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The Third Reich Captures The Church: Can It Happen Again? Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
July 6, 2022 1:00 am

The Third Reich Captures The Church: Can It Happen Again? Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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July 6, 2022 1:00 am

How could a nationwide church give into a political philosophy? Not only did Christian churches in Germany fail to critique Hitler’s regime, but they also bought into its agenda. In this message from the pages of history, we consider three vivid descriptions of the German church that warn us today. When the stakes are high, we must stand. 

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Looking to Jesus as the founder and perfecter. It's tough winning a race when your coach is loyal to your competitors were Christians. That's what happened in Nazi Germany. The church fell in line fast when Hitler rose to power the lessons we can learn from this sad capitulation are the focus of today's running to win broadcast from the Moody Church in Chicago this morning to win with Dr. Erwin Sir was clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line, pastor for many indications. I would think the churches of today have even less backbone than the German church had in the 1941 day. That's a very intriguing thought. The churches in the 1940s in Nazi Germany. Here's what happens when people are hungry.

They're willing to sacrifice truth they are willing to give up their Christian faith. Many people succumb to the pressures, the hunger, the starvation that was taking place and they traded in their freedoms for Hitler who promised them security you know all of these lessons are so important for us today and for a gift of any amount you can receive a Buckeye, Britain entitled Hitler's cross of the cross of Christ was used to promote the Nazi agenda. I believe very deeply that this story has to be told in a way that people can read it readily that they can share the lessons and that we can see in ourselves and ask ourselves whether or not we have the courage to stand against the culture but now let us listen as we continue this series of messages with a forest of swastika flags around the altar in Magdeburg, Germany and the Cathedral Dean of the Cathedral declared in 1933 whoever reviles this symbol of ours is reviling our Germany the swastika flags around the altar radiate hope hope that the day is about to dawn another German pastor said in the pitch black night of church history. Hitler became, as it were, the wonderful transparency for our times. The window of our age through which light fell on the history of Christianity. Through him we were able to see the Savior in the history of the Germans. Christ came to us through Adolf Hitler and I need to tell you that I wrestled with the question as to whether or not I should preach this series of messages and I'm sure that when you looked at the bulletin you wrestled with the two it's been interesting to hear the comments. Some people said that they looked at it and wondered what in the world. I was up to and why it would be. They thought that I would leave preaching the word to preach history.

Let me tell you. Finally, why I decided to preach this series of messages and how it came about this past summer I had the privilege of being in Berlin. Forgive me but I love these German cities like Berlin, Munich because of their history. And when I was there I was in a museum dedicated to the resistance of those who opposed Hitler as I looked at the walls.

I noticed pictures of Catholic and Protestant ministers not only giving the Nazi salute to but I also saw swastikas adorning the altars and banners in churches and right in the middle of every one of those swastikas was the cross of Jesus Christ. And so it was that within Hitler's broken cross there was the cross of our crucified Redeemer and as I stood there looking at those pictures. I began to ask myself the question, how could this happen. How could it happen that a church could sold by into a culture and the political philosophy that it would no longer be able to critique that philosophy but would simply become a part of Hitler's political agenda and I said to myself. There are lessons here that should be taken as a warning to the Christian church always. We try to look at these events through the lens of Scripture and even the lens of profits say.

And today's message is on how Hitler captured the church and what we can learn from that process.

How would I describe the Christian church in Germany.

When Hitler rose to power three vivid descriptions come immediately to mind. The first is the church was very nationalistic, very nationalistic now is not possible for me to give you a history of Germany. Though in a couple of weeks when Roy Schwartz and I are together.

I'm going to give you a 10 minute lecture on the first strike in the second Reich because most people don't know why Hitler's Germany was the third right well during those periods of time. The church was tied in to politics in a very very direct way.

In fact, during the Great Depression Kings in Prussia became a part of Germany. The Prussian king was basically the head of the church I'd been to the Kaiser Wilhelm church in Berlin. The memorial church and as you look at the various paintings in the frescoes that are there. You'll notice that there is the Kaiser known as Caesar.

That's the German word for Caesar, there's Kaiser Wilhelm, but there is Christ to and it looks like you're not sure exactly to whom you should be loyal should I be loyal to Caesar, or should I be loyal to Christ and the answer of Germany is to be loyal to Caesar is to be loyal to Christ.

Germany was so nationalistic that during the first world war when troops would die on the battlefield.

It was generally believed that they died as martyrs for Jesus Christ. The church was wholly absorbed with the culture of Germany and there were lectures and books written on how to synthesize that is to say how to bring together German culture and Christianity and make them the one to have a special Christianity just for Germany and for its Hitler. What I say also that the church is by and large, were also opposed to the Jews. Not only that, but you find that the churches were opposed to democracy. Germany began to flirt with democracy, for the first time in 1918, after World War I, the Weimar Republic began and I'm told by someone that both Catholics and Protestants were strongly opposed to democracy, believing that only a monarchy could be strong like one woman who lived through that. Told me she said Hitler was able to do what no democracy could do democracy so slow you got this committee and that committee and the Weimar Republic was split with all these different political factions.

What we needed was a strong leader to lead us out of the this factor. Catholic told me that some priests would not hear the confessions of people unless they were opposed to democracy and in favor of restoration of the German monarchy. Now, I might say that the Catholic Church ultimately did better than the Protestants in resisting Hitler because they were more unified than the fragmented Protestants, but the churches were thoroughly politicized.

The second thing about the church was that by and large they were liberal in theology. This is heartbreaking but you know that in American universities, and seminaries all the liberal theories that undercut the integrity of Scripture.

Almost all of them were hatched in Germany.

It was the Germans who did it. Feuerbach in the middle of the 19th century, wrote a book on the essence of Christianity in which he basically said that Christianity is really not to the deity of Christ what Christ came to earth to show that all of us are really divine and all statements in the Bible that refer to God, should actually be referred to man Nietzsche who died in the year 1900 proclaim the death of God. He said regarding God. We have killed him, and he also asked the question who will wipe the blood from our hand and Nietzsche predicted actually that in the 20th century, there would be a bloodbath is the world had never seen. He didn't live to see it but my how right he was. He taught the Superman and was so impressed with Nietzsche's books that he actually gave them out to Mussolini and others, personally because of all those teachings here. You have now a Christianity proclaim the largely there are exceptions of course but largely from the pulpits of Germany that did not have a Christ qualified to waive anybody from their in.

I need to underline that because I want you to know that when the church loses the simplicity of the gospel when the church no longer invites sinners to trust Christ as the only Savior, the church is not only failed in its mission, but no longer really has a biblical right to exist. So the kind of Christianity had now become a political kind of Christianity.

Christ was no longer exalted his king as Lord and Savior and I would say that it was in the universities and the seminaries in Germany were ministers were being trained means of the ovens of Auschwitz were being planted. Thirdly, you have a kind of Christianity that had greatly separated its religious side from involvement. Now this gets a little tricky so I'm going to give you an example, the people said as long as we sing our hymns that even if we have our Bible studies. Let's not get involved in the political process, even if things are happening that we are against that is not our responsibility. We are supposed to obey the state and Germans were taught that in the ministers pounded into their heads from Romans 13 we are supposed to of Bay state whether we agree with the state or not. And no matter what the state does. There's a story that comes to me about a church that had a railroad track right by it and on the railroad track. There were cars of people is being taken to one of the concentration camps as the church would rumble through the town. They could hear the screams of the victims in these boxcars and all that the church did in response was sing its hymns more loudly so that the screams of the people would be drowned out that that's the kind of context in which the church found itself when Hitler came to power. I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the third chapter of the book of Daniel. Daniel chapter 3. To use this simply as an example of what three people dead when they were confronted with a situation in which church and state religion and state widgets. I had become one and they were given the option of whether they would bow down and worship their civil religion or whether they would not. The story is of course about the three Hebrew children.

I'm going to pick it up in chapter 3 verse 13 Shadrach me shack and a Bendigo do not bow down before this image and so someone tells the king about it and this is what he says in verse 13 then Nebuchadnezzar in a rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach me shack and a Bendigo and these men were brought before the king, and he responded and said to them, is it true Shadrach me shack and a Bendigo that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up now. If you are ready at the moment you hear the sound of the horn the flute the liar, the tri-gone the psaltery and the bagpipe and all kinds of music to fall down and worship the image that I've made very well, if you will not worship that image, you will be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire and God is there who can deliver you out of my hands, Shadrach, Michigan, a Bendigo answered and said to the king all Nebuchadnezzar. We do not need to give you an answer concerning this. By the way, I just love the response or saying hey you know we wouldn't even have to dialogue about this for me. So our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will deliver us out of your handle came but even if he does not let it be known to you oh king that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set. If God delivers us fine. If he doesn't find two. We will not bow for the most part, the German church vowed before the image a little bit of history as to how it happened. First of all, Hitler began with the lies he loved lies in fact he said that the bigger the lie, the better.

In fact he said it does not matter how big a lie is as long as it is often repeated, people will eventually so he loved big lies. He stood up in the Reichstag after he was elected and said I want to work with the churches in back Christianity is essential to safeguard the soul of the German people and he desired a peaceful, accord and even sent overtures of peace to the Vatican that he might be able to embrace the Catholic faith as well. He said that the churches can have freedom."

As long as they do not do anything subversive old a wealth of meaning in that statement as long as they do not do anything subversive. He lied about his intentions. He lied about the Jews. He knew the myths that were rampant in Germany and he uses them.

The myth was that it was because of the Jews. The Germany have lost the war. Everybody knew that was a myth, but it was widely believed in Hitler capitalized on it.

He would lie about his enemies.

His men would make up charges against them so that they could be hauled into court pastors were accused of sexual impropriety. They were accused of treason of theft of misconduct of all kinds of deeds just so that they could be brought into court and severely punished. Hitler love to find a pretext for his actions. The Reichstag fire, 1933 is generally believed. In fact, almost certainly believed to have been the work of his own man taking a man and at gunpoint, forcing him to begin that fire because it was after that Hitler killed a thousand of his enemies and told the people in Germany I had to do this to save Germany took full responsibility and said this needed to be done because the times were dreadful and they needed a strong solution. Kristallnacht began as a result of a Jew killing a German.

It was a wonderful pretext for all that devastation and destruction throughout Europe that many of you know so much about. So what he did is he used all kinds of manipulation and lies to make sure that he could get what he wanted in the lies became headlines in the press. By the way, he also gave people an alternative to church. You did not have to go to church to have your baby christened the SS troops would do it for you. The fathers would bring their children on a shield and that shield represented Germany.

It represented the third Reich and the child was in effect given to the faith and then it's name was put in the register. You could be married without going to the church that also could be done by officials and mother Earth and father sky were often called upon to witness the great event of marriage. The children were not allowed to sing Christmas carols in school and the prayer in schools was of course forbidden and Christmas turned into a pagan festival. So you have several years of this mythology several years of lies and manipulation and its people up and got use to your idea and that was now the laws that would come along. First come the lies so that people might be able to understand a certain way to look at the world and then you have laws that are built upon those lies in the legal profession in Germany was rewritten overnight. Instead of believing that there were laws that were rooted in God and in the word of God, or at least in natural law, Hitler did what every dictator. Most dictators have done and that is, he began to turn toward arbitrary law and the people of Germany, said the law and will of data theater that is to say our leader is one and the same. He becomes the law. I'm reminded of Louis XIV to said I am the state. First of all, you have the Nrnberg laws that excluded Jews from citizenship so they no longer were citizens than 13 other decrees that soon made it impossible for them to live. They could not buy or sell. They could not be involved in any kind of work and of course eventually they were led to the concentration camps.

You have laws that came in for the pastors and this is next week's message when I talk about how the church was specifically crushed that pastors were supposed to not only sign loyalty to Hitler and most of them did, they would be loyal to Hitler but the Aryan clause which said that no one of Jewish blood could serve in a pastorate in Germany. There were laws against treason and treason meant being critical of the Reich and then of course there were laws for schools preschool teacher had to sign a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler and Hitler said to the people of his day. You, your child is said to the parents belongs to us. What are you, you will pass away, but your descendents will be here and he said they will be a part of our new community and we he said will be the ones to train your youth while I mention this business of laws because as you look at America today. You can see that that's exactly where the battle is taking place. Is it not and when Hitler's henchmen were tried at Nrnberg. What they did was we did not break any laws. You see, the reason they said that they should not be tried as criminals is because to quote the words of Eisman. I obeyed the laws of my country and my flag. The laws were rewritten so that Jews would be non-persons. Therefore, they never killed any human beings. They only killed animals. Here's the point. We think of our nation.

We think of the Supreme Court. We think of the 1973 decision regarding Roe versus Wade arbitrarily made literally made up out of nothing and I know that the excuse was privacy but actually when you stop to think of it everybody I think acknowledges that this is not in the Constitution, but we live in an era were laws can be rewritten and when some pro-lifers called abortionists murderers. Those abortionists wanted to accuse them of slander because they said how can you call us a murderer when we are breaking no laws of this is Pastor Vincent. Of course I want to clarify, I made a reference to Eisman. He actually was not tried in Nuremberg, but what he said is as I quoted him that he had broken no laws because what he did was consistent with the laws of Germany, you know, I've written a book entitled Hitler's cross how the cross of Christ was used.

To promote the Nazi agenda I talk about the nationalism in the church and its submission to Hitler's agenda I talk about how pretexts were used, to take away the freedoms of the German people in exchange for security. All of these are lessons we have to learn today for a gift of any amount. This book can be yours. Here is what you can do.

Go to RTW offer.com that's RTW offer.com or you can pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-218-9337 that's 1-888-218-9337 now for another chance for you to ask Pastor look certain question about the Bible or the Christian life loyalty to a nations flag what is a Christian's obligation.

A man named Lance wrote to us with the story I want to church on Sunday, the day before Memorial Day and we were asked to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag. After that, we were asked to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian flag. I was wondering about your thoughts on saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag in general and also setting it in a sanctuary church. Lance, I commend you for your question.

It's good. I'm going to give you the answer that I'm comfortable with and I hope that our audience is able to listen in and also to respond to what I have to say first of all, I don't think that there is any necessary conflict between our loyalty to the flag and her loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus said render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. So we need to understand that we have two commitments. However, I would also like to caution us. It's possible to become so nationalistic.

This is exactly what happened in Germany under Hitler. When the people were so nationalistic.

They believe that whatever was good for Germany was good for Christianity and vice versa, and as a result of that there nationalism took precedence over their commitment to the cross of Jesus Christ.

That is a terrible danger.

So, I think, in answer to your question is fine if we understand the two spheres and making sure that that we are not guilty of excessive patriotism, but that when ever there is a conflict between Caesar and Christ. We always defer to Christ, and we never give to Caesar that which belongs to Jesus. Thank you Dr. Luther and thank you Lance for your question.

If you'd like to hear your question answered.

Go to our website@rtwoffer.com and click on ask Pastor lutes or or call us at 1-888-218-9337 that's 1-888-218-9337 you can write to us at running to win 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard Chicago, IL 60614 as the tanks rolled nation after nation succumbed to German military might. During World War II and the Fatherland. There was little resistance, even from the believing church.

They quickly caved into the Nazis, substituting the swastika for the cross of Christ.

Next time why we must never forget that it could happen again for Pastor Erwin lutes or this is Dave McAllister going to win is sponsored by the Moody church


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