When The Barmen Declaration was adopted by the Confessing Churches in pre-war Germany, some received it as a statement of principles, but others elevated it to what has been called status confessionis, a statement so essential to the defense of the Gospel that it must be viewed as binding the conscience.
The Brown Shirts had flooded into the compromised state churches and by sheer force of numbers had outvoted the faithful, completely taking over the official state church apparatus. The ensuing synod’s passage of the “Aryan Law” forbidding Christians of Jewish descent to serve as pastors was, for a courageous few, the final straw in an increasingly desperate battle for the heart and soul of the German churches.
How did it happen, and why did so few Christians in Germany resist? Doug Schlegel not only recounts the tragic and shameful events of the Brown Synod, but also the collapse of Christian orthodoxy years earlier that left the Church essentially neutered and irrelevant.
In our own age, there are many who complain that the traditional church in America needs to change in order to become more “relevant.” The lesson of Barmen is that change alone does not make one relevant, but rather the capacity to discern evil and stand against it. To that task one must come theologically equipped, however unexciting that sounds, lest in the rush to relevancy, we lose all that is, or can ever be, truly important to us.
On the Cover
Congregation leaving the Reformed church in Nuenen, 1884, Oil on canvas, Vincent van Gogh
The April-June 2011 issue includes these articles:
- Robert Dick Wilson
- The Barmen Confession
- Anne Bradstreet
- Emanuel Swedenborg and the “New Church”
- The Church in Bali
- The Barmen Declaration