There is an interesting document that came out of the churches in Germany that is presented to the world as a heroic stance by Christians against what was at the time, the growing danger of National Socialism. It was apparent that the Nazi’s were going to establish a church in their image and the Barmen Declaration sought to witness and warn against it. One of the main purposes of the Declaration was to establish a three-church confessional consensus opposing pro-nazi “German Christianity”. These three churches were Reformed, United and Lutheran. Participating in the declaration the Lutheran Theologian Hermann Sasse later spoke against it because it had the effect of unionism. That means that churches that don’t believe the same thing pretend like they do.
Matthew Harrison has translated much of Sasse’s work and explains that what seemed a good counter to external threat really wrecked the church from the inside because of the dilution of doctrine and a false understanding of the Gospel. He writes, “For Sasse, these internal dangers were greater than the external. “No atheism [a reference to Nazism?], nor Bolshevism can do as much damage and destruction as the pious lie [reference to unionism], the lie in the church.” It is still the “lie” today and Sasse’s analysis is still helpful. “There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel, than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie.” (“Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison”, blog spot, search Barmen on this blog site).
There are some striking words in the declaration despite overall effect. We will look at some more in the days ahead.