The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934

5 07 2009

I. An Appeal to the Evangelical Congregations and Christians in Germany

8.01 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31, 1934. Here representatives from all the German Confessional Churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic Church. In fidelity to their Confession of Faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the Church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter. It was not their intention to found a new Church or to form a union. For nothing was farther from their minds than the abolition of the confessional status of our Churches. Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus of the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
8.02 Therefore the Confessional Synod calls upon the congregations to range themselves behind it in prayer, and steadfastly to gather around those pastors and teachers who are loyal to the Confessions.
8.03 Be not deceived by loose talk, as if we meant to oppose the unity of the German nation! Do not listen to the seducers who pervert our intentions, as if we wanted to break up the unity of the German Evangelical Church or to forsake the Confessions of the Fathers!
8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Therefore, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

II. Theological Declaration Concerning the Present Situation of the German Evangelical Church

8.05 According to the opening words of its constitution of July 11, 1933, the German Evangelical Church is a federation of Confessional Churches that grew our of the Reformation and that enjoy equal rights. The theological basis for the unification of these Churches is laid down in Article 1 and Article 2(1) of the constitution of the German Evangelical Church that was recognized by the Reich Government on July 14, 1933:

* Article 1. The inviolable foundation of the German Evangelical Church is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is attested for us in Holy Scripture and brought to light again in the Confessions of the Reformation. The full powers that the Church needs for its mission are hereby determined and limited.
* Article 2 (1). The German Evangelical Church is divided into member Churches Landeskirchen).

8.06 We, the representatives of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches, of free synods, Church assemblies, and parish organizations united in the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church, declare that we stand together on the ground of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of German Confessional Churches. We are bound together by the confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
8.07 We publicly declare before all evangelical Churches in Germany that what they hold in common in this Confession is grievously imperiled, and with it the unity of the German Evangelical Church. It is threatened by the teaching methods and actions of the ruling Church party of the “German Christians” and of the Church administration carried on by them. These have become more and more apparent during the first year of the existence of the German Evangelical Church. This threat consists in the fact that the theological basis, in which the German Evangelical Church is united, has been continually and systematically thwarted and rendered ineffective by alien principles, on the part of the leaders and spokesmen of the “German Christians” as well as on the part of the Church administration. When these principles are held to be valid, then, according to all the Confessions in force among us, the Church ceases to be the Church and th German Evangelical Church, as a federation of Confessional Churches, becomes intrinsically impossible.
8.08 As members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches we may and must speak with one voice in this matter today. Precisely because we want to be and to remain faithful to our various Confessions, we may not keep silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message to utter in a time of common need and temptation. We commend to God what this may mean for the intrrelations of the Confessional Churches.
8.09 In view of the errors of the “German Christians” of the present Reich Church government which are devastating the Church and also therefore breaking up the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the following evangelical truths:

8.10 – 1. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14.6). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)
8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
8.12 We reiect the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

8.13 – 2. “Christ Jesus, whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30.)
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
8.15 We reiect the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

8.16 – 3. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together.” (Eph. 4:15,16.)
8.17 The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.
8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.

8.19 – 4. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men excercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your srvant.” (Matt. 20:25,26.)
8.20 The various offices in the Church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the excercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
8.21 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.

8.22 – 5. “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability. The Church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.
8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.

8.25 – 6. “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt. 28:20.) “The word of God is not fettered.” (2 Tim. 2:9.)
8.26 The Church’s commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of th free grace of God to all people in Christ’s stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and sacrament.
8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
8.28 The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional Churches. It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles in their decisions in Church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.





Faith in the Kingdom

3 06 2009

Not that anyone reads my blog, but, those who have stumbled upon it, my apologies for taking so long to add a post.

I thought I might share this, it’s something I wrote in a forum post on Beliefnet.com, I might as well also offer it here:

On a personal note, the now-and-yet-to-be kingdom means that right now there is a God active and working in the world. It means that there is a God whose faithfulness to people means that He is continually working, making and creating in me the kind of person that doesn’t just proclaim the kingdom, but lives there.

Because as I move and live and breathe in this world I am a faltering person who continually makes mistakes. As we all do. That He is relentless in His mercy, and unwavering in His devotion and infinite in His goodness toward me, that I can have the sort of confidence to live boldly. Not the sort of boldness with a chest puffed out, but the confident boldness to know that even as I may take two steps back, He won’t let me be out and about on my own. He won’t let or leave me be.

As someone who has often been let down by people, and who struggles to figure out my place in life and this world, to know that there is always ground beneath my feet, hands to catch me, and a God to hold onto me means there is always a tomorrow which I can wake up to.

And despite some people’s protestations, that’s exactly the sort of God I always read about in the writings of St. Paul. That there is this unrelenting love that refuses to abandon anyone, profound in every way, that can embrace and accept the worst of us, the least of us, and the smallest of us.

To discover the strength in weakness, light in darkness, hope in despair, wisdom in  foolishness, and grace in the most unforgiving corners of this world. That’s what it means to me to look upon the cross, and to understand the Man who died upon that cross–who I now call Lord and King. Not only of my own little Jon world, but even the entire world.

That the Crucified Man of Golgotha is truly Lord in whom all things subsist, that the powerful could not best Him, that death could not hold Him, neither could the grave contain Him, that where hate and murder and violence and wonton evil seems to prevail in fact does not. This is the kingdom of God. That a wreath of thorns would be the King’s true crown, and a crucifix His throne. That a coronation took place in open secret, a peculiar majesty shown through frail body and bloody brow.

That it is not the rich man who is lord, but the poor man. It is not the might of sword, nor thunder of chariots; it is not the cannon or the gun, the armies and their generals, it is not kings and potentates, or presidents and despots who are victorious. Neither nation nor empire, neither pomp or splendor, but rather the Man of Nazareth and those He represents who are the victors.

This is the kingdom of God.

That it is not wealth or fame or power that is true greatness. It is not the CEO in his lofty office who has success.

That all these temporal, empty, hollow things are void of substance.

Truly, He says, the prostitutes are reaching the kingdom ahead of us.

This requires a certain kind of faith, the kind of faith that already believes though it has not seen, like the centurion who had every confidence that the Lord merely said the word and His servant was healed.

But so few of us have it. Our confidence is found in the vain things of life, and we imagine success and greatness in things that will be consumed by moths and wind up as dust.

It is not our empires–whether political or otherwise–that shall endure. But love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, joy, charity, and good will toward others. These things are real. Money, power, and empires are not real.

This is faith in the kingdom of God.

It is not in the things we see, but in the things we hope for.

I believe that Christ died, Christ is risen and Christ is coming again, and so I have hope in a world made in the image of Christ, where dead bones will walk again, where every sword will be made a plowshare and ever spear a pruning hook. A conviction for a kingdom where death has been put away and hell forgotten. Where neither mourning or sadness can be found, for in their stead a overflowing bounty of joy and laughter among all. For I believe this is the will of God. And so in that conviction of God’s tomorrow, I believe so strongly that I can step into this world of today in that unwavering truth.

I can lose my faith in guns and guillotines, and open myself up to world that is absent of both. A world filled with God.

This is the kingdom of God





Obama is President. Jesus Christ is Lord.

5 11 2008

Like many of you who may end up reading this, I’m glad that Barak Obama won this election. I didn’t vote, I chose not to vote, I voted to not vote; nonetheless I liked Obama more than McCain.

With that said, we need to be very careful to remember that the Christian call to radical discipleship and to be members of Christ’s own body puts us into that place where we choose Christ over Caesar. Always. Jesus is always Lord, always King of the Kingdom. We need to remember that America is still America, America is still a State–that temporal entity of imperial power. The Church must always remain not only non-partisan, but trans-national. We cannot recognize the validity of the stately powers, to do so is not only to divide the Body of Christ along international borders, but to cut ourselves off from our neighbors.

We cannot, we must not, we must forbid ourselves the temptation to pledge allegiance to America’s flag–or any flag.

Yahweh Nissi, the Lord is our banner. Christos Kurios, Christ is Lord.

We are but poor beggars. We are only pilgrims. Amen.





Elephant and Ass: A Rant

21 07 2008

Seems to me the more I hear terms like “Conservative Christians” and “Liberal Christians” the more worthless the terms “liberal” and “conservative” come to be in describing what kind of Christian a Christian is. What exactly makes someone liberal or conservative as a Christian?

I understand the use of these terms in political dialogue, but have a harder time understanding them in inter-Christian dialogue.

Is John Spong a liberal Christian because he is both politically and theologically “liberal”? Because he rejects traditional Christian ideas, I think, doesn’t make him liberal, it makes him heterodox.

One reason I’ve found these terms to be essentially useless is that in my own experience, some of the most theologically articulate, devout and firmly orthodox Christians I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have been called “liberal”; whereas I’ve met plenty of so-called “conservative” Christians who wouldn’t know traditional Christian faith if it fell on their head like a ton of bricks.

I’ve met plenty of “conservative” Evangelicals who certainly fit the mold of stereotypical American Evangelicalism who, in my discussions with them over theology, come across as holding to fairly heterodox positions. A classic case-in-point are “conservative” Evangelicals who are either completely ignorant of, or sometimes even actively hostile to the orthodox, traditional Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead.

In recent years I’ve increasingly been told that I’m among these “liberal” Christians, though I’m not sure how. My faith has always–and no doubt will continue to be–a work in progress. My aim, however continues to be consistent, to follow Christ, to challenge my preconceived ideas, and be willing to study, read, pray and seek the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the counsel of the Christian Church. I’m not content assuming I have everything figured out, but I am ardent about seeking to be faithful.

I don’t consider myself “liberal”, but I have over the years lost interest in identifying myself as “conservative”. Any allegiance I once had to the Theo-Political machine of the American Religious Right has thoroughly vanished, though I hold no ill will toward those who are part of this organism, I do see the ideology and policies of the Religious Right as viral and infectious, and not to mention fatal to the spiritual health of the Christian Church in America.

So exactly what function or purpose do terms like “liberal” or “conservative” have in inter-Christian discussion? What does it even matter? Is faithfulness to Christ circumscribed by fidelity to conservative American politics? When so much about conservative American politics seems to be deeply antagonistic against the ethos and ministry of Jesus, how can this be so? This is not to say that liberal American politics are any better, seems like both sides of the political divide are pretty problematic insofar as what Jesus has to say. Wouldn’t a better, and far more Christian, politic be to take what Jesus has to say, even if Jesus forces us to repent of our most strongly cherished ideas, and work from there?

I’m not advocating Christian politics in the typical sense, but rather a Christian alternative to American politics that is still quite political. Christianity is political. Not because it’s liberal or conservative, but because it’s Christian. Shouldn’t a Christian response to those things happening in our culture be, in fact, Christian? Neither conservative nor liberal, but Christian. Following the Way of Christ, even if that means forsaking the idols of Elephant and Ass.