* Lecture delivered in several of our churches.
II. From a political point of view, then, Nazism would seem to be the implication of all the principles necessary for a perfect setup for the representative of the Dragon to wield his antichristian power, provided these principles can be realized to their full extent. I say: “for a perfect setup” for after all the political power, the totalitarian and universal State would supply only the means for the antichrist to realize himself in the world. It is, in the abstract, conceivable that this mighty world-power would put itself in the service of Christianity, that it would be the State which, according to Art. 86 of our Netherland Confession, would further the cause of the gospel and destroy the power and dominion of Antichrist. Before, then, we can speak of the antichristian implications of Nazism we must answer the question, whether from a religious point of view the principles of Nazism are antichristian. You will recall that in Rev. 13 a second beast, the beast that rises out of the earth, follows the first. It represents the final form of the Antichrist from philosophical, religious, spiritual aspect. It has two horns like a lamb, and it speaks like a Dragon. It speaks. That is its power. And by his speech as well as by its miracles this second beast, elsewhere called the false prophet, deceives them that dwell on the earth. It causes them that dwell on the earth to worship the first beast, the almighty State, to make an image for the first beast, to cause all men to receive the sign of the beast on their forehead or on their right hand, so that they may be distinguished as pro and con with respect to the antichristian power, and only the former may be able to buy or sell and have a place in society. Besides, we read of the first beast that it speaks great things and blasphemies against God, His name, His tabernacle and them that dwell in heaven, and that it was given unto him to make war with the saints. The antichristian empire will be characterized by great prosperity, except for the saints. For the people of God it will be a time of great tribulation. And therefore, we must still answer the question: what are the religious implications and principles as Nazism.
In the text of “Mein Kampf” one does not find an answer to this question, or, at least, not the proper answer. It must be remembered that it was written before Hitler came into power, and that it was expedient for him to be careful with respect to his attitude to the Church, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. It is true, from the views he expresses on the State and its totalitarian power one might easily conclude that in such a State there will be no room for the Church of Christ, if she is faithful in and to her confession. But directly Hitler in that work of his makes no attack upon the Church, On the contrary, he tries to leave the impression that it is his purpose to keep his hands off religion and religious bodies, provided, of course, they have nothing to say against the realization of his political ideals, But since that time the situation has changed as we all know. Nazism is not only a political philosophy, it also claims to be a “Weltanschauung,” a philosophy, a religion. This has become manifest especially since Rosenberg published his “Myth of the Twentieth Century” in which he reveals himself as the False Prophet of Nazism par excellence, And both from what has been written on the subject of religion by the Nazis and from their actual dealing with the Church and its preaching and ministry, it is very evident that National Socialism is, in principle, thoroughly antichristian. It is partly a deification of German blood and race, which takes the place of the blood of Christ, partly an Hegelian apotheosis of the State and the worship of it, partly a return to the ancient heathen gods before the introduction of Christianity.
Rosenberg has been called the Antichrist of Nazism. He does profess to believe in a Christ, but it is not the Christ of the Scriptures. He alleges that the image of the true Christ has been distorted by Jewish fanatics like Matthew and Paul, by African jurists like Tertullian and by “mongrel half breeds” like Augustine. The true Christ is the Nazi-Christ, born of Amorite-Nordic parents, who insisted that he did not come to bring peace to the world but a sword. In his “Myth of the Twentieth Century” Rosenberg insists that the religion of Wotan and Siegfried must replace that of Rome, Wittenberg and Geneva. The swastika, as the symbol of the sun god, must become the symbol of the new church, and replace the dreary and weak symbol of the cross. The living religion of Race and Blood must take the place of the demoralizing and denationalizing religion of the Holy Spirit and the communion of saints. He exalts the religion of the superman to that of meekness and humility, the religion of the weakling, of the “underman.” Not the enervating Christian virtues of pity, charity, repentance and humility, which are a sinister menace to the soul of Nordic Europe, but the true virtues of honor and freedom, power and force of will must have the emphasis. To Rosenberg the creed of the historic churches is a creed of decay and slavery. The introduction of Christianity in Europe meant the debilitation of the strong and healthy German race, the standard bearer of all culture and civilization; it was the beginning of decay “disastrous for Germanity and Humanity” both. Cf. “Religion of the Blood” by Chas. Sarolia in Contemporary Review, JI. 1935.
Rosenberg demands the elimination of the Old Testament as a source of religion, of all the historic foundations of Christianity, Roman Catholic or Protestant, of the spurious values of the Sermon on the Mount. He insists upon the repudiation of the doctrine of original sin, of salvation through grace and of the symbol of the cross. And for them he would substitute Nordic myths and fairy tales to take the place of the Bible and confessions; and the worship of Odin, Wotan, Siegfried, Bismarck and Hitler as the Heroes of the new German Church. Only in the elimination of foreign elements from the German blood and race, especially the Jewish; by further purification of the German blood by eugenic measures and by a radical religious revolution, can salvation of the Fatherland be expected. (idem as above). He writes in his “Myth”: “A German church must pledge all its ministers with the oath to guard the honor of the nation, and it will be our task to create a German national church in the service of the mythos of the German race. The God whom we worship would not exist if our souls and blood were not” (H. Smith Leiper in Ann. Am. Acad. JI. ’35). And Jacob Wilhelm Hauer, under whose leadership the various German pagan movements became united in May 1934, presiding at a National Diet at Eisenbach, adopted a “Pagan Book of Faith” containing twenty five points such as the following: “The word heathen is for us no insult, but a title of honor. We believe no more in the Holy Spirit; we believe in the Holy Blood. . . . The German people need no Bible. We believe in God revealed to us through blood and conscience.” Cf. C. L. Heymann, in Cur. Hist., April ’35. Wilhelm Teudt offered a revision of the Psalms. In Ps. 87 he would read the second verse as follows: “The Lord loveth the height of Germany more than all the dwellings abroad”: and the fourth verse: “I will make mention of the Euphrates and the Ganges where our forefathers lived.” In the light of all this we wonder no more that, as was reported in some Dutch papers some time ago, the German children at home are taught to pray to and to thank Hitler for their daily bread! And Hitler has been hailed as the Messiah from whom the world may expect its salvation!
The German churches have protested against the introduction of this new religion. From the “Manifesto” which was read in the opposition pulpits in June 1935, we quote the following:
“We see for our people a deadly danger. The danger consists in the new religion. The first commandment states: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ The new religion is disobedient to this first commandment. First, through this religion a racial and nationalistic view of life has become a creed. Through its blood and race, faith in an eternal Germany which the new religion requires, has been put in place of faith in an external Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Third, this fool’s faith induces man to make God in his own image. According to its creed man himself honors, saves and redeems himself. Such superstition has nothing to do with positive Christianity. This is the creed of an antichrist. The State’s sovereignty and power are solely a gift from God, who alone founded and preserves human authority. Whoever placed blood, race and nationality in place of God destroys the State’s foundations. . . .Therefore, the Church dares not now blindly bow to the totalitarian demands of the state, which the new religion has created. Bound to God’s Word it is her duty to witness the omnipotence of Jesus Christ, who alone is empowered to bind and relieve the human conscience. To Him alone is given all power in heaven and on earth.”
And from the “Bethel Confession” we quote:
“We denounce the idea that the coming of Christ represents the flaring up of the Nordic race in a world of decay. We denounce the assertion that the government of the state is entitled to rule over the church and especially that it should have the right to appoint and dismiss holders of ecclesiastical offices and to issue laws which affect the teachings of the church directly or indirectly.” In “Religion Confronts Caesar ism” by H. Smith Leiper, in Ann. Am. Acad. JI. ‘35.
What was the result? We all know it. Oppression and persecution of the faithful by the almighty sword of the totalitarian State. For Nazism can tolerate no opposition. On pp. 676,677 of “Mein Kamph” Hitler postulates that Nazism is a view of life, that views of life are never inclined to compromise, that they proclaim their infallibility; that it never shares with another view of life. And since this is the case, “it cannot be ready either to co-operate in an existing condition that it condemns, but it feels the obligation of fighting, by all available means, this condition, and the entire hostile world of ideas; that means of preparing their collapse”. Well, when the church proclaimed a view of life different from and in opposition to the religion of Nazism, fight Hitler did, not by all means, not by spiritual combat, but by the power of the mighty totalitarian sword. From a footnote in “Mein Kampf” by the American editor on p. 144, I quote the following: “Moreover (this was the Lutheran contention) the sacred ministry is open to all who have been baptized and are called. Therewith Lutheranism denies the priority of race. When Hitler came to power, he immediately tried to place the governance of the Lutheran Church in hands of men who were willing to alter the traditional teaching. A large group of “German Christians who subscribed to Hitler’s views were recruited, and their representative—Pastor Ludwig Muller—was named Archbishop at the command of the government. The majority of German theologians refused, however, to accept so drastic a tampering with their creed. Gradually they formed the Confessional Synod, and this has until now—despite all pressure and suffering—clung resolutely to the orthodox point of view. The best known spokesman for this point of view is Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was imprisoned by command of Hitler and is still held in virtually solitary confinement; but there are hundreds of clergymen who have learned to know the meaning of opposition. More than twelve hundred of their number have gone to prison; some are dead. The crisis through which Lutheranism is passing is unquestionably the gravest in its history’’. And we know what happened to Dr. Schilder and to other ministers in the Netherlands already.
I conclude, therefore, that whether you consider Nazism from its political aspect or from the viewpoint of its religious principles, as a power or as a Weltanschauung, it bears a strong resemblance to the Antichrist as pictured in Holy Writ, particularly to the Beast of Rev. 13. We may, therefore, indeed, speak of the antichristian implications of Nazism.
III. Can we go further? May we, instead of speaking of the antichristian implications of Nazism speak of the Nazi State as the Antichrist? I for one would refuse to thus commit myself. In fact, I would go one step further and maintain that the National Socialistic State in its present form and with its present ambitions and its present Fuhrer, cannot be or become the Antichrist in the ultimate sense of the word.
I do not say this because I belong to those who always present the realization of the things that must come to pass before the coming of Christ as if they lie in the distant future. I am exactly of the contrary opinion. I believe that the things foretold us in the Bible are coming to pass, and are being realized with astounding rapidity. And I believe that Nazism, though in its present form it cannot be the ultimate antichrist, may very well be a forerunner of the Beast. All things seem to witness loudly and clearly of a coming change in the entire economic and political setup of the world. Still less do I make this statement, because I believe in a glorious future for this world, either on humanistic or biblical grounds; or because I believe in the power of the democracies to stem the antichristian tide. Principally there is no difference between “modernism” in our own land, and Nazism in Germany from the viewpoint we are discussing of the latter. It is not only the fifth columnist that is inculcating the deepest principles of Nazism into the American people.
But I do believe that Nazism as it now manifests itself cannot be the final manifestation of the antichristian power, because, though in many respects it resembles the biblical picture of the antichrist, there are also serious points of difference.
The chief point of difference is that Nazism is emphatically national, while antichrist is international, universal. Nazism is German, the antichristian empire will be cosmopolitan. This is very evident from the picture in Rev. 13. The symbol of the beast with its seven heads informs us that this beast is the implication as well as the consummation of all similar beasts that have gone before. The fatal wound in one of its heads is healed, by which I understand the deadly wound all world-power received in the confusion of tongues and the subsequent separation of the race into nations, so that its healing means the uniting of the nations of the world, a voluntary federation of nations. The same idea is suggested by the ten horns, which represent ten kingdoms that voluntarily give their power to the beast. And do not forget that all the world wonders after the beast, that is, voluntarily admires him and hails him as the Messiah of the world. But Nazism in nationalistic, not only in the sense that its scope of influence and power at present is limited to the German people, but in its view of life. It is a system that is admittedly based on race, on the superiority of the Nordic race, of the German people. By purifying and developing the German blood the nation will become dominant. Now this is, of course, a myth. But that is not the point. The point is that as long as it adheres to this narrow nationalistic principle, it will not succeed in acquiring universal power and dominion.
In close connection with its nationalistic principle and view of life based upon the philosophy of blood, stands the fact, that Nazism is too narrow and exclusive in its philosophy, in its economic and political conceptions. Antichrist will stand opposed to God, to Christ, to the saints. It will hate them, persecute them, fight them to the death. But for the rest he must be very broad, for the false prophet persuades all others to adopt the mark of the Beast. The Beast presents a united front over against the cause and people of Christ only. But Nazism is intolerant with relation to many other views, that are themselves antichristian. It has too many enemies in the antichristian world itself. It hates Bolshevism, it fights Marxian Socialism, it despises democracy, it fights and persecutes the Jew to the death, it cannot tolerate the bourgeois. I know that it has been forced by circumstances to show somewhat of a conciliatory attitude to some of its enemies. The pact with Russia is an example of this. It is, therefore, not impossible that in the future Nazism will reveal more of this adaptability to circumstances and will prepare the way for a broader conception. But as it is at present, Nazism is by no means worshiped and admired by all, either within Germany or outside of its own borders.
You say, perhaps, that Nazism may gain world- dominion by sheer force. It may win this war and then turn to new conquests. But in the first place, I consider this, for the present at least, not very probable. I am not in a position to predict the outcome of this war. But in my opinion Hitler has not yet shown that he is capable of conquering the world. It is true, that his mighty war machine has had brilliant success, has trampled under foot many nations. But it is also true, that there is as yet no indication that he is able to subjugate the British empire aided by the supplies of the United States. And do not forget that the little nations he forced into subjection do not wonder after and worship the beast, but that they hate him with a deep-seated and bitter hatred, that may flare up as soon as the opportunity is favorable. And in the second place, I believe that the Scriptural picture of antichrist as well as all history teach us, that the antichristian empire cannot realize itself by sheer force and power of the sword, but will become universal by way of a voluntary union and federation. My conclusion, therefore, is that Nazism is, indeed, a. mighty attempt to realize the antichristian world- power, but that in its present form it is too limited to be or become the ultimate manifestation of the Beast.
In the meantime, we are making history fast. Antichristian forces are busy round about us. And sometime they will surely unite. Perhaps, this will be realized before very long. It does not seem as if the ultimate realization of the antichristian power can be far off, in the still distant future. And let us remember, that the war against the Beast cannot be fought or won with the sword of any government. Here is the faith and the patience of the saints: he that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword! But we must even now put on and keep on the whole amour of God, that we may be able to stand in the evil day. We must hold fast that which we have. We must be strong in the truth. We must keep our garments clean. We must not seek the things that are on the earth, but the things that are above. We must not in any wise ally ourselves with Babylon and adopt the mark of the Beast, even now. And we must remember the word of the Lord Jesus, that he that shall seek to save his life shall lose it, but he that shall lose it for His name’s sake, shall keep it unto eternal life! Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life!