Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

Books, confession, conversion, faith, Gospel, Martyr, New Testament

The 90th Anniversary of The Barmen Declaration

The 90th Anniversary of The Barmen Declaration

Pictured above is a memorial to the band of Christian Germans who opposed Hitler. In 1934, eminent Protestant theologian, Karl Bath and numerous German Lutherans wrote the Barmen Declaration. Adolf Hitler had successfully persuaded, intimidated and/or cowed the leaders of the church into supporting the Aryan Solution. The Aryan Solution was the third Reich’s clever euphemism for persecuting and then executing the Jews.

Only because I read Francis Maier’s intriguing piece, Toward A Confessing Church, am I aware of the document. But because Diedrich Bonhoeffer is one of my friends in heaven, I recognized his title and was drawn to the article.

I first ‘met’ Bonhoeffer ten years ago when Eric Metaxas’ tome of Bonhoeffer’s biography shoved its way into my psyche.

You know how that happens, right?

It’s often a book I don’t have the time or interest to read. And yet, it keeps cropping up everywhere. Finally, I gave in and read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet and Spy. And–of course–! got hooked on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hence this piece, The 90th Anniversary of The Barmen Declaration.

Why jump from the Barmen Declaration to Bonhoeffer?

Because it was Bonhoeffer who, upon reading and understanding the vital nature of the document, founded the Confessing Church. And inspired the writing of his brilliant The Cost of Discipleship. And who died at the hands of the Nazis for proclaiming truth.

It’s ancient history, why write about it?

History doesn’t repeat itself. Yes, that’s true. But looking around at the plethora of Catholic and Christians who either tacitly or aggressively support the ideology of death promulgated by our government today, aren’t there one or ten similarities here?

Maier’s article reminds me that I read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship three or maybe four times. I couldn’t get enough of it. Because as his biographer Metaxes writes, Bonhoeffer is indeed a prophet. It’s impossible to read his words and believe he’s speaking of a foreign nation. One that lived and died almost 100 years ago.

No, he speaks to you.

And to me.

To America.

After I read The Cost of Discipleship the last time, [embedded in the link is a free PDF] I was reminded of the very hardest part of faith, of any religion: obedience. So difficult at times that it feels impossible. And without an ongoing personal relationship with Christ and His sacraments, obedience is impossible.

Bonhoeffer examines the two-step process of conversion.

  1. The call.
  2. Obedience.

“The response of the disciples is an act of obedience, not a confession of faith in Jesus. How could the call immediately evoke obedience? The story is a stumbling-block for the natural reason… Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth which has a place for the Fatherhood of God, but omits Christ as the living Son. And a Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. In such a religion there is trust in God, but no following of Christ….Discipleship without Jesus Christ is a way of our own choosing. It may be the ideal way. It may even lead to martyrdom, but it is devoid of all promise. Jesus will certainly reject it….”

During the process of my conversion, many perhaps most, of my former beliefs and values died. Along with them so did some dear friendships.

But are there times when obedience still feels impossible?


We need to remember who we serve

We need to remember who we are, who we serve, and why we’re here as Christians.  We need to be confessors of Jesus Christ and his Church.  All day, every day.  In everything.

As one senior bishop told me in the course of my interviews:

I grew up in an extraordinarily warm, liberating Catholic culture.  That’s gone.  We can no longer count on the culture to support a Christian life.  What we’ve got now in our country is, at best, a tolerance of religion as a personal hobby for superstitious weak people who cling to their childhood dreams.  At worst, more and more, we’re dealing with a real hatred, an outright bigotry, toward religious faith.  Which is ironic, because there’s never been a progressive reform movement in American history that wasn’t birthed  by religion.  We’re almost back in the days of the French Revolution.  We have a gang of juiced-up Jacobins running society who really think the government should control everything. . . .I never thought I’d put the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel on my medicine cabinet mirror.  But I did.  Now I pray it every morning when I shave.  There is utter, raw evil in the world, and it’s the strongest force in the universe.  Save one.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right.  His world needed a Confessing Church, and he was willing to risk his life for it.  Times have changed.  Circumstances have changed.  But the need hasn’t.

The lesson is simple:  We need to be Confessing Christians.  And we need a Confessing Church.

Toward A Confessing Church
Post Tags :
aryan solution, confession, dietrich bonhoeffer, eric metaxes, karl barth, third reich

5 thoughts on “The 90th Anniversary of The Barmen Declaration”

  1. Mary Baxstresser

    I didn’t know what the Barmen Declaration was. Your writings always teach and inspire. Thank you Lin ????

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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