Bonheoffer, Hitler, and Holocaust

The January Concordia Theological Quarterly has an article entitled “Themes of the Cruciform Life in Bonheoffer.”  Bonheoffer was executed for his participation in the plot to assassinate the one man every man thinks ought to have been: Hitler.

Using imagery from Bonheoffer but with plainer words the author says, “When the state crushes its citizens unjustly, the church is to throw itself between the spokes of the wheel in order to stop it” (p. 82).  The author goes on to say, “I am convinced that Bonheoffer’s assistance with the assassination plots against Hitler was an act done in Christian faith and love within God’s left-hand regiment.  Uwe Siemon-Netto [the director of the Concordia Seminary Institute on Lay Vocation] has designated Bonheoffer as a martyr – not of the right-hand but of the left-hand realm” (p.86).  Finally the author quotes Luther saying, “‘If the emperor undertakes war he will be a tyrant and will oppose our ministry and religion, and then he will also oppose our civil and domestic life.  Here there is no question whether it’s permissible to fight for one’s faith.  On the contrary, it’s necessary to fight for one’s children and family'” (fn. 70, pp. 87-88).

The final quote where Luther sounds like a Medieval John Wilkes Booth comes from Table Talks (LW 54, 278-279).  Therefore, it ought to be taken with at least a grain of salt if not a tankard or two of beer as it was when it was originally “recorded.”  But the author believes he’s proved his point: “Those who espouse quietism in the face of despotism must look elsewhere than the mature Luther” (fn. 70, p. 88).

So the holocaust of Hitler justified a plot by a Christian minister to assassinate him.  What then of the 35 year holocaust against the unborn?  You do realize that only 8% of medical doctors perform abortions?  You do realize the defenders of the “right” to choose on the Supreme Court are readily identifiable?  Enough of the letter writing; enough of the marching; enough of the voting, let there be blood!  After all didn’t Jesus say, “He who lives by the sword dies by it?”  Doesn’t violence against the unborn rightfully beget violence against those guilty of it?

Yet, Saul was a pretty cruel tyrant, and David wouldn’t take him out.  Paul didn’t advocate taking out Nero who used Christians as garden party lights.  The Babylonians had their fiery furnace; the Persians their lion dens, and the Assyrians their impalements, yet there is no hue and cry in the prophets to shed their blood.  They prophesied that judgment would come, but they didn’t stir up God’s people to bring it.  Where in Peter or Paul is there any sort of admonition to take out the rulers who championed dehumanizing things such as homosexuality, rape, infanticide, and slavery?

Here’s what troubles me the most.  There is a distinct attempt now to wake up the sleeping giant of the LCMS.  Billy Graham circa 1972 is the one who actually called the LCMS a sleeping giant when it came to evangelism. Well the giant did awake and swallowed the Kennedy Evangelism method.  This travelled through our digestive system developing the polyps of “contemporary” music, “praise” worship, and “practical” preaching.  The end result has been hemorrhoids so ablaze that surgery will probably be needed.                                                                                               

Now the giant is being prodded to social consciousness and serviceability.  It’s as if the social gospel movement of the 1920s didn’t really happen and fail.  It’s as if we never recognized the theological bankruptcy of clichés such as “Deeds not Creeds”and”We don’t want to be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.”  No, those were all dreams.  We are to awake to the new reality that tyrants are to be resisted, fought against, and if need be actively brought down.

If we simply must look for heroes of faith notable for their actions, why not Alexander Solzhenitsyn?  But his life was too cruciform; it was quiet almost to the point of the dreaded quietism.  Why the man was a almost a Quaker!  And what did they ever give us but oats?

But men of faith who take up arms give us jihad.  You think this an exaggeration, but people who are schooled to throw themselves into the spokes of the State to stop it in the name of God, quickly learn, as Bonheoffer did, that it is far more efficient to throw the leaders of the State into the spokes.

And there’s the rub: Revelation depicts the anti-Christian State as a multi-headed beast.  Who decides whom, where, and when you cut?  Furthermore, the beast is too big, too ferocious, too complicated for men.  It takes the Man who is God to slay it and He does so quickly and certainly with no collateral damage.  This was predicted long before by Daniel.  It would be a stone wrought without human hands, not thrown by them, that would forever destroy the kingdoms of the world.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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