Forward, in the Faith of Our Fathers



I had been aware of this document for some time prior to being messaged about it; I was not aware of the lack of English translations1. I want you, the reader, to consider that fact. The German National Socialists were the most important2 political movement in centuries and this document is a binding confession of one of the largest religious groups — very likely the largest religious group — aligned with and operating with the blessing of the National Socialist State, and yet, as far as I can tell without combing through academic databases, there exists only one (other) English translation — after ninety years. Does this not strike you as odd? Surely there is political, historical, theological, religious, and many other interests in this era, and yet such a core, primary source has remained largely inaccessible to the English-speaking world. Have you ever seen this document referenced in any discussion of the religious beliefs of the German National Socialists? I have not (in English).

Of the Christian reader, I would ask one additional thing: I want you to consider the Eighth Commandment and how you, and other professed Christians, have spoken of the German National Socialists. Do not present excuses or justifications to me — I am not the One Who will judge you. False witness can be borne against the dead as much as against the living, but the dead cannot possibly mount a defense.

I decline to use this opportunity for any (lengthy) discussion of the Deutsche Christen or positive3 Christianity — this is not the place for such things; rather, I will let the document speak for itself. The duty to defend the reputation of fellow Christians — yes, even departed ones — is a very real duty, and we may not simply throw up our hands and attempt to absolve ourselves by a show of indifference or exasperation or resignation — Pilate had the lesser sin, but he still sinned. I will undoubtedly write more on this subject in the future, but, for now, I leave the document to speak for itself, or, more accurately: I leave the men who drafted and the men who ratified, upheld, and adhered to this document to speak for themselves through the work of their hands.

Nevertheless, before we turn to the text of the document itself, I believe it will be useful to the modern (particularly the modern non-German) reader to give some basics as to the situation in Germany at the time of the publication of this document (1932). Germany, like most of the West, had suffered under the effects (or aftereffects) of the Enlightenment, and theology was no exception. Attempts to subvert the Church via the elevation of reason from minister to magister (i.e., to make it supreme over God’s Word), the so-called ‘criticism’ of the Biblical text itself, and the attendant rationalization and ejection of the parts of the Bible considered too ‘fantastical’ or ‘unbelievable’ (chiefly the miracles) were rampant. In addition to this, some small number of groups within the Reich were attempting to ‘resurrect’ pagan worship (an impossibility, but that has never stopped fools). And all this is to say nothing of the consequences of encroaching Materialism, Capitalism, Modernism, and a dozen other plagues. To describe the situation as ‘complicated’ is to undersell it to such a degree as to border on the absurd.

It was in this setting that the Deutsche Christen rose to prominence and worked hand-in-glove with the National Socialist State to attempt to restore the traditional beliefs of the German Christians. While the overarching policy of the National Socialist State was to quiet squabbling between and among the denominations (essentially, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Calvinism) — both a continuation of and a departure from Prussia’s policies with regard to religion —, it would be remiss not to mention that the National Socialist State clearly favored Lutheranism. From the national celebration of Luthertag (“Luther Day”) in 1933 (on Luther’s 450th birthday) to the national celebration of the 400th anniversary of Luther’s translation of the Bible in 1934 to many other (if smaller) events, the National Socialist State celebrated Lutheranism — specifically — as the historical expression of German Christianity.

Thus we have the setting for the 28 Thesen, produced by German Lutheran theologian Karl F. E. W. Grundmann, which would become the confessional document of the Deutsche Christen — and all the churches under their leadership — and also of some of the Landeskirchen (state churches), to include some of the most populous (e.g., Saxony, Thuringia, Württemberg) and most important (e.g., Saxony, Bavaria, Berlin) German states. As you read through these Theses, bear in mind that it is the adherents to these Theses who are being reviled when men today speak ill of the “German Christians” or “Positive Christianity”.

We now turn to the text.

Table of Contents

For ease of navigation, you can jump to a particular point using the links, infra, in this table of contents. Additionally, you can return to the table of contents using the various ↩︎ links throughout the article (to the right of each heading in the following section).

The 28 Theses

Translated from the German into English (literal and idiomatic), with explanatory comments.

I. The Church and the State

[Kirche und Staat]

The German Evangelical Church exists within the State. It cannot lead a secluded existence1 alongside the State, as desired by Christianity-hostile2 currents. It cannot remain neutral towards the State as desired by those who view the National Socialist State with mistrust. It cannot be a Church above the State, as the [Roman] Catholic position asserts. It also cannot be a Church under the State, as in the old State–Church system. Only as a Church within the State can it be a People’s Church3. Thus, Luther’s original4 thoughts on State and Church become reality.

  1. “Winkel” has a number of different senses; one of which is ‘(interior) corner of a building’, and it is from this sense that the figurative use as ‘a small group who regularly meet together’ is derived, which is clearly what is in view here. ↩︎

  2. The same word (“Christentum”) means both ‘Christianity’ and ‘Christendom’, so the implication is broader than either English term. ↩︎

  3. The term „Volkskirche“ appears frequently in this document, and will be consistently translated as “People’s Church”, even though English certainly has no sufficient term for „Volk“ (see fn. 9–3). ↩︎

  4. “Ursprünglich” has a broader sense than “original” in English, but the sense is clear enough (it shades much more toward the English “present or existing from the beginning” sense than the “not dependent on other people’s ideas” sense). ↩︎

Because of its solidarity with the people, the Lutheran Church cannot adopt a concordat1 stance towards the National Socialist State. As a People’s Church, it trusts this State. A Church leader can be only one who has the trust of the State leadership. The State grants the Church support and free exercise2; for State and Church belong together as the two major order-enforcing3 powers4 of a people. Their relationship is one of trust and not of contract.

  1. This is a reference to the Reichskonkordat, which was an agreement between the National Socialist State and the Vatican. The intent is clearly to differentiate the stance of the Protestants from that of the Vatican, which is characterized as more of an arm’s length relationship, whereas the Lutheran position is one of intimate and inseparable involvement. ↩︎

  2. This could also be translated “freedom of action”, but it should not be understood in the American sense of ‘freedom of religion’ or similar; what is meant here is that the State will not interfere in the Church with regard to matters that belong to the Church. ↩︎

  3. “Ordnung” is usually translated into English as “order”, but it has a central place in German thought and carries far greater weight than the English term does for English speakers (cf., a most famous German saying: Ordnung muss sein. — There must be order.) ↩︎

  4. “Kraft” is a word with a broad lexical scope; in modern usage, “Ordnungskräfte” would refer to ‘law-enforcement agencies’, but that is clearly not what is in view here; rather, here what is meant is that it is the State and the Church, which — together — form the necessary order, foundation, or bedrock of society. ↩︎

The People’s Church commits itself to blood and race because the people are a community of blood and essence. Therefore, only those who are national comrades1 according to the State’s law can be members of the People’s Church. Only those who can be State officials according to the State’s law can be officeholders in the People’s Church (the so-called ‘Aryan paragraph’2).

  1. “Volksgenosse” must be understood in the specific National Socialist sense, which is that a Volksgenosse is a member of the Volksgemeinschaft, which is to say ‘the people’s community’. “Volk” is ‘nation’ or ‘people’ or ‘race’ (it has specific connotations of blood in the German) and “Genosse” is ‘comrade’; thus, membership in the Volksgemeinschaft is (largely) a matter of blood. ↩︎

  2. The “Aryan Paragraph” was a required clause in the organizing or governing statutes of entities (e.g., corporations) under the National Socialist State, which restricted membership (or certain other rights) to members of the Volksgemeinschaft — “Aryans”, in the sense employed by the National Socialists. It was this paragraph that the so-called “Confessing Church” used as an excuse for their schism from the Church in Germany. ↩︎

A People’s Church does not mean excluding Christians of other races from Word and Sacrament1, or from the great Christian community of faith. A Christian of another race is not a lesser Christian, but rather a Christian of a different kind2. Thus, the People’s Church takes seriously that the Christian Church does not yet live in the perfection of divine eternity, but is bound by the orders God has given to this life.

  1. To the Lutheran, “Word and Sacrament” is both a set phrase and a term of art: It means the blessings of God, participation in the Gottesdienst (Divine Service), and, more generally, the Christian life. To bar someone from Word and Sacrament is to declare him no Christian; to include someone in Word and Sacrament is to declare him a brother-in-Christ. ↩︎

  2. “Kind”, here, should be taken in the traditional (even in English) sense of ‘kind’ — ‘a group of people or thing having similar characteristics’; obviously, here, what is meant is race (see Point 3). ↩︎

Because the German People’s Church respects race as a creation of God1, it recognizes the demand to keep the race pure and healthy as a commandment of God. Therefore, she considers marriage between members of different races a violation of God’s will.

  1. For a discussion of this subject, see this episode (and the following four) of the Stone Choir podcast. ↩︎

II. The Proclamation of the Church

[Verkündigung der Kirche]

God demands the whole person1. The proclamation of the Church aims to place people under the will of God.

  1. This term — “the whole person” — must clearly be read in light of the previous point; what is meant is that the entirety of a person — including his nature, which includes his race — is to be placed under the will of God, which is to say be made subject to it. ↩︎

As the Church of Jesus Christ, her foremost duty is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the German people, whom God has created as Germans.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God is our Lord and Father, that this God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and that we humans find the way to the Father solely1 through Jesus Christ. The Church is bound to this proclamation.

  1. One need not, but one most certainly could, take this as a reference to the Protestant (Lutheran) declaration of Sola Fide (or Solo Christo, perhaps, in this case). ↩︎

God ordains1 (all) people to the fundamental orders of life2 of family, people (race)3, and State.4 Thus, the People’s Church sees the comprehensive demand of the National Socialist State as God’s call to uphold the values of family, Folk, and State.

  1. Although the German verb „stellen” has the core sense of ‘to put’, ‘to place’, or ‘to position’, in this context, it can faithfully be translated as ‘to ordain’, for what Gods places into the lives of men He ordains, for to ordain means simply to prescribe, which is to say, when speaking of God and His Creation, ‘to place into being in a certain way’. ↩︎

  2. „Lebensordnung“ is another German word that simply does not have a simple translation in English. „Leben” — ‘life’ — and „Ordnung“ — ‘order’ — English has (although see fn. 2–3 for an importance difference between „Ordnung“ and “order”), the compound is greater than the sum of its parts. An ‘order of life’ is a fundamental part of the organization of human life created by God — to oppose such an order of life is to oppose God Himself. ↩︎

  3. Certainly, English has the words “folk” and “race”, but neither truly encompasses the German „Volk“, which is a term laden with philosophical and other meaning, and can be understood only if one grasps that what it encompasses is the very core concept of a people as a nation, which is to say as blood and soil. From this point forward, I will translate „Volk“ (n.b., this translation decision is for the lone word, not for compound words) as Folk, with the same scope of meaning fully intended by the translation. ↩︎

  4. Any Lutheran reading this Point will immediately recognize the (echoes of the) three-estates theology of Lutheranism. Although the three estates in Lutheran theology are the Church, the Household, and the State, we see in this point a political mirror of the theological tripartite division; in essence, this is an application of Lutheran three-estates theology (a matter of the Kingdom of the right hand of Christ) to the political realm (the kingdom of the left hand of Christ), but still with an eye to the theological, as, again, both kingdoms belong to Christ. ↩︎

III. The Foundations of the Church

[Die Grundlagen der Kirche]

The foundations of the Church remain the Bible and the Confessions1. The Bible contains the message of Christ, the Confessions testify to the message of Christ.

  1. I have chosen to pluralize this word in the (idiomatic) English translation because I believe this is warranted in the Lutheran context, which recognizes the Ecumenical Creeds and the Book of Concord as the norma normata of the Christian faith. For the English reader, this makes clear a matter that the German reader would intuitively grasp from the German diction. ↩︎

The definitive revelation from God is Jesus Christ. The New Testament serves as the record of this revelation, which is why it holds normative power for all of the Church’s teachings.

The Old Testament does not have the same value.1 The specifically Jewish national morality2 and national religion3 have been superseded. The Old Testament remains important because it records the history and decline of a people that repeatedly separated itself from God despite His revelation. The prophets of God4 show us all: The position of a nation relative to God is decisive for its fate in history.

  1. This may sound shocking to (some) modern ears, but it is the historic position of the Christian Church, and it has been variously stated by various writers (e.g., ‘What the Old Testament conceals, the New Testament reveals.’ or, in the words of Augustine, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”). Whereas the Old Testament contains many prophecies about Christ, it is the New Testament that reveals the fullness of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. The Christians of the Old Testament were saved by faith in the Messiah Who was to come, but, we, New Testament believers are saved by faith in the Messiah Who has come, or, in the words of Christ, recorded in Matthew 13: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” ↩︎

  2. The use of „jüdische Volkssittlichkeit“ and „[jüdische] Volksreligion“ is a clear reference to the traditional tripartite division of the law/Law in the Old Testament: ceremonial, civil, and Moral. In this case, ‘Jewish national morality’ is a reference to the civil law, which compelled Old Testament Israel to enact certain penalties for certain crimes, and ‘Jewish national religion’ is a reference to the ceremonial law, which compelled Old Testament Israel to engage in certain rituals, primarily with regard to Temple worship. Christians are not bound by the ceremonial or the civil law, and this is made abundantly clear throughout the New Testament (e.g., Acts 10), but Christians are bound by the Moral Law, which flows from the nature of God and is, thus, unchanging. (n.b., this is not the place to discuss the details of the interaction or the nuance of these forms of law/Law, so this footnote-based ‘overview’ is deliberately circumscribed or even cursory.) ↩︎

  3. See fn. 2, supra. ↩︎

  4. The German — „Die gottgebundenen Propheten“ — is admittedly stronger than the idiomatic English, which the literal English translation should make sufficiently clear, but to call a man a “prophet of God” clearly has the same import, at least for any Christian reader. ↩︎

Therefore, we see in the Old Testament the defection (apostasy) of the Jews from God and, therein, their sin. This sin is made evident to the entire world through the crucifixion of Jesus. As a result, God’s curse has been upon this Folk (i.e., the Jews) up to the present day. However, we also see in the Old Testament the initial glimmers of God’s love1, which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Because of this understanding, the People’s Church cannot abandon the Old Testament.

  1. This is a reference to the many prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the redemption in Christ, not least of all Genesis 3:15 — the Protoevangelium. See also fn. 12–1. ↩︎

The Augsburg Confession and the other Confessional documents of the German Reformation testify to the content of the Christian proclamation. We are connected, through these Confessions, to our fathers in the faith. A Church without a Confession would be like a State without a constitution and laws.

Confessions are always bound to a specific time with its questions. Certain questions, which the fathers’ Confessions answered are no longer relevant to us today. Certain questions, however, to which the fathers’ Confessions could not yet respond, are posed to us today. We are therefore striving to find a Confessional1 answer of the People’s Church to the questions of our time from the Confession of the fathers: Not back to the faith of the fathers, but forward in the faith of the fathers!2

  1. To give a Confessional answer to the questions of the day means to give an answer that is consonant with the Confessions of one’s fathers in the faith, not necessarily to give an answer that is simply a restatement of things already contained in those previous confessions (see fn. 2). ↩︎

  2. Although it should be clear what it meant by this saying, it does, perhaps, warrant some explanation or clarification: When the German Christians declare that they (we) must move forward in the faith of the fathers, what they are saying is that although the faith of the fathers must be maintained, guarded, and protected as an inestimable treasure, it must also, from time to time, be supplemented with confessions, or even Confessions, of our own that address the questions of the day. This is undoubtedly at least as true today as it was when it was written nearly a century ago. ↩︎

IV. The Way of the Church

[Der Weg der Kirche]

The People’s Church opposes Liberalism1. Liberalism undermines faith in Jesus Christ because it sees Him as only a man. It knows Jesus only as a preacher of high morality or as merely an heroic personality. It places human reason above God. For us, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, His appearance the miracle of human history.

  1. Although the capitalization in German is incidental (as all nouns are capitalized), what is meant is the ideology that was then called Liberalism, and which is still, today, called by that same name by those versed in such matters. Specifically, it is theological Liberalism that is targeted by this point, because theological Liberalism, largely an attempt to ‘reconcile’ Christianity with the Enlightenment, sought to undermine the foundations of the Christian faith by subjecting the Scriptures to ‘Biblical criticism’ and ‘reason’, by focusing on the supposed ‘ethical teachings’ of Jesus to the exclusion of the rest of Scripture, and by attempting to ‘reconcile’ the content of Scripture with modern culture and society. (n.b., this footnote is, obviously and necessarily, an extremely brief overview of theological Liberalism, but is, nonetheless, an accurate one.) ↩︎

The People’s Church also stands against a new form of orthodoxy1. This ‘orthodoxy’, with its inflexible adherence to (mere) dogma2, obstructs the path to Christ for those who are struggling and seeking, and hinders a living proclamation of the Gospel.

  1. In English, we would place this use of “orthodoxy” in ‘scare quotes’, as I have done in this footnote and in the following instance of the word in the paragraph text. What is meant is not sarcasm, but mockery — the German Christians are condemning the stale and stagnate ‘religion’ of certain establishment or institutional churches (read: corporate entities), which they see as hindering the proclamation of the Gospel and the furtherance of Christ’s Kingdom. Additionally, this should be taken together with Point 16 to be a condemnation of so-called “Neo-Orthodoxy”, which arose in Europe in the wake of the First World War.↩︎

  2. This word — “dogma” — must be understood in the context of the rest of the document, and, particularly, in the context of Point 15. What is not in view here is the Word of God or even the text of the Confessions (i.e., the Book of Concord); rather, what is in view here is the inflexible dogmatic pronouncements of certain institutional churches, which are not simply restatements of the Word of God or the text of the Confessions. It would not be wrong to see in this point an implied, if also subtle, criticism of Rome. Hence, I have added (as a parenthetical) the word “mere”. ↩︎

The People’s Church also opposes attempts to replace faith in Christ with a religion shaped from the racial experience. All religion, as a search and questioning for God, is racially different. But Jesus Christ, in his miraculous person, is the fulfillment of everything that is alive in the human soul in terms of longing, questioning, and anticipation. The dispute over whether Jesus was Jewish or Aryan does not touch the essence of Jesus at all. Jesus is not a ‘wearer’ of human nature1, but reveals to us in His person God’s nature.

  1. To translate the German „Art“ as “nature” is, admittedly, a sort of unhappy compromise. There is no English word that captures the fullness of the German, but nature does, to my mind, come closest, if the English term is taken in the fullness of its meaning. In German, one can describe the Art of making a particular dish in a regional manner — Schnitzel Wiener Art (Schnitzel prepared according to the Viennese style/manner/tradition) —, the Art of a particular species — Der Löwe ist eine Art der Katzenfamilie. (The lion is a species of the cat family.) —, the Art of a genre or a style of music — Diese Art von Musik gefällt mir. (I like this kind/genre/style of music.) —, the Art of the nature or the characteristic of a thing — Es ist nicht unsere Art, untreu zu sein. (It is not in our nature/characteristic of us to be unfaithful.) —, the Art of a method or an approach — Wir brauchen eine neue Art diese Probleme anzugehen. (We need a new method/approach to address these problems.) —, or the Art of a style or a fashion (of a [particular] time) — Die Architektur dieser Gebäude ist von der gotischen Art. (The architecture of these buildings is of Gothic style.). To say that the term Art exceeds the lexical scope of available English translations is to understate the matter, but “nature” — again, taken to the outer extent of its meaning in English — is, to my mind, sufficient for our purposes here, so long as the reader considers it aright. ↩︎

Therefore, the religion of the German people can only be Christian in nature. Christianity2 manifests differently across races and ethnicities3. Thus, we are striving to establish a form of Christianity that is uniquely German.

  1. This instance of “folk” could be capitalized. ↩︎

  2. Again, „Christentum“ has a broader scope in German, so this entails both Christendom and Christianity. ↩︎

  3. This word, much like the word “gender”, has taken on various connotations among different groups (particularly in recent decades). However, the terms themselves are not unusable or ‘poisoned’ due to these misuses — abusus usum non tollit; nevertheless, it is important to be clear what is meant. When I use “ethnicities”, I do not mean to distinguish, at least not in a stark fashion, between “race” and “ethnicity”; rather, I use them similar to how I would employ “sex” and “gender” — gender is the rightful and natural expression of sex; thus, ethnicity is the rightful and natural expression of race. German is a race; Germanic is an ethnicity. Race forms a necessary subcomponent of one’s ethnicity, but it is not the sum total of it. The culture and civilization of the Germans, an ethnic construct, relies upon the German race, but is a Gestalt that exceeds the merely genetic. ↩︎

This [concept of] German Christianity is personified in Martin Luther. In Luther’s Reformation, we see the emergence of a distinctively German form of the Christian faith. German Christendom is synonymous with Lutheranism. As German Lutherans, we are both fully German and fully Christian.

Currently, (there are) various deceptions with regard to humanity (that) are being advanced. It is false to assert that people have no responsibility towards God, and thus bear no guilt before Him. It is false to believe that individuals have the power to redeem themselves.

The bonds of sin, the force of fate, and the power of death are conquered only through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Him, we are granted forgiveness of sins, a [deep] connection with God, and eternal life.

This statement is not a denigration but rather a realistic appraisal of humanity. Our true dignity lies in our bond with God, which is renewed through Jesus Christ.

This is the Christian message of salvation1 that people of all times and all Folks2 need. Salvation is firmly grounded upon the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

  1. If one were so inclined, much could be made of the fact that the term used here for ‘message’ or ‘dispatch’ — „Botschaft“ — also means embassy, but that must be left for another time and place. ↩︎

  2. I recognize the unfortunate nature of the plural of “Folk” in English being “Folks” — and I am sorely tempted simply to import the German noun —, but it remains correct. ↩︎

This proclamation, which takes both the real God and the real man2 seriously, prevents the return of Materialism3 and Liberalism3 by way of religion.

  1. The German word „Mensch“ has no direct equivalent in English (the lexical scope includes human, person, man, and human being), but the closest equivalent for the core meaning is the specific submeaning of “man” as a generic term for a human being. This is part of why I have chosen to translate it “man” here, when, elsewhere, I have translated it otherwise. The reason for this is that the authors of this document would never have thought of the modern problem of certain persons questioning whether or not Christ was (and is) male. Thus, it would be misleading to the modern reader to translate this instance as “human” or “person” instead of “man”. ↩︎

  2. This is, rather obviously, an affirmation of the unio personalis — the union of God and Man in Christ —, but it is worth highlighting that fact. ↩︎

  3. This must be taken not just as a condemnation of Materialism qua Materialism, but also as an implicit (and not particularly subtle) condemnation of Marxism, which we must remember was the major enemy at the time of the writing of document (may the attentive reader understand). ↩︎

Belief in Christ, if it does not lead to action, is of no value to a People’s Church. The true expression of faith in Christ is a resolute struggle2 against all forms of evil and a courageous3 commitment to service and sacrifice.

  1. The German „Kampf“ could, naturally, be translated as “fight”, “content”, or even “battle” (or a handful of other English words), but here I have rendered it “struggle” as that was a word in common use in these circles at the time, and it may even be a reference to Hitler’s description of his work as a “struggle” — his Kampf. ↩︎

  2. I have preserved the translation choice from the literal English in the idiomatic English for the same reasons stated in fn. 1. ↩︎

  3. The German „mutig“ includes, in addition to the “brave” used in the literal translation and the “courageous” used here in the idiomatic translation, such concepts as gritty and bold. ↩︎

Thus, the People’s Church defines1 positive Christianity (Point 24 of the Party Platform2) as faith in Christ, salvation through Christ, and actions inspired by Christ.

  1. I have chosen to translate the German „verstehen“, which literally means ‘understand’, ‘see’, or ‘recognize’ (among other things), as “define” in the idiomatic translation as I believe the authors were doing more than merely stating their understanding of Point 24; rather, they were asserting both what they took Point 24 to mean and what they held it to mean for themselves and for their churches. ↩︎

  2. A translation of the National Socialist Party Platform may be found on Wikipedia: National Socialist Program. Here is an English translation of Point 24: “We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the State so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-Materialistic spirit within and around us and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework:


This German Christianity represents the sole basis upon which the German people can [also]1 unite in faith.

  1. This also is clearly meant as a reference to the political unity of the German people under the National Socialist State — as the National Socialist State brought political unity, so the German Christians would bring religious unity. ↩︎

Concluding Remarks

I would say that I am at a loss as to why anyone would condemn the German National Socialists as not Christian or even anti-Christian, but I am only too aware of the dual nature of the underlying (generally willful) ignorance and malice. For the ignorant (although less so for those who are willfully so), there are cures; for the malicious, there is a coming day of wrath and darkness and fire. I have nothing to say to the malicious, to the malefactor, for he does not have ears to hear. As I have said before and elsewhere: My interest is in the sheep — lost or otherwise; the wolves and the false shepherds will surely have their day — we rest securely in God’s promises of that reckoning. Therefore, the balance of this conclusion, consisting of two points, is directed toward the Christian with a heart of flesh — and not of stone — and ears to hear.

My first concluding point is that the authors1 of this document were clearly Christian men. Whatever lies you have been told about these men with regard to what they believed, you are now without excuse — I have deprived you of the (flimsy) excuse of ignorance. You have been told that the German National Socialists hated those of other races, and yet here stands their confession that men of other races can be Christians who must not be excluded from Word and Sacrament (Point 4) and that all races need the Gospel (Point 24). You have been told that the German National Socialists wanted to replace Christianity with the worship of race (or some sort of race-based neopaganism), and yet here stands their confession that explicitly rejects any ‘attempts to replace Christianity with a racial religion’2 (Point 18). You have been told that they wanted to replace Christianity with a supposed “Positive Christianity”, and yet here stands their confession that positive Christianity means “faith in Christ, salvation through Christ, and actions inspired by Christ”. This is nothing other than Sola Fide, Solo Christo, and a living faith that produces good works (see James); if this is not your ‘Christianity’, then your ‘Christianity’ is not Christianity at all. I leave you to the Eighth Commandment, your conscience and God.

My second concluding point is that the authors of this document were facing, in their day, issues similar to those we are facing today. The Confessions of our fathers do not address the issues of our day (Point 15), and so we must forge the path ahead with our Confessions as companions and encouragement, but not truly (or at least not fully) as guides. We have Scripture, of course, and thanks be to God that He has not let us fall so far as the Israelites who literally lost the Scriptures in a pile of rubble, but so did the early Church, which nearly fell to Arianism, and the medieval Church, which nearly fell to works righteousness. Each and every faithful Confession has been a response to urgent, pressing need. We face, today, yet another existential crisis, and it calls for another Confession, not to alter or amend the faith of our fathers, but to defend it against new attacks of the devil and the world. The Church is our beloved mother, and it is our filial duty to defend her against all threats — komm Sieg oder Blutzeugenschaft. Whether we testify to God’s power and glory with victory or to the inestimable treasure that is the Church and her proclamation with our blood rests with God alone — ours is the duty and His is the outcome.

Although what we face is still worse than Liberalism (Point 16) and the Jewish (Point 27) Materialism (Point 25), it remains of a kind with it, and — most importantly — God’s arm is not foreshortened such that it cannot save. The German National Socialists gave the good confession and then sealed their faith with the blood price of martyrdom. Today, they are slandered, denigrated, and hated by ‘men’ who are unworthy even to speak their names, and yet such was promised by Christ for and to those who take up the cross and follow Him:

»But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.«
— 1 Peter 3:14–17 (ESV)

»“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
»“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”«
— Matthew 5:10–12 (ESV)

»“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”«
— Matthew 10:17–22 (ESV)

Count it all joy, brothers.

To live is Christ and to die is gain. Forward, in the faith of the fathers.

  1. The one (other) extant (and accessible) translation is insufficient, and I will leave my assessment at that. ↩︎

  2. Whether or not one agrees with their program, beliefs, et cetera, or finds them abhorrent (whether or not the Christian can hold this latter view should be clear by the time you finish reading this article) matters not at all to whether or not they were important in terms of their significance, et cetera. ↩︎

  3. I deliberately do not capitalize the “p” here, as those who do so are generally attempting to turn “Positive Christianity” into some new religion, which this article demonstrates was absolutely not the intent of the Deutsche Christen. ↩︎

  4. Although the authorship of these Theses is attributed to one man — Karl F. E. W. Grundmann —, I use the plural here to indicate the conviction with which the men who signed on to these Theses supported them — they made them their own and pledged their honor, their good names, and even their souls to their contents. (And it also avoids prolixity.) ↩︎

  5. We should hear, here, in these words a condemnation, particularly, of the neopagan cults that attempted subversion of the German Reich, and which were condemned by Hitler himself in no uncertain terms: “We do not want a Wotan cult — it is too stupid.” ↩︎