without reference to Christ.  When we allow this to happen, we allow these ‘creatures and events’ to usurp our freedom, and bring us back into a terrible bondage.

“We experience the beauty of God’s creatures and their demonic side, we experience zeniths and nadirs in the history which is accomplished under God’s rule in the world in the same way as other people.  But what we fear more than death is that the creatures of God and the events of history may lead us into temptation, as they have led all men into temptation in the course of history" [13]

Here he hinted theologically at a concrete historical and political dimension – the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, and chillingly predicted the cataclysm which would unfold in the future;

“Wherever that happens, other lords than Jesus Christ, other commands than his commands, gain power over us. They offer themselves to us as redeemers, but they prove to be the torturers of an unredeemed world" [14]

Adolph Hitler could not have been more accurately portrayed – an apparent redeemer will turn out to be a torturer and destroyer.

Some parallels with today’s Anglican revisionist teaching.

  1. The elevation of “orders of existence” into categories of revelation apart from and in addition to the revelation of Jesus Christ as attested for us in Scripture.

Same sex relationships:
The elevation of experience and desire
.

On June 3rd 2004, in the General Synod of the Canadian Anglican Church, a resolution was passed which affirmed the ‘integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships’.  Canadian theologian Douglas Farrow witnessing the Canadian Synod of 2004 describes the principle behind the resolution “affirming” same sex relationships: -

“A well-marshalled parade of speakers, including the amendment’s sponsors, made perfectly explicit the principle on which this “pastoral” amendment rests: the only way to affirm the homosexual – and in this respect at least, the homosexual cannot be regarded as an exception – is to affirm the integrity and sanctity, the wholeness and holiness, of what he or she already is and has as a sexual being in a sexual relationship.  In that relationship, he or she already has and knows the divine blessing" [15]

However, in the headlong rush by the Canadian Anglican Church and several dioceses of the ECUSA to allow same sex ‘blessings’, are revisionists really claiming that these relationships are in themselves holy?  Or were the framers of the Canadian Synod resolution misinterpreted, as has been claimed?

The report of the task force formed to provide a theological basis for such ‘blessings’ in the Diocese of Massachusetts is quite clear on the matter.  In Section 3: Scriptural metaphors for the Blessing of Holy Unions, the following is asserted: -

“When two people come together in an intimate relationship to make a vowed commitment to a life-long union and to seek the blessing of God and the church on this relationship, we affirm that this relationship is revelatory of God.  The couple reveal something of the holiness of God; in this respect they are hierophantic – the relationship speaks of the sacred.”

“The blessing both recognises the holy already manifest in the couple’s relationship and invites the continual presence of God in a very intentional way" [16]

But on what basis, one asks, is this union seen as valid in the eyes of God?  After all, the Christian mandate for marriage is clearly set out in scripture and the church follows that mandate.  The scripture also sets out certain requirements that must be met before a marital union is considered valid in the eyes of God.  For example, neither of the persons may already be married to somebody else, it must be a union of one man and one woman, there are certain degrees of prohibition with regard to blood relations and so on.  Another statement from the document explains;

“Two persons, at least one of whom has been baptised, who are drawn to one anther in desire and wish to share a life of a loving mutuality, intimacy respect hospitality and life long faithfulness present themselves to a community that in some fashion discerns the authenticity and integrity of this desire and evokes Gods blessing on this desire" [17]

The basis is desire! According to this view the church exists to firstly discern (in some fashion!) the authenticity of the same sex desire and then bless it.  The criterion for what is good and right is desire itself; this particular desire is not subject any other test except the discernment of this community.  The question is never asked whether this desire is legitimate by the external objective moral standards of scripture.  One can also detect here the thoroughly post-modern trait of rejecting the basic Christian belief that truth must be defined in relation to an external reality, and instead defining truth as relative to a community or culture that shares a narrative.

“Through its relativisation of truth, postmodernism contributes to the absolutization of satisfying one’s desires.  With truth dethroned as guide for life, something has to take its place — and the heir to the throne is the absolute importance of doing what feels right or good to each individual.  Post-modernism supports the absolute importance of desire satisfaction with its denial of truth and reason, along with its promulgation of a naďve and destructive notion of tolerance" [18]

The Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, Frank Griswold, sums up much of the revisionist belief in this area.  His thinking is revealed in many public statements and letters.  In his letter to Archbishop Robin Eames, he states

“A closing thought: Communion, as Archbishop Rowan has made clear, exists on many levels; it is not simply a formal, ecclesial relationship.  Therefore, I ask myself and the members of my own church in the midst of this profound and straining disagreement if there is not some invitation or opportunity to live the mystery of communion at a deeper level, as difficult and costly as it may be.  Are we not being invited in a more profound way to make room for one another’s realities and one another’s contexts both at home and abroad?  Do we not have things to learn from one another?  Do we not all possess, woven into the fabric of our lives in virtue of our baptism into Christ’s risen body, dimensions of the truth as in Jesus, who is himself the truth?  Are we not being given the opportunity to experience in the depths of the communion we share, which is our participation in the very life of God, the fullness of God in Christ which exceeds all that we can ask or imagine?" [19]

As Kendall Harmon has pointed out in a penetrating analysis, this paragraph reveals where Griswold believes we find the truth – in ourselves;

Where is truth located?  In the self!  This is the affirmation that is common to all forms of Gnosticism.  Truth does not come to us from outside our selves.  Truth is not spoken to us by the holy God of Israel through Word and Sacrament.  The risen Christ, rather, is “woven into the fabric of our lives" [20]

John Paul II shows that the development of such a radically subjective conception of moral judgement leads to the crisis of truth [21] once we deny that there is such a universal truth about what is the good at all times and in all places, knowable through human reason, then the function of the conscience also changes.  No longer can it apply the universal knowledge of the good to a specific situation so as to arrive at a judgement regarding right behaviour; instead,

“the individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil.  To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one's conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgement is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience.  But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and “being at peace with oneself"" [22]

It is Gnostic in the deepest sense, for if truth is subjective and standards are decided by the agent, the concept of a normative order of nature disappears.  This leads to the separation of freedom from nature and truth, and the development of a radical opposition between nature and freedom.  If the meaning and value of anything physical, including our bodies, is decided by the agent, (if the truth is only ‘in me’, and not ‘out there’) the physical universe loses its spiritual and moral significance.  This is the typical Gnostic dualism which ends in the debasement of human sexuality. [23]

“… the body is no longer perceived as a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world.  It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency.  Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other's richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts" [24]

God’s original intention for human sexuality is corrupted and perverted – if our bodies are seen solely as the objects and instruments of desire, if the significance of God ordained gender difference is denied, if desire itself conveys truth then the value of simply ‘being’ is replaced by the value of ‘having’ or ‘possessing’ -  resulting in increasing hedonism and utilitarianism.

Giles Fraser, in a sermon preached at University Church, Oxford on May 2, 2004 stated,

"Being saved is evangelical language for describing the new life that opens up beyond the censure of an abusive God.  The sense of finally facing the truth, the sense of admitting it to others, the sense of being accepted as one is, the sense of being released from the burden of impossible condemnation: being saved is an experience emotionally identical to coming out of the closet" [25]

Here again truth comes through experience - the experience of accepting a ‘gay identity’.  The truth being faced is “I am gay”, a truth just as powerful and equivalent in an emotional sense at least, to the truth of the gospel of unmerited grace of God revealed in Christ.  Truth comes from experience alone – what I experience in the self.  Furthermore there is a Kantian subtext here which places human freedom in opposition to divine freedom.  This is an unbiblical concept of human freedom – human beings can never be autonomous, for true freedom consists in subjecting the self to God’s will and providence.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, the theological rationale which prefaces the rite for ‘blessing’ same sex unions states;

“…we accept the experience of the many who identify themselves as gay or lesbian because, as stated above, they find their most essential, God given identities fulfilled in an intimate relationship with a person of the same  gender...." [26]

The rationale here proceeds as follows: -

[a] People find themselves fulfilled in an intimate same sex relationship
[b] Therefore they conclude that they have a ‘gay identity.’
[c] The church accepts this experience as revelatory
[d] A new moral doctrine is posited which contradicts the old.

The same rationale is in principle espoused by Griswold.  A recent interview on the “Pew Forum” included this:

“Griswold said the context is not incidental to sexuality, ‘it is very much part of the public discourse and includes the phenomenon of homosexuality.  Homosexual persons are very visible in all areas of public life.  Homosexuals should be self disclosing because the culture is a self-disclosing culture.’”

”I think we would also acknowledge that secrecy is the devil's playground, and untoward things seem to happen in secret.  Therefore, to bring something out into the light and discuss it openly is the best way possible for whatever it is to be purified, to be revelatory of that which is of grace and truth" [27]

We may further note in his rationale, firstly the unexamined assumption that there is a homosexual identity, secondly the ‘truth’ of homosexuality is disclosed from within the self and thirdly truth is arrived at (if possible) through open discussion, not through the consonance of intellect and objective reality.

Traditionally, because experiences and feelings can be unreliable, misleading, deceptive and even contradictory, established doctrine has always interpreted experience.  Alistair McGrath notes how Luther deals with this point by referring to the event of Christ’s death on the cross.  At that point the disciples  did not experience God as present, so concluded on the sole basis of experience that he had abandoned them.  However, on the basis of the doctrine of the resurrection we know that God was mysteriously present. The disciples’ conclusion on the basis of their feelings and observations was sincere and honest but wrong.  McGrath summarises,

“Doctrine interprets our feelings even contradicting them when they are misleading.  It stresses the faithfulness of God to his promises, and the reality of the resurrection hope-even where experience seems to suggest otherwise.  Doctrine thus gives us a framework for making sense of the contradictions of experience" [28]

Further, post-liberal  Philosophers [29[ correctly argue that all human experience is mediated through language and culture. Our experience is merely a personal subjective form of contemporary culture with its associated value system. Therefore to appeal to experience when there is a conflict between contemporary culture (e.g. in its acceptance of homosexual behaviour) and Christian teaching tradition is nonsensical! To make something as ephemeral and contradictory as experience a primary basis of theology as revisionists clearly do is questionable in the extreme.

Few have written so profoundly on what it means to be made in the image of God as Pope John Paul II.  His critique of totalitarian regimes was deeply rooted in his moral theology [30]  however he also saw in liberal western democracies the threat of a more subtle but no less sinister form of tyranny – what he called a ‘culture of death’. This threat resulted from the absolutising of freedom at the expense of truth, and especially the truth about the human person. [31]

He saw clearly the dangers of relying on experience apart from the revealed word of God in scripture;

“It is there (in sacred scripture) that we learn that what we experience is not absolute: it is neither uncreated nor self-generating.  God alone is the Absolute.  From the Bible there emerges also a vision of man as imago Dei.  This vision offers indications regarding man's life, his freedom and the immortality of the human spirit.  Since the created world is not self-sufficient, every illusion of autonomy which would deny the essential dependence on God of every creature—the human being included—leads to dramatic situations which subvert the rational search for the harmony and the meaning of human life. [32]

Barth and the other theologians who framed the Barmen declaration realised that the error to which the German Christian movement had fallen prey was more than an ethical or political one; it was first and foremost a theological one.  The German Christians believed that God was revealing himself through events, powers, figures and truths – they took their human experience as mediated through German culture of the time as an ultimate truth apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ mediated through his word.  They also believed that the church was an expression of latent religious powers in the German nation which were released by faith and baptism.  Instead of the church being an instrument and an expression of the transforming power of God through Jesus Christ, it became both an expression of, and an instrument for the affirmation of ‘German-ness'. [33]

The German Christians also believed that what they were in themselves was already whole and holy; they had no need therefore of any justification, any sanctification or transformation.  Barmen countered that salvation in Christ is linked to the Lordship of Christ, and that it is a false doctrine that claims there are areas of our lives that do not need sanctification through the agency of Christ’s Lordship.

The revisionist innovations in moral theology and liturgy discussed above with respect to same sex relationships are based on the same error.  We have seen by examining the liturgies used to ‘bless’ same sex unions and by examining the statement of certain Anglican leaders who espouse a revisionist position, that human experience and desire is elevated to the level of ultimate truth.  By examining the theological rationale behind the liturgies we also note that these liturgies affirm the wholeness and holiness of homosexuals as sexual beings in a sexual relationship, thereby implying they have no further need of justification and sanctification in those areas.

2. The denigration of the authority of Holy Scripture.

The German Christians regarded the Old Testament as offensive and oppressive because of its Jewish origin.  In an address made in November 1933, Dr Krause, leader of the Berlin German Christians called for a radical overhaul of the German Protestant church.  For the church to be at home in Germany, he said, it needed to be liberated from the Old Testament and the Jewish ethic, from the stories of cattle dealers and pimps.  The Old Testament was in his view,

“one of the most questionable books in the world’s history" [34]

He believed Pauline theology should be renounced, for it had falsified the simple gospel message, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, and it was a theology based on inferiority and the idea of a scapegoat.

Revisionist thinkers have adopted an approach which effectively dismisses the moral code of the Old Testament by creating a false dichotomy with the ethic of Jesus.  Susan Russell who is president of Integrity, the homosexual lobby in the United States in a recent article says,

“And where do we turn when we’re challenged by those who point to the Bible and say, “Ah! But what do you do about passage X, Y or Z?”  Being biblically orthodox ourselves, we turn to Holy Scriptures and the words of our Lord and Saviour — who when tested in the Temple by those who demanded that he pick a “greatest commandment” gave us this criteria: “The greatest commandment is this: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And the second is like unto it: love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two hang all the law and the prophets.”

THAT’S the foundation of Biblical Orthodoxy: that’s the historic faith we inherit as Anglican Traditionalists" [35]

While the German church denigrated the authority of scripture on the basis of its Jewishness, modern revisionists do the same by contrasting ‘law’ and ‘grace’ and implying that the one is antithetical to the other.  They do not seem to be able account for the fact that Jesus, who endorsed the greatest commandment, did not seem to think it abolished the moral commandment of the Old Testament.  In point of fact he deepened and hardened their relevance and application to his followers.

Revisionists use another argument that also denigrates the authority of scripture. This is to claim that the universally accepted teachings of scripture on a particular subject do not apply in certain contexts. This effectively sets aside scripture as the final authority, in favour of another authority (be it culture, popular psychology, the experience of particular individuals, or whatever).  An example of this can be found in the Diocese of Vermont’s theological rationale for the rite to ‘bless’ same sex relationships (referred to above).  The authors first outline eight principles (taken from a Diocese of New York publication on biblical hermeneutics, “Let the Reader Understand” (LRU)) which provide a sound base for Biblical interpretation.  They then give a short theological rationale which in their view justifies same sex unions, yet fail to offer any justification for changing the unbroken authoritative church tradition of biblical interpretation in this area. [36] The following dismissive note is merely appended, that for self-identifying homosexuals,

“…sexual expression is entirely different from that condemned by a few verses of Holy Scripture" [37]

Leaving aside the entirely misleading nature of this statement [38] is this really a matter of biblical interpretation?

The group of Anglican scholars known as SEAD or “Scholarly Engagement with Anglican Doctrine”  pinpoints the real issue in its response to LRU; -

“The problem before us is not the interpretation of scripture but the authority of scripture, that is, when the teaching of scripture should be set aside.  LRU appears to us to argue that because of the cultural context in which the scripture arises and the cultural context in which the scripture must be applied, the plain teaching of the scripture in the area of sexual practice does not apply with regard to homosexuality.  Rather than a difference of interpretation, this appears to us as a straightforward rejection of the authority of scripture based on the conviction that in light of current American cultural understandings of sexuality the clear teaching of scripture favoured by the whole history of the tradition and the overwhelming consensus of the contemporary world-wide Church is wrong" [39]

There is in my opinion no difference between the German Christians rejecting the authority of certain parts of Scripture on cultural grounds (the fact that they did not find the Jewish scriptures relevant for their experiences as Germans) and revisionist thinkers dismissing the Scripture’s teaching on human sexual morality on the basis of a certain subculture of economically privileged North Americans in the 21st century, who insist on their own understanding of human sexuality.

The German Christians repeatedly made the claim that they did not intend to replace the confessions of faith or to challenge them;

“…These guiding principles are not intended to be or to replace a confession of faith or to replace the confessional basis of the Protestant Church". [40]

In saying this they were by implication holding to the authority of scripture [41], yet as leaders in the ‘Confessing Churches’ often pointed out, they were acting against the plain teaching of scripture. [42] Indeed they were clear that the German Christians were promoting false interpretations of the Christian faith, and a false gospel.  In the same way, revisionists often make the claim that the bible can be obeyed and its authority respected while at the same time denying its plain teaching and rejecting its clear word of command on moral issues — especially on homosexuality.

Revisionists claim that they share with those who uphold the traditional stance, a commitment to the authority of scripture as the norm for faith and life and any differences that exist over the issue of same sex relationships are merely differences in scriptural interpretation.  As Robert Gagnon [43] points out, the case against same sex intercourse within scripture is stronger by far than the case against incest.  To claim that scripture does not address the issue of a loving and committed incestuous relationship, and that therefore these types of relationships should welcomed and affirmed, would be regarded as ridiculous.  To claim that this is an equally valid interpretation of scripture or that such an interpretation was motivated by a ‘profound commitment’ to the authority of the bible would be rightly recognised as quite preposterous.  Yet this is the logic employed in our case here.

3.  The focus on the individual and the self; the cult of the therapeutic.

Modern theories of the “self”; personalist ethics and the cult of the therapeutic.

Modern theories of the self have their genesis in the Enlightenment.  Emmanuel Kant maintained that faith and reason were totally separate; faith could never be concerned with reason, objective evidence, facts or knowledge.  Thus religion was primarily a matter of feeling, of attitude and of motive.  The physical universe could be discovered and described by science, because science was concerned with objective facts.  However everything else was subjective, especially the moral law – for him it was the moral law ‘within’.  The moral law was not an objective reality that could be proved, but something entirely subjective.  This belief underlies the post-modern dictum that all truth is subjective.  Secondly Kant defined human identity on the basis of autonomy; and autonomy or human freedom was expressed through self-legislation.  Schliermacher taught that each individual is unique, and defined human freedom in terms of recognising and developing one’s own identity in one’s own culture, as culture was affirmed by piety.  Race, nationality and culture were simultaneously identity markers and ways in which the individual should actualise their identity.  The political climate of the 1930’s provided fertile ground for these philosophies to impact the society and the church, and eventually to provide a substantial part of the ideological basis for the German Christian Movement’s declarations and policies.

For the German Christian Movement the church existed to affirm people in their identities; for them the supreme mark of their identity was their German-ness, as the Declaration of the German Christian Movement stated:

“We stand on the basis of positive Christianity.  Ours is an affirmative, truly national faith in Christ, in the Germanic spirit of Luther and of heroic piety" [44]

Further, not only was the church called to affirm people in their racial identity, it included people on the basis of racial identity.  When Krause called for a second German Reformation which would result in a church for the German people,

“…a church able to accommodate the whole breadth of a racially attuned experience of God…" [45]

he was clearly expressing an ecclesiology that was founded on ‘identity’- not ‘identity in Christ’, but racial identity.  Quite clearly, the German Christians wanted a church in an ‘inclusive’ sense.  However inclusion in the church was not on the basis of apostolic truth but on the basis of racial identity.  It was an inclusion of people regardless of their response to Jesus Christ and commitment to a holy life and ever increasing sanctification under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but solely on the basis of identity.

Revisionists who campaign for the acceptance of practicing homosexuals at every level of church life, call for inclusion, but it is an unconditional inclusion.  Typical of revisionist thinking in this area is this declaration by Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno in the following newspaper report;

“The church must be inclusive because Jesus was inclusive, he said during a recent sermon at St. John's Episcopal Church near downtown Los Angeles.  Seated in the first pew were his wife, Mary, his daughter and grandchildren, and Boyd and Thompson.

“Jesus loved us unconditionally,” Bruno said, his words resounding through the vaulted Romanesque nave.  “He had an unconditional love of all humanity, allowing for no outcast in this community as he built the true religion, a religion of inclusion and wisdom"" [46]

Bruno links inclusion with the unconditional love of Jesus, thereby giving ‘inclusion’ an unconditional sense.  Jesus’ love was and is certainly unconditional, and his invitation to enter the kingdom is addressed to all.  However their inclusion in the kingdom was on the basis of their accepting Jesus and his message. [47] Neither Jesus nor the early church was inclusive in the unconditional sense that Bruno implies.  The sense in which ‘inclusion’ is used here is an inclusion not on the basis of apostolic truth, but on the basis of identity.  We need to look more closely at what revisionists mean by ‘identity’.

At the core of revisionist moral theory is the notion of moral agent as autonomous with the absolute right to pursue personal preferences that define their identity

“Within a liberal social economy, the notion of moral agency gives particular significance to issues of sexual preference and sexual satisfaction, since such a society’s members think of themselves not as inhabitants of a pre-established moral order but as individuals who are utterly unique, as selves that have particular personal histories and needs, and as persons who have rights that allow them to express their individuality and pursue their personal well-being.  For moral agents who think of themselves as individuals, selves, and persons, sexuality becomes, along with money, both a marker of identity and a primary way of expressing the preferences that define identity" [48]

Thus to deny anyone the right to pursue sexual preference is to deny their personal identity.  In the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster the rite of ‘blessing’ same-sex unions is meant to be an effective pastoral tool to enable the church.  The function of the church is seen as helping self-identifying homosexuals to feel included, safe and respected. [49] The underlying theological motivation is that the church exists to defend identity.  However, such identity is defined not as primarily (or even including) membership of the ‘people of God’-which is conditional on repentance and faith-but in terms of self defined and self-referring markers.  Here the markers of identity are sexual preference or 'orientation'. [50]

If human identity is seen solely in terms of autonomy and by implication, self sufficiency, if human identity is rooted in the absolute exaltation of individual freedom, then

“There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth.  When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim" [51]

Or as Sorum puts it, “Either we find our identity outside of ourselves in Christ and his moral standards, or it is a self constructed identity based on the desires and feelings we experience resulting in moral norms based on our desires and feelings" [52]

In a world without an external arbiter of the moral good, as Nietzsche observed, with the death of all objective truths, laws and values, then the ultimate truth, the ultimate meaning of life becomes “the will to power”. This is why the cultural captivity of the church to moral relativism very often presages the rise of totalitarian political systems. 

 4. The obsession with contemporary scientific genetic theories,
and the use of ‘pseudo-science’.

An ideology can be described as a secular system of thought which encompasses some or all of the following: the process of history, beliefs about human nature, political and socio-economic arrangements. [53] National Socialist ideology was an all-encompassing ideology which aimed to reform every aspect of German society, by exerting total control over the lives of citizens ultimately to bring everything in Germany to realise Adolph Hitler’s Weltanschauung or worldview.  This programme was summarised by the word Gleichschaltung, meaning synchronisation or co-ordination and included the legal system, labour, industry, agriculture, the press, education and youth, the churches, and medical science.

Part of achieving Hitler’s aims as outlined in “Mein Kampf” was the maintenance of the superiority of the Aryan race - a pseudo-mythical construct which Nazi ideologues believed represented the ideal of German racial and national priority over other races and nations.  The success of the Nazi movement was due in large measure to the collaboration between German scientists (mainly biologists, geneticists, physical anthropologists and psychologists) to develop a Rassekunde or race-science.  Reputable science and speculative ideological theories interwove and influenced each other – particularly after the Nazis took power in 1933.  Race science as the handmaid of Nazi propaganda became highly politicised within itself.  Typical of Nazi propaganda is this speech by Dr Walter Gross, head of the Nazi party’s Office of Racial Policy given in Cologne, 1934;

“People are different.  They not only speak different languages and look different: no, they are different in the depths of their hearts and natures, and in their abilities for good and evil…We have learned that the differences between the major blood groups of the world, between the major races, are not the result of human action, but of the laws of Creation.  We have learned that the lines between blood and blood, race and race, are also the lines between soul and soul and spirit and spirit.  We have learned that the opposite of the old phrase “What God has brought together, let no man put asunder” is also true.  We have learned: What God has separated, man should not bring together" [54]

Nazi racial theories rested on a sort of biological determinism, i.e. our biological makeup determines what sort of people we are culturally and behaviourally.  The concept of racial purification was based on a combination of social Darwinism and a pseudo-science called eugenics (the belief that human beings can be biologically engineered) [55]

There is a similarity between the way pseudo-science was employed to provide support for the idea of superior races in Nazi Germany, and the way in which a pseudo–science of modern popular culture is constructed which perpetuates certain ‘facts’ about homosexuality.  Sometimes they are half truths, sometimes the assertions of discredited ‘experts’.  The more common ones include the idea that homosexuality is innate and unchangeable, that homosexuals are ‘born that way’, that homosexuals are 10% of the population, that homosexual relationships are quite similar to heterosexual ones.  Both the German Christians and today’s revisionists rely very heavily on pseudo-science (or simplistic sound-bites from social science research) because, having abandoned the traditional orthodox moral norms and structures of moral theology, they need to find another external ‘authority.’

Examples of the use of these ‘facts’ can even be found in the public statements of bishops who take on board the simplistic assertions of revisionists;

“I admit that I am dismayed whenever I hear language that seeks to make distinctions among human beings or discriminates on the basis of things over which we have no control - such as race, colour, gender, or sexual orientation.  These are, so to speak, accidents of birth.  They are gifts of our created nature, and all of us are worthy of the dignity that comes with being created in the image of God" [56]

True science supports neither the assertion that one race can be ‘superior’ to another or that sexual orientation is genetically determined in the same way as skin colour or gender.  But the aim of revisionists is to remove homosexual behaviour from moral discourse.  If there is a gay gene then homosexuality is ‘natural’ and homosexual behaviour is exempt from moral discourse.  In Germany race became its own moral category; today identity (including ‘gay identity’) has become its own moral category.

5. The psychology of the ‘victim class’.

After World War I, Germans felt a profound national humiliation which was compounded by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  In the early 1930’s the Protestant churches tended to support the project of the German state to rebuild the structures of national life.  Ideologically they tended to take on board both a positive German nationalism, and negatively they saw themselves in a struggle against liberal democracy, Marxism, communism and what they believed was the undermining effect of Jewish culture and ‘mentality,’ which threatened German national culture, faith and ethic. [57] With respect to foreign relations Germans often portrayed themselves as victims of the international order, and in a struggle to survive against various foes.

Revisionists have tended to use the same technique – pioneered by North American gay activists – to cast gays as ‘victims’ of society. [58] This gay activist portrayal was part of a very complex marketing strategy employed from 1989 onwards to repackage or represent homosexual behaviour as a civil rights issue.

“In any campaign to win over the public, gays must be cast as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to assume the role of protector.  If gays are presented, instead, as a strong and prideful tribe promoting a rigidly nonconformist and deviant lifestyle, they are more likely to be seen as a public menace that justifies resistance and oppression" [59]

By portraying gays as victims, those who support the gay agenda would automatically be seen as ‘protectors’ and helping a ‘just cause’, in contrast to those who remained silent or opposed the gay agenda – who would be seen in a bad light for not helping the ‘victimised’.  Another factor in the victimhood strategy is the moral dynamic inherent in it.  Because victimhood identifies the subject with God in his role as the victim of human sinfulness on the cross, it is a subtle and powerful psychological tool to avoid any serious moral debate.  Any opposition to the subject as victim, and what the victim demands (which is usually the right to exercise of sexual desire), is opposition to God.  In other words,

“If the only truth is my own desire then all other claims of truth must fall before it [60].

This applies both to the ‘truth’ found in the ‘category of being’, i.e. the truth found in race, blood and nation (Nazi Germany), and the truth found in my homosexual desires and experiences.

6. Propaganda, persuasion,
and the reshaping of public discourse

Many modern historians are re-examining the complicity of ‘ordinary’ Germans in the mass extermination policies of the National Socialists – i.e. how was it that millions of sane rational Germans with some sense of morality allowed (if they were not actively complicit with) a regime to commit mass murder.  Several explanations have come under scrutiny recently.  Certainly the idea that the general population were brainwashed zombies cannot be seriously entertained.  Were they subjected to Nazi terror and intimidation?  Robert Gellately maintains that Nazi terror was simply not a factor that affected most Germans [61]as does Eric Johnson.  The Gestapo limited their activities to a narrow spectrum of German society – Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, conscientious objectors and homosexuals.  Was anti-Semitism the explanation for the change in a society’s attitudes towards a certain sector thereof?  Gerstenberger [62] has come to the conclusion that there was nothing special about anti-Semitism – any other sentiment could have been universalised.  Anti-Semitism was a pre-condition but not an explanation for the radical social dynamics that led to mass murder.  The explanation lies in certain behavioural group dynamics.  What the regime succeeded in doing was to shape what individual Germans believed to be the view of ‘everybody’.  Gellately claims that his research shows the coercion of ordinary Germans to be socially constructed through factors such as media reports and everyday conversations, and the systematic and progressive desensitization of the broad population in terms of traditional values -eventually most people simply accepted the Nazi concept of the “social alien” that ‘polluted’ society. [63]  This description by Richard Evans illustrates graphically the methods used by the Nazi propaganda machine:

“Goebbels and his propaganda team aimed to overwhelm the electorate with an unremitting barrage of assaults on their senses ……..Visual images, purveyed not only through posters and magazine illustrations but also through mass demonstrations and marches in the streets, drove out rational discourse and verbal argument in favour of easily assimilated stereotypes that mobilised a whole range of feelings, from resentment and aggression to the need for security and redemption" [64]

It is becoming increasingly evident that the part played by Nazi propaganda through mass media was significant in manipulating public discourse to achieve support from the population, even if many Germans did not agree with Nazi ideology.  There was very little resistance in practice to the implementation of the ‘Aryan Paragraph’ (which aimed at the exclusion of Jewish converts from church membership) in the Protestant churches except for a measure of concern shown by the Confessing Church leadership.  On occasion voices of protest were raised over fundamental issues including the seductive effects of Nazi propaganda on Christians such as this protest to Hitler in May of 1936: -

“Evangelical members of the N S organisations are compelled to give their unconditional allegiance to the National Socialist weltanschauung…If this means that blood, race, nationality and honour are to be regarded as eternal values, the first commandment constrains the Evangelical Christian to reject this evaluation…We note with grave concern that a totally alien morality to that of Christianity is permeating our people and threatening to undermine it…the good is now generally defined as that which furthers the interests of the people. [65]

However apart from this brave gesture from the Confessing Church (which resulted in a number of arrests); the relative silence of the Protestant church betrayed the success of the regime in their manipulation of the general populace.

Modern advertising is very similar to an ancient Roman art known as Sophistry.  In modern democracies, as in Rome, power is often exercised not merely through legal and open process, but by persuasion, force of argument, or ‘spin’.  Modern advertisers are experts in the art of rhetoric and persuasion, the manipulators of public opinion through their knowledge of human psychology.  Advertisers use and abuse language to achieve the marketing ends of the commercial world, in a similar way to that by which political propaganda achieves its ends.  Both marketing communicators and politicians use rhetoric and emotional appeal to persuade a target audience to accept some new belief, concept, attitude or behaviour.

“…marketing is rhetoric on steroids–the commercialized, technologized, and systematized application of persuasion, propaganda, or education (depending on who is doing the naming)". [66]

In Paul Rondeau’s analysis [67] of the strategy of gay activists in the United States over the past couple of decades, he explores how activists used all the elements of modern marketing.  They used the media, psychology, social psychology and rhetoric in order to shape what is discussed in public and how it is discussed.  In simple terms they devised very effective strategies to create in the mind of the general public certain ‘facts’ and ‘perceptions’ which would lead to an acceptance of homosexuality.

“The war goal was to force acceptance of homosexual culture into the mainstream, to silence opposition, and ultimately to convert American society" [68]

through manipulation and control of how homosexuality was debated in public.  Two social scientists and gay activists, Hunter Madsen and Marshall Kirk, developed a proposal to achieve their goal" [69]

Their strategy included repackaging homosexual behaviour as a rights issue, which meant firstly the  construct of homosexuals as a separate ‘class’ and as having a distinct cohesive cultural ‘identity’ collectively.  To remove homosexual behaviour from moral discourse the distinction between the person and the behaviour should be eliminated.  This was done via the construct of a ‘homosexual identity’ which promoted the idea that homosexuality was innate or genetic, and that the choice to pursue such behaviour was innate, normal and unchangeable.  The second construct was to present homosexuals as a victimised class, in that they were denied their rights to pursue their behaviour which was not only normal, but healthy and desirable. [70]

Public attitude change was and continues to be also psychologically propelled through the application of psycho-social theories such as Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance, modern persuasion theories such as The Elaboration Likelihood Model [71] as well as a sustained desensitization through a flood of pro-gay advertising and the use of visual media such as films and television to project only favourable images of homosexuality. [72]

Marshall Kirk and Erastes Pill recognised that public opinion was one source of mainstream values; the other was religious authority.  They proposed two ways of dealing with Christian ‘homophobia’ (by that they meant Christians with firm convictions who opposed homosexual arguments)

“First, we can use talk to muddy the moral waters.  This means publicizing support for gays by more moderate churches, raising theological objections of our own about conservative interpretations of biblical teachings, and exposing hatred and inconsistency.  Second, we can undermine the moral authority of homophobic churches by portraying them as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and with the latest findings of psychology.  Against the mighty pull of institutional Religion one must set the mightier draw of Science & Public Opinion (the shield and sword of that accursed “secular humanism)" [73]

Again we find here not only the recognition that Christian Churches held a powerful moral influence in society, but also the two major shapers of modernity that the Nazis before them recognised – ‘science’ and ‘public opinion’.  Both these factors could be misused and manipulated to achieve the desired goals.

The gay rights movement reshaped public opinion about homosexual behaviour by reshaping the way that culture thinks.  Through dominant media and influential opinion makers, new concepts were introduced such as homosexuality as an identity, heterosexism (invented word), hate speech, inclusion, alternate lifestyle etc).  These shaped cultural discourse, and allowed the issues to be re-framed to suit the objectives of the movement;

“A “gay culture” has been successfully fabricated “through nothing more than naming and renaming, forming and reforming...until memory has no possibility of meaning" [74]

The complex marketing strategies used by the gay rights movement can be compared with the powerful propaganda methods used by Nazi strategists to win public favour if not outright support.  In both Nazi Germany and Western liberal democracies, the church has fallen prey to the aggressive and subtle marketing strategies of those who wish to use her to further their own aims and agenda.  The conclusions of Rondeau are sobering in this respect;

“[E]very age and society has dominant media that shape the way the culture thinks.”  “The content of the mass media sets the public’s political and social agenda.”  But, it would appear that our mass communications are mainly providing us the illusion of being informed.  Rather, it is actually providing “misleading information–misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information–information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing" [75]

Concluding Observations

The point of this thesis is not to equate revisionists with Nazis, thereby making them guilty of morally depraved convictions, but to show how sincere, committed Protestant Christians came to believe Nazism to be an essentially Christian movement.  Modern historical scholarship, in its examination of the German Protestant Church traditions, is revealing more and more the ideological and institutional support of these churches for National Socialism – support which was encapsulated in the concept of ‘Positive Christianity.’  This concept with its nationalistic and racialist ideology was believed to be a Christian answer to the problems of Germany. [76]

Direct comparisons with apartheid South Africa lie outside the scope of this paper.  However any serious student of South African church history will not fail to see the parallels between how the church in Germany was seduced into accepting and sanctifying a totalitarian regime, and how to varying degrees and extent the church in South Africa became captive to a nationalistic and racialist ideology.  The theological underpinnings of apartheid [77]have been extensively debated, but the influence of what Karl Barth saw as the core problem – a particular and errant form of natural theology, has not received much attention.  It is precisely this errant natural theology which is once again appearing as the basis of much revisionist moral theology.

If the embracing of an errant natural theology by the majority of the German Protestant churches in the 1930’s led to the support of National Socialism and the rise of a totalitarian political system, does the embracing of revisionist moral theology based on that same error presage some similar dire consequence?  If so, how would accepting some revisionist innovation like same sex marriage in the moral realm lead to systemic evil and political tyranny?  If same sex ‘marriage’ were institutionalised in South African, would this be mere tinkering with the laws of contract and social arrangements?  Proponents would like us to think so. The truth may be very different. A brief examination of what is happening in Canada may help us.

In Canada the passage of C-38, the ‘same-sex marriage bill’ is being hotly debated. [78] To accommodate same-sex unions, the legal definition of marriage has had to be changed in that the gender requirements have been eliminated.  Thus the first casualty is that heterosexual bonding is no longer recognised in Canadian society as normative, nor does it have legal standing that recognises its unique value.  Secondly it separates procreation from marriage and thus seriously undermines the rights of children to their parents and parents to their children.  It also undermines the rights of children to both a mother and a father.  Because same-sex relationships are inherently unfruitful the state now must define ‘legal children’.  Bill C-38 changes the terms ‘natural parent’ to ‘legal parent’ and the term ‘natural parent-child relationship’ with ‘legal parent child relationship’ in Canadian law.  In other words it turns the natural and most fundamental relationships of every man, woman and child into legal constructs.  Same-sex ‘marriage’ does not represent an act of inclusion and tolerance with respect to homosexuals, but the legal exclusion of a shared vision of sexual identity and the radical deconstruction of heterosexual marriage through the elimination of its defining characteristics- heterosexual bonding, procreation and nurturing of biological children. [79] The state now becomes the deconstructer and definer of marriage and family.  The state has become the primary social unit.  This is social engineering of an order beyond even the migrant labour laws of the apartheid government, and it will have devastating consequences.

The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934

1.

I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”  John 10:1,9

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation.

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Cor. 1:30

As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty claim upon our whole life.  Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.

We reiect the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Eph. 4:15-16

The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit.  As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

We reject 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 convictions.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Matt. 20:25-26

The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the excercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.

5.

“Fear God, honor the king.” 1 Pet. 2:17

Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace.  [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability.  The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him.  It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God's commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled.  It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church's vocation as well.  We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20

God's word is not chained.”  2 Tim. 2:9

The Church's commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ's stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and sacrament.

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.

The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledge­ment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional Churches.  It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles in their decisions in Church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.

 

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