On Luther, Hitler and Religious Confusion

Deutsche Version

Richard Weikart created quite a stir after he published his book „From Darwin to Hitler“ where he argued that the Darwinian concept of natural selection played an important role in the national socialist ideology.

In the raging north American culture war, this gave rise to countless heated debates, with people saying at one extreme that Nazism was a natural consequence of Darwin’s ideas and other people asserting that Nazis rejected Darwinism and were heatens or even Christians.

I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, but this will be the subject of a future article.

The (alleged) Darwinian origins of the Holocaust gives quite a few conservative Evangelicals the feeling that they’re in the right camp, and that the godless liberals they’re opposing will bring the word to oblivion.

However, they very seldom take a closer look at the role the founder of Protestantism played in the developement of antisemitism.

At the time of Luther, the Roman Catholic Church had really an abusive theology in many respects, and Luther thought he had to work very hard to earn his salvation.

I believe that his experience of unconditional grace and divine love was a genuine one, but this also led him to believe in the doctrine of predetermination (Vorherbestimmung), that God chose certain people to believe in Him and get saved while predetermining the others to head to hell.

Luther tried to convert the Jews and became increasingly frustrated all his efforts were apparently vain.

This leads to a real hatred which is summed up in his infamous book „On the Jews and their Lies.“

Here I’ve copied the good English summary of the seven laws he wanted to introduce in Germany and perhaps even elsewhere:

    1. for Jewish synagogues and schools to be burned to the ground, and the remnants buried out of sight;
    2. for houses owned by Jews to be likewise razed, and the owners made to live in agricultural outbuildings;
    3. for their religious writings to be taken away;
    4. for rabbis to be forbidden to preach, and to be executed if they do;
    5. for safe conduct on the roads to be abolished for Jews;
    6. for usury to be prohibited, and for all silver and gold to be removed and “put aside for safekeeping”;
    7.  for the Jewish population to be put to work as agricultural slave laborers.[4]

In 1923 Hitler praised Luther for his ideas, and called him the greatest German mind, who “saw the Jew as we today are starting to see him.”

Such writings reveals us quite a bit about Luther’s heart. It is impossible to explain this away by just saying he was a „man of his time“. The Anabaptist utterly rejected violence, and as they underwent gruesome persecutions they most often reacted with love. And more than one thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul was also frustrated not to have converted his fellow Jews  but instead of cursing them, he prayed to God he would be damned so that they would be saved!

Can we conclude that Luther wasn’t probably a man of God, that his experiences and faith were fake?

I don’t think so. It is true that the main aspect of the reformation „Sola Scriptura“ doesn’t seem to be coherent. God only speaks authoratively through Scripture, except the day the early Church decided which books belong to the Canon and which not.
The doctrine of many progressive Roman Catholics that God speaks to us through the tradition of believers over the centuries, and the Bible itself is such a tradition, is at the very least self-consistent.

But I do think that during this period in history, a great part of the Church had an abusive theology leading people to earn or even buy their salvation. I believe that after his desperate realization he was not up to the task, Luther really experienced the grace and love of God.

But he freely chose to let hatred and darkness dominate other parts of his heart. His teaching that God predetermined certain persons to be hell-bound was certainly one area where his thoughts were completely darkened.

But this raises a problem: why does God allow people to get things right about him while also believing blasphemous non-senses?

I often encounter the same problem in the Bible, with the book of the Psalms where the goodness and bounty of God are praised in a wonderful way, but where psalmists also prayed God to crush the head of their enemy’s children against rocks.

And I see the same problem in my life: sometimes I am overwhelmed by the love of God which I try to pour on my fellow humans, but I am also still driven by my selfishness and deep-seated fears.

I believe that God took an enormous risk by granting us freedom, and that a total revelation of Himself would considerably reduce this liberty.

I do believe that God is completely  able to compensate for the evil caused by this in the world to come.

 

 

I’m delighted if you have discovered my blog for the very first time.

Please take a look at the mainpage (link here) to find out if there might be other things worthy of your interest.

 

Ich bin entzückt, wenn Sie für das erste Mal meinen Blog entdeckt haben.

Werfen Sie bitte auch einen Blick auf die Hauptseite (Link hier), um herauszufinden, ob es nicht andere Dinge geben könnte, die ihrem Interesse würdig sind.

 

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20 responses to “”

  1. Jonathan Sherwin (@jonathansherwin) says :

    Some interesting thoughts. I’ve appreciate Weikart’s thoughts (particularly his notes on Bonhoeffer) but haven’t read this book.

    Regarding Hitler’s reference to Luther, I see that as a shrewd political move. By using an authority for the upper-class, Lutheran, educated Germans, he associated his actions with German tradition, which helped to mask their real source. I wonder if anti-semitism would have been as palatable were it not connected in this way to older, German-born ideas.

    On the idea of eugenics directly – not just Nazi-German, but popular in UK and USA at the time too – I see a clear link between Darwinian thought and the ideas expressed by leading eugenicists.

    • lotharson says :

      Hello Jonathan, thanks for your comment!

      As I said, truth lies in between.

      The Nazis used the antisemitism of Luther for their own heinous purposes.

      But it is also true they relied heavily on SOCIAL darwinist ideas, as people in my own familiy have experienced.

      Lovely greetings from Germany.
      Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • dan says :

      you are quite the nutcase.. Did you know nazis rejected the idea of macroevolution?there only references to evolution was when talking about the variation within dogs..Which is to say they believed in micro evolution.. Did you know Nazis hated atheism? Did you know Hitler personally closed down the German Freethinkers league?.. Did you know Nazis called darwin’s theory “english sickness”..Describing it as robbing people of their soul….Did you know Nazis wore God on our side on their belt buckles?

      .
      Hitler was a committed believer in an Aryan version of Jesus and believed the jews corrupted the teachings of jesus.They even hated paul because he was a jew. Anyone can plainly see the mass killing of the jews was religiously motivated.

  2. Andy Schueler says :

    “In the raging north American culture war, this gave rise to countless heated debates, with people saying at one extreme that Nazism was a natural consequence of Darwin’s ideas and other people asserting that Nazis rejected Darwinism and were heatens or even Christians.

    I believe that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, but this will be the subject of a future article.”
    - What has to be pointed out here, is that Weikart very dishonestly equivocates between Evolution by natural selection and social Darwinism. But even then, his argument still falls flat and he can only pretend that Darwin´s ideas played any role in Nazi ideology by ignoring all contradicting evidence and by flat out lying (he argues for example that the german word “Entwicklung” was and is used in the german language as a synonym for “Evolution” – which simply isn´t true, it´s not a synonym now and wasn´t a synonym back then). And some of the contradicting evidence that he completely ignores is:
    - that Darwin´s (and Haeckel´s) works were on the index of forbidden books in Nazi Germany.
    - that the people who actually developed the Nürnberger Rassengesetze, including Hans Günther (the infamous “Rassenpapst”) either never mentioned Darwin at all or explicitly rejected his ideas as nonsense, without exception.
    - that the key influences on the Nazi Rassenlehre were Houston Stewart Chamberlain (who explicitly rejected Darwinism) and Arthur de Gobineau (who published his works long before Darwin published his). Those two were widely cited as influences by german Eugenicists.
    - that german Eugenicists were Creationists, they did believe that there are human races which were created seperately by God and that the Aryan race was the only one that was created in the image of God (and that mixing with “lower races” weakens the bloodline and goes against God´s will).

    Darwin´s ideas were an influence on the Eugenics movements in the UK and the USA, but not at all on the Eugenics movement in Germany – in Germany, Darwin´s ideas were rejected by Eugenicists in the strongest possible terms. While those Eugenics movements used similar methods (abortion, sterilization and murder), the underlying ideas were very different – german Eugenicists did not believe that the Aryan race could be improved, they believed it was created perfectly and weakened by mixing with lesser races. The english and american Eugenicists on the other hand actually did believe that improvement was possible.

    The moral of the story – never trust anything published by a guy who is associated with the Dishonesty Institute like Richard Weikart. They are nothing but a bunch of shameless liars.

    • lotharson says :

      Hello Andy, thanks for your emotional but well-thought comment!

      Yes, in German Entwicklung means “Development” and when used by the Nazis it was not always synonym with Evolution. But sometimes this is really what they tought, altough it is debatable whether it was Darwinian Evolution or not.

      Certain Nazis didn’t like Darwin, but others were fan of SOME of his ideas.

      ” that german Eugenicists were Creationists, they did believe that there are human races which were created seperately by God and that the Aryan race was the only one that was created in the image of God (and that mixing with “lower races” weakens the bloodline and goes against God´s will).”

      That’s only partially true. Some were non-darwinian evolutionists, and they weren’t Christians by any meaningful sense of the word.

      “The moral of the story – never trust anything published by a guy who is associated with the Dishonesty Institute like Richard Weikart. They are nothing but a bunch of shameless liars.”

      I can only agree with that :=) but one can find liars everywhere, also among anti-theists.

      Cheers.

      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

      • Andy Schueler says :

        “Yes, in German Entwicklung means “Development” and when used by the Nazis it was not always synonym with Evolution. But sometimes this is really what they tought, altough it is debatable whether it was Darwinian Evolution or not.”
        - If you look up the quotes in context, it´s clear that they mean “Entwicklung” as “development”. Afaict, “Entwicklung” was never used as
        a synonym for “Evolution” in the german language, around the 1930s, the words “Darwinismus” and “Abstammungslehre” were the most popular terms to refer to Darwin´s ideas.

        “Certain Nazis didn’t like Darwin, but others were fan of SOME of his ideas.”
        - Well.. not really. The idea of natural selection was received well among some people that later on were influential in the german Eugenics movement. But as I said, by the time the Nazis rose to power, Darwin´s ideas (particularly common descent) were rejected in the strongest possible terms and his books even made it on the index of forbidden books, see:
        http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/burnedbooks/documents.htm
        quote:
        “6. Schriften weltanschaulichen und lebenskundlichen Charakters, deren Inhalt die falsche naturwissenschaftliche Aufklärung eines primitiven Darwinismus und Monismus ist (Häckel).”
        It could be argued that Häckel was an influence, because he actually developed some ideas that were similar to the eugenics ideas of Galton
        et al. (and Häckel even became a member of the institut für Rassenhygiene in 1905). But by the time the Nürnberger Rassengesetze were developed, Darwin´s (and also Häckel´s) ideas were explicitly rejected by german eugenicists. As I mentioned, what they ended up with can be traced back to the thoughts of Chamberlain and de Gobineau as key influences – who either were unaware of Darwin (de Gobineau) or rejected his ideas in the strongest terms (Chamberlain), they did talk alot about breeding however (this is where you might see a similarity to Darwin´s thoughts on artificial selection).

        “That’s only partially true. Some were non-darwinian evolutionists, and they weren’t Christians by any meaningful sense of the word.”
        - Note that I said “Creationists”, not “Christians”. And they were Creationists in the sense that they did believe that humans were created by the Christian God (not a single german Eugenicist believed in common descent (well, maybe some did, but they could not possibly admit that without losing their jobs ;-) )).

        “I can only agree with that :=) but one can find liars everywhere, also among anti-theists.”
        - No disagreement there ;-).

  3. Lvka says :

    In the interbellic period, during the Great Depression, bankers were much-hated by the people. For instance, in the US, Bonnie and Clyde were loved by Americans everywhere precisely because they were bank-robbers. In Europe, for historical and religious reasons, the majority of bankers were Jews, since Christians did not practice usury. Now, the reverse of the boldened sentence is untrue: the majority of Jews were obviously not bankers. (They were poor or modest peasants living in Jewish village-settlements; or skilled practitioners of various crafts, earning a decent living). Nevertheless, anger blinds the intellect, hence the Holocaust.

    Hitler veiled his ideology in various pseudo-reasons borrowed from various religions, but their incoherence is self-evident. The Christians, on one hand, do not believe in revenge: it is an anti-Christian concept. Hindus, though divided into four casts, do not go around killing or imprisoning each other. German Pagans did not persecute Jews. Etc.

    • lotharson says :

      Hello Lvka, it is obvious Hitler’s atrocious deeds didn’t stem from his deep love for Jesus.

      But Luther’s antijudaism allowed Hitler to propagate his hatred without too much resistance among the German folk.

      Many more Christian leaders at that time should have stood up against those atrocities.

      Lovely greetings from Germany.
      Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

      • Lvka says :

        Many more Christian leaders at that time should have stood up against those atrocities.

        At the cost of their own life ? (Unless -of course- you think that Hitler was a huge fan of democratic debate, and/or that every man who happens to find himself in a position of leadership automatically possesses a selfless disregard for his own life…)

      • therealzilch says :

        Hey lvka, fancy meeting you here! How are things in Arad? I’m still out of țuică….

        cheers from Vienna, zilch

    • Chuck Shingledecker says :

      Yes, at the cost of their own lives, just like Dietrich Bonhoeffer!

      Not saying I would have the courage to do it myself, but Bonhoeffer and many others DID!

  4. jamesbradfordpate says :

    Reblogged this on James’ Ramblings.

  5. xon-xoff says :

    “I believe that God took an enormous risk by granting us freedom, and that a total revelation of Himself would considerably reduce this liberty.”

    how does an omni-god experience risk?

    how much revelation would be appropriate so as not to reduce this liberty?

    being in the flesh amongst his creation for 33 years was the appropriate amount of revelation?

    and, exactly what is this liberty that this omni-god gave us?

  6. theObserver says :

    Richard Weikart eh? I always wondered who first drew the silly link between Darwin and Htler. Now I know!

  7. jewish says :

    I constantly emailed this website post page to all my friends, because if like to read it afterward my links
    will too.

  8. PhyshBourne says :

    excuse me – you blame luther for his reception history?
    that’s really lame…

    http://www.welt.de/kultur/article127697560/Luther-kann-nichts-fuer-die-Nazi-Verbrechen.html

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