Thursday, April 03, 2008

Some Thoughts on Luther, Lutheranism, Anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany

Luther was undeniably anti-Semitic in his writings in his later years about the Jews. Luther and others in the Reformation threw a lot into question, even turning a doubtful eye on certain of the Scriptures, such as the book of James. He also in his Table Talks when asked what should be done to a huge mentally retarded man who ate like a horse and was a burden on his poor family, said that he should be killed, and this was quoted in a court case over eugenics in pre-Nazi Germany as a justification for eugenics. In Germany, it was Protestant Liberalism, specifically radical Lutheranism, that later undermined the authority of the Scripture. The school of Tubingen and the German school of Higher Criticism did this by applying naturalistic exclusionary principles to their interpretation of the Bible. The vein of this influence is observable in references made by Nietzsche and by Hitler to the Bible. I am thinking of their antagonistic interpretation of the apostle Paul's writings, which seems to draw on the work of Bauer and others, who dreamed up massive rifts in the early church. The hands of those who held the Bible, having stripped the Bible of a normative authority even intellectually, were free to deal with it disingenuously, to distort its teaching according to their agendas. From my perspective, which I doubt you can understand, not sharing my presuppositions, it is to be expected that a Satanic hatred of the Jews, as a covenant people of God whom God watches over in a special way for the sake of His promises to the patriarchs, will express itself again and again over the centuries, sometimes from surprising quarters.However, in the midst of the Third Reich's rise to power, there was a powerful theological movement called the Confessing Church which deeply influenced much of Protestantism and the Catholic church afterwards, led by Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoeller, Helmut Thielicke and others which was characterized by a resounding emphasis on the Word of God and a resounding "Nein!" to naturalistic shepherding of the churches. A natural outcome of this was the anathematizing of race theory as heresy in the famous Barmen Declaration. They stood against the Nazi "science" even at the cost of life, the cost of discipleship to Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer was executed. Martin Niemoller was declared the personal prisoner of Hitler by Hitler in a rage when he heard that Niemoller was going to be let out of prison. Thielicke was stripped of his profesorship, etc. So even just in the history of the Lutherans, a return to the Scripture made the uncommon difference in an uncommonly horrid situation.

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